Russia-Ukraine: Two years of war
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A Russian military transport plane crashes near Yablonovo, Belgorod Region, Russia, January 24, 2024, in this screen grab from a social media video obtained by REUTERS

via REUTERS

Hard Numbers: Accusations fly over Russian air crash, diplomats get a booze spot in Riyadh, Korea’s Dior look is a bad one, Egypt catches strays from Houthi resistance, prices stay spicy in Mexico

74: The death toll from Wednesday’s fiery crash of a Russian military plane near the Ukrainian border is up to 74. At least 65 of them were Ukrainian POWs set to be released as part of a prisoner exchange. Moscow says Kyiv shot down the plane, while Kyiv says Moscow was responsible for properly identifying the aircraft as it flew through a warzone. Both sides have been ramping up air attacks – and air defenses – as the ground phase of the war has become a rat-infested stalemate.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends the 10th Session of the 14th Supreme People's Assembly of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, at the Mansudae Assembly Hall, in Pyongyang, North Korea, January 15, 2024.

KCNA via REUTERS

What’s Kim Jong Un playing at?

On Tuesday, North Korean state media reported that Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un had proposed changing the country’s constitution to remove all references to reunification with South Korea and to frame Seoul as the country’s “primary foe.” It echoes the rejection of reunification Kim made in his New Year’s speech and comes a week after North Korean forces fired artillery shells across their disputed maritime border with South Korea.

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa pose for a photo prior to the 10th trilateral foreign ministers' meeting in Busan, South Korea, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023.

Ahn Young-joon/Pool via REUTERS

China, Japan, and South Korea to resume annual trilateral meetings

Amid escalating tensions in the South China Sea and faced with the looming Taiwan election, the foreign ministers of China, Japan, and South Korea held their first in-person talks since 2019 on Sunday, in Busan, South Korea, with hopes of paving the way for resumption of formal annual trilateral summits.

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Pro-Palestine protesters march in London.

Balint Szentgallay via Reuters

Hard Numbers: Pro-Palestinian protests rock London, Machado prevails in Venezuela, drone shortage woes, Madagascan opposition, joint aerial exercise with Asian allies, a great Great Lake discovery


100,000: In London, 100,000 protesters chanted “Stop bombing Gaza” and waved Palestinian flags as they marched from Hyde Park to Whitehall on Saturday. Officials asked Brits to be mindful of the Jewish community, with Metropolitan Police reporting a 13-fold uptick in reports of antisemitic offenses this month compared to last year.

93: Industrial engineer Maria Corina Machado declared victory in the opposition's presidential primary in Venezuela late Sunday. With 26% of ballots counted, she had 93% of the vote. The question now is whether Nicolás Maduro will allow Machado — who's been officially banned from running for office — to challenge him in the 2024 presidential election.

10,000: Ukraine loses 10,000 drones a month in its war with Russia and is now facing a shortage of parts due to export restrictions by China. Concerns about the impact on Ukrainian defense capabilities have prompted a search for alternatives made elsewhere, including by domestic startups.

50,000: Madagascar’s opposition parties held a rally with 50,000 people to protest what they call an “illegitimate” election process ahead of general elections in November. Last month, the country’s constitutional court dismissed appeals to have President Andry Rajoelina’s candidacy declared void over his dual French nationality, angering opposition politicians who say voters do not want “foreigners” running the country.

1: South Korea, the United States, and Japan have held their first joint aerial exercise in the face of an escalating North Korean nuclear threat and a recent visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Pyongyang. South Korea and Japan host 80,000 American troops and are key American allies in the region.

128: A documentary about the invasive quagga mussel’s impact on the Great Lakes led to the discovery of a 128-year-old shipwreck. Filmmakers came across the Africa, a steamship that went missing in October 1895 while carrying coal from Ohio to Ontario, on the bottom of Lake Huron.

South Korean soldiers check military fences as they patrol near the demilitarized zone separating North Korea from South Korea, in Paju, north of Seoul February 12, 2013.

REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

Hamas attacks prompt South Korean security rethink

Seoul’s painful history with North Korean infiltration – including deadly border skirmishes and incidents along the Korean Demilitarized Zone separating the countries – means it can’t afford to ignore Israel’s deadly experience with Hamas. Newly appointed Defense Minister Shin Won-shik cited the Hamas attacks on Tuesday when he said South Korea would suspend its participation in a military agreement with North Korea that limits where Seoul can deploy drones, ships, and foot patrols along the DMZ.

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Russian Black Sea Fleet commander still alive despite Ukraine's claims
TITLE PLACEHOLDER | World In: 60 | GZERO Media

Russian Black Sea Fleet commander still alive despite Ukraine's claims

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60.

Is Russian commander Sokolov still alive?

Black Sea fleet commander. The Ukrainians said he was killed in a missile strike, but after that missile strike, he's attending a meeting with the Kremlin and looks very much alive. Should all remember that there is a lot of disinformation and a lot of misinformation in the fog of war. You remember that Snake Island strike. And that, of course, turned out those guys didn't die. They were made prisoner and then they were released. So Russians are absolutely at fault for the invasion. Ukrainian information is meant to promote Ukrainian efforts in the war. And this is one of those instances.

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South Korea's deputy foreign minister for political affairs, Chung Byung-won, Japan's Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Takehiro Funakoshi, and China's Assistant Foreign Minister, Nong Rong, pose for photographs during their meeting in Seoul, South Korea, September 26, 2023.

REUTERS/Kim Soo-hyeon

To win back South Korea, China tries to chill out

Diplomats from China, South Korea, and Japan agreed to resume high-level trilateral meetings at the “earliest convenient time” in a signal that Beijing may be rethinking its aggressive foreign policy approach.

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T-50 supersonic training planes take off for training at an airforce base in Gwangju, south of Seoul

Reuters

Hard Numbers: US bombers soar in Asia, Bolivia’s car theft culture, deafening penalties for 3M, Europe’s Russian gas habit persists

10: For the 10th time this year, the US deployed a strategic B1-B bomber for military exercises with South Korea. Washington also sent two of the planes to fly with Japan. The moves come just weeks after US President Joe Biden hosted a landmark trilateral security summit with Japan and South Korea. North Korea, as usual, was enraged by the bomber flights.
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