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Pro-Russia protesters burn a Ukrainian flag outside the district council building in Donetsk.

REUTERS/Marko Djurica

What We’re Watching: Russian annexation fears, Russia-Israel drama, Mali breaks from France

Will Russia annex more of Ukraine?

The US is warning that Russia plans to formally annex the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, along with the city of Kherson, which Moscow has controlled since early March and where it has introduced the ruble. This wouldn't be the first time Russia illegally swiped a chunk of Ukraine – the Kremlin has run Crimea since holding a bogus referendum there on “joining Russia” in 2014. Washington believes Moscow will soon announce similar votes in the Donbas and Kherson — perhaps as soon as Russia’s Victory Day (a World War II celebration) on May 9. This major Russian holiday has become even more important now that the Kremlin frames its war in Ukraine as a fight against “Nazism.” Symbolism aside, why would Putin do this? For one thing, he needs to show something for his war effort, and he may want to make these territories bargaining chips in any eventual talks with Kyiv. But there's a downside for him, too: successfully holding these areas will mean pacifying hostile populations and supporting battered economies. Does Russia really have the military and financial wherewithal to do all that?

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Macron Needs to Secure Parliamentary Majority | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

Macron's reelection and the future of France

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from New Delhi, India.

What's the number one challenge for President Macron now, when he's been reelected?

First, of course, he has been reelected. That's highly important. He's the first French president to be reelected for a second term in 20 years. That's quite an achievement. But he now needs to secure some sort of parliamentary majority, and that election is coming up in a couple of weeks. That's going to be critical for all of his domestic reform agenda, which remains critical for the future of France.

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French President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he arrives to deliver a speech after being re-elected as president.

REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Can Macron unite a divided France?

Reflecting on Emmanuel Macron’s victory in France's presidential runoff, Tom McTague, writing for The Atlantic, referred to British PM Winston Churchill’s disdain for another French leader: Charles de Gaulle. Churchill was asked if de Gaulle was a great man. “He is selfish, he is arrogant, he believes he is the center of the world,” Churchill replied. “You are quite right. He is a great man.”

“Something similar might be true of Emmanuel Macron,” wrote McTague.

Macron can afford to be smug about some of his achievements. After all, he is the first French president to win a second term in some 20 years – the French are famous for rejecting incumbents. The 44-year-old centrist, a former banker, has only run for elected office twice – for the presidency in 2017 and 2022 – and he clinched the top job both times.

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Macron celebrates his victory during a rally at the Champ de Mars in Paris.

JB Autissier/Panoramic

Macron beats Le Pen, encore

Sometimes the polls aren’t wrong. On Sunday, centrist French President Emmanuel Macron defeated far-right hopeful Marine Le Pen in a rerun of their 2017 presidential runoff.

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Zelensky addresses the UN Security Council in a video message

Anthony Behar/Sipa USA via Reuters Connect

What We’re Watching: Zelensky at the UN, French race tightens, Sri Lankan crisis worsens

Zelensky wants justice over Russian war crimes

In his first address to the UN Security Council, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday said Russians accused of war crimes in Ukraine must be brought to justice, noting that the atrocities in Bucha and elsewhere are the worst Europe has seen since World War II. Prior to Zelensky’s speech, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance is working with the UN-backed International Criminal Court to investigate the alleged war crimes. The International Court of Justice has already ordered Russia to cease and desist but has no authority to enforce its ruling. But some argue that pursuing indictments during ongoing conflicts can frustrate efforts toward peace agreements, thereby raising the risk of further atrocities. Meanwhile, the mounting allegations are putting more pressure on Western powers to slap harsher sanctions on Moscow — perhaps even targeting Russian oil and coal by the EU.

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Petro reacts after winning the referendum vote for the Historic Pact coalition in Bogota.

REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

What We're Watching: Colombian presidential frontrunner, trouble in Corsica

Left-winger Petro is Colombia’s man to beat

Gustavo Petro ran the table in Sunday’s presidential primaries, drawing more votes from his Historic Pact Party’s voters alone than the winning candidates of the other two party primaries combined. In the May 29 first-round general vote Petro, a one-time guerrilla and former mayor of Bogotá, will face off against a bevy of at least five candidates, the strongest of whom include two former mayors of Medellín, the centrist Sergio Fajardo and right-winger Federico Gutierrez. But having surpassed 40 percent in recent polls, Petro could be on track to win outright in the first round. If he did, it would be a political earthquake in a country where decades of war with Marxist guerrillas had long kept national politics firmly on the center right. Petro has called for higher taxes on the wealthiest Colombians, ambitious land reform to help peasant farmers, and wants to shutter the country’s oil industry, which accounts for half of all export revenue. The country’s traditional political and business interests are naturally alarmed — so buckle up for what will be an exceedingly nasty campaign homestretch in South America’s third-largest economy and a major US ally.

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Macron shakes hands with Putin, at the French president's summer retreat.

REUTERS/Gerard Julien

Putin invades the year’s big elections

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is shifting politics inside every major country in the world. Here are four countries holding big elections this year — with details on how Vladimir Putin’s war is making a difference in Hungary, France, Brazil, and the United States.

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Gabriella Turrisi

Europe's nuclear dilemma

Last Friday’s attack by Russian forces on Europe’s largest nuclear power plant triggered outcry over the potential for a Chernobyl-like disaster. The US called it a “war crime,” and the issue was debated in an emergency session of the UN Security Council, where Russia received a global dressing down.

The blaze resulting from artillery use at Zaporizhzhia’s nuclear facility was eventually controlled. But Ukraine’s nuclear regulator told the IAEA on Sunday that it is having problems communicating with staff at the plant, and that a Russian general now controls the facility.

Putin’s next target, according to Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace, could be the three reactors at the Yuzhnoukrainsk power plant, which generates 10% of Ukraine’s electricity and is a major energy supplier throughout southern Ukraine. “Loss of cooling function to the reactor cores and spent fuel pools could lead to a disaster far worse even than the [2011] Fukushima Daiichi [disaster],” Burnie warns.

While the war is threatening Ukraine’s nuclear power operations — not to mention impacting world energy supplies and prices — it’s also raising questions about the safe use of nuclear energy. The continent has been accelerating its nuclear power usage — now officially, and controversially, labeled “green” by the European Commission, despite the threat of accidents and radioactive waste.

But the fast-changing security landscape poses a dilemma for European policymakers. How can they fight global warming while balancing their energy needs with this new security threat posed by Vladimir Putin?

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