5 min read

A postcard from Przemyśl.

The quaint little city close to the border with Ukraine, where I've been reporting this week. I'm told it's the most religious city in Poland.

What I'm reading:

• Protests have erupted in Russia’s predominantly Muslim Dagestan region as minorities claim they are disproportionately targeted by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mobilization orders, CNN reports.

• Russia will soon open an army enlisting center on the border with Georgia, the interior ministry of Russia’s North Ossetia region said. The BBC has the report.

• Kazakhstan's leadership said the country would ensure the "care and safety" of Russians fleeing a "hopeless situation," Agence France Presse reports.

• Kyiv reiterated calls for Russian men summoned to fight in Ukraine to lay down their arms in protest as soon as they arrive in the country. During a video address, Zelensky urged Russians to desert or give themselves up to Ukrainian troops, the Wall Street Journal reports. Ukraine has pledged to treat Russian prisoners of war fairly.

• Moscow-installed officials claim almost total support for joining Russia among those who voted in the sham referendums in Russian-occupied Ukraine, the BBC reports.

• Russia began formally annexing up to 18% of Ukrainian territory on Friday, as Russian President Vladimir Putin declared four occupied Ukrainian territories part of Russia. He then went on a long televised rant about the West. I don't know who this Konstantin Kisin guy is, but this is a Twitter thread with a good translation of the speech.

For the Guardian, Shaun Walker writes that listening to Putin's denunciation of the West was like being trapped in the back of a Lada with a taxi driver who starts the conversation by asking what you really think happened on 9/11. I get what he is saying. Putin doesn't sound like a head of state or even a rational person.

But I think Putin was using a line of argument that will appeal to many people, both in the West and the developing world. Maybe some of those people are taxi drivers. The question weighing on my mind is how we create a common language with them so they can begin to see Putin's paranoia and imperialism for what it is; so we're not just accusing each other of falling for someone else's propaganda and conspiracies.

This morning I woke up to a text message from a man I haven't spoken to in a few years.

"So, who wins?" he asked me. "Who started the war?"

This person lives in the United States and has access to information. And yet, somehow, he still asked that question. Then he sent me a YouTube video in which the hosts claimed the U.S. is funding biological weapons labs in Ukraine and called me naive for saying those don't exist. These types of conversations disturb me. They feel like a harbinger of something more ominous to come. Like there's a sickness seeping into people, making it impossible for us to speak the same language.

Here's a good post from the Brookings Institution, written in March of this year, that discusses how fringe QAnon groups, Fox News, and various podcasters have spread fake news about biological weapons labs in Ukraine.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the news of the week.

• Two more mass graves were discovered in the Ukrainian city of Izyum, President Volodymyr Zelensky told CBS.

• On Saturday, Ukrainian forces liberated Lyman, part of the Donetsk Oblast that Russia claims to have annexed.

• Bosnia and Hercegovina will hold elections today. Nine known political veterans are competing for seats on the tripartite state presidency: three for the Bosniak post, two for the Croatian post, and four for the Serbian post, Balkan Insight reports.

• Montenegro’s special state prosecutor launched an investigation into an unspecified number of people on charges of espionage and creating a criminal organization, Balkan Insight reports. Various media outlets reported that police detained six Russian diplomats, 30 Russians with temporary residence permits, and two Montenegrins suspected of working for Russian intelligence.

• European countries launched investigations following leaks in two Russian gas pipelines – Nord Stream 1 & 2 – running under the Baltic Sea near Sweden and Denmark, Reuters reports. Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said attacks against the pipelines were "deliberate actions." NATO later said the same.

• A right-wing alliance composed of the Brothers of Italy, the League, and Forza Italia won the elections in Italy. Giorgia Meloni, head of the far-right party Brothers of Italy, is deciding who will get top jobs in the right-wing government she will likely lead, the BBC reports.

• At least 83 people have been killed in protests across Iran as demonstrators demand an end to violence and discrimination against women, the Washington Post reports.

• Iranian forces unleashed drone and artillery attacks on the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, killing at least nine and wounding dozens of others, the New York Times reports.

• Sean Turnell, an Australian citizen and economic adviser to Myanmar’s imprisoned civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was convicted of violating an official secrets act and sentenced to three years in prison, the New York Times reports.

• Colombia and Venezuela reopened their 1,400-mile border following a seven-year closure, the Wall Street Journal reports. The move by the new leftist government in Bogotá is a significant step towards normalizing relations with the Venezuelan regime.

• Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo Benítez called on Taiwan to invest $1 billion in his country to help him resist “enormous” pressure to switch diplomatic recognition to China, the Financial Times reports.

• Brazil heads to the polls today. Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has widened his lead over incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, Al Jazeera reports. International warnings about efforts to “subvert democracy” in Brazil increased just days before the elections.

• One of the alleged masterminds and financiers of the 1994 Rwandan genocide went on trial at a UN tribunal in The Hague, France 24 reports.

• Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, discovered and took down what it described as the first targeted Chinese campaign to interfere in U.S. politics ahead of the midterm elections, the New York Times reports.

What the State Department says:

You can write to me: c.maza@protonmail.com.