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24 February

In the headlines

Russia has launched a multi-pronged invasion of Ukraine. The assault began at 5am local time, from Belarus in the north, Crimea in the south and Donbas in the east. Buildings have been struck by missiles and artillery shells in cities across the country, with dozens of casualties reported already. Vladimir Putin warned that any nation interfering with his plans would “face consequences greater than any you have faced in history”. Ukraine has declared martial law and “will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country”, says its president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The West is preparing its response, with the EU declaring it will subject Russia to “the harshest package of sanctions we have ever implemented”. “There is a very real prospect of this spilling over into Nato territory,” former Nato commander Richard Shirreff tells Times Radio. “This is going to be about as bad as anything we’ve seen since the Second World War.”

Behind the headlines


How far will Putin go?

Invading Ukraine is the easy part for Vladimir Putin, says John Nagl in Foreign Policy. It’s the occupation that may well prove his undoing. Not only is Ukraine a vast country with numerous big cities, it also has land borders with Nato members and a long coastline on the Black Sea – providing ample opportunity for foreign powers to arm insurgents. The “usual ratio” of one occupying soldier for every 50 locals means a minimum of 800,000 Russian troops – virtually their entire army. And most Russian soldiers are miserable conscripts who didn’t manage to bribe their way out of military service. Keeping up morale during a drawn-out insurgency won’t be easy. Russia has been here before: when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 it faced nine gruelling years of Western-backed resistance. The failed occupation even contributed to the USSR’s collapse. The parallels with today “should cause Putin to quake in his boots”.

On the way out

The year 2022, at least in North Korea. The hermit kingdom’s news agency is abandoning the Gregorian calendar, the worldwide standard, for one that starts in 1912, when the country’s founder Kim Il-sung was born. This year is now “Juche 111” – Juche being the North Korean ideology of “self-reliance”.

On the money

A single snowdrop bulb has sold for £1,850 in an eBay auction, says The Guardian. Known as Galanthus plicatus, or Golden Tears, it was bred by “plantsman” Joe Sharman in Cambridgeshire. He has form: a previous bulb of his, Golden Fleece, went for £1,390 in 2015.


It’s London’s smallest flat, which sold at auction yesterday for £90,000 – 80% above its minimum listing price. Social media users have described the 75 sq ft one-bed in Clapton, which the previous owner rented out for £800 a month, as a “posh cell”.

Climate change

To encourage people to use environmentally friendly public transport rather than driving, Austria is offering the KlimaTicket (“Climate Ticket”). For just €1,095 a year, users get unlimited access to every form of public transport in the country – from city trams to national train lines. The tickets have proven a hit with the public, with 134,000 sold in the first two months. Switzerland has had something similar for decades, though at a rather pricier €3,738.


The German tennis player Alexander Zverev has been kicked out of the Mexican Open for attacking the umpire’s chair with his racquet. Zverev, 24, had already screamed insults following what he believed were incorrect decisions. “It’s 8-6 in the tie-break, for f***’s sake, look where the ball bounced,” he said. “You f***ing idiot.”


In Miami, “fraud is the new dope”, one of the city’s police chiefs tells Forbes. Violent street gangs are trading drug dealing for online identity fraud using stolen personal data bought from Russian hackers. They use the info to take control of other people’s bank accounts, sign up for benefits in someone else’s name, scam government programmes and even buy weapons. When police arrested one alleged criminal, they found his to-do list; one task simply read: “fraud”.


quoted 24.2

“War does not determine who is right – only who is left.”