Israeli tanks reach central Rafah as strikes continue

Rushdi Abu Alouf,David GrittenShare

Reuters A man and a young boy walk among ruins in Rafah

Israeli forces have reportedly reached the centre of the southern Gaza city of Rafah and seized a strategically important hill overlooking the nearby border with Egypt.

Witnesses and local journalists said tanks were stationed at al-Awda roundabout, which is considered a key landmark.

They also said tanks were on Zoroub Hill, effectively giving Israel control of the Philadelphi Corridor – a narrow strip of land running along the border to the sea.

The Israeli military said its troops were continuing activities against “terror targets” in Rafah, three weeks after it launched the ground operation there.

Western areas of the city also came under intense bombardment overnight, residents said, despite international condemnation of an Israeli air strike and a resulting fire on Sunday that killed dozens of Palestinians at a tented camp for displaced people.

The Israeli military said it was investigating the possibility that the fire was caused by the explosion of weapons stored by Hamas in the vicinity.

It also denied reports from local health and emergency services officials on Tuesday afternoon that tank shells had hit another camp in al-Mawasi, on the coast west of Rafah, killing at least 21 people.

Reuters news agency cited local health officials as saying the blast occurred after Israeli tank shells hit a cluster of tents in al-Mawasi on Tuesday. An official in the Hamas-run civil defence force also told AFP there had been a deadly Israeli strike on tents.

Videos posted to social media and analysed by BBC Verify showed multiple people with serious injuries, some lying motionless on the ground, near tents and other temporary structures.

There was no clear sign of a blast zone or crater, making it impossible to ascertain the cause of the incident. The location – verified through reference to surrounding buildings – is between Rafah and al-Mawasi, and lies south of the IDF’s designated humanitarian zone.

The IDF said in a statement: “Contrary to the reports from the last few hours, the IDF did not strike in the humanitarian area in al-Mawasi.”

Israel has insisted that victory in its seven-month war with Hamas in Gaza is impossible without taking Rafah and rejected warnings that it could have catastrophic humanitarian consequences.

The UN says around a million people have now fled the fighting in Rafah, but several hundred thousand more could still be sheltering there.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) began what they called “targeted” ground operations against Hamas fighters and infrastructure in the east of Rafah on 6 May.

Since then, tanks and troops have gradually pushed into built-up eastern and central areas while also moving northwards along the 13km (8-mile) border with Egypt.

On Tuesday, they reportedly reached the city centre for the first time.

The al-Awda roundabout, which is only 800m (2,600 ft) from the border, is the location of major banks, government institutions, businesses, and shops.

One witness said they saw soldiers position themselves at the top of a building overlooking the roundabout and then begin to shoot at anyone who was moving.

Video posted online meanwhile showed tank track marks on a road about 3km west of al-Awda roundabout and 300m from the Indonesian field hospital, which was damaged overnight.

Reuters A Palestinian girl sits on top of possessions being transported by a cart in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip (28 May 2024)
The UN says around a million people have fled Rafah since the start of the Israeli ground operation in the city

Earlier, residents told the BBC that tanks seized Zoroub Hill, about 2.5km north-west of al-Awda roundabout, after gun battles with Hamas-led fighters.

The hill is highest point along the Egyptian border and its seizure means the entire Gazan side of the border is now effectively under Israeli control.

Zoroub Hill also overlooks western Rafah, where residents said there had been the heaviest air and artillery strikes overnight since the start of the Israeli operation.

A local journalist said the bombardment forced hundreds of families to seek temporary shelter in the courtyard of a hospital, while ambulances struggled to reach casualties in the affected areas.

At dawn, thousands of people were seen heading north, crammed into cars and lorries and onto carts pulled by donkeys and horses.

“The explosions are rattling our tent, my children are frightened, and my sick father makes it impossible for us to escape the darkness,” resident Khaled Mahmoud told the BBC.

“We are supposed to be in a safe zone according to the Israeli army, yet we have not received evacuation orders like those in the eastern [Rafah] region,” he added. “We fear for our lives if no-one steps in to protect us.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) did not comment on the various reports but put out a statement saying that “overnight troops operated on the Philadelphi Corridor while conducting precise operational activity based on intelligence indicating the presence of terror targets in the area”.

“The activity is being conducted as efforts are continuing to be made in order to prevent harm to uninvolved civilians in the area,” it added.

“The troops are engaging with terrorists in close-quarters combat and locating terror tunnel shafts, weapons, and additional terrorist infrastructure in the area.”

The IDF has told civilians in eastern Rafah to evacuate for their own safety to an “expanded humanitarian area” stretching from al-Mawasi, a coastal area just north of Rafah, to the central town of Deir al-Balah.

EPA A Palestinian woman reacts next to tents destroyed by a fire triggered by an Israeli air strike in western Rafah on Sunday, in the southern Gaza Strip (28 May 2024)
Israel’s prime minister said the killing of civilians in an air strike and resulting fire in Rafah on Sunday was a “tragedy”

On Sunday night, at least 45 people – more than half of them children, women and the elderly – were killed when an Israeli air strike triggered a huge fire in a camp for displaced people near a UN logistics base in the Tal al-Sultan area, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Hundreds more were treated for severe burns, fractures and shrapnel wounds.

The IDF said it was targeting two senior Hamas officials in the attack, which happened hours after Hamas fighters in south-eastern Rafah launched rockets towards the Israeli city of Tel Aviv for the first time in months.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a “tragic incident” had occurred “despite our immense efforts to avoid harming non-combatants” and promised a thorough investigation.

IDF chief spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said on Tuesday that the strike had targeted a structure used by the Hamas commanders which was away from any tents, using “two munitions with small warheads”.

“Following this strike, a large fire ignited for reasons that are still being investigated. Our munitions alone could not have ignited a fire of this size,” he said.

Rear Adm Hagari added that investigators were looking into the possibility that the fire was caused by the explosion of weapons or ammunition stored in a nearby structure, and played what he said was an intercepted telephone conversation between two Gazans suggesting that. The audio recording could not immediately be verified.

Sam Rose of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Unrwa, told the BBC from western Rafah that the killing of so many civilians could not be dismissed as an accident.

