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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a televised meeting in Russia


Hard Numbers: Prigozhin on Putin’s payroll, Sierra Leone election unrest, Chinese millionaire dreams of college, Rainforest destruction soars

86 billion: According to Vladimir Putin, the Wagner Group was fully funded by the Kremlin and received 86 billion rubles (or US $1 billion) from Moscow in the last year. This claim has not been independently verified but sounds an awful lot like Russia's president trying to take credit for the paramilitary group's gains on the battlefield – while painting its neutered warlord, Yevgeny Prigozhin, as a traitorous leech.

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Italian PM Giorgia Meloni during a press conference in Rome.

LaPresse / Roberto Monaldo/Sipa via Reuters Connect

What We’re Watching: Meloni’s migrant moves, a cartel for rainforests, Haiti’s hope for fuel

Meloni draws a line on migrants

Since becoming Italy’s prime minister two weeks ago, Giorgia Meloni has pushed back against media attempts to portray her as a far-right nationalist euro-skeptic troublemaker. Aware that Italy needs cash from the EU, she’s presented her government as ready to negotiate with Brussels on outstanding issues in good faith. She’s made clear her support for Ukraine and NATO. Yet, she does stand ready to strike a harder line on migration policy as asylum-seekers continue to arrive by boat. (Italy has already received 85,000 migrants from across the Mediterranean this year.) On Sunday, two rescue ships that made port in Sicily were told that children and people with medical problems were allowed off the ships, but able-bodied men were not considered “vulnerable” and must remain on board. The ships were then ordered to leave, but their captains refused to budge. Rights groups and Italian opposition politicians say Italy’s decision violates EU law and the Geneva Convention. Meloni knows that many Italians expect a harder line on asylum policy and that greenlighting the entry of all migrants encourages more people to take the risky journey across the Med. This standoff is just the beginning of the Meloni government’s battle with EU officials and aid groups over an issue that provokes strong emotions on both sides.

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