Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 1, 2022

Fighting continues as Ukraine and Russia end talks without progress, Ukrainians flee as humanitarian crisis builds, and more


Ukraine and Russia end talks without progress toward ceasefire

Ukrainian and Russian negotiators talked for hours Monday without reaching a peace deal. Ukraine called for an "immediate ceasefire" and the immediate withdrawal of all Russian troops from Ukraine. Russia did not specify its demands. Representatives left the meeting on the Belarus-Ukraine border and returned to their capitals to discuss the talks. A 17-mile convoy of hundreds of Russian tanks and other vehicles pressed toward Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, and Russia intensified its shelling of Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, which has a population of nearly 1.5 million. At least 10 civilians were killed in the shelling, with the toll expected to rise, said Kharkiv Gov. Oleh Synehubov. "It's a war crime," he said.


Ukrainians flee as humanitarian crisis looms

Ukrainians are fleeing en masse to clogged borders of European neighbors, with the biggest share heading to Poland while smaller numbers try to reach Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia, and Romania. More than 400,000 Ukrainians have left for Europe since Russian forces invaded on Thursday. Over the weekend, one crossing into Poland had a line nearly nine miles long. The exodus has been the biggest Europe has seen in years, with some authorities bracing for a humanitarian crisis like the one that occurred in 2015 when more than a million refugees arrived from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries. Many European nations were hostile to the refugees who arrived in 2015, but so far they have said they would welcome Ukrainians.


Zelensky formally applies for European Union membership

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday officially signed an application for Ukraine's membership in the European Union. Zelensky released a video thanking EU countries for agreeing to supply Ukraine with arms to defend itself against a Russian invasion, and calling for the EU to admit Ukraine without delay. "We appeal to the European Union for Ukraine's immediate accession under a new special procedure," Zelensky said in the video broadcast from the capital, Kyiv, as Russian forces advanced in a bid to take the city. The trading bloc wants Ukraine to join "over time," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told Euronews on Saturday. The presidents of eight central and eastern European nations called for promptly opening membership talks.


U.S. expels 12 Russian U.N. diplomats for spying

The United States said Monday it would expel 12 Russian United Nations diplomats accused of spying. "We are beginning the process of expelling 12 intelligence operatives from the Russian Mission who have abused their privileges of residency in the United States by engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security," the U.S. mission to the U.N. said. Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, said Russia might respond with "tit for tat" expulsion of American diplomats. The diplomatic clash came ahead of President Biden's State of the Union address, which he had planned to use to reboot his agenda but is rewriting to portray the response to Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine as a key part of his ongoing push to defend democracies.


Rep. Ted Deutch becomes 31st Democrat declining to seek re-election

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) announced Monday that he would retire from Congress at the end of his term, making him the 31st Democrat to decline to run for re-election in this year's mid-terms. Deutch, who has served in Congress since 2010, is stepping aside to become CEO of the American Jewish Committee. The Florida congressman's departure comes as Democrats are fighting to keep their narrow majority in the House. The Cook Political Report did not consider Deutch's seat to be competitive before he dropped out of contention. He won re-election in 2020 with 56 percent of the vote. Republicans only need to pick up five seats to take over the chamber's majority.


Senate Democrats plan to start Supreme Court confirmation hearings on March 21

Senate Democrats aim to start confirmation hearings for President Biden's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, on March 21, Politico reported Monday, citing a Democratic aide. That timeline would put Democrats on track to meet their goal of confirming Jackson by the Easter recess. If confirmed, Jackson will be the first Black woman to sit on the high court. Jackson faces some Republican opposition but has received a big conservative endorsement from retired federal Judge J. Michael Luttig. He said Jackson is "eminently qualified," and encouraged Republicans to back her confirmation, "then proudly take the deserved credit for their part in elevating the first Black female jurist to the Supreme Court of the United States." 


Pfizer vaccine less effective against Omicron among small children

The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is significantly less effective in preventing infection in children ages 5 to 11 than in adolescents and adults, although it still prevents severe illness, according to data collected by New York State health officials. The study found that vaccine effectiveness in preventing infection fell during the Omicron surge from 66 percent to 51 percent among children aged 12 to 17, and from 68 percent to 12 percent in children aged 5 to 11, who got a smaller dose. The results of the study, which was conducted during the wave driven by the Omicron variant, came as New York City prepares to lift its mask mandate in schools.


ICC fast-tracking Ukraine war-crime investigation 

The International Criminal Court's top prosecutor vowed Monday to open a formal investigation "as rapidly as possible" into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine. The inquiry would build on information the ICC has gathered since late 2013, when protests started against pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted the following year. Security forces killed dozens of protesters in February 2014. Russia then illegally annexed Crimea and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. A preliminary report published in December 2020 found "a reasonable basis to believe" war crimes had been committed. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says since Russia invaded last week it has targeted civilians. He called Russia's shelling of Kharkiv a "war crime."


Disney suspends theatrical releases of its films in Russia

Disney on Monday became the first major film studio to announce that it was pausing the theatrical release of its movies in Russia "given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis." The policy includes the new Pixar animated film Turning Red, which was set to debut next week, and, depending on how long it lasts, could cover May's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, June's Lightyear, and July's Thor: Love and Thunder. Other studios reportedly are considering similar suspensions. "If the U.S. and its allies want to cut off Russia from the rest of the world, then how would we go ahead and release our movies there?" one studio executive said to The Hollywood Reporter.


FIFA suspends Russian soccer teams over Ukraine invasion

FIFA, soccer's global governing body, announced Monday that it was suspending Russian teams "until further notice" in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The decision meant that Russia would lose out on the chance to qualify for the 2022 World Cup. The news came just weeks before Russia was scheduled to compete for one of Europe's slots in this year's tournament in Qatar. FIFA made the announcement in coordination with European soccer's governing body. Russian club teams also are barred from international competition. "Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine," a statement from FIFA and UEFA said. 


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