“Gaza was already one of the most overcrowded places on the planet. It is absolutely impossible to prosecute a military campaign involving large-scale munitions, strikes from the sky, the sea, the tanks, without exacting large-scale civilian casualties,” he said.

“It seems like we are plumbing new depths of horror, bloodshed and brutality with every single day. And if this isn’t a wake-up call, then it’s hard to see what will be.”

Last week, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to “immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.

Israel launched a military campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas in response to the group’s cross-border attack on southern Israel on 7 October, during which about 1,200 people were killed and 252 others were taken hostage.

At least 36,090 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Russian plot to kill Zelensky foiled, Kyiv says

Telegram/SBU Footage shows a man being arrested
Ukraine said it arrested two Ukrainian officials who worked with the Russian security services

The Ukrainian security service (SBU) says it has foiled a Russian plot to assassinate President Volodymyr Zelensky and other high-ranking Ukrainian officials.

Two Ukrainian government protection unit colonels have been arrested.

The SBU said they were part of a network of agents belonging to the Russian state security service (FSB).

They had reportedly been searching for willing “executors” among Mr Zelensky’s bodyguards to kidnap and kill him.

Ever since Russian paratroopers attempted to land in Kyiv and assassinate President Zelensky in the early hours and days of the full-scale invasion, plots to assassinate him have been commonplace.

The Ukrainian leader said at the start of the invasion he was Russia’s “number one target”.

But this alleged plot stands out from the rest. It involves serving colonels, whose job it was to keep officials and institutions safe, allegedly hired as moles.

Other targets included military intelligence head Kyrylo Budanov and SBU chief Vasyl Malyuk, the agency added.

The group had reportedly planned to kill Mr Budanov before Orthodox Easter, which this year fell on 5 May.

According to the SBU, the plotters had aimed to use a mole to get information about his location, which they would then have attacked with rockets, drones and anti-tank grenades.

One of the officers who was later arrested had already bought drones and anti-personnel mines, the SBU said.

Telegram/SBU An anti-tank grenade
The SBU said it found various ordnance, including an anti-tank grenade, on the plotters

SBU head Vasyl Malyuk said the attack was supposed to be “a gift to Putin before the inauguration” – referring to Russia’s Vladimir Putin who was sworn in for a fifth term as president at the Kremlin on Tuesday.

The operation turned into a failure of the Russian special services, Mr Malyuk said.

“But we must not forget – the enemy is strong and experienced, he cannot be underestimated,” he added.

The two Ukrainian officials are being held on suspicion of treason and of preparing a terrorist act.

The SBU said three FSB employees oversaw the organisation and the attack.

One of them, named as Dmytro Perlin, had been recruiting “moles” since before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Another FSB employee, Oleksiy Kornev, reportedly held “conspiratorial” meetings “in neighbouring European states” before the invasion with one of the Ukrainian colonels arrested.

In a released interrogation with one of the suspects, they can be heard describing how they were paid thousands of dollars directly by parcels or indirectly through their relatives. It is not clear whether he was speaking under duress or not.

Investigators insist they monitored the men throughout. We are unlikely to know how close they came to carrying out their alleged plan.

The plot may read like a thriller but it is also a reminder of the risks Ukraine’s wartime leader faces.

Last month, a Polish man was arrested and charged with planning to co-operate with Russian intelligence services to aid a possible assassination of Mr Zelensky.

At the weekend Ukraine’s president appeared on the Russian interior ministry’s wanted list on unspecified charges.

The foreign ministry in Kyiv condemned the move as showing “the desperation of the Russian state machine and propaganda”, and pointed out that the International Criminal Court had issued a warrant for Vladimir Putin’s arrest.

Australian PM calls Elon Musk an ‘arrogant billionaire’ in row over attack footage

Reuters Elon MuskReutersElon Musk (pictured) has accused Anthony Albanese of censorship

Australia’s leader has called Elon Musk an “arrogant billionaire” in an escalating feud over X’s reluctance to remove footage of a church stabbing.

On Monday, an Australian court ordered Mr Musk’s social media firm – formerly called Twitter – to hide videos of last week’s attack in Sydney.

X previously said it would comply “pending a legal challenge”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s criticism followed Mr Musk using a meme to accuse his government of censorship.

On Tuesday, Mr Albanese told ABC News that Mr Musk “thinks he’s above the law but also above common decency”.

Last week Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, an independent regulator, threatened X and other social media companies with hefty fines if they did not remove videos of the stabbing at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church, which police have called a terror attack.

X has argued the order is “not within the scope of Australian law”.

The commissioner sought a court injunction after saying it was clear that X was allowing users outside Australia to continue accessing footage.

“I find it extraordinary that X chose not to comply and are trying to argue their case,” Mr Albanese told a press briefing.

In a subsequent series of online posts, Mr Musk wrote: “I’d like to take a moment to thank the PM for informing the public that this platform is the only truthful one.” Another depicted a Wizard of Oz-style path to “freedom” leading to an X logo.

Earlier, he also criticised eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant personally, describing her as the “Australian censorship commissar”.

Mr Albanese defended Ms Inman Grant, saying she was protecting Australians.

“Social media needs to have social responsibility with it. Mr Musk is not showing any,” he said.

The platform will have 24 hours to comply with Monday evening’s injunction, with a further hearing into the matter expected in the coming days.

Putin is coasting towards another term in power. Here’s what you need to know about Russia’s presidential election

Putin reset the clock on his term limits, changing Russia's constitution during his current term to allow him to serve potentially two more stints.

Putin reset the clock on his term limits, changing Russia’s constitution during his current term to allow him to serve potentially two more stints. Mikhail Metzel/Pool/AFP/Getty ImagesCNN — 

Russia is holding a presidential election that is all but certain to extend Vladimir Putin’s rule throughout this decade and into the 2030s.

The vast majority of votes will be cast over three days from 15 March, though early and postal voting has already begun, including in occupied parts of Ukraine where Russian forces are attempting to exert authority.

But this is not a normal election; the poll is essentially a constitutional box-ticking exercise that carries no prospect of removing Putin from power.

