Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 23, 2022

Russia reportedly plans to install puppet government in Ukraine, Taliban in desperate need of humanitarian aid meets with Western leaders in Norway, and more

1

Russia plans to install puppet regime in Ukraine, U.K. government claims

The United Kingdom's government announced Saturday that their latest intelligence assessments suggest Russia plans to overthrow Ukraine's elected government and install a pro-Russian puppet regime. Britain's foreign ministry identified former Ukrainian parliament member Yevheniy Murayev as Russian President Vladimir Putin's top pick to lead the new government. U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss threatened "severe costs" if Russia attempts to invade Ukraine and install a friendly regime, while Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said Russia would face "very serious consequences." Russia denied the allegations, calling them "disinformation."

2

Taliban in desperate need of humanitarian aid meets with Western leaders in Norway

Representatives of Afghanistan's Taliban government opened three days of talks with Western government officials and Afghan women's rights and human rights activists in Norway on Sunday. Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, who leads the Taliban delegation, said he hopes the trip will be "a gateway for a positive relationship with Europe." He is also expected to press for Western countries to unfreeze nearly $10 billion of Afghan money. According to the United Nations, most of Afghanistan's 38 million people live below the poverty line, and as many as one million children are in danger of starvation.

3

Aid flights and relief ships reach tsunami-ravaged Tonga

Planes carrying aid from Australia, New Zealand, and Japan reached Tonga during the weekend, providing food, water, medical supplies, and communication equipment to the tsunami-ravaged archipelago. The Royal New Zealand Navy's largest ship, NMNZS Aotearoa, arrived Friday, carrying a load of fresh water and a desalination plant capable of purifying 70,000 liters per day. Tonga's islands remain blanketed in ash and largely cut off from the outside world as a result of damage to their primary submarine cable. Tonga was struck by a tsunami and covered with ash after an undersea volcano erupted 40 miles south of the capital city on Jan. 15. At least three people were killed.

4

New Zealand prime minister cancels wedding as country locks down

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Sunday that she had canceled her wedding as a strict lockdown meant to control the spread of Omicron approaches. The new lockdown includes an indoor mask mandate, restrictions on gatherings, and social distancing requirements. "I am no different to, dare I say it, thousands of other New Zealanders who have had much more devastating impacts felt by the pandemic, the most gutting of which is the inability to be with a loved one sometimes when they are gravely ill," Ardern said. She has been engaged to television host Clarke Gayford since 2019. In 2018, she gave birth to their daughter.

5

German navy chief who said NATO should give Putin 'the respect he demands' resigns

German naval chief Vice-admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach announced his resignation Saturday after his comments about the ongoing crisis on the Ukrainian border provoked outrage. At a think-tank discussion in India Friday, Schönbach said all Russian President Vladimir Putin really wants is "respect," and that "giving him respect is low cost, even no cost. It is easy to give him the respect he demands, and probably deserves." Ukraine's foreign ministry said Schönbach's remarks were "categorically unacceptable." Germany has so far hesitated to provide weapons and other forms of "lethal aid" to Ukraine.

6

Flights to and from Xi'an resume as China eases lockdown

Seven planes took off from Xi'an Xianyang International Airport in China on Saturday, the first flights since Beijing imposed a strict COVID-19 lockdown on the city last month. The first inbound flights were expected to arrive at the airport Sunday. China locked Xi'an down on Dec. 22 after public health authorities recorded 52 new COVID cases in the city the previous day. Under the lockdown, residents were forbidden to leave their homes except in emergency situations.

7

Sinema censured by Arizona Democrats over support for filibuster

The Arizona Democratic Party (ADP) voted Saturday to censure Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) after she refused to support a Senate rule change to stop a filibuster of President Biden's voting rights bill. The motion to censure the moderate Democrat passed unanimously. "I want to be clear, the Arizona Democratic Party is a diverse coalition with plenty of room for policy disagreements, however on the matter of the filibuster and the urgency to protect voting rights, we have been crystal clear. In the choice between an archaic legislative norm and protecting Arizonans' right to vote, we choose the latter," ADP Chair Raquel Terán said in a statement released after the vote to censure Sinema.

8

Families of U.S. Embassy personnel must evacuate Ukraine, State Department orders

The State Department issued an order Saturday directing families of U.S. Embassy personnel in Ukraine to evacuate the country as soon as Monday. The State Department is also expected to issue guidance encouraging American civilians to begin leaving Ukraine on commercial flights. News of the evacuation order came only hours after the first shipment of a $200 million military aid package U.S. lawmakers approved last month arrived in Ukraine. Russia continues to move more troops to the Ukrainian border and refuses to back down from its demands that Ukraine be barred from NATO membership and that the alliance roll back its military presence in Eastern Europe.

9

Aaron Rodgers may retire after stunning loss to 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Green Bay Packers 13-10 Saturday night, knocking the Packers out of the playoffs and potentially marking an ignominious end to Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers' career. The Packers delivered one of the "worst special teams performances in postseason history," allowing the 49ers to successfully block a field goal and a punt, the latter of which they returned for a touchdown. "I'm very proud of what I've been able to accomplish here, deeply thankful for so many years here and all the incredible teammates and coaches I've had. Man, so much gratitude for this city and this organization, such a long career here," the 38-year-old Rodgers said after the game.

10

'Laura Ingraham' pushes non-Islamic 'chickpea mash' in new SNL cold open

In the latest Saturday Night Live cold open, Kate McKinnon played Fox News host Laura Ingraham. "Good evening. I'm Laura Ingraham, and as soon as I marry your dad, I'm sending you straight to boarding school," McKinnon said before listing several drawbacks of living in Biden's America, including the green M&M being "canceled." Later, McKinnon-as-Ingraham paused to thank her sponsors, including "Paula Deen's Chickpea Mash": "It's not radical Islamic hummus; it's American chickpea mash!" Guests included Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz (Aidy Bryant), Novak Djokovic (Pete Davidson), Candace Owens (Ego Nwodim), and former President Donald Trump (James Austin Johnson).

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