🌍 Ukraine hits Russia with further drone attacks

Plus: Trillions wiped from Chinese stocks

Hi Intriguer. Almost half the world will have elections this year, but there’s another 40% of folks who can’t vote this year or any year. And there’s data to suggest some are simply voting with their feet instead.

South Korea just reported a tripling in the number of defections from the north, while Finland earlier said it was registering more Russians at its (now closed) border than at any other time since the Cold War.

And this all brings us to today’s briefing on Russia, where Ukraine surprised the world with a multi-pronged counterattack over the weekend.

- Jeremy Dicker, Managing Editor

Was this forwarded to you? We're a team of ex-diplomats producing a concise and engaging geopolitical briefing for 85k+ leaders each day. It’s free to subscribe.

TODAY’S NEWS

Netanyahu rejects new hostage deal. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has rejected the terms of a hostage deal Hamas was proposing in return for the end of Israel’s operations in Gaza. Hamas continues to hold some 132 hostages (and 27 are known to be dead), while local authorities report more than 25,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7th.

DeSantis drops out. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dropped out of the US presidential race on Sunday and endorsed former president Donald Trump. His decision leaves former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley to go head-to-head with Trump in the New Hampshire primary tomorrow (Tuesday).

Germans protest anti-immigration party. Hundreds of thousands joined nationwide protests against the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party over the weekend, after leaked minutes from an AfD meeting revealed it was considering expelling immigrants and “non-assimilated citizens” from the country. The AfD is currently polling near the top across Germany.

Nikkei closes at 34-year high. Japan’s Nikkei, a market index for the Tokyo Stock Exchange, closed at a decades-long high earlier today (Monday). Japanese stocks have been booming as local authorities push for better corporate governance and the country continues to put 25 years of deflation behind it. Some technical indicators, however, suggest possible overheating in the market.

Modi inaugurates controversial temple. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has led the inauguration of a Hindu temple built on the site of a mosque razed during 1992 riots. Opposition parties boycotted the event, saying Modi was using the religious occasion for political gain ahead of elections in April/May.

TOP STORY

Ukraine hits back

A Russian oil facility burning in Bryansk after Ukrainian drone attacks on Friday. Credits: AP

Ukrainian drones have struck several key Russian targets in recent days, including:

  • A hit yesterday (Sunday) on an energy facility near St Petersburg (865km from the border) run by Russia's main independent gas producer

  • Saturday's strike on an arms factory in Tula (320km from the border) where Russia produces its Pantsir-S missile air defence system

  • Friday's attack on an oil depot in Bryansk (60km inside Russia), key to supplying the frontlines, and

  • Thursday's near hit on the St Petersburg oil terminal, the country's largest oil shipment terminal in the Baltic.

This is all pretty intriguing, both because of what these attacks say about Russia, and what they say about Ukraine.

For Russia, these strikes mark the first time Ukraine has hit targets in St Petersburg, the country’s second-largest city (and President Putin’s home town), located deep behind the frontlines. The attacks also struck at Russia’s ability to resupply the frontlines with oil, and its ability to finance the war with gas.

As for Ukraine, these strikes involved flying drones for hours over Russian territory, exposing real vulnerabilities in Russia's air defences while showcasing Ukrainian strengths in drone manufacturing and intelligence.

And these last two points are key for Ukraine right now: first, as Western partners still avoid supplying long-range strike capabilities to curb direct escalation with Russia, Ukraine has responded with this long-range drone capability of its own.

Plus second, as both sides harden defences along their 1,500km frontline, intel becomes key in striking behind enemy lines to disrupt logistics, erode the enemy’s industrial base, and demoralise and destabilise broader society.

The agency driving these attacks for Ukraine is its Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR).

The GUR’s leader is 38-year-old Kyrylo Budanov, a cult figure in Ukraine and beyond due to his youth and effectiveness (he’s masterminded attacks like the assassination of a submarine commander, plus high-profile Russian defections).

Of course, this all makes Budanov a high-value asset for Ukrainian President Zelensky and a high-value target for Russian President Putin, who placed him on Russia’s ‘wanted’ list last month, and poisoned his wife the month prior.

INTRIGUE’S TAKE

This shadow war is intriguing, but it really gnaws at Russia’s war machine rather than wrenching its gears. The significance for us is more in the signalling that, despite Russia taking (and inflicting) staggering losses, Ukraine is now:

  • expanding its own retaliatory strikes inside Russian territory

  • expanding its own grain exports to near pre-war levels, and

  • repeatedly targeting Russian energy facilities (rather than relying only on western sanctions).

