Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 15, 2022

Russia and Ukraine resume talks as Russian bombardment continues, China locks down province as COVID cases double, and more

1

Russia, Ukraine resume talks as Russian forces continue bombardments

Russia and Ukraine made little progress in another round of talks on de-escalating their war on Monday, but agreed in the virtual meeting to resume discussions on Tuesday even as Russian forces continued their bombardment of Kyiv and other cities. Three previous meetings in Belarus failed to produce agreements on cease-fires to let civilians escape, but a convoy of 160 civilian vehicles managed to leave the besieged port city of Mariupol via a designated humanitarian route on Monday. Ukrainian officials have expressed optimism about cease-fire talks, although the Kremlin still says it won't pull back until "all plans" for the invasion are complete. Leaders from Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia said Tuesday they were heading to Kyiv to show support for Ukraine.

2

China imposes province-wide lockdown as COVID cases surge

China's new COVID-19 cases more than doubled Tuesday compared to the previous day as the so-called stealth Omicron variant tests the nation's zero-tolerance coronavirus policy and fuels a new outbreak. The National Health Commission reported 3,507 new locally spread cases over 24 hours, up from 1,337 the previous day but still far lower than caseloads in many other countries. China on Monday locked down all 24 million residents of northeastern Jilin province in the country's first such province-wide lockdown since Wuhan and Hubei in January 2020, early in the pandemic. Shenzhen city, which has a population of 17.5 million, started a week-long lockdown on Monday, with all public transport and non-essential businesses shut down.

3

U.S. warns China against aiding Russia

National security adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday warned his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, that Beijing would face significant consequences if it provides Russia with military or economic aid as it invades Ukraine. Sullivan described the meeting as "intense" and "candid." The meeting came after reports that Moscow had requested China's help to offset the impact of harsh global sanctions imposed in response to its invasion, now in its third week. China said in a statement that Yang Jiechi pointed out that the Ukraine crisis "has reached a stage that the Chinese side does not want to see," although Beijing denied reports that Russia had requested aid from China, calling them "false information" spread by the U.S. with "sinister intentions."

4

Zelensky to address members of Congress on Wednesday

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address members of Congress via videoconference on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Monday. The public will be able to view the event through a livestream. The Democratic leaders said the address will give lawmakers a chance to "convey our support to the people of Ukraine as they bravely defend democracy" against Russia's invasion. "The Congress remains unwavering in our commitment to supporting Ukraine as they face Putin's cruel and diabolical aggression, and to passing legislation to cripple and isolate the Russian economy as well as deliver humanitarian, security, and economic assistance to Ukraine," Pelosi and Schumer said in a letter to lawmakers.

5

U.N. chief warns nuclear conflict 'within the realm of possibility'

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned at a Monday briefing that the potential for a nuclear conflict is now "within the realm of possibility" because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The country is "on fire" and "being decimated before the eyes of the world," and the "impact on civilians is reaching terrifying proportions," he said. Guterres raised concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to put his country's nuclear forces on high alert, calling it a "bone-chilling development." "Further escalation of the war, whether by accident or design, threatens all of humanity," he said. Guterres said he has been in contact with a "number of countries," including China, France, and Germany, about "mediation efforts" to end the war, saying it's "time to stop the horror."

6

Idaho approves 6-week abortion ban modeled after Texas law

Idaho on Monday passed a bill seeking to ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, making it the first state to approve legislation modeled after a Texas law that took effect in September. Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, is expected to sign the bill, passed 51-14 by the Idaho House without Democratic support. The so-called "fetal heartbeat" bill would let the potential father, grandparents, siblings, aunts, and uncles of a fetus sue abortion providers. The bill was the latest move by Republican-controlled state legislatures to tighten abortion restrictions to give the Supreme Court's recently expanded conservative majority opportunities to roll back precedents establishing the constitutional right to abortion up to fetal viability at about 23 weeks.

7

Manchin says he won't back confirmation of Fed nominee due to climate stance

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Monday that he would not vote to confirm Sarah Bloom Raskin, whom President Biden has nominated to the Federal Reserve Board, because of her past criticism of the fossil fuel industry. Raskin, a former Fed governor and Treasury deputy secretary, for years called for regulators to focus more on climate-related financial risks and warned of the environmental dangers of fossil-fuel investments. Manchin, whose state was the second-largest coal producer in 2020 after Wyoming, said that the nation needs policy and economic experts "who are focused on the most pressing issues facing the American people and our nation — specifically rising inflation and energy costs." With the Senate split 50-50, Democrats will need at least one Republican vote to confirm Raskin without Manchin.

8

U.K. top court rejects Assange request to appeal U.S. extradition

Britain's top court on Monday denied WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's request for permission to appeal the decision to extradite him to the United States, where he faces spying charges over WikiLeaks' publication of classified military documents more than a decade ago. Assange's U.S.-based lawyer, Barry Pollack, called the decision by Britain's Supreme Court "extremely disappointing." A British district court judge initially rejected Assange's extradition to the U.S. on mental health grounds, saying he might kill himself under U.S. prison conditions. U.S. authorities later argued that he would not face treatment that would threaten his physical or mental health, and the High Court in London overturned the ruling against his extradition in December.

9

Squatters arrested at London mansion of Russian billionaire

London police on Monday ousted squatters from a London mansion belonging to the family of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, one of the Russian oligarchs Britain has targeted with sanctions in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The squatters, calling themselves anarchists, had displayed a Ukrainian flag from a balcony at the mansion in Belgrave Square, an area with numerous foreign embassies. The demonstrators also unfurled a banner declaring, "This property has been liberated." Four people who had been on the balcony were arrested, as were four others who tried to get onto the property. "You occupy Ukraine, we occupy you," the squatters said in a statement. Deripaska, whose assets the U.K. froze on Thursday, said the house belonged to relatives, not to him.

10

Fox News correspondent injured near Kyiv

Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall was injured while reporting near Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, on Monday. Hall, 39, was taken to a hospital but little information on the extent of his injuries was immediately available, Fox News executives said. Hall is a longtime war correspondent who has covered numerous conflicts, including those in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Fox hired him in 2015 and he started covering the State Department last year. The State Department Correspondents' Association issued a statement, saying its members were "horrified" to hear about Hall's injuries and wished him a quick recovery. On Sunday, American filmmaker and journalist Brent Renaud, 50, was fatally shot while reporting in a Kyiv suburb where fleeing civilians have come under fire by Russian forces.

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