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3 March

In the headlines

Russian forces have taken control of their first Ukrainian city: Kherson, in the south. After 15 hours of heavy bombardment, the port city of Mariupol is becoming a “humanitarian catastrophe”, deputy mayor Serhiy Orlov tells the BBC. “They are trying to destroy the city.” The UN says a million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion began a week ago, in what AP describes as the “swiftest refugee exodus this century”. Roman Abramovich has put Chelsea Football Club up for sale. He says he’ll write off the £1.5bn the club owes him and donating any net proceeds to victims of the war in Ukraine. Other Russian oligarchs are scrambling to find a safe harbour for their superyachts, after Joe Biden pledged to “hunt down” their assets. Several luxury vessels have been tracked heading to the Maldives and Montenegro, which don’t have extradition treaties with the US.

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The West

Don’t underestimate the West

The invasion of Ukraine, and our reaction to it, reveals a central contradiction about the West, says Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times. Our enemies see us as both an “all-powerful oppressor” and a “decadent pushover”, foisting our values on other cultures while at the same time failing to stand up for our own way of life in “a fog of post-Christian self-doubt”. There is truth in both these views, though each is a “hopeless exaggeration”. But of the two it is the first – that the West is domineering – which has been borne out by events.

Propaganda

Russian soldiers fell for the Kremlin’s lies

Social media is awash with scenes of heavily armed Russians being pushed back by unarmed, protesting Ukrainians. To make sense of why, says Politico’s Zoya Sheftalovich in a Twitter thread, you have to understand the mentality of the Russian soldiers. In the run up to the invasion, Kremlin media channels were blasting the message “wall-to-wall” that Vladimir Putin’s troops would be welcomed by ordinary Ukrainians, just as the Soviets were when they “liberated European nations from the Nazis”. The Soviet troops who fought the Nazis are “absolutely deified” in Russia – many of the “young, unhardened” Russian conscripts sincerely expected to be treated similarly in Ukraine. Instead, they were met with Molotov cocktails and berated as оккупанты – “occupiers”.

Books

In 2011, a high school English teacher from Texas asked to interview Vladimir Putin. Bizarrely, the Russian leader said yes – and the result was an unlikely insight into Putin’s reading preferences. “I have always loved and avidly read the novels of Jack London, Jules Verne and Ernest Hemingway,” he said. “The characters depicted in their books, who are brave and resourceful people embarking on exciting adventures, definitely shaped my inner self and nourished my love for the outdoors.”

On the way back

Humpback whales have been dropped from Australia’s endangered species list. In the 1900s, fewer than 1,500 of the creatures remained. Now, thanks to a ban on commercial whaling, the population is thought to be 40,000 and growing.

Property

Of all the British streets named after animals, the highest average house prices are on roads that have “goose” in their name, at £450,000. The lowest average house prices are on streets named after the eagle, says The Daily Telegraph’s Tony Diver on Twitter, at £211,667.

Gone viral

“Plucky Ukrainian farmers” have been doing their bit for the fightback against the Russian invasion, says Philip Case in Farmers Weekly. Several videos have emerged of tanks left behind by Russian troops being towed away by tractors. And to hit back against the Russians stealing their fuel, farmers have been contaminating their supplies with chemicals. A source says “this is one reason why there are so many reports of Russian tanks breaking down”.

Noted

Just as London was “getting back to normal”, says Emma Duncan in The Times, the unions have shut down the entire Tube system with two days of strikes over proposed cost-cutting measures. I have a solution: “get rid of drivers”. There are almost 4,000 of them, each earning an astonishing £55,000 or more. And they’re completely unnecessary: Copenhagen’s metro system is fully automated; London’s Docklands Light Railway “has worked perfectly well without drivers since before the collapse of the Soviet Union”. London’s leaders should take on the unions. If the capital’s economy can survive Covid, “it can cope with a fight against the RMT”.

Snapshot

They’re floating solar panels in South Korea. The country doesn’t have a lot of spare land for renewable energy, so they’ve taken to putting the panels on reservoirs instead. These 17 giant “solar flowers” can produce enough electricity to power 20,000 homes, says Bloomberg. The water also helps to keep them cool, “maximising their efficiency”.

Quoted

quoted 3.3.22

“Everyone shines, given the right lighting.”

American author Susan Cain