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Despite finding himself in the eye of Donald Trump’s impeachment storm, Ukraine’s leader is set for an even tougher test of his fledgling presidency: his first face time with Vladimir Putin.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy meets his Russian counterpart in Paris today as he seeks progress toward resolving the war in eastern Ukraine that erupted after Russia annexed Crimea from its neighbor in 2014. The presence of France’s Emmanuel Macron, keen to bring Putin in from the cold, and Germany’s Angela Merkel adds heft to the push for peace.
Ending the violence in the Donbas region, where more than 13,000 lives have been lost, was a key election pledge by Zelenskiy, who got a boost heading into the negotiations in the form of new International Monetary Fund aid.
But Putin is bristling at Ukraine's aspirations to join the European Union and NATO.
And that’s the bind that Zelenskiy finds himself in. Ukrainians, tired of playing a central role in the U.S. impeachment drama surrounding Trump and worried about it distracting their government, overwhelmingly want the war to be over. But at the same time, they’re concerned their president will cede too much ground to Putin.
They’ll be watching Zelenskiy’s every move in France.
Closing arguments | House investigators give their final summations today in the Democrats’ case against Trump as they debate how far they want to go in drafting articles of impeachment this week. Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said it was a “matter of urgency” to deal with the president’s behavior, warning he may try to “rig” the 2020 vote.
The Justice Department’s internal watchdog is set today to dismiss one of the oldest conspiracy theories of Trump’s presidency: the accusation the FBI illegally spied on his campaign in 2016.
Click here for more on how lawsuits claiming that Trump has unconstitutionally enriched himself have reached a crucial juncture.
Laser focus | Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hammering his key message with four days to go before the U.K. election, promising to get Brexit done and accusing other parties of dithering over leaving the European Union. Ahead in the polls, the fact he is campaigning in Labour heartlands in northern England that voted to leave the bloc shows he’s increasingly confident of winning a majority. As Alex Morales writes, division among those wanting to stay in the EU is helping him achieve that goal.
Going strong | Questions over the sustainability of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement were answered yesterday when hundreds of thousands returned to the streets in the largest rally in almost six months. The turnout — following on from the opposition’s landslide win in district council elections in November — signals China will be troubled by unrest in the former British colony into the new year.
Pipe dream? | Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg are selling voters on their ability to unite Democrats and Republicans around their agenda. But, as Sahil Kapur writes, the two moderate Democrats may be walking into the same trap that stymied President Barack Obama: a belief that they can overcome intense tribalism and get Republicans to work with them.
Salvini’s challenge | The Italian left’s long-time political dominance in the city of Bologna and surrounding region of Emilia-Romagna will be put to the test by right-wing nationalist Matteo Salvini in next month’s elections. As John Follain and Chiara Albanese report, if the populist firebrand wins there, it may be impossible to halt his drive to become the nation’s prime minister.
What to Watch This Week
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo hosts his Russian counterpart tomorrow as Sergei Lavrov makes his first visit to Washington since a trip in 2017 was criticized amid reports Trump provided him with sensitive intelligence information. France is bracing for a another week of protests with both the government and labor unions vowing to stick to their guns in the battle over Macron’s pension reforms. India’s parliament is set to approve legislation preventing Muslim migrants from neighboring countries from receiving citizenship, a controversial move that's seen the hashtag CitizenshipAmendmentBill2019 topping Twitter trends. Alberto Fernandez takes over tomorrow as president in Argentina, promising to spend heavily on basic services even though government coffers are already stretched and he has fraught talks ahead with the IMF. European leaders meet in Brussels for the last time this year on Thursday and Friday to discuss climate change and the EU budget. A new Pentagon missile-defense system is running at least two years behind schedule, delaying a project in Poland intended to intercept potential attacks on Europe by Iran.
Thanks to all who responded to our pop quiz Friday and congratulations to reader Elaine Milbank, who was the first to name Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the leader who was called “two-faced” by Trump at last week’s NATO summit. Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And finally ... With Russia receiving a four-year ban today from international sports over doping, Yuriy Ganus is fighting a lonely and risky battle to restore his country’s reputation, Henry Meyer and Ilya Arkhipov report. Russia’s anti-doping chief received phone threats after warning Putin publicly that powerful officials were blocking efforts to come clean about past violations. “It would be strange if I didn’t worry about my security,” Ganus said.
--With assistance from Kathleen Hunter, Ruth Pollard, Anthony Halpin, Brendan Scott and Thomas Penny.
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