The president’s dominance over the Russian electoral system has already been reinforced as the election looms. The country’s only anti-war candidate has been barred from standing, and Alexey Navalny, the poisoned and jailed former opposition leader who was the most prominent anti-Putin voice in Russia, died last month.

Here’s what you need to know about the election.

When and where is the election taking place?

Voting will be held from Friday March 15 until Sunday March 17, the first Russian presidential election to take place over three days; early voting was underway earlier, including among Russia’s ex-pat population around the world.

Voting has also been organized in the four Ukrainian regions Russia said it would annex in September 2022, in violation of international law. Russia has already held regional votes and referenda in those occupied territories, an effort dismissed by the international community as a sham but which the Kremlin sees as central to its campaign of Russification.

A second round of voting would take place three weeks after this weekend if no candidate gets more than half the vote, though it would be a major surprise if that were required. Russians are electing the position of president alone; the next legislative elections, which form the make-up of the Duma, are scheduled for 2026.

In-person voting takes place over the weekend.

In-person voting takes place over the weekend. Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images

How long has Putin been in power?

Putin signed a law in 2021 that allowed him to run for two more presidential terms, potentially extending his rule until 2036, after a referendum the previous year allowed him to reset the clock on his term limits.

This election will mark the start of the first of those two extra terms.

He has essentially been the country’s head of state for the entirety of the 21st century, rewriting the rules and conventions of Russia’s political system to extend and expand his powers.

That already makes him Russia’s longest-serving ruler since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

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Putin’s previous efforts to stay in control included a 2008 constitutional amendment that extended presidential terms from four years to six, and a temporary job swap with his then Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev the same year, that preceded a swift return to the presidency in 2012.

Truly gauging popular opinion is notoriously difficult in Russia, where the few independent think tanks operate under strict surveillance and where, even in a legitimate survey, many Russians are fearful of criticizing the Kremlin.

But Putin undoubtedly has reaped the rewards of a political landscape tilted dramatically in his favor. The Levada Center, a non-governmental polling organization, reports Putin’s approval rating at over 80% – an eye-popping figure virtually unknown among Western politicians, and a substantial increase on the three-year period before the invasion of Ukraine.

The invasion gave Putin a nationalist message around which to rally Russians, boosting his own image, and even as Russia’s campaign stuttered over the course of 2023, the war retained widespread support.

National security is top of mind for Russians as the election approaches; Ukrainian strikes on Russian border regions have brought the war home to many people inside the country, but support for the invasion — euphemistically termed a “special military operation” by Russia’s leaders — remains high.

The Levada Center found at the end of 2023 that “increased inflation and rising food prices may have a lasting impact on the mood of Russians,” with the proportion of Russians cutting back on spending increasing.

But that is not to say Russians expect the election to change the direction of the country. Putin benefits heavily from apathy; most Russians have never witnessed a democratic transfer of power between rival political parties in a traditional presidential election, and expressions of anger at the Kremlin are rare enough to keep much of the population disengaged from politics.

Putin’s former speechwriter, Abbas Gallyamov, told CNN last month that discontent against the president was increasing in Russia. Gallyamov said Putin is attempting to eliminate opposition leaders from society to at least ensure such discontent remains “unstructured,” “disorganized” and “leaderless” ahead of future elections.

Who else is running?

Candidates in Russian elections are tightly controlled by the Central Election Commission (CEC), enabling Putin to run against a favorable field and reducing the potential for an opposition candidate to gain momentum.

The same is true this year. “Each candidate fields juxtaposing ideologies and domestic policies, but collectively they feed into Putin’s aim of tightening his grip on Russia during his next presidential term,” wrote Callum Fraser of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank.

18 March 2018, Germany, Berlin: People queueing outside the Russian embassy to vote in the Russian presidential election. Photo by: J'rg Carstensen/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

RELATED ARTICLERussians abroad have no faith in this presidential election – and are divided on what they can do about it

Nikolay Kharitonov will represent the Communist Party, which has been allowed to run a candidate in each election this century, but has not gained as much as a fifth of the vote share since Putin’s first presidential election.

Two other Duma politicians, Leonid Slutsky and Vladislav Davankov, are also running. Davankov is deputy chair of the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, while Slutsky represents the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, the party previously led by ultra-nationalist firebrand Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who died in 2022. All are considered to be reliably pro-Kremlin.

But there is notably no candidate who opposes Putin’s war in Ukraine; Boris Nadezhdin, previously the only anti-war figure in the field, was barred from standing by the CEC in February after the body claimed he had not received enough legitimate signatures nominating his candidacy.

In December, another independent candidate who openly spoke out against the war in Ukraine, Yekaterina Duntsova, was rejected by the CEC, citing alleged errors in her campaign group’s registration documents. Duntsova later called on people to support Nadezhdin’s candidacy.

Writing on social media in February, opposition activist and Navalny’s former aide, Leonid Volkov, dismissed the elections as a “circus,” saying they were meant to signal Putin’s overwhelming mass support. “You need to understand what the March ‘elections’ mean for Putin. They are a propaganda effort to spread hopelessness” among the electorate, Volkov said.

Volkov was attacked outside his house on Tuesday in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. Lithuania’s intelligence agency has said it believes the attack on former Navalny aide Leonid Volkov was likely “Russian organized.”

The Kremlin on Thursday declined to comment on the assault on Volkov.

Putin has three nominal challengers in the election, but Russia strictly controls who can and cannot appear on the ballot -- with genuine rivals to the President almost inevitably excluded.

Putin has three nominal challengers in the election, but Russia strictly controls who can and cannot appear on the ballot — with genuine rivals to the President almost inevitably excluded. Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

Are the elections fair?

Russia’s elections are neither free nor fair, and serve essentially as a formality to extend Putin’s term in power, according to independent bodies and observers both in and outside the country.

Putin’s successful campaigns have been in part the result of “preferential media treatment, numerous abuses of incumbency, and procedural irregularities during the vote count,” according to Freedom House, a global democracy watchdog.

Outside of election cycles, the Kremlin’s propaganda machine targets voters with occasionally hysterical pro-Putin material, and many news websites based outside Russia were blocked following the invasion of Ukraine, though more tech-savvy younger voters have grown accustomed to using VPNs to access them.

