Volodymyr Zelensky’s decision last week to replace the commander in chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, with former ground forces commander Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi wasn’t entirely unexpected. Rumours about it floated for weeks, as the disagreements between Zelensky and Zaluzhnyi became increasingly evident. But, rather than being a strategic decision, it appears that the move was mostly driven by ego. Zelensky tried to present it as a renewed approach to the war effort but, while the armed forces remain the most trusted institution in Ukraine, the move risks undermining the popularity of its government.
Opinion polls suggest that Zaluzhnyi is one of the most beloved figures in Ukraine and Zelensky’s popularity has been falling since its peak in 2022. The former’s replacement is not exactly new blood. Syrskyi is one of the country’s most experienced military commanders: he has led Ukrainian operations since 2014, including the liberation of the Kyiv and Kharkiv regions in the early stages of Russia’s full-scale invasion. But he is also responsible for several setbacks, such as the loss of Bakhmut, and has a controversial reputation among soldiers for his Soviet-era tactics of attrition. In Ukraine, the predominant reaction to the change was disappointment. Zaluzhnyi has never declared any political ambitions but his sacking is widely seen as an unnecessary political manoeuvre by Zelensky, who is thought to want more control over the country’s armed forces and reportedly cannot tolerate a top general’s growing popularity.
Syrskyi faces difficult tasks. Russia is continuing to put pressure on the front line in places such as Avdiivka and prospects of a new counteroffensive seem distant. He is likely to soon be in charge of enforcing a stricter – and unpopular – mobilisation bill currently being discussed in Ukraine’s parliament. There is a shortage of ammunition and uncertainty over the provision of military aid from the US. So in a challenging situation like this, unity, resilience and public trust are key. Ukrainians have been able to maintain them all since February 2022; the government should be careful not to undermine them.
Olga Tokariuk is Monocle’s Ukraine correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.
Some 27 heads of international and regional organisations have arrived in Dubai for the World Governments Summit. Representatives from India, Rwanda, Qatar and Egypt are in the emirate for the event, which puts the spotlight on leadership and the encouragement of everything from the equitable development of artificial intelligence to improved healthcare and mobility. Former UK prime minister Tony Blair and maverick news anchor Tucker Carlson are among the more than 4,000 attendees and speakers in Dubai, where the summit has been held since 2013.
The UAE is leveraging its location to bring together delegates from across the Middle East, Africa and the US to espouse the benefits of a connected world. Monday’s agenda included sessions led by World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab, Nvidia founder Jensen Huang and the CEO of Airbus, Guillaume Faury. Discussions struck an optimistic mood about the potential of technology and co-operation but most impressive is Dubai’s increasing status as a powerful convener of conversations, often across divides. The World Governments Summit runs until Wednesday.
Saint Laurent’s latest retail venture, which sells rare books, magazines and out-of-print records, has opened in Paris. The items for sale at Saint Laurent Babylone, on rue de Grenelle in the Rive Gauche neighbourhood of Sèvres-Babylone, are curated by the French fashion house’s creative director, Anthony Vaccarello. The airy, modernist shop is filled with understated wooden and marble furniture, and will be used as an events space for musical gatherings and book readings.
Saint Laurent Babylone also pays homage to the brand’s founder, Yves Saint Laurent, who opened his first ready-to-wear shop on the Rive Gauche. Soon after, the fashion designer moved to Rue de Babylone with his partner, Pierre Bergé. The new opening follows the launch of Saint Laurent’s largest flagship, on the Champs-Élysées, at the end of 2023 and reflects the brand’s commitment to making its mark beyond fashion.
In Tokyo, old houses are disappearing fast. Part of the reason why is that registering a building as an historic property is more trouble than demolition. Fed up with the phenomenon, Central Saint Martins graduate Tomohiro Fujii partnered with consultant Shori Fuji to set up Kessaku, a company that aims to protect historic houses by offering shared ownership. Fujii’s idea is to give people the chance to buy a stake in a property for as little as ¥1,000 (€6.20).
Depending on the amount they put in, co-owners would then be able to occupy the building for a certain number of days a year. Kessaku will be responsible for managing and maintaining the properties. The first on offer is a 1930s house in Nagano. With nobody to inherit it, there was a danger of the wooden structure falling into disrepair. According to Fujii, tourism is helping because visitors are keen to stay in historic homes. “There’s a change towards valuing older buildings,” he tells Monocle. “We would like Kessaku to be part of that transition.”
For more on Kessaku and other agenda-setting stories, pick up a copy of Monocle’s February issue, which is available now.
Alice Ziccheddu is the founder of skincare brand In Aéras, which blends Sardinian botanicals, practices and beliefs to create its products. Here, she tells Monocle how her brand is inspired by the Mediterranean island’s traditions and subverts the beauty industry’s fixation on quick fixes and anti-ageing.
How does In Aéras integrate Sardinian plants and botanicals?
We use Sardinian medicinal plants that have been used for millennia and promote wellness and longevity. Our botanicals are mainly wild harvested in uncontaminated lands on the island. One of the most precious plants we have is elicriso, the everlasting flower. It has been proven that the Sardinian elicriso contains five times more antioxidants than its Mediterranean counterparts.
What is your connection with wellbeing?
I was born and raised in Sardinia, in a small village at the centre of the island. I grew up in close contact with nature and with the island’s traditional lifestyle. My grandmother was considered a healer in my village and I watched people from the community come to ask her for massages from her magical hands. In Sardinia, it’s common to have predominantly female figures in villages taking care of people, both spiritually and physically. The presence of rituals is deeply rooted in our communities.
Tell us about the ethos of the brand?
In Aéras is a contemporary vision of welfare. What I noticed in the beauty and wellness industry is that everything was created for results and not for taking care of our lifestyle. When it comes to longevity, one of our most important values is the idea of ageing well. We don’t speak about anti-ageing. We prefer to focus on antioxidant ingredients and to allow our skin and our lifestyle to age well.
For our full interview with Alice Zicchedu about her beauty brand In Aéras, tune in to the latest edition of ‘Eureka’, on Monocle Radio.
We speak with Christian Nolle from Direction of Travel, a newspaper about the culture of flying. Plus: Monocle Radio’s Laura Kramer meets the editor of one of Switzerland’s oldest magazines, L’Illustré, and photographer William Rice heads to Rio de Janeiro for his latest photo project, O Novo Rio.