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Luisa Vieira

Why “General Armageddon” got demoted

Vladimir Putin has again replaced his top general in Ukraine, the second such move in 11 months of war. The Russian Defense Ministry announced on January 11 that Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov will take over as commander of his country’s war on Ukraine.

He replaces Sergei Surovikin, a man Russian media have dubbed “General Armageddon” to hype his fearsome reputation as the guy who flattened the Syrian city of Aleppo in 2016.

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U.S. President Joe Biden with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico City.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: Biden in Mexico, Japan's Kishida on tour, Ukraine’s eastern flank

What’s on the agenda at the “Three Amigos Summit”?

A meeting of North American leaders known as the "Three Amigos Summit" kicked off in Mexico City on Monday with US President Joe Biden, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, set to meet face-to-face for the first time since Nov. 2021 to chart a path forward on a range of thorny issues. Biden was greeted by his Mexican counterpart a day after making his first visit to the US southern border since becoming president. Indeed, the two have plenty to talk about. While Washington usually calls the shots when it comes to the US-Mexico relationship, AMLO will be looking to earn some concessions from Biden, who is desperately seeking help in dealing with a chaotic situation at the US southern border. This comes after Biden announced in recent days that Mexico had agreed to take in tens of thousands of Nicaraguan, Haitian, and Cuban migrants denied entry into the US in exchange for more work visas for Mexican laborers. Still, the White House might ask for more: While AMLO has agreed to take in an extra 30,000 migrants per month from these countries (plus Venezuela), some 90,000 people from these four places sought to cross the US southern border in November alone. Stopping the drug smuggling trade from Mexico into the US will also be high on the agenda as fentanyl overdoses continue to devastate American communities. Much of the remaining conversation will center on the United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal: Ottawa and Washington have accused AMLO of exerting excessive state control over the energy market. Meanwhile, Canada-US ties have been strained since the Biden administration’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act, passed last summer, included a slew of tax breaks for buying US-made electric vehicles, which Ottawa says will cripple its car manufacturing industry.

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Evgeny Prigozhin (L) assists Russian President Vladimir Putin

Reuters

The man with his own army

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner Group mercenary force and a longtime ally to Vladimir Putin, has become an increasingly prominent figure in the war in Ukraine — and perhaps in Russia’s future. His private army, media platform, and Putin’s deepening dependence on his fighters to bolster Russia’s lousy military performance make him a character worth a close look.

Who is Yevgeny Prigozhin?

Little is known about Prigozhin before the nine years he spent in prison as a young adult following his conviction on robbery and fraud charges. After his release in the dying days of the Soviet Union, he set up a highly profitable hot dog stand in St. Petersburg, and from there he built a restaurant business that helped feed Russian soldiers and later catered events for Russia’s richest and most powerful. He also caught the attention of Vladimir Putin.

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US Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) during a Jan. 6 committee hearing.

USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

What We're Watching: The outgoing Liz Cheney, trouble in Kosovo, France out of Mali

Liz Cheney’s next move

Liz Cheney, a three-term Republican US congresswoman from Wyoming, suffered a stinging defeat Tuesday night at the hands of well-funded primary opponent Harriet Hageman, enthusiastically backed by former president Donald Trump. Sarah Palin — the former vice presidential candidate and governor, also supported by Trump — won the Alaska primary to run for Congress. Cheney’s defeat marks a remarkable political fall for a nationally known conservative politician who is the daughter of former VP Dick Cheney, the previous generation of Republicans’ best-known Washington powerbroker. Her political future and her potential impact on American politics will be defined by her central role on the congressional committee investigating the riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and Trump’s role in it. Trump, according to Cheney, is “guilty of the most serious dereliction of duty of any president in our nation’s history.” Cheney raised some $13 million for her now-failed House campaign. She can still spend that money on a future race. Next up: speculation that Cheney will run for president in 2024 in a campaign defined by opposition to Trump, who is still the Republican presidential frontrunner.

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A man scuffles with the security officials before the result of Kenya's presidential election is announced in Nairobi.

REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

What We’re Watching: Kenyan election jitters, Ukraine hits Wagner, Israel strikes near Russian bases

Kenya's new president is … ?

Deputy President William Ruto won Kenya's presidential election with 50.5% of the vote, the electoral commission declared Monday. Still, the process was very messy: authorities initially delayed the announcement amid clashes at the national counting center and accusations of vote rigging from Ruto's rival Raila Odinga. What’s more, four out of the commission's seven members refused to endorse the result over vague fraud claims. So, what happens now? Odinga, who represents the country’s dynastic politics, might contest the result in court, as he did five years ago, when the Supreme Court found so many logistical errors in the presidential election that it forced a rerun. Also, in 2007 more than 1,200 Kenyans were killed following a similarly disputed vote. (Both Ruto and outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta were then taken before the International Criminal Court for inciting violence, but charges against both were later dropped.) All eyes are now on the 77-year-old Odinga, in his fifth and presumably last run for the presidency. Will he risk more unrest and perhaps violence to win at all costs? Such uncertainty doesn't bode well for East Africa's most vibrant democracy. This election “started off as the most transparent and ends up in farce," tweeted political cartoonist Patrick Gathara.

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A protester holds a placard during a protest in defense of free media in Gdansk, Poland.

Tomasz Zasinski / SOPA Images/Sipa USA

What We’re Watching: Polish coalition on the ropes, Ethiopian PM’s call to arms, Russian mercs in Libya

Polish government in trouble: Poland's rightwing coalition government is on the ropes after PM Mateusz Morawiecki fired his deputy, Jaroslaw Gowin, for opposing two key pieces of legislation: a raft of tax reforms that Morawiecki says will help the middle class but Gowin fears will actually hurt them, as well as a proposed new law restricting foreign media ownership, which critics say is meant to silence unfriendly reporting by a US-owned TV network. Without the support of Gowin's small center-right Agreement party, the coalition government — formed by the ruling PiS and the far-right United Poland — could lose its slim majority in parliament, which in turn would force Morawiecki to call an early election. If he does so, he'll face a tough rival in a familiar face for Poles: former PM and European Commission top honcho Donald Tusk, who wants to run for his old job.

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