Protests are also tightly restricted, making the public expression of opposition a perilous and rare occurrence.

Then, as elections come into view, genuine opposition candidates almost inevitably see their candidacies removed or find themselves prevented from seeking office, as Nadezhdin and Duntsova discovered during this cycle.

“Opposition politicians and activists are frequently targeted with fabricated criminal cases and other forms of administrative harassment designed to prevent their participation in the political process,” Freedom House noted in its most recent global report.

People take part in an election event in the Chechen capital Grozny, Russia. The slogan next to Putin on the poster reads: "Putin is always right! Vote for Putin!"

People take part in an election event in the Chechen capital Grozny, Russia. The slogan next to Putin on the poster reads: “Putin is always right! Vote for Putin!” Chingis Kondarov/Reuters

How did Navalny’s death affect the run-up to the election?

The timing of the death of Alexey Navalny – Putin’s most prominent critic – served to emphasize the control Russia’s leader exerts over his country’s politics.

In one of Navalny’s final court appearances before his death, he urged prison service workers to “vote against Putin.”

“I have a suggestion: to vote for any candidate other than Putin. In order to vote against Putin, you just need to vote for any other candidate,” he said on February 8.

His death cast an ominous shadow over the campaign. Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, urged the European Union to “not recognize the elections” in a passionate address to its Foreign Affairs Council a few days after she was widowed.

“Putin killed my husband exactly a month before the so-called elections. These elections are fake, but Putin still needs them. For propaganda. He wants the whole world to believe that everyone in Russia supports and admires him. Don’t believe this propaganda,” she said.

Thousands then gathered for Navalny’s funeral in Moscow despite the threat of detention by Russian authorities.

Navalnaya has urged Russian people to turn out at noon on the final day of the elections, March 17, as a show of protest. In a video posted on social media, Navalnaya told Russians they could “vote for any candidate besides Putin, you can ruin your ballot, you can write Navalny on it.”

She added that Russians did not have to vote, but could “stand at a polling station and then go home… the most important thing is to come.”

‘India has arrived.’ Why Modi’s economy offers a real alternative to China

Market watchers are hoping India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party wins a third term.

Market watchers are hoping India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party wins a third term. Channi Anand/APNew DelhiCNN — 

For the last three decades, Peeyush Mittal has frequently driven the 185 miles from the Indian capital to the city of Jaipur. The journey always took him six hours.

“For 30 years there’s been this promise of doing that journey in three hours. It has never been possible,” said Mittal, a portfolio manager at Matthews Asia, a San Francisco-based investment fund. “They’ve expanded the highway, gone from one lane to two lane to three lane, everything has been done. But that journey has always remained six hours.”

Except last year, when he cruised at 75 miles per hour on a new expressway connecting the two cities, and made the trip in half the time.

“My jaw dropped when I first time got on that highway. I was like, ‘Wow, man, how is this even possible … in India?” he said.

The quality of India’s new infrastructure is just one of many reasons why Mittal, who manages funds focussed on emerging markets, and other investors are excited about the country’s growth prospects.

Financial professionals around the world are noticing India’s development since 2014 under two-term Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has said he wants the South Asian nation to become a $5 trillion economy by 2025.

The optimism around the world’s most populous nation is in stark contrast to the mood found in China, which is grappling with a myriad of economic challenges, including an accelerated flight of capital from the country.

Its stock markets have suffered a protracted slump since recent peaks in 2021, with more than $5 trillion in market value having been wiped out from the Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong bourses. Foreign direct investment (FDI) plunged last year, and fell again in January, down nearly 12% compared to the same month in 2023.

India’s stock market, meanwhile, is hitting record highs. The value of companies listed on India’s exchanges surpassed $4 trillion late last year.

The future appears even brighter. India’s market value is expected to more than double to $10 trillion by 2030, according to a Thursday report by Jefferies, which would make it “impossible for large global investors to ignore.”

“China is a no go, so … which is the other country that can maybe replace China?” said Mittal. “There’s no country like China other than India … in some form or fashion, it is the substitute that maybe the world is looking for to drive growth.”

Japan has benefited from investors seeking an alternative to China — Tokyo’s benchmark index hit a new high for the first time in 34 years last week, helped by improving corporate profits and a weak yen. But the country is stuck in recession and recently lost its position as the world’s third biggest economy to Germany.

The latest revision by global stock index compiler MSCI reflects the bullishness towards India. MSCI said this month that it would increase India’s weighting in its emerging markets index to 18.06% from 17.98%, while reducing China’s to 24.77%.

MSCI’s indexes help institutional investors worldwide decide how to allocate money and where to focus their research.

“India’s weight in the MSCI emerging market index was about 7% a couple of years back,” said Aditya Suresh, head of India equity research at Macquarie Capital. “Do I think that 18% [in the MSCI index] is naturally gravitating more towards 25%? Yeah, that’s kind of clearly where our conversations are leading us to believe.”

As India heads towards national elections in the coming months, market watchers are hoping that Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party wins a third term, bringing greater predictability to economic policies for the next five years.

“If Modi is back with a majority and political stability is there, then I can certainly say with confidence that there’ll be a lot more investor interest in India on a more sustainable basis,” said Mittal.

The next global growth engine

There are good reasons for the euphoria around India. From a surging young population to humming factories, the country has a lot going in its favor.

The International Monetary Fund expects India to grow by 6.5% next financial year compared to 4.6% for China. Analysts at Jefferies expect the country to become the world’s third largest economy by 2027.

Much like China more than three decades ago, India is only at the beginning of a infrastructure transformation, spending billions on building roads, ports, airports and railways.

There is a “very strong multiplier effect” on the economy from the investments in digital and physical infrastructure, which “you cannot roll back,” Suresh said.

The world’s fastest growing major economy is also trying to capitalize on the rethink underway among companies on supply chains. Global businesses want to diversify operations away from China, where they faced obstacles during the pandemic and are exposed to risks arising from tension between Beijing and Washington.

“India is a prime candidate to benefit from the ‘friend-shoring’ of supply chains, notably at the expense of China,” wrote Hubert de Barochez, a market economist at Capital Economics, in January.

