Ukraine

(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

  • Chinese artist and former soldier Guo Jian had lunch with the FT and recalled his part in the Tiananmen protests 25 years ago. He was arrested today.
  • Despite attempts to protect whistleblowers on Wall Street, the personal price that they pay is still high.
  • Considering economists’ forecasting failures, should their predictions be taken seriously?
  • Edward Luce “would sooner consult the star signs” and says economists looking at the US should look at rising income and wealth inequality.
  • Western leaders will be looking to use the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings as a chance to boost the legitimacy of President Poroshenko in Kiev.
  • The Kremlin invests around €100m a year in Russian media abroad in order to influence public opinion in the West and, according to Der Spiegel, it is winning the propaganda war.
  • The US soldier traded for Taliban fighters was allegedly a deserter.
  • In Srebrenica, graves are still being turned over – as are memories and accounts of the genocide.
  • The Sunday Times reveals that millions of documents show how secret payments helped Qatar to win the World Cup bid.

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  • Borzou Daragahi reports on how the violence in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon is merging into a single sectarian war whose Shia and Sunni protagonists are receiving support from regional powers “amid a dizzying and ever-changing cast of militia leaders, jihadi adventurers, sectarian politicians and rogue gangs dressed up as political groups”.
  • As for the conflict in Ukraine, Courtney Weaver discovers that dozens of Chechen fighters have joined pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, claiming to have been ordered there by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. “They’ve killed one of our guys and we will not forget this,” said Magomed, a 30 year-old Chechen fighter with a wolf tattooed across his chest. “We will take one hundred of their lives for the life our brother.”
  • On the European front, “the outcome of the European elections (at home and elsewhere) paves the way for Italy to play an active role in Europe,” says the Bruegel think-tank as it chews over the success of Matteo Renzi and the Democratic party. But now that Renzi has a mandate, “Italy should play a role and put itself forward as a decided leader in the project of more European integration.”
  • One for a quiet moment and a cup of coffee: The Guardian has gone deep into “enemy territory” and produced an outsider’s guide to the City of London. “I am trying to understand the culture of the City; to find out whether those who work there have learned the lessons of the crash of 2007-08, and if the City can ever be made ‘disaster proof’,” writes Stephen Moss.
  • On that note, Martin Wolf ponders the crisis-prone nature of capitalism and asks what governments must do to minimise the damage without having to resort to the comprehensive measures needed after the last crash.

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Germany’s allies may think that Berlin is slow to engage with the rest of the world – and show some political muscle commensurate with its economic weight.

But the German public has the opposite view: in an opinion poll published on Tuesday, only 37 per cent support a more active German foreign policy with 60 per cent against. Read more

Neil Buckley

The dangerous stand-off between separatists and pro-government forces in Ukraine’s two easternmost regions continues, threatening to tip into a Yugoslav-style war. Yet for the first time in more than two months, there are tentative signs that Russian pressure on Ukraine may be easing.

Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday said he was ordering Russian troops camped near Ukraine’s border to return to their permanent bases, even if there was little immediate sign of movement. Moscow “respected”, but did not explicitly recognise, self-rule referendums in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk held last week. Read more