“Russian forces captured the strategically important hub of Kherson, making it the first major city to be overcome by President Vladimir Putin’s forces since the invasion began last Thursday,” the New York Times reports.
“The fall of Kherson — a city of 300,000 people, northwest of the Crimean peninsula — is strategically significant because it would allow the Russians to control more of Ukraine’s southern coastline and to push west toward the city of Odessa.”
A U.S. defense official says there has not been “significant change on the ground” in Ukraine since yesterday, CNN reports. “The US is currently estimating that Russia has committed 82% of its available combat power that had been staged outside Ukraine into the country. This figure represents just a small increase from the 80% the US estimated Tuesday.”
“A recent alleged assassination plot against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was foiled over the weekend and the Chechen servicemen sent from Russia were ‘destroyed,’” the Washington Post reports.
“A large explosion struck central Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, on Tuesday, directly in front of the city’s administrative building, creating a huge fireball that appeared in a video to engulf several cars driving through an area called Freedom Square,” the New York Times reports.
Washington Post: “Kharkiv remains under the control of Ukrainian government authorities, but the city is being ‘surrounded’ by Russian troops, Mayor Ihor Terekhov said Tuesday.”
“The United States has delivered hundreds of stinger missiles to Ukraine this week, including more than 200 on Monday,” NBC News reports. “Stinger missiles can be used to shoot down aircraft. During the Cold War, the U.S. government secretly supplied Afghan resistance fighters with stingers to shoot down Russian helicopters over Afghanistan.”
Approximately 20 different countries “are funneling arms into Ukraine,” the New York Times reports. “But whether European weaponry will continue to reach the Ukrainian battlefield in time to make a difference is far from certain.”
Wall Street Journal: “Ukraine’s Kharkiv Front Line Holds Despite Russian Bombardment”
“Turkey has denied a request from Russia to sail several naval vessels through the Turkish Straits,” Nikkei Asia reports.
New York Times: “The mounting toll for Russian troops exposes a potential weakness for the Russian president at a time when he is still claiming, publicly, that he is engaged only in a limited military operation in Ukraine’s separatist east.”
“No one can say with certainty just how many Russian troops have died since last Thursday, when they began what is turning into a long march to Kyiv, the capital. Some Russian units have put down their arms and refused to fight, the Pentagon said Tuesday. Major Ukrainian cities have withstood the onslaught thus far.”
“Ukravtodor, the state agency in charge of Ukraine’s highways and road signs, is playing a tactical role in slowing down invading Russian troops,” Quartz reports. “In a string of social media appeals, the group has called on Ukrainian citizens to remove highway signs and mess with markings left for the Russian Armed Forces.”
“The United Nations General Assembly just overwhelmingly voted to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It was a ringing global denunciation by the world against Russia,” CNN reports. “The vote was 141 nations in favor of the move and five nations were against it, with 35 countries abstaining.”
“As the results were placed on the screen in the chamber, a rare standing ovation occurred.”
“E.U. ambassadors agreed on Tuesday to call for an initial assessment of Ukraine’s chances of joining the 27-nation bloc,” Bloomberg reports.
“Senior Biden administration officials are preparing to dramatically expand the number of Russian oligarchs subject to U.S. sanctions, aiming to punish the financial elite close to President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine,” the Washington Post reports.
Forbes: “Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov was sanctioned by the European Union on Monday. Two days later, Forbes has learned from three sources in the yacht industry that one of his prized possessions—the 512-foot yacht Dilbar, valued at nearly $600 million—has been seized by German authorities in the northern city of Hamburg.”
The World Bank is reportedly stopping “all its programs in Russia and Belarus with immediate effect.”
“Apple has paused sales of its physical products in Russia following the invasion of Ukraine,” The Verge reports. “This is Apple’s latest step after it imposed limitations for Apple Pay in Russia in accordance with sanctions, and it pulled some Russian news apps from the App Store outside of the country.”
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has announced he plans to sell Chelsea Football Club, as it is “in the best interest of the Club, the fans, the employees, as well as the Club’s sponsors and partners,” CNN reports.
“The possibility of the U.S. sanctioning Russian oil exports is ‘still on the table’ as President Biden looks for more ways to punish the country for its invasion of Ukraine,” CNN reports. “Taking such a step would be an extraordinary measure that could have an intense effect on domestic gas prices, however.”
“Vladimir Putin has signed a decree banning Russians from leaving the country with more than $10,000 in foreign currency as fears grow that the Russian financial system is on the brink of collapse,’ the Telegraph reports.
“Experts have warned that banks will struggle to sell assets to stay afloat after sanctions sent markets into freefall this week. The chaos comes after Russia’s central bank was blocked from accessing large chunks of its foreign reserves.”
“As Russia’s tanks rolled into Ukraine last week, Vladimir Putin gathered the country’s top businessmen in the Kremlin’s ornate Hall of the Order of St Catherine to discuss their response to the economic shocks that would follow,” the Financial Times reports.
