Ukraine

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Marina Silva, a political outsider who is threatening to end the 12-year reign of Brazil’s powerful centre-left Workers’ party, is quenching Brazilians’ thirst for change.

Qatar’s foreign minister has rejected claims Qataris are funding Isis in Syria and tells the west to back moderate Sunni fighting the Assad regime.

• Islamist extremists such as Isis are exploiting the conventions of X-rated movies in their own hardcore film productions, writes The Atlantic.

• Russian academic Sergey Karaganov argues that the delusions of a west that has become a directionless gaggle are responsible for triggering the conflict over Ukraine.

• An independent Scotland would face running a gauntlet to gain admission to the EU. Read more

Rising tensions over war in Ukraine
The war in Ukraine, the rising tensions between Russia and the West, Vladimir Putin’s objectives, and how ordinary Russians and Russia’s other neighbouring states see the conflict. Neil Buckley, the FT’s eastern Europe editor and Jack Farchy, Moscow correspondent, join Gideon Rachman.

(Getty)

By Christian Oliver and Richard Milne

Europe’s leaders are preparing for a trade war with Russia by mapping out the battlefields on which they see the highest risk of casualties.

In data released on Friday, the European Commission identified the agricultural exporters most vulnerable to Moscow’s trade embargo on EU produce. Spanish peaches, Dutch cheeses and Polish apples find themselves squarely on the front line.

Polish fruit exports to Russia were valued at €340m last year and win the dubious honour of being the most exposed crops. The Poles have launched an impassioned public campaign to try to switch to more domestic consumption with their “Eat an apple to spite Putin” slogan.

The Netherlands (with dairy exports to Russia of €257m in 2013) and Finland (€253m) are at most risk on the milk and cheese front. Spain and Greece are vulnerable in relation to citrus, with stoned fruit such as peaches and nectarines also being described by farmers as being at crisis point in terms of storage overload and no market to go to. Read more

  • The hum of US drones is becoming more familiar over African skies as US military presence increases on the continent.
  • Russia has doubled the number of its battalions near the Ukrainian border and could launch a cross-border incursion with little or no warning.
  • The New Yorker considers the experience of the US ambassador to Russia and how he saw the promise of democracy come and fade.
  • Ben Judah takes a look inside the bullet-proof bubble of Vladimir Putin, the “latter-day dictator”.

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• Squeezed between government forces and Russian-backed separatists, civilian casualties in east Ukraine continue to mount, diminishing the chances of postwar reconciliation.

• Meanwhile in Russia, President Vladimir Putin is feeling the chill from the struggle for Ukraine as he attempts to appease both business tycoons and nationalists.

• The Guardian’s Shaun Walker tracked down the feared rebel leader Igor Bezler- thought to be behind the MH17 crash and regarded as something of a loose cannon, even by other rebels. The encounter ended with Mr Bezler threatening to execute the interviewer.

• Europe is bankrolling Al Qaeda by paying ransoms. An investigation by The New York Times found that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have taken in at least $125m in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66m was paid just last year. Read more

Gideon Rachman

Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, has just cemented his reputation as the problem child of the European Union with a speech in which he argued that “liberal democratic societies cannot remain globally competitive”. All EU countries are meant to subscribe to a set of values that could broadly be described as liberal and democratic. But Mr Orban suggested that the Hungarian government is now looking elsewhere for inspiration – citing China, Russia, Turkey and Singapore as potential role models. Read more

 

Part of the wreckage of MH17 that broke up over eastern Ukraine

After three fatal airline disasters in a week, coming just months after the mysterious disappearance of Flight MH370, aviation safety is under more scrutiny than at any time since the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks.

Not surprisingly, there has been a marked increase in chatter on social media in the last few days about fear of flying. But short of not getting on an aircraft, is there anything nervous flyers should know or do before getting onboard? Read more

Attempts on Monday by Russia to shift the blame for the shooting down of Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine away from the separatist rebels have had a few western analysts scratching their heads.

The Russian military gave journalists a high-level and highly detailed briefing of its take on the situation in the area where the Malaysian airliner was shot down. The presentation came just as the first apparent hard evidence was emerging from the crash site that the jet was hit by a large surface-to-air missile, similar to an SA-11 launched by the Buk-M1 system. Read more