As a result, some of the world’s biggest companies, including Apple (AAPL) supplier Foxconn, are expanding their operations in India. Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk said last June his company is looking to invest in India “as soon as humanly possible.”

“[Modi] really cares about India because he’s pushing us to make significant investments in India, which is something we intend to do,” Musk told reporters.

But some worry that India’s confidence may be bordering on hubris.

Is it worth the hype?

While interest in the world’s fifth largest economy is rising, the lofty prices of India’s stocks are scaring some international investors away.

Indian shares have always been expensive compared to other emerging economies, said Suresh, but now “the premium on the premium has expanded.”

Domestic investors, both retail and institutional, seem to be brushing aside these high valuations, driving India’s stock market to unprecedented peaks.

According to Macquarie, retail investors alone own 9% of India’s equity market value versus foreign investors at slightly under 20%. Analysts, however, expect foreign investments to pick up in the second half of 2024, once the election is out of the way.

Workers laboring at the 'Chennai Metro Rail project' construction site in the city of Chennai.

Workers laboring at the ‘Chennai Metro Rail project’ construction site in the city of Chennai. R. Satish Babu/AFP/Getty Images

There’s another potential challenge. Despite its new economic swagger, India does not have the capacity to absorb all the money that is flowing out of China, whose economy is still about five times bigger.

China “has a few too many companies which are $100 and $200 billion plus [in value],” Mittal said. “It is difficult to find home for that kind of chunk of money in India.”

But the fact that India’s sizzling rally is driven by domestic investors adds to the country’s strengths and reduces its dependence on foreign fund flows.

“It just massively insulates India from global dynamics,” Suresh said.

Apart from geopolitical rifts and an uncertain economic outlook, foreign companies and investors have grown increasingly wary of domestic political risks in China, including the possibility of raids and detentions. Institutional investors are still very wary about buying Chinese stocks, even though many now look like a bargain.

“There are many good businesses in China, but with all the regulatory issues it becomes very difficult to predict what they will look like in the long run,” said Priyanka Agnihotri, portfolio manager at Baltimore-based Brown Advisory.

India, on the other hand, enjoys healthy relations with the West and other major economies, and is aggressively wooing large firms to set up factories in the country.

In her budget speech in February, Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said FDI inflows since Modi first came to power in 2014 stood at nearly $600 billion, which is twice the amount during the previous decade.

“For encouraging sustained foreign investment, we are negotiating bilateral investment treaties with our foreign partners, in the spirit of first develop India,” she added.

Analysts say that it would hard to stop the economic juggernaut India has set in motion, irrespective of what happens to China.

“Even if China comes back to the table and resolves a lot of problems, I don’t think India is going back into the background anymore,” said Mittal. “It has arrived.”

Enemy is ‘coming from all sides:’ Ukraine’s troops face ‘hellish’ conditions as Russia throws all it has at town of Avdiivka

Destroyed buildings in Avdiivka, Ukraine, on February 15.

Destroyed buildings in Avdiivka, Ukraine, on February 15. Kostiantyn Lieberov/Libkos/Getty ImagesCNN — 

Ukrainian drone spots Russian soldiers hiding amid the remains of what was once someone’s home, in the middle of a lunar-like landscape of charred ground, craters and sapless trunks.

Another drone carrying a small warhead moves in and detonates on impact. A second one follows. Then a third. Finally, the Russian unit is eliminated.

“We are smoking the occupiers,” says the drones’ controller, a Ukrainian unit fighting to keep the key town of Avdiivka out of Moscow’s hands, which shared video footage of the attacks with CNN.

For the drone operators, it is a victory, but such wins are becoming rare in this part of Ukraine, as Moscow throws everything it has at the small, battered and now largely deserted town.

In an apparent nod to the importance of Avdiivka, which lies to the northwest of Donetsk city, Ukraine’s new army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi and Ukraine’s Defense Minister Rustem Umerov this week visited soldiers on the front lines there.

“The operational situation is extremely complicated and tense,” Syrskyi acknowledged. “We are doing everything possible to prevent the enemy from advancing deeper into our territory and to hold our positions.”

A report estimates Russia has lost more tanks fighting in Ukraine than it had before February 2022.

RELATED ARTICLERussia can sustain war effort ‘for another two or three years,’ say analysts

Quelling rumors that Ukraine was considering a withdrawal from Avdiivka, Syrskyi has instead sent in reinforcements.

He’s deployed one of Ukraine’s most battle-hardened units – the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade – which earned praise for its daring attacks on Russian forces around Bakhmut.

“We made a number of important decisions aimed at strengthening the combat capabilities of our military units and preventing enemy actions,” Syrskyi explained during his visit to the front line.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky promised “maximum attention” for the eastern front and said the new army chief’s visit to the area would help address the issues facing units on the ground.

“The existing problems are being solved – manning the units, reinforcement, command and control,” Zelensky said in his nightly address. “We will be reinforced with drones, electronic warfare, and command positions will also be strengthened.”

But just a couple of days later, amid the ongoing Russian onslaught, even the reinforcements were describing “hellish” conditions.

“Our brigade is carrying out combat missions in conditions that even we could hardly imagine,” Maksym Zhorin, the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade’s deputy commander said in a battlefield report on Thursday. “The battles in Avdiivka are several times more hellish than the hottest battles of this phase of the war, which took place in Bakhmut.”

Much as it did in Bakhmut this time last year, Russia is throwing everything it has at Avdiivka in pursuit of victory, pummeling the town with airstrikes and artillery, while launching wave after wave of ground assaults by armored vehicles and soldiers.

It’s turned the town into what Ukrainian soldiers call a “meat grinder.”

During the offensive Russia has suffered immense losses — so large it might make other militaries regroup and rethink — but Moscow appears to be calculating these losses are worth it, given its numerical advantage.

“The enemy is huge, coming from all sides,” Zhorin added.

‘I’m not going anywhere’

Other video footage from Avdiivka shows a quite different side to the town’s plight.

Scenes caught on the bodycams of two Ukrainian policemen, seen by CNN, shows the moment they approach a grey-haired elderly resident in an effort to convince him to evacuate the town.

He shies away as the policeman approach, holding up a smartphone. The man’s adult daughter is on the other end, trying to convince him to leave.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he tells her.