“The Russian president, seated about 20 feet away in a conspicuous social-distancing measure, told them he had ‘no other choice’ but to invade Ukraine — and, if they wanted to keep their businesses, neither did they.”
“But the power dynamic of the meeting made for a much starker message to the assembled billionaires. He warned that anyone who avoided doing business with companies sanctioned by the west would face punishment under the law — implying that the oligarchs had to make a stand — while also stating that Russia would help companies hit by western sanctions.”
Republicans are in disarray. Former President Donald Trump set the stage for the week by praising Russian president Vladimir as “smart” for his “genius” and “very saavy” invasion of Ukraine. It’s a sentiment shared by almost no one, though few Republicans will condemn him.
Then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his hand-picked head of the Senate GOP’s campaign effort, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) got into an open fight about Scott’s proposed agenda for the party. McConnell was so angry he slapped down Scott publicly: “We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years. That will not be part of a Republican Senate majority agenda.”
Scott didn’t back down, saying: “I’m a business guy and I’ve always believed in making plans in order to get things done. Republicans, and really all Americans outside of Washington, are demanding it.”
But that squabble pales in comparison with what’s going on with House Republicans. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) spoke at a white supremacist conference over the weekend. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) privately said he would talk to them about it, but refused to condemn them on camera yesterday. Greene wasn’t so shy and defended mingling with white supremacists, or as she called them, “1,200 young America First patriots.”
Then three GOP lawmakers — Reps. Chip Roy (R-TX), Andrew Clyde (R-GA) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) — voted against a bill to make lynching a federal hate crime — on the last day of Black History Month. Not to be outdone, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) interrupted Biden’s State of the Union speech by shouting when he was talking about his dead son. She was later joined by Greene heckling Biden about immigration.
Jake Tapper: “In a different era, a congresswoman shouting and heckling the president at the SOTU while he was talking about US soldiers Killed In Action — and was about to invoke his own dead son — would be widely condemned across the political spectrum. Starting with her caucus leader.”
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) told Fox Nation that Canada needs to be “liberated” along with Ukraine. Said Boebert: “We also have neighbors to the north who need freedom.”
Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) gave her own response to President Biden’s State of the Union address and it’s even more idiotic than you could imagine.
Thomas Friedman: “I call them ‘the full-blown disaster,’ ‘the dirty compromise’ and ‘salvation.’”
“The disaster scenario is now underway: Unless Vladimir Putin has a change of heart or can be deterred by the West, he appears willing to kill as many people as necessary and destroy as much of Ukraine’s infrastructure as necessary to erase Ukraine as a free independent state and culture and wipe out its leadership. This scenario could lead to war crimes the scale of which has not been seen in Europe since the Nazis — crimes that would make Vladimir Putin, his cronies and Russia as a country all global pariahs.”
“Every day that Putin refuses to stop we get closer to the gates of hell.”
Lawrence Freedman: “As the Russo-Ukrainian War takes a darker turn it is important to emphasize this essential point. This is a war that Vladimir Putin cannot win, however long it lasts and however cruel his methods.”
The New Yorker reports that fossil-fuel companies — which have donated generously to the campaigns of all twelve Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee — are now stonewalling Sarah Bloom Raskin’s nomination to the Federal Reserve.
Washington Post: “The pandemic road map focuses on four goals: protecting against and treating covid, including a “test to treat” initiative that would give people antiviral pills on the spot if they test positive at a pharmacy; preparing for a potentially dangerous new variant; preventing economic and educational shutdowns; and expanding vaccinations worldwide — all elements Biden previewed on Tuesday night.”
“The delicate balance the administration is aiming to strike — highlighting the wide availability of vaccines, treatments, masks and tests that people can use to protect themselves, while urging continued vigilance — underscores the challenge Biden faces in coming weeks and months. The administration is simultaneously under pressure to ease restrictions and enable a return to normalcy while polls show that most Americans still want some mitigation measures in place as the virus continues to circulate, if at lower levels.”
Katherine Wu: “The stamina of mask policy had been flagging for quite some time: Governors and mayors had already been weeks deep into vanishing their own mask mandates (and other pandemic precautions), including in schools.”
“But the CDC’s decision still marks a substantial cross-continental change, delivering a final blow to what little remained of the country’s collective approach to quashing the pandemic.”
“The coronavirus may infect tissue within the male genital tract, new research on rhesus macaques shows,” the New York Times reports. “The finding suggests that symptoms like erectile dysfunction reported by some Covid patients may be caused directly by the virus, not by inflammation or fever that often accompany the disease.”
If that doesn’t convince men to get vaccinated, nothing will.
Jonathan Bernstein: “The symbolism of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris sitting behind Biden without masks was perhaps more important than the words Biden used.”
“Political scientists rarely find evidence of presidential speeches changing minds, but it’s at least possible that some Democratic viewers who have grown pessimistic about the coronavirus during the delta and omicron waves may take both the words and the symbolism as encouragement to start feeling better about it.”
