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1 March

In the headlines

Government offices in the centre of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, have been hit by a massive Russian missile strike, part of a bombardment that President Volodymyr Zelensky says is “clearly a war crime”. Dozens of civilians have been killed in the city in suspected cluster bomb attacks, which are banned by more than 100 countries. A 40-mile-long convoy of Russian tanks and armoured vehicles is advancing on Kyiv. US intelligence agencies tell NBC that Vladimir Putin is growing increasingly frustrated and angry at his military’s lack of progress and sees “doubling down” as his only option. “He is no longer the same cold-blooded, clear-eyed dictator that he was in 2008,” says former CIA director John Brennan. Russia’s football clubs and national teams have been barred from competitions by Fifa and Uefa. You know things are bad when even Fifa, “the worst body in world sport”, takes notice, says political commentator Tim Shipman on Twitter.



Zelensky is “the man for the moment”

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine isn’t going according to his script, says The Wall Street Journal, and for that, “the world owes a great debt to the heroic people of that besieged country”. Just last week The New York Times ran an opinion piece headlined “The Comedian-Turned-President Is Seriously in Over His Head”. It’s just the reverse. Volodymyr Zelensky, who once played a fictional president on TV, has proved himself to be “the man for the moment” as he rallies his country and the world to resist the invasion. When the US offered to evacuate him from Kyiv to escape assassination, Zelensky responded with a “line for the ages” that embodied his stubborn spirit: “I need ammunition, not a ride.”


Germany has finally grown up

For years – decades even – Germany’s approach to global politics was one of “adolescence and immaturity”, says Ferdinand Otto in Die Zeit. “Always criticise the Americans but hope that in the end they will fix things.” Now we’ve finally grown up. Since the Russian invasion, all the pacifist, trade-focused certainties of Berlin’s foreign policy have been swept away. The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia has been cancelled. Germany is sending arms to Ukraine, ending a longstanding policy of blocking lethal weapons from being sent to war zones. In a “revolutionary” speech to parliament on Sunday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged to increase Germany’s defence budget to more than 2% of GDP and created a special €100bn fund to upgrade our creaky military. Two liquid natural gas terminals will be constructed to help wean the country off Russian energy.

Staying young

Beauty influencers are using “nasal tanning sprays” to get the perfect glow, says InsideHook. The nose drops claim to boost the body’s production of melanin, which makes the skin darker. They’re a hit with TikTokers – one video has been watched more than a million times. But there’s a snag: the drops’ main ingredient, melanotan, is banned in the UK and US thanks to its long list of scary side effects (vomiting, high blood pressure, spontaneous erections). Not that this worries the influencers. “If this is going to take 10 years off my life, I don’t care,” said one. “I’d rather die hot than live ugly.”


It’s Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. He competed in the Ukrainian version of Strictly Come Dancing in 2006, when he was a comedian – and won the competition. To triumph in the final, says The Daily Telegraph, the “snake-hipped” Zelensky danced his way through a waltz, a paso doble and a quickstep.

On the way back

Old English sheepdogs are being saved from extinction. The shaggy hounds – best known for starring in Dulux adverts – were classed as “vulnerable” by the Kennel Club after only 227 puppies were registered in 2020. But last year breeders reported 377 new births – a 66% surge.

Gone viral

Ramzan Kadyrov, head of Russia’s Chechen Republic, has announced his support for the invasion of Ukraine, offering 70,000 of his notoriously bloodthirsty fighters to battle alongside Putin’s army. But photos of Kadyrov addressing his troops have gone viral after social media users pointed out he was wearing £1,250 Prada boots (pictured top right), identical to a pair owned by the wife of footballer Lionel Messi. “The devil wears Prada,” was one Twitter comment. “A new level of stupidity,” was another. “At least he can’t run in them.”

Love etc

The Italian region of Lazio – which spans beaches, hilltop towns and Rome – is offering couples €2,000 to get married there, after its wedding industry nearly collapsed in lockdown. The initiative, called “In Lazio with Love”, is open to any Italians or foreigners who want to tie the knot in 2022; the money can be spent on anything wedding-related that’s sourced from the region. Bellissima.


Birmingham’s Newman University has slapped a trigger warning on the Bible because it contains themes of “sexual violence and abuse”. The institution, which was named after the cardinal John Henry Newman, stressed that the guidance was “not a commentary on the Bible” itself.


quoted 1.3

“What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Dwight Eisenhower