The Russian invasion of Ukraine is undoubtedly this week’s most important news and is also at the center of this week’s Monday Briefing edition, but the world has not stopped. As Colombia has legalized abortion in a historic move and Australia has reopened borders to tourists for the first time in two years, a leak in a Swiss bank has exposed thousands of fraudsters, criminals, and corrupt politicians. Find out everything that happened in this week’s edition of the Monday Briefing!
It’s happened. Whoever has followed the Russia-Ukraine crisis in the many ramifications that characterized its development over the past few years, and especially the since Russian President Vladimir Putin started deploying troops to the Ukrainian border in early December, knew that this was, unfortunately, an expectable outcome. Some may go as far as describing it as an inevitable one.
What is certain is that after officially recognizing the two self-proclaimed republics that make up the Donbas area in an act that de facto explicitly undermined the legitimacy of the Ukrainian statehood, on the morning of Thursday, February 24th, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. As this is being written, fighting is ongoing in the capital Kiev and in the second biggest city Kharkiv, but both are still under the control of the Ukrainian government (for a continuous live coverage, we suggest this one for native English speakers and this one for those who prefer it in Italian).
As with every international crisis, there are many layers that should be considered before believing to have an even remote understanding of the causes, consequences and various implications of this war, and in the multitude of inputs that are currently being given to us by mass media at a vertiginous rate, the only thing that is clear is that we are in front of something that is incredibly complex.
From the Russian side, the combination of hegemonic, economic and historical incentives to launch this type of attack evidently made up for the expected cost of the sanctions that promptly followed the invasion, since the rate of fighting has not slowed down since said sanctions were announced.
It follows that from the point of view of NATO and the EU, who for their geographical location and their socio-economic interests are deeply involved in this crisis, not enough was done to deter the attack prior to its occurrence, and there are doubts as to whether the two rounds of sanctions and measures that were announced in the past few days by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will be enough. Completely excluding the possibility of a military intervention, in fact, both the US and the EU have reverted to sanctions to try to harm Russia.
From the point of view of Ukraine, the democratically elected President Volodimir Zelensky is both voicing his requests for help to the West, which is promptly sending weaponry to the frontlines, and encouraging his people’s resistance.
Just like in every other war, though, we must not forget that while we try to understand the global causes and consequences of this conflict from an external viewpoint, the real victims of this crisis are the citizens, the simple people who are losing their certainties, their homes, their lives, over a war they did not choose and sometimes do not even understand.
Around the World
Colombia: abortion legalised in move celebrated as ‘historic victory’. Colombia has decriminalized abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, adding to a recent string of legal victories for reproductive rights in Latin America. The South American country’s constitutional court ruled five against four to decriminalize the procedure on Monday evening. The decision follows a series of rulings in Mexico and Argentina that lowered barriers to abortion.
Covid: Australia’s border reopens to international visitors. For the first time in nearly two years, Australia has reopened its international borders, bringing a boost to tourism. Australia had imposed some of the strictest travel bans in the world following the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, and while Australians were allowed to return home starting from last year, most foreigners have had to wait to reach Australian soil.
Leak unmasks criminals, fraudsters and corrupt politicians. A leak of account data from Credit Suisse, for a total of £80bn and 30,000 accounts, has exposed the hidden wealth of clients involved in torture, drug trafficking, money laundering, corruption, and other serious crimes. Among them, a Vatican-owned account that has been linked to fraudulent investments, a human trafficker in the Philippines, and spy chiefs from Yemen and Egypt, who collaborated with the US on various missions in the past and are accused of human rights abuses.
Eurozone economic activity rises at fastest pace since September. Eurozone economic activity rose at the fastest pace in five months in February as restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus were lifted, while rising energy bills and wages led to the sharpest price increases on record. The flash purchasing managers’ composite index for the eurozone, an important measure of the health of the manufacturing and services sectors, rose to 55.8 in February, up from 52.3 in January and the highest since September.
City of Hong Kong to test entire population of 7.5m for Covid in March. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced mandatory mass testing as the Omicron variant threatens to completely overwhelm the health care system. The entire population, which is comprised of 7.5 million people, is consequently scheduled to be tested in March.
Invasion Boosts Prices of Key Commodities, Putting Pressure on Global Inflation. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine immediately sent prices of key agricultural and industrial commodities higher, adding to the already significant inflationary pressure. Russia, in fact, is not simply a key energy exporter; it is also a major producer of some industrial and precious metals.
Moderna says pandemic will end in 2022 but annual boosters needed. Moderna has said that it expects the pandemic to end this year but forecasts that a seasonal booster will be needed in autumn to protect people from “breakthrough” Covid-19 infections.
