Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 13, 2022

Russia strikes base near Polish border, China locks down millions of people as COVID cases spike, and more

1

Russia strikes base near Polish border, killing 35

Russian warplanes struck a Ukrainian military base less than 25 miles from the Polish border on Sunday, killing 35 people and injuring over 100. Officials said around 30 missiles were fired at the base but that air defense systems intercepted 22 of them before impact. The base was reportedly being used to ferry weapons sent from international partners to the front and to train foreign fighters. Russia began striking targets in western Ukraine on Friday.  

2

China locks down millions of people as COVID cases spike

China reported 3,400 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, up from just under 2,000 on Saturday, marking the worst outbreak since the virus first became widespread in early 2020. The majority of the new cases were reported in China's northeastern Jilin province. Authorities responded by closing schools in Shanghai and suspending bus service to the city, locking down hundreds of neighborhoods in Jilin City (which has a population of 1.5 million), and imposing full lockdowns on several other northeastern cities. Millions of people have been confined to their homes as China continues its strict zero-COVID policy. The mayor of Jilin City and the chief public health official in nearby Changchun were both dismissed from their posts.

3

Protesters in Russian-controlled Melitopol demand return of abducted mayor

Protesters in the Russian-controlled Ukrainian city of Melitopol took to the streets Saturday after occupying Russian forces reportedly kidnapped the city's mayor on Friday and installed a new mayor in his place. A prosecutor from the Russian-backed separatist Luhansk People's Republic said Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov was under investigation for terrorism. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the abduction a "crime against democracy," while Ukrainian diplomat Olexander Scherba suggested that Fedorov's captors were torturing him "to force [him] to collaborate."

4

Trump denounces GOP incumbents at South Carolina rally

Former President Donald Trump disparaged South Carolina GOP Reps. Nancy Mace and Tom Rice and endorsed their primary challengers at a rally in Florence, South Carolina, Saturday night. Both Mace and Rice have criticized Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Trump endorsed Katie Arrington — a former state representative who called Trump "Big Daddy" in her speech Saturday — to replace Mace. Against Rice, he championed state representative Russell Fry, who referred to anti-Trump Republicans as "grandstanding losers." Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor and possible 2024 presidential candidate who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, has endorsed Mace. She did not attend the rally.

5

U.S. blames Iran for ballistic missile attack on Iraqi Kurdistan

U.S. officials blamed Iran after a dozen ballistic missiles struck Irbil, the capital of semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, on Sunday. The missiles landed near a United States consulate and damaged a local television news studio at around 1:30 a.m. local time. No one was killed or injured. The U.S. State Department denounced the attack as "outrageous." Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi called the strike "an attack on the security of our people" and promised that Iraq's "security forces will investigate and stand firm against any threats."

6

Saudi Arabia conducts mass execution of 81 people

Saudi Arabia's state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Saturday that the kingdom had carried out a mass execution of 81 people. Those executed — a group comprising 73 Saudis, seven Yemenis, and one Syrian — had been convicted of terrorism, murder, kidnapping, torture, rape, and weapons smuggling. Some were reportedly associated with al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. It was the largest known mass execution in the country's modern history. Saudi state media did not specify how the prisoners were executed, but Saudi Arabia typically carries out executions by public beheading.

7

Convoys carrying weapons into Ukraine are 'legitimate targets,' Russian official says

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov appeared on Russian state television Saturday to warn that his country's military forces could conduct strikes against convoys carrying foreign weapons into Ukraine. "We warned the United States that pumping Ukraine with weapons from a number of countries orchestrated by them is not just a dangerous move, but these are actions that turn the corresponding convoys into legitimate targets," Ryabkov said. NATO stopped flying weapons into Ukraine when the Russian invasion began. Instead, the weapons are flown into Poland or Romania and shipped by land to Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities.

8

Zelensky says 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday that 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. This is the first time Ukraine's government has released an estimate of Ukrainian military casualties since the first day of the war, when Zelensky's office said at least 30 members of the country's armed forces had died. On March 2, Russian sources claimed that over 2,800 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed. The U.S. government estimates that Ukraine has suffered between 2,000 and 4,000 military deaths, one official said Wednesday.

9

Russian stock exchange won't reopen on Monday

Russia's central bank announced Saturday that the Moscow Exchange will not reopen on Monday, though commodity and foreign currency trading will resume. The Moscow Exchange closed on Friday, Feb. 25, the day after Russian forces invaded Ukraine, and has remained closed ever since. "The moment [the Russian stock exchange] opens, it will be disbanded. Hear me? It will blow up," President Biden told a group of House Democrats in Philadelphia on Friday.

10

'Biden' gets advice from TikTok influencers in new SNL cold open

Saturday Night Live's most recent cold open featured President Biden (James Austin Johnson) and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki (Kate McKinnon) asking a group of TikTok stars for advice on how to handle the war in Ukraine. The sketch began with Johnson-as-Biden welcoming the influencers to the meeting and thanking "Psaki" for suggesting it. "I suggested it as a joke and then it actually happened," McKinnon-as-Psaki said. "People are saying this is the first war fought on TikTok," Johnson-as-Biden continued, "which is tough for me because I'm the landline of presidents."

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