Anne Applebaum: “As it turns out, nations are not pieces in a game of Risk. They do not, as some academics have long imagined, have eternal interests or permanent geopolitical orientations, fixed motivations or predictable goals. Nor do human beings always react the way they are supposed to react. Last week, nobody who was analyzing the coming war in Ukraine imagined that the personal bravery of the Ukrainian president and his emotive calls for sovereignty and democracy could alter the calculations of foreign ministers, bank directors, business executives, and thousands of ordinary people. Few imagined that the Russian president’s sinister television appearances and brutal orders could alter, in just a few days, international perceptions of Russia.”
“And yet all of that has happened. Volodymyr Zelensky’s courage has moved people, even the hard-bitten CEOs of oil companies, even dull diplomats accustomed to rote pronouncements. Vladimir Putin’s paranoid ranting, meanwhile, has frightened even people who were lauding his ‘savvy’ just a few days ago. He is not, in fact, someone you can do business with, as so many in Berlin, Paris, London, and Washington falsely believed; he is a cold-blooded dictator happy to murder hundreds of thousands of neighbors and impoverish his nation, if that’s what it takes to remain in power. However the war ends—and many scenarios are still imaginable—we already live in a world with fewer illusions.”
President Joe Biden, in his State of the Union address Tuesday, assured the nation’s transgender youth that he will fight against anti-trans bills spreading across Republican states, the HuffPost reports. Said Biden: “The onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans and their families, it’s simply wrong.” He added: “I’ll always have your back as your president, so you can be yourself and reach your God-given potential.”
“Confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson will begin on March 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced Wednesday, a timetable that could put President Biden’s first pick for the nation’s most influential court on track to be confirmed by mid-April,” the Washington Post reports.
Politico: Jackson meets with Senate leadership.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) “laid out a basic party-line package that could win his vote, lower the deficit and enact some new programs, provided they are permanently funded,” Politico reports.
“It may be Democrats’ best and last chance to get at least some of their biggest domestic priorities done before the midterm elections, but would require everyone in the party — particularly liberals — to concede that what’s possible doesn’t come close to the $1.7 trillion package Manchin spurned in December.”
“Manchin said that if Democrats want to cut a deal on a party-line bill using the budget process to circumvent a Republican filibuster, they need to start with prescription drug savings and tax reform. He envisions whatever revenue they can wring out of that as split evenly between reducing the federal deficit and inflation, on the one hand, and enacting new climate and social programs, on the other — ‘to the point where it’s sustainable.’”
This was a change from Tuesday night, when Manchin “poured cold water on President Biden’s attempt to revive the core elements of his Build Back Better agenda, questioning the president’s claim that passing a $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion spending package would ‘lower costs’ for most Americans,” The Hill reports.
Said Manchin: “They just can’t help themselves. I don’t know where that came from Nothing’s changed.” He added: “There might be parts they want to talk about. I don’t know. That was a little bit far.”
Derek Thompson: “The war in Ukraine is being fought on two battlefields. The first battlefield is geographic. It is the land Russia is tearing up with tank treads and pounding with missiles.”
“The second battlefield is made up not of physical particles, but rather of relationships—contracts and promises between nations, banks, companies, and individuals. This is the economic arena.”
“While Russia holds the military advantage over Ukraine on Battlefield One, it is getting destroyed by a Western alliance on Battlefield Two. In the past few days, the United States and several major European countries have declared a series of financial penalties and sanctions against Russia that are without modern precedent for a major economy. These policies are triggering a financial catastrophe in Russia.”
“Getting a proper grip on the second battlefield requires breaking down the news of the past several days into three categories: the global boycott of Russia, the economic crisis within Russia, and the worldwide ripple effects that we’re already starting to see.”
Police have charged Andrew Walls — reportedly a chapter leader of the Proud Boys — with possessing a firearm while intoxicated and assaulting a 23-year-old Black woman after video captured what appeared to be Walls hurling racial and derogatory slurs at her and others, the Akron Beacon Journal reports.
A Pennsylvania man who pleaded guilty to multiple charges in connection with the January 6 Capitol attack committed suicide while awaiting sentencing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
“President Joe Biden will send a delegation of former senior defense and security officials to Taiwan on Monday, a senior official of his administration said, a sign of support for the island claimed by China after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Nikkei Asia reports.
“Former President Donald Trump has appealed a judge’s decision requiring he answer questions under oath in New York state’s civil investigation into his business practices — a widely expected move that’s likely to prolong the fight over his testimony by months,” the AP reports.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) tweeted that “history is watching” Donald Trump’s praise of Vladimir Putin. Said Christie: “No walking that back. History is watching.”
“Initial observations of an asteroid dubbed ‘2022 AE1’ showed a potential Earth impact on July 4, 2023—not enough time to attempt deflection and large enough to do real damage to a local area should it strike,” Phys.org reports. “It has since been confirmed that 2022 AE1 will not impact Earth.”
As John Ellis noted: Finally, some really good news.