Lo stato di emergenza non sarà prorogato. Il Presidente del Consiglio Mario Draghi ha dichiarato che è intenzione del governo non prorogare ulteriormente lo Stato di Emergenza che quindi, salvo imprevisti, terminerà il prossimo 31 marzo. «Da allora non sarà più in vigore il sistema delle zone colorate, le scuole resteranno sempre aperte per tutti: saranno infatti eliminate le quarantene da contatto», ha detto Draghi parlando al Teatro del Maggio musicale fiorentino mercoledì pomeriggio.
Migliaia di tonnellate di rifiuti esportati illegalmente in Tunisia sono tornati in Italia. Circa 8mila tonnellate di rifiuti che nel 2020 erano state trasferite illegalmente dall’Italia alla Tunisia e che da allora erano rimaste in gran parte stipate in container nel porto di Sousse, nella Tunisia orientale, sono rientrate in Italia. Dopo una disputa diplomatica e legale durata mesi la nave Martina A, della compagnia turca Arkas, con a bordo 213 container carichi di rifiuti, è infine ripartita dalla Tunisia e domenica sera è attraccata al porto di Salerno. Da lì i rifiuti saranno portati nell’area militare di Persano, nel comune di Serre, dove secondo la regione Campania resteranno tra i quattro e i sei mesi in attesa di una soluzione definitiva.
Guerra in Ucraina, Draghi: “Attacco russo ingiustificato e ingiustificabile”. “Il governo italiano condanna l’attacco della Russia all’Ucraina. È ingiustificato e ingiustificabile”. Queste le parole di Mario Draghi in merito alle operazioni militari russe. Egli aggiunge “Siamo al lavoro con gli alleati europei e della Nato per rispondere immediatamente”
La metro di Roma chiuderà per mesi alle 21. L’assessore alla mobilità del Comune di Roma Eugenio patané ha dichiarato che a causa di una serie di lavori di manutenzione che sono stati rimandati per anni, le due principali linee della metropolitana (la A e la B) dovranno chiudere per diversi mesi alle ore 21. La linea B sarà chiusa a partire dalle 21 da aprile a giugno, mentre la linea A inizierà a chiudere alle 21 a giugno e continuerà per ben 18 mesi.
Monopattini, tavolini all’aperto e nuova imposta sulla nicotina: tutte le novità nel Milleproroghe. Il provvedimento, che ha già ottenuto la fiducia della Camera, otterrà l’approvazione del Senato entro la settimana. Bonus psicologo, congelamento delle accise sulle sigarette elettroniche, norme semplificate per l’occupazione del suolo e nuove misure fiscali sono alcuni dei punti previsti dal decreto.
Ora parla la Difesa: “Militari italiani già in Lettonia e Romania”. “La Nato e l’Unione europea hanno lavorato e continuano a lavorare incessantemente per una soluzione politica. I fatti sono andati nella direzione opposta. Continuiamo, però, a ritenere che la via diplomatica sia la strada maestra. Questo non significa che non occorra una risposta ferma”. Queste sono state le parole del Ministro della Difesa Guerini al Corriere della Sera. in questo processo di rafforzamento rientra anche l’Italia, che da tempo si è attivata impegnando le proprie forze armate in operazioni nei Paesi Baltici, in particolare in Lettonia, e in Romania, oltre alla presenza navale tra Mediterraneo orientale e Mar Nero.
Draghi: ‘Solidarietà all’Ucraina. Ora il dialogo con Mosca è impossibile’. Il premier Mario Draghi, intervenendo in videoconferenza durante l’incontro con gli altri capi di Stato del G7, ha detto che quanto sta succedendo in Ucraina riguarda tutti noi e le nostre democrazie e che questa crisi potrebbe durare a lungo ed è dunque necessario “essere preparati”. Conclude, inoltre, esprimendo la solidarietà dell’Italia nei confronti dell’Ucraina.
- Exchange destinations have come out! Applications will be open from March 2nd to 8th. If you want to apply, make sure to check it out.
We have read a lot about the SWIFT system in relation to the potential sanctions to be imposed on Russia, but what exactly is it, and why is the West so reluctant to fully deny Russian banks access to SWIFT if it would be an effective measure. Firstly, Russia has been preparing for a possible removal from the SWIFT system since 2014, as the US proposed this as a sanction to the invasion of Crimea. If Russia is barred from using the system, it can switch to SPFS, a Russian alternative to SWIFT that is less efficient but can still enable Russia to mitigate the effects of the sanction. Another reason is that such a removal will make it harder for international buyers to pay for goods and energy supplies from Russia. Finally, a further politicization of SWIFT may incentivize China to try to increase the prominence of CIPS, a rival to SWIFT for cross-border payments in yuan. You can find more details on all this here.