6 min read

Greetings from the other side of the Atlantic 🛫 🛬

By the time you read this, I will be in some undisclosed location in Europe.

Usually, I would tell you where I am and ask if any of you, dear readers, would like to meet up while I'm there. The truth is, I'd probably love to see you.

But this time, I need a proper holiday, so I'm resisting the urge to set up coffee dates and work meetings with interesting people. Instead, I'll content myself with spending some much-needed alone time and a couple of days with a very close friend.

It feels a little uncomfortable and incongruent to go on holiday when people in Ukraine are fighting for their lives. But the truth is, I haven't had any downtime since my love died in December. Perhaps I haven't been ready to sit in silence and process that he is gone.

Russia invaded Ukraine a few months after his death, and my attention shifted from my personal tragedy to a global one. For the past five months, almost half a year already, everywhere I looked, I saw heartbreak. The precariousness of life is so apparent.

The poet Aracelis Germay said it best when she wrote, “What to do with this knowledge that our living is not guaranteed?

I hope now I will have some time to sit quietly and identify my feelings, write a eulogy, and absorb and transform the emotions accompanying this new reality. Travel has always been therapeutic for me, like a guaranteed-to-work form of self-help that allows me to make sense of things. This trip is meant to give me a little space to slow down, process, and honor him, so I can return refreshed and once again throw my energy into reporting. This newsletter will be on pause for a week or two until I return in full force, and I promise I will share some insights and observations from my travels.

I probably shouldn't have picked a location where I would be tempted to take work meetings. But of course, I did because those are the places I love.

Thank you so much for being here.

Until next time,
Cristina

What I'm writing:

• As Russia's war in Ukraine draws condemnation worldwide, the recent victories of left-leaning politicians across Latin America have failed to produce the groundswell of pro-Russian sentiment some expected. Most Latin American leaders are clinging to a neutral position toward Ukraine, Russia, and the U.S. This approach was popularized by former Chilean foreign minister Jorge Heine, who coined it “active non-alignment.” This piece is locked, but I made a Twitter thread with the main points.

Anti-war Russians fleeing to Armenia are finding there are pros and cons to Yerevan’s close ties to Moscow. Some of the pros include access to your bank account. But the cons are things like fear of surveillance or deportation. One 29-year-old activist said she decided to move after the war in Ukraine made the political situation at home too repressive. She fled Moscow in March, shortly after President Vladimir Putin gave a speech calling for the “self-purification” of society. “I didn’t really want to leave Moscow. But I also didn’t want to wait for the police to show up at my door. That would have inevitably happened at some point,” another activist told me.

What I'm reading:

• Russian forces may use phosphorous munitions as the fight for control of Mariupol intensifies, according to a U.K. Defense Ministry intelligence update.

• The U.S. Defense Department is monitoring unconfirmed reports that Russia has used chemical weapons during its siege of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, the Washington Post reports.

• Moscow assigned General Aleksandr Dvornikov to oversee its overall operations in Ukraine, the New York Times reports. Russia had until now run its military campaign against Ukraine out of Moscow, with no central war commander on the ground to call the shots. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that Dvornikov, who oversaw Moscow's troops in Syria, has a history of “utter disregard” for avoiding harm to civilians and the laws of war.

• The United Nations’ refugee agency is asking the U.K. government to stop lone men from being paired with Ukrainian women seeking refuge from Russia’s invasion amid growing fears they could be sexually exploited by predators posing as hosts, the Guardian reports.

• Finland and Sweden could join NATO as soon as the summer, the Times reports.

• Speaking at a joint press conference with her Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told reporters that it would make sense for Finland and Sweden to join NATO together, the Financial Times reports.

• NATO is working on plans to transform its presence on its eastern borders to a force capable of taking on an invading army, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told the Telegraph in an interview.

• Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer met Russian President Vladimir Putin, becoming the first European leader to do so since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the Financial Times reports.

• Russian students are turning in teachers who don’t support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The campaign was inspired last month by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who praised Russians for their ability to identify “scum and traitors," the Washington Post reports.

• Russia’s State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin raised the possibility of taking away the citizenship of Russians who speak out against the invasion of Ukraine, NBC News reports.

• Russian authorities arrested Vladimir Kara-Murza — a prominent Kremlin critic, the Washington Post reports.

• Moldovan MPs passed a ban on Russian war symbols, including the letters Z and V and the St George ribbon. Pro-Russian politicians condemned the ban, Balkan Insight reports.

• The Palestinian territories could run out of wheat flour reserves within three weeks, the British charity Oxfam warned in a statement. Prices for the food staple have climbed amid supply disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

• The U.S. sanctioned seven people from the Western Balkans, including North Macedonia's former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski (the State Department's statement is below).

• The U.S. Department of Justice charged a Russian lawmaker and two of his aides in an alleged propaganda conspiracy to advance Russian interests in the U.S. Deputy chairman of Russia’s Duma Aleksandr Mikhaylovich Babakov, his chief-of-staff Aleksandr Nikolayevich Vorobev and aide Mikhail Alekseyevich Plisyuk are facing multiple charges for allegedly trying to have a U.S. citizen act as an illegal agent of Moscow.  

• Estonia’s recent tightening of anti-money laundering measures to flush illicit crypto financiers out of its market is leading neighbors Latvia and Lithuania to strengthen their regulatory demands on crypto companies, Politico Europe reports.

• Spain's conservative Popular Party candidate Alfonso Fernández Mañueco was sworn in as president of the Castilla and León region thanks to forming a coalition with the far-right Vox party, El País reports.

• The U.K. government will announce a plan to send migrants who cross the English Channel in small boats to Rwanda while their claim for asylum is processed, the Times reports.

• Brazil’s election authority, the Supreme Electoral Court, invited the European Union to supervise its upcoming general elections in October when President Jair Bolsonaro will seek re-election, according to an exclusive report from Reuters.

• Over 9,000 Salvadorans were arrested in the past two weeks after legislators gave President Nayib Bukele’s government emergency powers for up to 30 days to curb a record wave of gang-related killings, the Wall Street Journal reports.

• The Council on Foreign Relations has a good breakdown on China's growing influence in Latin America.

• China has reportedly accelerated an expansion of its nuclear arsenal. The U.S.’s wariness about getting directly involved in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has likely reinforced Beijing’s decision to put greater emphasis on developing nuclear weapons as a deterrent, the Wall Street Journal reports.

• U.S. lawmakers visiting Taiwan made a public declaration of their support for the self-governing island's democracy while also issuing a warning to China, the Associated Press reports.

• Clashes between Israeli riot police and Palestinians erupted at one of the holiest sites in Jerusalem, culminating weeks of escalating violence in Israel and the occupied West Bank, the New York Times reports.

• Iran sanctioned 24 Americans, including former President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, amid ongoing discussions to revive the nuclear deal. Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that 24 individuals were involved with “terrorist acts” and human rights violations. Giuliani is being targeted for "providing political and propaganda support for the MEK terrorist group."

• Police in India’s Madhya Pradesh state are bulldozing homes belonging to Muslims in the aftermath of communal violence which broke out the day of the Hindu festival of Ram Navami, the BBC reports.

• A majority no-confidence vote pushed out Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, the New York Times reports.

• Pakistan's parliament elected Shehbaz Sharif, a veteran politician, and opposition leader, as Pakistan’s new Prime Minister, the Washington Post reports.

What the State Department says:


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