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People gather at a tram stop in front of a board displaying a portrait of a fallen Russian soldier in St. Petersburg. A slogan reads: "Glory to heroes of Russia!"

REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

What We’re Watching: Russian scramble, DeSantis’s migrant flights, Bolsonaro in the night sky

Putin calls up reservists

In his biggest “admission” to date that the war in Ukraine is not going to plan, Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered a partial mobilization of Russian reservists. The move is estimated to affect some 300,000 reservists out of the 25 million Russians who fit the criteria of having had some military experience. However, in a rare taped address to the nation, Putin stopped short of actually declaring “war” in Ukraine, instead using his fiery speech to insist that Russia's goals have not changed and to warn NATO that he'll use any weapons at his disposal to achieve Russia’s objectives — a thinly veiled threat that nukes are on the table.

Meanwhile, Tuesday saw two (seemingly contradictory) developments that suggest Ukraine’s aggressive and successful military counteroffensive now has Russian policymakers scrambling for responses. First, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told a PBS interviewer that, based on comments made by Putin at last week’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, he believes the Russian president wants to end the war in Ukraine as soon as possible. (Note: Erdoğan’s comments on potential terms of a peace deal may have been badly translated or taken out of context.)

Second, officials from the Russian-backed separatist provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk announced they would hold referendums on the question of joining Russia, beginning on Friday (!) and running through Tuesday. Putin announced his support for the votes, which would pave the way for the annexation of Ukrainian territory the Russian military still controls. Occupation authorities in the southern region of Kherson and in Russian-held parts of Zaporizhzhia quickly said they would do the same. Moscow insists that attacks on any territories annexed by Russia will be treated as attacks on Russia itself, with all the unstated and scary-sounding implications of that distinction. Ukrainian and Western officials have dismissed the votes as illegal and farcical.

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Luisa Vieira

Is Latin America’s new “pink tide” for real?

Since it’s August we obviously can’t ask much of you, but try this for fun: take out a red marker and a black and white map of Latin America.

Now, color in all the countries currently led by leftist leaders. You’ll immediately be filling in five of the largest economies — Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Perú. By October, you’ll likely have added Brazil, the biggest of them all.

Along with stalwart leftists in Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and the new presidenta of Honduras, your map will have a big splash of rojo/vermelho bigger than any we’ve seen in at least 15 years. That’s when observers first hailed — or feared — a new “pink tide” in Latin America.

But is the region really back in the red, so to speak? Or is this pink tide different from previous ones? Spoiler: they are not the same. Let’s look at what’s going on.

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Sri Lankans celebrate the resignation President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Colombo.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

What We're Watching: Sri Lanka swears in new leader, Bolsonaro spends big, Biden to kiss the ring

Sri Lanka has a new acting president

Gotabaya Rajapaksa finally resigned — by email — on Thursday as president of Sri Lanka, a country rocked by months-long mass protests, economic collapse, and political turmoil over his rule. He fled the country on Tuesday, likely to avoid arrest, and is now in Singapore, but Rajapaksa’s final destination remains unclear. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the sitting PM Rajapaksa appointed interim president before getting out of Dodge, was sworn in as acting president on Friday. Wickremesinghe’s ability to govern, however briefly, is uncertain given that protesters also want him out. Parliament’s process for selecting the new leader now begins, with a vote coming as early as next week. MPs will have to come up with an alternative candidate to serve out the remainder of Rajapaksa's term until 2025, or hold a snap election. Whoever becomes president will then have to pick a prime minister to lead a government that'll need to pass tough economic reforms to secure an IMF bailout, the only way Sri Lanka can salvage its ruined economy. Demonstrators ignored a new curfew to publicly celebrate Rajapaksa’s resignation overnight, and all eyes are on what happens next on the streets of Colombo.

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We’ve Reached Peak Global Food Inflation, Says IFPRI Expert David Laborde | GZERO Media

We've reached peak global food inflation, says IFPRI expert

Global food prices have been going through the roof over the past few months — but there's some good news on the horizon.

Weather permitting, the prices of key commodities like wheat are now almost back to their levels before Russia invaded Ukraine, David Laborde, a senior fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, said during a livestream discussion on the global food crisis hosted by GZERO Media in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Annie Gugliotta

BRICS vs. the West

Before the heads of the world's most "advanced" economies meet this weekend in Germany for the annual G7 summit, the leaders of the top five "emerging" ones — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, aka BRICS — are holding their own (virtual) summit in Beijing on Thursday.

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Big Democracies That Depend On Russia | GZERO World

Big democracies that depend on Russia

Western leaders love to say that Russia's war in Ukraine is a fight for democracy itself.

But not all of the world's democracies agree.

India, the world's largest democracy, remains neutral and keeps buying Russian arms and oil.

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Lula attends a news conference after meeting with the Rede Sustentabilidade party in Brasilia.

REUTERS/Andressa Anholete

Can Bolsonaro win re-election after all?

With just six months left before Brazil’s presidential election, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva officially launched his campaign Saturday for the country’s top job. A highly celebrated politician, Lula seeks to lead Latin America’s largest democracy at a tumultuous time amid fears over authoritarianism and a rising cost of living.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro attend a news conference following talks in Moscow.

Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

For Latin America, political risks overshadow economic gain from Ukraine crisis

Countries that rely heavily on imported food and energy face the greatest risk of social and economic crises from the disruption caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Yet even those that are themselves big producers of these essential commodities are suffering fallout from the war. Rising prices for basic goods in many parts of Latin America, for example, are testing governments already struggling to manage elevated public frustration caused by pandemic hardships. We asked Eurasia Group expert Yael Sternberg to explain how this is playing out.

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