Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 9, 2022

Putin defends Ukraine invasion in Victory Day speech, G-7 nations commit to phasing out Russian oil, and more

1

Putin defends Ukraine invasion in Victory Day speech

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday marked Victory Day, the anniversary of the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, with a speech in Red Square defending Russia's invasion of Ukraine as necessary to protect "the homeland." He proclaimed eastern Ukraine to be Russian territory. Russia also marked Victory Day in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, though without a parade. Russia has gained control of most of Mariupol after bombing it to rubble. Ukraine's last fighters there, holed up in tunnels under a destroyed steel plant, said in an online news conference they would fight to the death after the last of the more than 300 civilians who had been sheltering there were evacuated.

2

G-7 commits to slashing Russian oil, gas imports

The Group of Seven nations on Sunday agreed to ban or phase out Russian oil and gas imports in response to Moscow's Ukraine invasion. "This will hit hard at the main artery of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's economy and deny him the revenue he needs to fund his war," the G-7 said in a statement. The G-7 includes the U.S., Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, and Britain, the seven largest "advanced" economies. The U.S. has already announced plans to ban importing Russian oil, gas, and coal, but European nations that rely more heavily on Russian energy are moving more slowly. The White House also announced broader sanctions against Russian industries crucial to Russia's military.

3

Jill Biden makes unannounced trip to Ukraine

First lady Jill Biden made a surprise visit to Ukraine on Sunday, meeting with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska, who had not been seen in public since Russia invaded her country on Feb. 24. "I wanted to come on Mother's Day," Biden said as the two sat in a former school now housing displaced Ukrainians in Uzhhorod in the country's southwest corner. "The people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine." Zelenska thanked Biden for entering Ukraine during a war, calling her trip "a very courageous act." Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also traveled to Ukraine. He talked to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and reopened the Canadian embassy in Kyiv.

4

New York governor tests positive for COVID

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced Sunday that she had tested positive for COVID-19. "Thankfully, I'm vaccinated and boosted, and I'm asymptomatic," she tweeted. "I'll be isolating and working remotely this week." Hochul, 63, was the latest in a series of politicians and other high-profile figures to be infected as new coronavirus cases rise from recent lows. New York City Mayor Eric Adams experienced minor symptoms after catching COVID last month. ABC reporter Jonathan Karl, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and an undetermined and increasing number of other journalists and dignitaries have also tested positive since attending the White House correspondents' dinner last weekend.

5

U.S. diplomats visit Kyiv in step toward reopening embassy

Top U.S. diplomats returned to Kyiv on Sunday in the latest step toward fulfilling Secretary of State Antony Blinken's promise to reopen the U.S. embassy in Ukraine. U.S. diplomats returned to Lviv last month. U.S. Charge d'Affaires Kristina Kvien and members of her team went to the U.S. embassy but won't stay in Kyiv on this trip. Kvien and her group made the brief trip to mark the 77th Victory in Europe Day, commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany by the United States and its allies in World War II. Russia celebrates its Victory Day on Monday.

6

Dangerous winds increase fire danger in New Mexico

Dangerous winds picked up again in Northern New Mexico on Sunday after a brief period of relative calm had allowed firefighters to cut fire lines to contain a massive wildfire east and northeast of Santa Fe. The lines dug by bulldozers, along with other preparations, appeared to have eased the threat that the fires would push into Las Vegas, a historic Old West town of 13,000 on the edge of the area burned by the Hermit's Peak and Calf Canyon fires. Those fires merged to form the largest of dozens of wildfires now burning in the drought-stricken region. Authorities called for residents on the outskirts of Las Vegas to evacuate.

7

Voters head to polls in Philippines

Filipino voters went to the polls Monday to elect a successor to the country's controversial president, Rodrigo Duterte, as well as a vice president, 12 senators, hundreds of congressmen, and thousands of lower-level officials. Polls show Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the country's late dictator, is favored to win the presidential race, far ahead of his main rival, human rights lawyer and incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo. The two are competing in a rematch of their 2016 race for vice president, which Robredo won. Duterte has not endorsed anyone in the presidential race, although his party is backing Marcos and his running mate, Sara Duterte-Carpio, the president's daughter.

8

Death toll in Cuba hotel explosion rises to 30

The death toll from an explosion in a Havana, Cuba, hotel that was under renovation rose to at least 30 on Sunday, as crews found three more bodies while continuing to sift through the ruins. The Cuban Health Ministry said 84 people were injured, 24 of whom remained hospitalized. Two years of work at the Hotel Saratoga, a five-star 96-room hotel in Old Havana, was nearing completion, and the staff was preparing to reopen the inn soon, but there were no guests in the building when the blast tore off the facade. Authorities are investigating but suspect a gas leak caused the explosion. Several nearby structures, including the historic Marti Theater and the Calvary Baptist Church, also sustained damage.

9

U.S. monitoring investigation of 3 American deaths at Bahamas resort

The State Department said Sunday it is "closely monitoring" Bahamian authorities' investigation of the deaths of three Americans at the Sandals Emerald Bay Resort on Great Exuma island. Staff found the body of one man in one villa, and the bodies of a man and woman in another. A fourth person was hospitalized. The Royal Bahamian Police did not release any details about the causes of death. Two of the people had received medical treatment after reporting feeling ill. The State Department told USA Today it will not immediately provide any further information "out of respect for the privacy of the families."

10

'Doctor Strange' has 2nd biggest pandemic-era opening 

Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness dominated the weekend box office, bringing in an estimated $185 million in ticket sales in its debut in the United States and Canada, the Walt Disney Co. said Sunday. It was the second-biggest opening of the pandemic, after Spider-Man: No Way Home's $260.1 million, and the sixth-biggest opening ever. The first Doctor Strange made $85 million in its 2016 debut. The new movie, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a powerful sorcerer, has made an estimated $265 million internationally since its Wednesday opening. It got a boost from the title character's appearance in Spider-Man: No Way Home, which opened in December and is now the third-highest grossing movie ever.

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