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28 February

In the headlines

Vladimir Putin has put his nuclear arsenal on “special” alert in light of what he labelled “aggressive statements” by Nato. The Russian leader clearly didn’t anticipate just how tough the West’s response to the invasion would be, says Gideon Rachman in the FT. Germany is boosting its military spending by €100bn and the EU has said it will send Ukraine fighter jets. In Russia, “panicked citizens are rushing to withdraw money from banks” after Western financial sanctions sent the value of the rouble plunging by 30%. Kyiv is still held by Ukraine, says The Times, but more than 400 elite mercenaries from the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group are operating in the city, with orders to assassinate Ukraine’s President Zelensky and his top officials.

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Putin has already lost

Less than a week into this war, says Yuval Noah Harari in The Guardian, Vladimir Putin is already “heading towards a historic defeat”. He sent his troops in knowing that Russia dwarfs Ukraine militarily, and that Nato wouldn’t deploy any of its own forces in the country. But his plan – to hit Ukraine “hard and fast” and establish a puppet regime in Kyiv – still depended on the Ukrainian people rolling over and accepting their Russian occupiers. Putin gambled that they would, perhaps in part because Crimea offered little resistance in 2014. It is becoming increasingly clear that this gamble is failing.

UK politics

Why Putin’s mafia love London

Roman Abramovich might have ceded his stewardship of Chelsea Football Club, says Matthew Syed in The Sunday Times, but why was he allowed to get his hands on it in the first place? It’s a textbook example of “Putin’s mafia” using London as a “laundromat” for cash plundered from the Russian people. Despite his “sportswashed” reputation, Abramovich is just as bad as the rest of them. Back in the 1990s, when Russia’s then president, Boris Yeltsin, was trailing in the polls, he struck a deal with Abramovich and his fellow oligarchs. He offered them the mineral wealth of Russia “at a fraction of its true price”, in exchange for a $100m loan and access to private TV channels. The stitch-up worked: “a tiny coterie of men emerged with the riches of Croesus” and Yeltsin won the 1996 election. The economist Paul Gregory called it “the single largest heist in corporate history”.


One theory to explain Putin’s behaviour is that he has almost literally lost his mind, says Max Seddon in the FT. When France and Germany’s leaders met him at that “huge Kremlin table” before the invasion, aides say they were struck by how “at odds with the outside world” he was. The Russian leader’s paranoia seems to have developed from the steps he has taken to avoid Covid. Even his closest advisers can’t come within 10 feet “without weeks of quarantine and testing”. “He’s even more isolated than Stalin,” says one former adviser. “And in that situation rational issues become irrational.”

Eating in

Swiss boffins have created a fondue-making robot, says MailOnline. The £243,000 Bouébot can whip up a classic “half and half” cheese fondue: it glugs white wine into the pot, grates in two types of cheese, “does some vigorous figure-of-eight stirring”, and seasons with pepper. For really lazy fondue-eaters, the Bouébot will even spear and dunk your bread into the pot for you.


“My dad would have been 90 today,” Johnny Cash’s daughter Rosanne tweeted on Saturday. I was once at his house on his birthday when a huge bouquet of flowers arrived. I asked who they were from. He “rolled his eyes” and replied: “Elizabeth Taylor. We were born one day apart and she sends these every year to remind me I’m a day older than her.”


Hutt Lagoon in Western Australia is a photographer’s dream, says My Modern Met. The saltwater lake is candy-coloured thanks to the presence of an algae, Dunaliella salina, which produces a natural food-colouring agent. The shade of pink changes depending on the seasons and time of day. “Sometimes, nature throws a curveball.”


A Ukrainian man has been arrested for partially sinking the £5m yacht owned by his boss, Russian arms manufacturer Alexander Mijeev. The unnamed mechanic opened three valves so that the 156ft vessel would take on water, then told the rest of the crew to abandon ship. “I don’t regret anything I’ve done,” he told police in Mallorca. “I would do it again.”


It’s a Stem Player – a £200 music device that Kanye West is using to exclusively release his new album. Donda 2 went on sale on Thursday, but fans can only hear it if they buy a Stem, plug it into their computers and navigate to the dedicated website. West, 44, hopes it will free him from the “oppressive system” of streaming platforms like Spotify.


Quoted 28.2.22

“This war, like the next war, is a war to end war.”

David Lloyd George on the First World War