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8 March

In the headlines

The Kremlin has threatened to cut gas supplies to Europe if the US and other Western countries go ahead with a proposed boycott of Russian oil. The EU, which gets 40% of its gas and 30% of its oil from Russia, has so far rejected calls for the boycott. With Russian troops taking heavy losses, and their 40-mile armoured convoy still stuck on a road north of Kyiv, Moscow is offering Syrian mercenaries $300 a day to join the invasion. The conflict could send global food prices soaring and put people around the world at risk of starvation, the head of the World Food Programme tells the BBC. Ukraine and Russia are both big exporters of wheat and other basic foodstuffs. Former Commons Speaker John Bercow is a “serial bully” and “serial liar”, an official investigation into his behaviour in office has concluded. He will be blocked from holding a parliamentary pass.



Will Israel turn on Abramovich?

Roman Abramovich has always embraced his Jewish heritage, says David Klion in Jewish Currents. The 55-year-old oligarch has given a whopping half a billion dollars to Jewish charities over the past two decades, “sending money linked to Putin’s kleptocratic regime circulating through Jewish institutions worldwide”. He’s fond of Israel too. He became a citizen in 2018; donated $30m for a nanotechnology research centre at Tel Aviv University; funded a football programme for Arab and Jewish children; planted trees in Israeli deserts; and spent $65m on a mansion in Herzliya, the most expensive real estate deal in the country’s history.

The Kremlin

Could Putin be assassinated?

Vladimir Putin is guarded by “one of the world’s strongest security details”, says Nigel Jones in The Spectator. So, could an assassin get to him? “Desperate times spawn desperate remedies,” and there must be many in the Kremlin who see that their own futures “are directly imperilled by Putin’s increasingly dangerous actions”. History is full of successful assassinations carried out by close confidantes of dictatorial rulers. Julius Caesar was murdered by his senators, and many other Roman emperors, including Caligula, were bumped off by their Praetorian guards. More recently, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia was killed in 1975 by his nephew, and India’s prime minister Indira Gandhi was gunned down in 1984 by her bodyguards.

Inside politics

Vladimir Putin may have gone “slightly tonto” while isolating from Covid, but he was “one of the cleverest people I have interviewed ever”, Andrew Marr tells The Daily Telegraph. During a 2014 press conference filled with international journalists, “Putin moved from language to language to language… He had a response to everything. He mocked the way state elections were conducted in parts of the Rust Belt in America. He knew how the Dutch parliament was elected. He got everything.”


It’s “The One”, a monster mansion in the Bel Air neighbourhood of Los Angeles, which has just been bought by fast-fashion tycoon Richard Saghian. The biggest American home ever to go up for auction, the property has 21 bedrooms, 49 bathrooms and five swimming pools. It was first listed for $295m, but Saghian snapped it up for a bargain $141m. That’s still more than double the previous record auction price for a US home.

Love etc

Two Ukrainian reservists have got married at a military checkpoint in Kyiv in uniform, says The Washington Post. “The groom wore a helmet. The bride wore fatigues.” Lesia Ivashchenko and Valerii Filimonov had been boyfriend and girlfriend for twenty years, but never considered marriage much of a priority, until now. “We live in challenging times,” said the groom. “You never know what’s going to happen to you tomorrow.”


For the Balenciaga show at Paris Fashion Week, Kim Kardashian wore an outfit made entirely from yellow tape. The 41-year-old had to be wound into the costume by hand, and bystanders say she made a “sticky tape-y” sound as she shuffled about. I have questions, says Olivia Truffaut-Wong in The Cut. First, can she breathe? Second, how is her blood circulation? “And, most importantly, how does she pee?”


Madonna is making a film about her life, and she’s on the hunt for a bright young actress to play the leading role. But the auditions have been “gruelling”, an anonymous source tells The Hollywood Reporter. Hopefuls have had to do 11-hour-long dance sessions with Madonna’s choreographer, plus further dance sessions, readings and singing auditions with the Queen of Pop herself. Maybe there’s an easier solution, says The Guardian. “Say Madonna, have you given any thought to playing the part yourself?”


John Major had a good joke about the Soviet era, says Patrick Kidd in The Times. Two friends in Moscow are standing in the freezing cold in a long queue for bread. After a couple of hours of the line not moving, one says: “That’s it, I’m going to kill Gorbachev.” He determinedly storms off, but returns a few hours later. “Did you kill him?” his friend asks. “No,” he replies. “The queue was too long.”


quoted 8.3

“Fighting fire with fire only gets you ashes.”

US columnist Abigail van Buren