“I’ll send you money and you will come to me, in Kherson,” his daughter pleads in desperation. “I’ll pay for travel and accommodation.”

A resident of Avdiivka, Ukraine, near destroyed buildings on February 14.

A resident of Avdiivka, Ukraine, near destroyed buildings on February 14. Kostiantyn Lieberov/Libkos/Getty Images

But her cries fall on deaf ears.

The officers who approached the man with the phone are part of a special Ukrainian police unit known as the “White Angels,” which has been tasked with helping vulnerable civilians flee the town, home to 30,000 people two years ago.

Already this year they’ve evacuated more than 120 people, mostly elderly, but also some children. Many of these battle-worn citizens have been living through some level of conflict ever since Avdiivka – about 20km from the city of Donetsk – became the front line against Russian-backed fighters in 2015.

Reluctant to leave, many resisted the first thrust of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, holding out until they could no longer bear it. Now, with Russian shelling intensifying since the end of last year, there’s little left to cling to.

Other footage collected by Ukrainian units shows scenes of devastation, with high-rise buildings covered in holes from the constant Russian barrages. Some high-rises have been knocked over completely and most small buildings have been reduced to mounds of rubble.

Pushing back

The Russian assault on Avdiivka comes after an unconvincing Ukrainian counter-offensive in the summer and as Western support for Kyiv falters. European shipments of ammunition and financial aid have been delayed by Brussels’ notorious red tape — and some resistance from Hungary — but it’s the delays in Washington that are most concerning to Kyiv.

The United States has been Ukraine’s largest backer since day one, but its continued military support has become a divisive issue among lawmakers. The reluctance of Trump-supporting Republicans to back the White House is giving Putin and Russia an edge, according to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

“We see the impact already of the fact that the US has not been able to make a decision,” Stoltenberg said in an interview Thursday.

Ukrainian servicemen of the 47th Mechanized Brigade prepare for combat in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, near to Avdiivka, on February 11, 2024.

Ukrainian servicemen of the 47th Mechanized Brigade prepare for combat in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, near to Avdiivka, on February 11, 2024. Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images

Seemingly outmanned and outgunned, the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade admits the situation is “critical,” but insists it will continue to push back, and claims to have critically damaged two Russian brigades.

CNN cannot independently verify the claim, though recent combat footage geolocated to the town suggests Russia continues to suffer heavy losses even while it makes territorial gains there.

Still, even if the claim is true, the brigade is well aware that Russia has plenty more soldiers to replace its loses as it “continues to actively rotate its troops and deploy new forces and equipment to the town.”

“We are forced to fight 360 degrees against new brigades that the enemy is deploying,” says the commander of the 3rd Brigade, Andrii Biletskyi. “Our soldiers are demonstrating unprecedented heroism.”

Think falling prices would help? They could destroy an economy. Just ask China

Customers shop for vegetables and fruit at a supermarket in Fuyang, China, on February 8, 2024.

Customers shop for vegetables and fruit at a supermarket in Fuyang, China, on February 8, 2024. STR/AFP/Getty ImagesNew YorkCNN — 

US markets reeled on Tuesday after January’s Consumer Price Index showed inflation came in hotter than expected, leaving investors to believe that interest rate cuts are off the table for the near future.

Markets aside, the data was confirmation that prices are indeed still high and are taking a toll on Americans — just ask anyone who recently got a new car insurance policy (rates are up 21% from a year ago).

China, however, is having a different problem: Prices are falling at their fastest rate in 15 years.

No, that wasn’t a typo, falling prices are a problem when they’re widespread across an economy, like in China, which is experiencing what’s known as deflation.

At first glance, falling prices may sound good. After all, who likes paying more for anything?

But the problem with deflation is that when people begin to expect lower prices in the future, they have little incentive to make purchases right now. For instance, unless it was absolutely necessary, why would you buy a new oven today if you thought the price would go down significantly in a month?

People walking past a busy crossing in Tokyo, Japan on November 15, 2023.

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When enough people think that way, it causes massive pullbacks in spending. That can prompt a recession if it means businesses can’t afford to employ as many workers.

In China, the effects of deflation have taken a major toll on stocks, making it the worst-performing equity market in the world last year. That prompted the nation’s sovereign wealth fund to purchase shares of Chinese-listed companies to boost prices.

Additionally, China is pursuing stimulative measures aimed at boosting consumer spending.

Some inflation is good, actually

The surging inflation that Americans and people across many parts of the world have experienced over the past few years, primarily due to energy- and pandemic-related factors, is not what central banks want.

Like the US Federal Reserve, most major central banks, including the Bank of England and the European Central Bank, target a 2% annual rate of inflation, not zero inflation whatsoever. That’s done to discourage people from delaying purchases.

It also gives central banks a bit of a cushion against deflation.

“Having a margin against deflation is important because there are limits to how far interest rates can be cut,” the European Central Bank states in a post on its site. “In a deflationary environment monetary policy may not be able to sufficiently stimulate the economy by using its interest rate instrument. This makes it more difficult for monetary policy to fight deflation than to fight inflation.”

The Amazon has survived changes in the climate for 65 million years. Now it’s heading for collapse, a study says

An aerial view of an Amazonian floodplain in the morning, in Carauari, Brazil in September 2022.

An aerial view of an Amazonian floodplain in the morning, in Carauari, Brazil in September 2022. Andre DibCNN — 

The Amazon rainforest is on course to reach a crucial tipping point as soon as 2050, with devastating consequences for the region and the world’s ability to tackle climate change, according to a study published Wednesday.

The Amazon has proven resilient to natural changes in the climate for 65 million years, but deforestation and the human-caused climate crisis have brought new levels of stress and could cause a large-scale collapse of the forest system within the next three decades, the study said.

The researchers predict that 10% to 47% of the Amazon will be exposed to stresses that could push the ecosystem to its tipping point, a critical threshold that once crossed will lead to a downward spiral of impacts.

The study, led by researchers at the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil and published in the journal Nature, takes a holistic approach to estimating how soon the Amazon could reach that threshold.

The study’s authors looked at the impact of warming temperatures, extreme droughts, deforestation and fires to draw their conclusions.