President Zelensky’s intended audience here is threefold. He’s:

  • exhorting Ukrainians to stay the course

  • warning Russians that the costs of their invasion will only increase, and

  • telling Western capitals (still debating further aid to Ukraine) that if they just provide the tools, Ukraine can finish the job.

Also worth noting:

  • Russia says Ukraine shelled a marketplace in the Russian-occupied region of Donetsk yesterday, killing 25 civilians. Ukraine hasn't yet commented on Russia’s claims. The area has been under Russian control since 2014, and Russia unlawfully annexed it in 2022.

SUPPORTED BY ORA

It’s time to transform

Transform the health of your community with the Earth’s most powerful plants! Ora Organics create supplements from the earth's most powerful plants to transform your health. From protein to vitamins to probiotics, Ora Organics do it all!

MEANWHILE, ELSEWHERE…

  1. 🇦🇿 Azerbaijan: President Ilham Aliyev has added 11 women to this December’s COP29 organising committee after receiving criticism on the initial line-up of 28 men. Gas producer Azerbaijan emerged as this year’s climate summit host as a compromise between Russia and the West.

  2. 🇩🇪 Germany: Defense Minister Boris Pistorius is warning Europe that Russia could attack NATO in the next five to eight years, though he says this remains unlikely “for now”. His comments echo similar warnings from Sweden’s commander-in-chief. 

  3. 🇵🇭 Philippines: Canada and the Philippines inked a defence pact on Friday, potentially paving the way for a future deal on troop deployments. Manila is seeking to boost ties with the West as China continues to pursue its expansive claims in the South China Sea.

  4. 🇲🇽 Mexico: Chile and Mexico have asked the International Criminal Court to conduct a probe into possible war crimes committed by Hamas and Israel. This is separate to the genocide case against Israel being heard at the International Court of Justice, which is expected to hand down an interim ruling within weeks (a final ruling will take years).

  5. 🇪🇬 Egypt: President el-Sisi has vowed Egypt will “not allow anyone to threaten Somalia or come near Somalia” after a meeting with his Somalian counterpart. Sisi’s comments come after a controversial coast access deal between Ethiopia and Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland.

EXTRA INTRIGUE

🤣 Your weekly roundup of the world’s lighter news 

  • Two fans are suing Madonna for kicking off a New York concert more than two hours late. 

  • A man in India has been caught impersonating his girlfriend to take an exam on her behalf. 

  • Australian police have confiscated $400k in drugs plus various items a syndicate bought with its drug money, including 74 boxes of Lego.

  • Police in the Italian city of Bolzano are ordering dog owners to register their pet’s DNA to help crack down on dog poop.

  • Tennis star Novak Djokovic has revealed he has a favourite tree in Melbourne he likes to climb and meditate in during the Australian Open.

  • And a UK delivery firm has disabled its AI chatbot after a disgruntled customer asked it to compose a poem about the company’s poor customer support.

CHART OF THE DAY

Credits: Bloomberg.

These haven’t been easy years for folks trading Chinese stocks. Geopolitical risks, a sputtering post-Covid recovery, and a deepening crisis in China’s real estate sector have contributed to a selloff in the country’s markets, wiping $6.3T from market values in three years.

Last Thursday’s poll: If given the chance, would you redesign your country's flag?

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 💌 No, it's perfect as is (82%)

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🖌️ Yes, I don't like it (tell us why!) (16%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ ✍️ Other (write in!) (2%)

Your two cents:

  • 🖌️ J.P: “Venezuela: it’s almost identical to (so many!) other countries and its colors don’t really go that well together.”

  • 🖌️ E.R.G: “New Zealand’s flag referendum never got off the ground in 2015. A crying shame really, as the laser-kiwi-flag one citizen proposed had a certain je ne sais quoi that’s hard to capture.”

  • 🖌️ F.W.M: “[…] I feel the Norwegian flag could definitely be jazzed up a little, maybe with some northern lights or a Viking ship?“

  • 💌 S.B: “I'm lucky to have 3 flags (US, UK, France) with the same colors, and I find them all beautiful with that rich dark blue.”

  • ✍️ A: “What flag wouldn't automatically become a 10/10 with the addition of a fearsome dragon?”

Join the conversation

or to participate.