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Local woman cries as she prepares to enter an evacuation train from Kherson, Ukraine.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: Kherson evacuation, China’s flex in Taiwan, botched bomb plot in Brasilia

A bloody few days in Ukraine and Russia

Three Russian service members were killed by what Moscow claimed was falling debris inside Russia on Monday after a Ukrainian drone was shot down over the Engels military base about 400 miles from the Ukrainian border. It’s the second time in a month that Ukraine has targeted that base, which Kyiv says the Kremlin is using as a launching pad for missile attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure. The incident is problematic for President Vladimir Putin, who has long tried to reassure Russians that the war won’t be coming home or impacting their everyday lives – a narrative that’s harder to sell when deadly drones are flying inside Russian airspace. The timing was also embarrassing for Putin, who was hosting leaders from former Soviet republics when the attack occurred. While Kyiv has mostly been on a high since President Volodymyr Zelensky’s successful trip to Washington, DC, last week, it was also a bloody weekend for Ukraine: Russia pummeled the southern city of Kherson on Christmas Eve, leading to at least 10 deaths and scores of injuries. Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities are urging residents to evacuate the city in preparation for what's still to come.

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Ukraine’s Kherson Victory Is a Turning Point in the War | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

Ukraine’s Kherson victory is a turning point in the war

Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on European politics.

What's the importance of Putin losing the city of Kherson?

Major, I would say. I mean he lost, first, the battle for Kyiv immediately after launching his invasion. Then he lost the battle for Kharkiv, the second largest Ukrainian city. And now he lost the absolutely key city of Kherson, where he had said even that it's an exit to Russia. He is totally absent from the issue in the Russian media, blaming it all on the military, but it's a turning point in the war. Very big. More to come.

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Georgia Senate candidates: U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock (D) and Herschel Walker (R)

Reuters

What We’re Watching: US midterm cliffhanger, Russia’s Kherson retreat, ASEAN summit kickoff

Control of Congress hangs in the balance

“It was a good day for democracy and I think a good day for America,” President Joe Biden said Wednesday night about the midterm election results. The US House and Senate both remain in play after Republicans failed to deliver on their promise of giving Democrats a shellacking. While the GOP is still favored to take control of the lower chamber, incoming House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is likely to preside over a slim and dysfunctional GOP majority – hardly the wave he had anticipated. The GOP is still 11 seats short of clinching a majority in the House, and several competitive districts are still being counted. Control of the Senate, meanwhile, rests on three states – Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia – that remain too close to call. The race in the Peach State between Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker will go to a run-off on Dec. 6 after neither reaped 50% of the vote. What’s more, measures to enshrine abortion rights were overwhelmingly backed by voters in states including Michigan, California, and Vermont. Even deep-red Kentucky refused to back an amendment denying the constitutional right to abortion, proving that curtailing abortion access is a losing issue for the GOP.

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Russian State-Sponsored Terrorism | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Russian attacks on Ukraine are state-sponsored terrorism

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here. A Quick Take to kick off your week, and of course we are still talking about the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Almost eight months now of since the initial invasion of Russia into Ukraine. The war continues to get worse. There's more hits on Ukraine. 30% of the country's electricity has been disrupted. More hits on cities focused on civilian casualties over the last week. These are the attacks that we've seen across the country by mostly missile and drone attacks by the Russians. Not even trying to say that these are military targets anymore. It's really state-sponsored terror by the Russian government.

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Nuclear Weapons? Maybe | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Nuclear weapons could be used; Russia's war gets more dangerous

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and a Quick Take to kick off your week. I have to talk about Russia. There's plenty of news in the world. There's Brazil, there's United Kingdom, there's Iran, but no, Russia is the biggest story, and it's because we've just seen the worst week in the war in terms of escalation and danger that we've had since the initial invasion on February 24th. President Putin, after meeting with some of his closest remaining friends on the global stage, the Indian prime minister, the Chinese president, the Kazakh president, all telling him directly, "Hey, the war is a horrible idea. Please end this as soon as possible." Putin does exactly the opposite and escalates. Calls up a minimum of 300,000 additional troops in a mobilization, something he had been dragging his feet on and avoiding over the last months because he knew how unpopular it would be in Russia.

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EU To Remain Interested in Keeping Borders Open to Russian Tourists | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

EU keeps borders open for Russians but tightens visa rules

Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on European politics.

Will the EU close its border to Russian tourists?

No, it will be more difficult to get a visa if you are a Russian, but I think we have an interest in keeping our borders open. There's roughly, I think, 400,000 Russians who've left Russia since the invasion, and they've done it because they don't consider the Russia to be the country where they want to spend their future. There might be more of those coming, and we should keep the borders open for them.

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A WFP official looks on as UN-chartered ship carrying Ukrainian wheat docks in Djibouti.

Hugh Rutherford/WFP/Handout via REUTERS

What We're Watching: Africa got grain, Ukraine counteroffensive, CCP save the date

Ukrainian grain arrives in Africa

Finally, some more good food news. The first cargo of Ukrainian grain to Africa since the Russian invasion docked Tuesday in Djibouti en route to famished Ethiopia. The UN-chartered ship carries 23,000 metric tons of wheat, enough to feed some 1.5 million Ethiopians for a month. But the drought-stricken country needs a lot more, particularly amid an ongoing civil war in the northern Tigray region that’s caused a humanitarian crisis. What's more, neighboring Somalia and Kenya are also at risk of famine due to the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in 40 years. Before Russia invaded Ukraine, UN food agencies got three-quarters of their grain from Ukraine, so they've had to scale down their operations in the region right when food aid is most needed. The UN-brokered deal for Russia to resume grain shipments from Ukraine's Black Sea ports is slowly bringing down global food prices, which were soaring in part because until recently 20 million metric tons of grain meant for export were stuck in Ukraine. It also offers relief to African nations, many of which have been hit hard by rising food prices stemming from the war between the Sunflower Superpowers. Food shipments are coming, but they are slow — especially for the 22 million people across the Horn of Africa who are at risk of starvation.

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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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