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We already knew about all these factors at play, but once we connected the pieces of this complex puzzle, the image was alarming,” Bernardo Flores, lead author of the study, told CNN. “Our findings revealed how the Amazon forest system could enter a phase of self-reinforced collapse sooner than previously thought.”

Previous studies had not predicted a collapse of this scale could happen in the 21st century.

A collapse of the Amazon, the world’s vastest tropical rainforest, would weaken its ability to absorb planet-warming carbon pollution from the atmosphere, which would exacerbate global warming. Once known as the lungs of the planet, the Amazon has already become a net emitter of carbon emissions, meaning it releases more carbon into the atmosphere now than it absorbs. Forest fires and logging are the main reasons for that change.

But the forest is still a huge, crucial carbon sink. It holds the equivalent of 15 to 20 years of the entire world’s global carbon stores.

A loss of ‘flying rivers’

The study also shows how a deteriorating Amazon could impact forests in other parts of South America.

The Amazon is crucial for water supply across the region, the study said, contributing as much as half of its rainfall through what the authors call “flying rivers” – rain that originates over the Amazon and spreads to other parts of the region. That means other forests and ecosystems that rely on rain are able to thrive. Those places include the Pantanal wetlands — the world’s largest tropical wetlands that cross Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay — and the La Plata River basin, a biodiverse and crucial water system that drains one-fifth of South American land.

The Amazon provides moisture beyond the region, too.

“The Amazon forest is a major pump of moisture into the atmosphere, contributing to circulation processes that transfer moisture across the globe,” Flores said. “When the forest is reduced, this weakens this process, causing the global climate to find a new equilibrium.”

The Amazon River and the Amazon forest in Yurua, Ucayali, in Peru in June 2021.

The Amazon River and the Amazon forest in Yurua, Ucayali, in Peru in June 2021. Andre Dib

The authors of the study noted that water stress was a common factor in the disturbances to the Amazon. Water stress occurs when there is not enough water to meet human or ecological needs.

Global warming is intensifying the effects of water stress by causing the Amazonian climate to become drier and warmer. This increases water stress on trees, particularly those with low drought resistance in northwest parts of the forest, which “could suffer massive mortality if suddenly exposed to severe water stress,” according to the study.

Reaching its tipping point could also make parts of the Amazon uninhabitable due to unbearable heat and a lack of resources for indigenous peoples and local communities, the study shows.

“A war of attrition on the Amazon rainforest is being waged through human-caused climate change and deforestation, which is sending this irreplaceable jewel of the planet to the brink,” said Richard Allan, a professor in Climate Science at the University of Reading, who was not involved in the study. “These critical effects … are compounded by continued destruction of forest for agriculture, settlement, and industry.”

The study recommends ending deforestation, promoting forest restoration, and expanding protected areas and Indigenous territories. Flores also stressed the need for global cooperation to cut greenhouse gas emissions and emphasized the importance of Amazonian countries cooperating to promote forest restoration.

Haley goes on the attack after Trump mocks her deployed husband

Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign event at The Palmetto Room on February 12, 2024, in Laurens, South Carolina.

Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign event at The Palmetto Room on February 12, 2024, in Laurens, South Carolina. Win McNamee/Getty ImagesCNN — 

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is hammering Donald Trump over his comments mocking the absence of her husband, who is deployed overseas, and using the former president’s remarks to highlight his long history of disparaging members of the military.

The strategy is unlikely to change the dynamics of the GOP primary ahead of her home state’s February 24 primary. But it showcases how her continued presence in the race has presented a thorn in Trump’s side, as she continues to criticize and provoke him in ads, on cable TV and on the campaign trail.

In interviews, fundraising messages and a new digital ad, Haley has framed the former president’s comments as part of an ongoing pattern of disrespect toward military members and their service and says it is further evidence that he would run an undisciplined general election campaign and presidency.

Haley called Trump’s comments “disgusting,” “awful” and “unhinged” during an appearance on “The Lead with Jake Tapper.” Someone who would make such comments doesn’t deserve to be commander in chief, she said.

“If you don’t respect our military, how should we think you’re going to respect them when it comes to times of war, and prevent war and keep them from going?” Haley said Monday. “If you don’t have respect for our military and our veterans, God help us all if that’s the case.”

Haley made the comments after spending most of Monday blasting Trump. During a gaggle with reporters in Elgin, South Carolina, Monday afternoon, she said his comments put servicemembers at risk by implying Trump doesn’t support them and called out his own lack of military experience.

“The most harm he’s ever come across is whether a golf ball hits him on a golf cart,” she told reporters. “And you’re gonna go and mock our men and women in the military? I don’t care what party you’re in, that’s not okay.”

Neither Trump nor Haley has served in the military. Trump avoided being drafted into the Vietnam War due to five deferments, one for bone spurs and four for education.

Her campaign has pointed to several comments Trump has made both publicly or privately over the years.

In September 2020, the Atlantic reported that Trump called soldiers who died in combat “losers” and “suckers” and questioned why veterans buried at Arlington National Cemetery would enlist. John Kelly, a former Trump chief of staff, confirmed several details in the report to CNN last year.

In 2015, during his first presidential run, Trump said he liked “people who weren’t captured” as he attacked Sen. John McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Three years later, he suggested retired Navy Adm. William McRaven, who oversaw the military operation that killed Osama bin Laden, should have completed the mission sooner.

On Saturday, Trump noted that Haley’s husband, Michael, has not appeared on the campaign trail with her.

“What happened to her husband? Where is he?” Trump said at a rally Saturday in Conway, South Carolina. “He’s gone.” Michael Haley is an officer of the South Carolina Army National Guard who is currently deployed supporting the US Africa Command.

Throughout her campaign, Nikki Haley has pointed to her husband’s military service to make the case for investing more in services for veterans and to push back on criticisms that she’s too hawkish. Her campaign has said they’ve engaged with voters who were angered by his comments, noting the Palmetto State is home to a large swath of military families.

It’s not clear that hitting Trump over his comments will change the dynamics in the race. A recent Monmouth/Washington Post poll in South Carolina found Haley trailing Trump by 26 points in the state, and her campaign has struggled to outline her path to the nomination.

