Your Monday briefing: mass of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine


We cover US warnings of a Russian assault in eastern Ukraine and the results of the first round of the French presidential election.

Russian troops are expected to carry out a major offensive from the town of Izium to Dnipro, a strategic target in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, according to US military officials.

In anticipation of the attack, Ukrainian volunteer bus drivers were helping to evacuate residents to safety. Russian shelling destroyed Dnipro airport on Sunday, the regional governor said.

After withdrawing its forces from areas around kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, Russia is focusing its military campaign on Donbass, aiming to capture territory and create a land corridor to Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

To strengthen its offensive, Russia on Saturday appointed General Aleksandr Dvornikov as commander-in-chief of the battlefield in Ukraine. Dvornikov oversaw Russian forces in the war in Syria and is accused of ordering strikes on civilian neighborhoods.

Leaders: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Saturday and went for a walk with President Volodymyr Zelensky. Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who also visited Ukraine over the weekend, said he would meet President Vladimir Putin in Moscow today.

Flee or fight: Thousands of Ukrainian men of military age left the country to avoid participating in the war. Many say they feel guilty and ashamed.

The enemy within: With Putin’s direct encouragement, Russians who support the war are beginning to speak out against those who don’t.

President Emmanuel Macron won around 28.5% of the vote in the first round of France’s presidential election on Sunday, ahead of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who won 24.2%, according to projections based on data. preliminary counts.

Macron and Le Pen will now advance to a second round of elections on April 24. Follow our live updates.

Le Pen’s strong performance demonstrated the enduring appeal of nationalist and xenophobic currents in Europe.

Le Pen has softened his tone, if not his anti-immigrant stance. She gave the impression of being closer to the day-to-day concerns of the French, particularly with regard to the sharp rise in the price of gasoline and inflation.

Despite guiding France through the coronavirus crisis, bringing unemployment down to a decade low and reigniting growth, Macron appeared disengaged, his attention focused on the war in Ukraine rather than domestic issues. . His refusal to debate with other candidates angered some voters.

Mood: Three hours before the polls closed, turnout was 65%, the lowest in a French presidential election since 2002. Many voters said they were disappointed.

What’s at stake: The possibility of France shifting to a xenophobic and nationalist stance following a Le Pen victory would be as big a shock as Britain’s vote for Brexit in 2016 or the US election of Donald Trump in the same year.

Pakistan was heading for a snap election after former cricket star Imran Khan lost a no-confidence vote in parliament on Sunday.

Analysts expect opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif to serve as caretaker prime minister until elections, likely in October. Khan has shown no signs of backing down and is expected to run again.

Elected in 2018, Khan was removed from office after failing to get the economy back on track and, perhaps most crucially, seemingly losing the support of the country’s mighty military.

Although no prime minister in Pakistan has ever completed a full five-year term, Khan was the first to be removed from office in a vote of no confidence.

A mixed review: Analysts said Khan over-promised, backing often contradictory policies: he supported a deregulated market economy, but also a welfare state. His foreign policy decisions became a point of contention: he sought to distance himself from the United States and move closer to China and Russia.

When Australia closed its borders at the start of the pandemic, thousands of its citizens were stranded overseas. Isabella Kwai, our reporter from the London bureau, recently made a long-awaited return. She wondered how she would fit in the pandemic-altered country.

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