Your Tuesday Briefing: Putin Recognizes Separatists in Ukraine

We’re covering Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize the independence of separatist regions of Ukraine and the reopening of tourism in Australia.

Ukrainian soldiers in Novozvanivka, Luhansk Oblast, which has come under recent mortar attack. Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Russia recognizes separatist regions, escalating tensions

In a fiery speech filled with historical grievances, President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Russia would recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, territories in Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists. Western leaders fear the move could lead to one of the biggest conflicts in Europe since World War II.

Putin’s decision followed a session of the Russian Security Council at which he accused the U.S. and its allies of using Ukraine “as an instrument of confrontation” with Russia. Ukrainian officials warned that the recognition could allow separatist leaders to request military help from Russia, possibly paving the way for a military offensive.

Also on Monday, the Russian news media broadcast claims of assaults by Ukrainian forces, charges that Ukrainian military leaders forcefully denied. American officials have repeatedly predicted that the Russian military would stage false attacks on their own forces as a pretext for war.

The escalations cast doubt over diplomatic solutions. President Biden had agreed on Sunday “in principle” to a proposed summit with Putin, but White House officials said that such a meeting in the coming days was “notional” at best and would not happen if Russia were to invade. Here’s the latest.

Context: The borders claimed by the leaders of Donetsk and Luhansk extend beyond territory they now control and spill into space controlled by the Ukrainian army. If the separatist leaders receive Russian military assistance, Ukraine would be likely to interpret it as the entrance of Russian troops into Ukrainian territory.

Related: Ukraine requested an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss ways to guarantee its security and de-escalate the crisis.

King Abdullah II of Jordan and Queen Rania in 2018 in Tokyo.Credit…Martin Bureau/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Arab rulers stashed millions in Swiss bank

A data leak from the bank Credit Suisse has opened a peephole into the private wealth of several powerful figures across the Middle East, raising new questions about self-dealing.

The leak revealed that current and former leaders in the region, which has long lacked transparency of politicians’ financial holdings, have held sizable fortunes in foreign banks. Experts said it showed the failure of many states to create boundaries between the rulers’ and the state’s assets.

The only sitting head of state in the leaked data was King Abdullah II of Jordan, a close U.S. partner whose kingdom has received at least $22 billion in military and economic aid from the Americans. According to the data, King Abdullah had six Swiss accounts, including one that held more than $224 million in 2015.

A few years earlier, before President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was ousted during an Arab Spring uprising in 2011, a circle of businessmen close to him, as well as his sons, acquired vast fortunes. The Mubarak brothers held six accounts at Credit Suisse, including a joint account that swelled to about $196 million in 2003.

What the leak shows: Credit Suisse missed or ignored red flags by opening accounts for and continuing to serve people whose problematic backgrounds would have been obvious to anyone who ran their names through a search engine.

Passengers received a special welcome at Sydney’s international airport on Monday.Credit…Saeed Khan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Australia celebrates its first tourists in two years

Lifeguards, drag queens and a D.J. greeted the first wave of foreign tourists entering Australia since March 2020, when the country shut its borders to keep the coronavirus at bay.

More than 50 international flights were scheduled to fly into Australia on Monday, which officials celebrated as Australia’s reopening to the world. Despite a surge in Omicron-linked Covid cases and deaths over the last two months, Australia’s shift to policies that are aimed at living with the virus matches that of a growing portion of Asia.

“It’s been a party out here at Sydney airport; everyone is celebrating,” Dan Tehan, Australia’s minister for tourism, said.

Still, it’s unclear how long it will take the tourism industry to fully rebound. Questions remain over whether travelers from China, Australia’s biggest tourism market, will return. And the U.S. and New Zealand have recommended against traveling to Australia because of its recent Omicron outbreak.

In other pandemic developments:

  • If you’re fully vaccinated, you are unlikely to need another booster shot for many months and perhaps not for years, according to a flurry of new studies.

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain announced an end to the remaining coronavirus restrictions in England, shortly after Queen Elizabeth II tested positive.

  • Israel will open its borders to unvaccinated tourists next week.


Around the World

Henry Backhaus burns wood and coal to reduce the energy bill at his house in Saxony, Germany.Credit…Katrin Streicher for The New York Times
  • High energy prices in Europe are upending people’s lives. While some are installing solar panels, others are stoking their wood-burning stoves.

  • China has been blocking imports with Lithuanian parts after the Baltic nation sought closer ties with Taiwan.

  • An effort to memorialize gold and silver mines in Japan is the latest flash point with South Korea over Japanese colonial abuses during World War II.

  • After the Canadian trucker protests, the country wonders: Was it an aberration, or was it the beginning of a political shift?

  • The French authorities are installing “sound radars” in some cities to detect vehicles making excessive noise, which they say is a public health hazard.

A Morning Read

Forest officers searched for a tiger that had strayed outside a reserve in Karnataka, India, in January.Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

Hundreds of part-time workers across India risk their lives for a frontline job that is vital for preserving nature but often pays less than minimum wage: forest ranger. They battle poachers, criminal gangs and fires — and in Kerala, which has the largest contiguous tiger population in the world, they are the de facto peacekeepers between humans and wildlife.


A piece of American food history

The Ebony test kitchen, which operated in Chicago for decades, is on view at the Africa Center in Harlem.Credit…Timothy Smith for The New York Times

The Ebony test kitchen is singular, with swirls of orange and green and a futuristic design. Built in the early 1970s, the kitchen cemented Ebony magazine’s place in American food culture.

A leading magazine for Black America since the 1940s, Ebony helped transform the public’s perception of Black food. Freda DeKnight, Ebony’s first food editor, traveled across the U.S. learning different culinary traditions from home cooks and shared her findings in a monthly column. International recipes like rose petal pudding and mulligatawny soup lived alongside traditional fare like Ebony’s stewed chicken and dumplings. Readers could submit cherished family recipes to be tested by professionals, and the magazine featured the winning recipes.

“So many people looked to Ebony for recipes that they were familiar with, or had been part of our culture,” Charlotte Lyons, a former food editor at Ebony, said. “We would bring all of that stuff to life.” The restored kitchen is the centerpiece of a new exhibition in Harlem focused on the African American food experience.


What to Cook

Credit…Yunhee Kim for The New York Times

Make Ebony’s stewed chicken and dumplings.

What to Read

“The Founders” tells the story of how an ensemble of entrepreneurs, including Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, created PayPal.

What to Listen to

Michael Gielen is one of the most stimulating maestros of the 20th century. A set of 88 CDs offers insight into his work.

Now Time to Play

Here’s the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Poppy ___ (four letters).

Try today’s Wordle. (If you’re worried about your stat streak, play in the browser you’ve been using.)

And here is the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Matthew

P.S. On this day 42 years ago, the U.S. men’s hockey team upset the Soviet Union in the Olympic semifinal in Lake Placid, N.Y.

There’s no “Daily” episode today.

You can reach Matthew and the team at [email protected].

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