But her response has demonstrated where Trump might be weak in the general election. On Sunday, President Joe Biden – Trump’s likely general election opponent – defended the Haleys on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“We know he thinks our troops are ‘suckers,’ but this guy wouldn’t know service to his country if it slapped him in the face,” Biden wrote on the site.

For her part, Haley’s criticisms of Trump only intensified on Monday. Her campaign has fundraised off the comments, offering shirts that say “We Love Our Military” to supporters who donate $15 to her campaign.

Also on Monday, her campaign released a digital ad highlighting Trump’s history of disparaging remarks towards members of the military with news clips and video of her response to Trump at a rally in South Carolina over the weekend, in which she called on him to debate her.

“If you mock the service of a combat veteran, you don’t deserve a driver’s license, let alone being president of the United States,” she says in the ad.

And she continued to knock Trump at campaign events in South Carolina Monday.

“You can’t have a commander-in-chief that doesn’t understand what made this country great,” Haley said at a stop in Laurens, South Carolina. “It’s the values, it’s the sacrifice, it’s the freedom. That’s what we fight for every day.”

Sexual desire dropped for many women after the pandemic hit. Here’s what you can do

There are ways to address a decline in desire as well as pain during sex and lack of pleasure, said marriage and family therapist Vanessa Marin of Santa Barbara, California. EmirMemedovski/E+/Getty Images

Sign up for CNN’s Stress, But Less newsletter. Our six-part mindfulness guide will inform and inspire you to reduce stress while learning how to harness it.CNN — 

It has been almost four years since the world went into lockdown from the Covid-19 pandemic — but don’t be surprised if you haven’t brought sexy back yet.

Sexual function — which includes factors like desire, arousal and pleasure — in men and women decreased significantly after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a January 2022 meta-analysis of 21 studies published in the journal BMC Public Health. And women — even more so than men — struggled when it came to desire.

“I’ve been hearing about this since the first couple of months of the pandemic and it’s definitely a trend that has continued,” said Vanessa Marin, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Santa Barbara, California.

If you and your partner have found yourself in a bit of a rut, there are ways to break out of it, she said.

“Being in a relationship really is like working together as a team to figure out, ‘Hey, what is it that we’re both wanting, and how do we work together to get it?” added Marin, coauthor of “Sex Talks: The Five Conversations That Will Transform Your Love Life.”

Stress kills sex

Why would Covid-19 create such an ongoing issue for sexual desire? Stress, said Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University.

“It makes sense that people experienced a lot of difficulties during this time because you had these major life disruptions that didn’t necessarily go away when the world reopened,” said Lehmiller, who is also host of the “Sex and Psychology Podcast.”

It’s difficult for people’s bodies to find space for sex when under stress, Marin said.

“For the vast majority of people, if you’re under a lot of stress, your body shuts down any pathway to arousal and desire,” she said.

On top of concerns about the state of the world and your family’s health, transitioning to a Covid-19 world of no childcare, working from home and fewer social outlets meant increased stress for many people — but especially women in particular.

“The pandemic brought issues of mental load and mental labor really to the forefront in a way that it never has been before,” Marin said. Mental load refers to tasks that take planning, preparation and keeping track to maintain a household.

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It makes sense that women who took on a greater share of domestic labor — all while working from home — would start to feel like intimacy with their partner was another item on the list of things for other people, she added.

And even though things went back to something closer to normal after lockdown lifted, people may have gotten used to how things were. That means many people likely haven’t found ways to reinvigorate their relationships, said Deborah Fox, a licensed sex therapist and clinical social worker based in Washington, DC.

Spontaneous vs. responsive

That feeling at the beginning of a relationship when the desire is on fire all the time is actually an anomaly in the world of sexuality, and it’s OK if you have to change your approach as a relationship goes on, Fox said.

Many people, particularly women, tend to experience what is called responsive arousal as opposed to spontaneous arousal, she said.

Whereas someone who is aroused spontaneously can be interested in sex in many circumstances, people who are more responsive in their desire require a less stressful context and contact with their partner that initiates their arousal, Fox added.

“If you want to have sex on Saturday, start foreplay on Wednesday,” she said.

And it doesn’t have to be explicit. Foreplay could be spending time with your partner watching your favorite show, going on a fun date or even taking a hot bath, Fox said.

To get back into a space where desire is more regular, Fox recommends setting aside time when you and your partner will be physically connected.

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Importantly, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s when you will be having sex, and it really shouldn’t have pressure for it to lead there, she said.

Instead, cuddle, kiss or hold hands at that designated time and be open to where it might go. And don’t forget to have fun with it, Fox said.

“That regular sort of rhythm of activity is, is what’s required because otherwise drift takes over,” she added. “And if you’re already drifting from the pandemic, it feels awkward to get back into it.”

How to get the spark back

With an issue as multifaceted as sexual desire, there are many steps you can take if you want to get back in the groove.

First, take inventory of your emotional connection with your partner: Are you feeling disconnected or resentful? Working on those elements of the relationship together or with a therapist could address physical issues, Marin said.

Then look at the quality of the sex that you are having.

“The vast majority of people describe their sex as boring, routine, predictable, and that there’s nothing in it for them,” she added.

You might not know exactly what it is that would bring some spice back, but start by asking yourself and talking with your partner about what you do enjoy in your sex life — following that guidance may improve the experience for you, Marin said.


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Lastly, women have to start speaking up about pain.

“The research has shown that 30% of women experienced pain the last time they had sex, which is a really mind-boggling number,” Marin said. “If you’re experiencing pain during sex, it makes zero sense to crave it, so addressing sexual pain is another great starting point for a lot of people.”

She recommends talking with your doctor or gynecologist and perhaps a sex therapist to address any pain you are feeling.

It’s crucial that we don’t respond to sexual difficulties by avoiding them, Lehmiller said.

In his research, there were “a lot of people who dealt with our sexual difficulties just by avoiding sex, because sometimes it’s easier to just not do it and not talk about it than it is to have those difficult conversations,” Lehmiller said.

And the data showed that men were more likely than women to seek professional help for the sexual problems they experienced, he said.

“Unfortunately, I think we’ve sort of normalized sexual difficulties for women,” he added.