Your Monday Briefing: Shelling in Ukraine intensifies
Mortar attacks continued through the weekend in eastern Ukraine.Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Russia’s imminent invasion?
U.S. intelligence learned last week that the Kremlin had ordered an invasion of Ukraine to proceed, prompting a dire warning by President Biden that President Vladimir Putin had made the decision to attack.
The new intelligence reveals that 40 to 50 percent of the Russian forces surrounding Ukraine have moved out of staging and into combat formation.
Russian artillery fire escalated sharply in eastern Ukraine this weekend, deepening fears of an imminent attack and potentially giving Russia a pretext to invade. Ukrainians reluctantly left their homes, some evacuating to Russia.
After repeated assurances that military drills would end this weekend, Belarus said that it and Russia would continue to “test” their military capabilities and that Russian troops would stay longer than planned. NATO has long warned that the deployment could be used as cover to build an invasion force.
Resources: Here are live updates, an explainer about the conflict and a timeline.
Genocide: The single word has become key to Moscow’s baseless accusations against the Ukrainian government — and a wider quest for a new imperial identity rooted in Russian ethnicity.
Ukraine: The conflict has weakened Ukraine’s economy, but its people are doubling down. Paramilitary groups are preparing for an invasion.
Diplomacy: President Volodymyr Zelensky left Ukraine to meet with leaders in Europe. Zelensky urged sanctions against Russia and criticized the Western response after the U.S. heightened its warnings of an imminent Russian attack.
Geopolitics: Russia and China appear to be in lock step, and the U.S. is trying to build up global coalitions to counter the alliance. Experts say that Putin may be trying to revise the outcome of the last Cold War and that Russia’s troop buildup could be a sign that he has become more reckless.
The Beijing Olympics close
For all of China’s efforts to carry on the Winter Games with a festive spirit, Beijing 2022 unfolded as a joyless spectacle: constricted by the pandemic, fraught with geopolitical tensions and tainted once again by accusations of doping.
Television viewership dropped significantly in the U.S., Canada, Britain and other countries, underscoring concerns facing the Olympic movement. But the sports shone through.
Medals: Norway repeated its extraordinary success in the Winter Olympics, with a record 16 golds and 37 medals overall.
China: The Chinese team had its best medal haul in a Winter Olympics: nine golds and 15 overall. Inside the country, online propagandists promoted a vision of the Games free of rancor or controversy.
Athletes: Eileen Gu, an 18-year-old skier from San Francisco who competed for China, became the event’s breakout star. Some Chinese Americans see themselves in the duality she has embraced.
Pandemic: China’s “closed loop” approach worked — and birthed new infrastructure. Only a few athletes had to miss their competitions, and there were days when not a single test came back positive.
Business: Olympic sponsors are struggling to straddle a widening political gulf between the U.S. and China: What is good for business in one country is increasingly a liability in the other.
Queen Elizabeth tests positive for Covid
The 95-year-old British monarch was “experiencing mild coldlike symptoms,” Buckingham Palace said.
Although the circumstances of the queen’s infection remained clouded in questions, Prince Charles, her eldest son and heir, tested positive in a breakthrough infection two days after meeting with her earlier this month.
After canceling public events in the fall, citing exhaustion, the queen has begun appearing in public again. Her frailty is deepening anxiety that her extremely popular reign may be coming to an end.
Pandemic: Prime Minister Boris Johnson was expected to announce the lifting of the remaining restrictions in England on Monday, including the legal requirement for those who test positive to isolate.
In other pandemic developments:
Australia will reopen to travelers on Monday.
Canadian police cleared demonstrators in Ottawa in an attempt to end the weekslong occupation over Covid restrictions.
Hong Kong will postpone the election of its next leader, citing a surge in cases.
South Korea, which is experiencing its largest Covid-19 wave yet, will set a 90-minute window for Covid-positive voters to cast their ballots in next month’s presidential election.
THE LATEST NEWS
The Indian National Congress, once the dominant force in Indian politics, faced a major test in Punjab’s election on Sunday.
A young Afghan boy died on Friday after being trapped in a deep well for several days.
The U.S. Justice Department will modify the China Initiative, a Trump-era effort to combat security threats. Critics said it unfairly targeted Asian professors.
Recently leaked data from the 1940s until the 2010s showed how Credit Suisse held millions for strongmen, spies and human rights abusers.
A severe storm pummeled parts of Britain and northern Europe with fierce winds, killing at least eight people.
Hundreds of people were rescued on Friday from a burning ferry near Greece. At least one person has died, and 10 are still missing.
Syrians are mixing wheat flour with corn to cope with shortages, after years of conflict and climate change destroyed the country’s breadbasket.
What Else Is Happening
Jean-Luc Brunel, an associate of Jeffrey Epstein charged with the rape of minors, was found dead in an apparent suicide in a Paris jail.
The Biden administration is pausing new federal oil and gas drilling in a legal fight over how to weigh the cost of climate damage.
Forensic linguists believe they have identified two men as the likely sources of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement.
A Morning Read
Explorers have started combing Antarctica’s icy Weddell Sea for one of the most revered ships in the history of polar exploration: Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance. As underwater drones scan the seafloor for the wreck, scientists are also looking for signs that the climate crisis is changing the pack ice.
ARTS AND IDEAS
How will we travel in 2022?
With Omicron cases ebbing, travel agents and operators have reported a significant increase in bookings for spring and summer trips. Big bucket-list trips seem to be in high demand.
Here are a few trends to watch:
Air travel will probably open up. Expect fewer restrictions in 2022, more travelers and more flights. Maybe even cheaper fares, too.
Entry requirements may still snarl plans: Here’s a guide of what to expect at international borders.
Cities are back: Travelers are itching for museums and great restaurants, especially in European capitals.
So are all-inclusive resorts, catering to pandemic-scarred travelers wary of leaving the grounds.
There’s also a rise in sexual wellness retreats, education-focused jaunts for families looking to help children supplement missed learning and smaller, more niche cruises. Happy trails!
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
This gingery fried rice is a good way to use up leftover vegetables.
What to Read
“The Naked Don’t Fear the Water: An Underground Journey With Afghan Refugees” is an “expansive, immersive work that reads like the most gripping novel.”
Can a cold water plunge really reduce anxiety and depression?
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.
Here’s today’s Wordle. (If you’re worried about your stats streak, play in the browser you’ve been using.)
And here is today’s Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. Tell us what you think about this newsletter in this short survey. Thank you! See you next time. — Amelia
P.S. Times reporters shared how they have covered the U.S. as it struggled to navigate Covid-19.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the shortage of nurses in the U.S.
You can reach Amelia and the team at [email protected].