🌍 The latest from Ukraine

Plus: Rescue efforts in Libya

Hi there Intriguer. Some words are tough to translate, but we hope you’ll have a weekend full of merak (a sense of bliss and oneness with the universe), with plenty of time to samar (stay up late for a pleasant conversation), and maybe even a splash of the ol’ aspaldiko (the joy of catching up with someone after way too long).

Today’s briefing is a 4 min read:

  • 🇺🇦 The latest from the Russo-Ukraine War.

  • 🇱🇾 What happened in Libya.

  • Plus: E.T. goes to congress, how the papers are covering nationwide blackouts in Nigeria, and the longest UN speech ever.

⏱️ Around the world in sixty seconds

  1. 🇦🇫 Afghanistan: China has become the first country to appoint a new ambassador to Afghanistan since the Taliban retook Kabul in 2021. The Taliban is hoping Zhao Xing’s appointment will spur other countries to do the same.

  2. 🇪🇺 EU: Tunisian authorities have denied entry to a group of EU parliamentarians scheduled to begin an official visit. While Tunis has offered no explanation, there’s speculation it’s in retaliation for EU criticism levelled at President Saied’s increasingly authoritarian approach.

  3. 🇰🇭 Cambodia: Newly-appointed Prime Minister Hun Manet is in China for a three-day state visit. The trip is Hun’s first venture abroad since receiving the reins from his father Hun Sen last month.

  4. 🇻🇪 Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro announced during a meeting with Xi Jinping on Wednesday (13 September) that Venezuelan astronauts could “soon” join Chinese astronauts on a mission to the moon. He offered no timeline for the mission.

  5. 🇪🇬 Egypt: Officials are reportedly considering holding presidential elections this year rather than in 2024 as had been assumed. President Sisi is currently struggling to lift the country from an economic crisis, but is widely expected to run for re-election (and win).

 🇺🇦 Ukraine | Russo-Ukraine War

Where is the Russo-Ukraine war headed?

Ukraine has claimed some hits on Russian occupying forces lately, including:

  • Destroying an advanced air defence system in Crimea yesterday (Thursday), using drones to blind it then cruise missiles to destroy it

  • Seriously damaging a landing ship and submarine that were undergoing repairs at a dock in Crimea on Wednesday

  • Recapturing strategic oil and gas platforms in the Black Sea last weekend (they were reportedly housing radar equipment), and

  • Retaking various villages along the southern and eastern fronts over the past month, breaking through some initial Russian defences.

Meanwhile, Russia has reportedly:

Intrigue's take: Two quotes come to mind here.

First, WWII General Omar Bradley’s old line that “amateurs talk strategy and professionals talk logistics”: in a war of attrition, supply lines are key. Hence the increased targeting of landing ships, port facilities, bridges, etc.

And second, “gradually, then suddenly”: this was a Hemmingway line on bankruptcy, but it fits war, too. Sure, we could be looking at similar front-lines in five years. But defences can collapse. And that happens quickly.

Also worth noting:

  • Ukraine says Russia is preparing for another mobilisation drive later this year. Russian officials have said there are no such plans.

📰 How newspapers covered…

A nationwide blackout in Nigeria

Lagos, Nigeria

“Blackout as Nigeria’s electricity generation drops 93.5% to 273MW”


“Nigeria power grid collapse causes nationwide blackouts”

New York, US

“Timeline: Nigeria's electricity grid collapsed 47 times from 2017 to 2023”

Don’t miss behind-the-scenes coverage from Intrigue co-founder, John Fowler

Team Intrigue is heading to the Big Apple, and while taking in the sights of Lady Liberty and Broadway would be great, we’re going to be hanging out inside the United Nations headquarters.

Get exclusive access to:

  • High-quality analysis with actionable insights

  • LOL-worthy extra sections and challenging crosswords, and

  • Special offers from The Economist and its business groups.

🇱🇾 Libya | Climate & energy

The city of Derna on 2 September and 12 September. Source: Planet Labs PBC

Libya mourns

Up to 20,000 people may have been killed in Libya’s eastern city of Derna (pop: 90,000) after catastrophic flooding this week.

The catalyst was a rare Mediterranean hurricane (‘medicane’) named Daniel, that caused deadly flooding in Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and beyond.

After the storm turned south over the weekend, heavy rainfall caused two dilapidated dams near Derna to fail. A 60-foot wall of water then inundated the city and swept entire neighbourhoods out to sea.

Intrigue’s take: The science suggests these kinds of medicanes are becoming less frequent but more extreme. Either way, North African infrastructure was never built for storms like Daniel. And Libya’s years of conflict make adaptation near impossible.

Also worth noting:

  • Over 400mm (16 inches) of rain fell in the nearby city of Bayda on 10-11 September, more than Libya’s annual average rainfall.

  • The death toll in Libya already exceeds that of the 1927 Algerian floods (3,000 killed), making it Africa’s deadliest storm since 1900. It’s also the deadliest storm globally since at least 2013.

🎧 Today on Intrigue Outloud

Is Europe back?

📸 Photo of the day

Credits: Congress of Mexico

Mexico’s Congress heard testimony this week from a self-proclaimed ufologist (be sure to re-read that word), who unveiled what he said were 1,000-year-old “non-human” bodies, found in Peru in 2017. But another witness at the hearing (a former US fighter pilot) declared it all an “unsubstantiated stunt”, and scientists seem to be reaching the same conclusion.

🗳️ Quiz time!

Legendary detective novelist Agatha Christie was born on this day in 1890, so what better time to have a Christie-themed quiz?

1) Agatha Christie published romance novels under what pseudonym?

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2) How many detective novels did Agatha Christie publish?

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3) When her fictional character Hercule Poirot died, he received a full-page obituary in which famous newspaper?

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Quiz answers: 1-d, 2-a, 3-d.

Crossword answers:
Across: 3. Russian, 4. Iceland, 5. Three (the UN Secretariat, based in NYC, has offices in Geneva, Vienna, and Nairobi), 7. Rockefeller, 8. Observer, 9. France
Down: 1. Olive, 2. Kashmir (the speech ran for ~8 hours), 4. Indonesia, 6. London


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