Welcome to Axios World. It's great to be back at the helm while Dave enjoys a much-deserved long weekend.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
For nearly two years, tomorrow was supposed to be the day that the United Kingdom officially left the European Union and made good on its 2016 decision to Brexit.
Why it matters: Due to the political stalemate, some of the world's largest economies remain in a state of flux with no end in sight. It's still not clear when the U.K. will actually leave the EU — or what its exit will even look like. As we approach the end of a week that was supposed to bring clarity to the process, things are more unsettled than ever.
What's next: The way forward is still unclear, though tomorrow promises high drama. May wanted to bring her deal back for a third vote, but Speaker John Bercow ruled earlier that there would have to be substantial changes to do so.
The big question: So, uh, when exactly is Brexit going to happen now?
Go deeper: The deeply sourced tick-tock "How the UK lost Brexit battle" from Politico's Tom McTague highlights how the process' international diplomacy went off the rails in slow motion.
Ukrainian presidential frontrunner Volodymyr Zelensky on the set of "Servant of the People," where he plays ... the president of Ukraine. Photo: Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images
Ukraine heads to the polls on Sunday for the first round of its presidential election, a turning point vote for a nation long under the shadow of — and in open conflict with — Russia.
Why it matters: Ukrainians "want to be part of the West. They want to build a functioning democracy that guarantees their prosperity," says Daniel Twining, the president of the International Republican Institute, who spoke to Axios from Kiev.
The big picture: It's Ukraine's first presidential election without a clear pro-Kremlin candidate, reflecting a shift for a country that has been increasingly drawn toward the West since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.
The state of play: Ukraine is a "staging ground" for Russian electoral interference tactics given their common culture and language, says Twining. "If you want to run an interference operation here, you can do it. You don't need to do it as a sort of covert operation as you would in the West."
What's next: No candidate is expected to win 50% of the vote outright, so the race will likely head to a two-person runoff on April 21, where it's expected Zelensky will face off against either Tymoshenko or Poroshenko.
The Economist devotes this week's cover story to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — "King Bibi" — ahead of the country's April 9 elections, arguing that he has "embodied the politics of muscular nationalism, chauvinism and the resentment of elites long before such populism became a global force."
The reign of King Bibi is thus a parable of modern politics: the rise of a talented politician and a long success based on a perplexing mixture of carrying out sound policy and cynically sowing division. As his power is threatened, he has turned to railing more loudly against the free press, the judiciary and shadowy forces.
Now Bibi faces his greatest danger, in the form of criminal charges for corruption. In a different age he would have had to resign, and would now be defending himself as an ordinary citizen. But he is intent on remaining in office, and hopes that voters will yet save him from the policemen, prosecutors and judges. Israeli politics is turning into a contest between genuine achievement and demagoguery on one side and the rule of law on the other. All who care about democracy should watch closely.
Photo: Michele Cattani/AFP/Getty Images
Dave sat down with Malian Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga, who said that after an attack over the weekend that left 160 dead, his government will seek to convince militias in the country's unstable center that they must disarm or have their weapons taken by force.
The backdrop: Saturday's attack targeted Fulani Muslims, a group of semi-nomadic herders. After the massacre, Maïga announced that a Dogon militia group would be disbanded. Some members of the Dogon ethnic group have taken up arms against the Fulani, whom they claim have been radicalized by jihadi groups.
What's happening: At the root of the violence is human suffering. Mali ranks among one of the poorest countries in the world, and basic services like schooling and clean drinking water are often lacking. Dave asked Maïga if the government had the capacity to both restore security and establish those services.
In 2016, retreating Islamic State fighters burned oil fields as they fled Iraq. Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images
The Islamic State lost the last of its territory in Syria over the weekend, but that doesn't mean the group is done for good. It still has enough cash in its coffers to finance its transition into a more traditional worldwide terror network, reports the New York Times.
The Atlantic has a deeper dive on its finances, highlighting the Islamic State's diversification into oil fields, utilities, real estate and even car dealerships across a region where — not long ago — it ruled 7 million to 8 million people.
Photo: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images
The version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" presented to Chinese moviegoers last week features notable censorship in scenes that involve Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury's sexuality and AIDS diagnosis, per AP.
Flashback: It was a surprise back in February that China agreed to a limited release for the film at all, given Mercury's life story, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
A view of London's St. James' Park on June 24, 2016, the day after the Brexit vote. Photo: Shane Savitsky
"I'm fed up with it, and I think it's a little bit similar to the way that when you're in quite a good nightclub and then a friend of yours says, 'You know, come on, I know somewhere else to go.' And then you all leave and then you realize you can't get into the other club. It was a very badly thought out plan and now we're stuck in the street eating kebabs. So yeah, that's the situation we're in."— Russell Robinson, a technology company executive, paraphrases a viral tweet when talking to the AP about Brexit