Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 27, 2022

Zelensky agrees to peace talks as Russian forces attack Ukraine's 2nd largest city, Trump stops just short of announcing 2024 run, and more

1

Zelensky agrees to peace talks as Russian forces attack Ukraine's 2nd largest city

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reportedly agreed on Sunday to send a Ukrainian delegation to negotiate with Russia near Ukraine's border with Belarus. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to use Belarus as a staging ground for his invasion, arranged the meeting. Russian forces pushed into Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, on Saturday and Sunday, but by Sunday afternoon, Russian forces had been repelled after the two sides exchanged missiles and engaged in fierce street fighting, said Oleh Sinegubov, the regional governor. Emergency services in Kharkiv said a nine-story apartment building was hit, killing an elderly woman and bringing the total number of Ukrainian civilian deaths to at least 64.

2

'We did it twice, and we'll do it again': Trump stops just short of announcing 2024 run

In a speech delivered at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida on Saturday, former President Donald Trump stopped just short of formally announcing a 2024 presidential run. "[Democrats are] going to find out the hard way, starting on Nov. 8, and then again even more so on [sic] Nov. 2024, they will find out like never before. We did it twice, and we'll do it again," Trump said, reiterating his false claim that he was the true winner of the 2020 election. "We're going to be doing it again, a third time." Trump also repeated his assertion that Russian President Vladimir Putin is "smart" but called Putin's invasion of Ukraine an "atrocity."

3

Germany to boost defense spending and send lethal aid to Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told an extraordinary session of the Bundestag on Sunday that Germany must rebuild its military "to protect our freedom and democracy." Scholz said the government will make a special investment of 100 billion euros in the military in 2022 and will increase annual military expenditures to at least two percent of GDP. Germany spent only 47 billion euros, or 1.53 percent of GDP, on defense in 2021. Scholz also announced Saturday that his country will send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine to aid in the fight against Russian aggression.

4

Studies suggest COVID came from a Wuhan market, not a lab

The "lab-leak theory" of the origins of the COVID-19 virus has been dismissed as a conspiracy theory and seriously considered as a plausible explanation, but two studies released Saturday could shed new light on the question. According to the studies, both of which were co-authored by University of Arizona evolutionary biologist Michael Worobey, the virus likely originated in live animals sold at a market in Wuhan, China, in 2019. Worobey said that in light of the studies' findings, the theory that COVID originated in a lab "no longer … makes sense." Both studies are still undergoing peer review.

5

Around 100,000 Russian troops are fighting inside Ukraine, U.S. Defense Department official says

An official at the U.S. Defense Department said Saturday that 50 percent of the approximately 200,000 troops Russia massed on Ukraine's border in the months leading up to the invasion were fighting inside Ukraine, up from 30 percent on Friday. Russian reconnaissance forces probed Kyiv and engaged in street battles with Ukrainian troops Friday night, but the main force driving south from Belarus toward the capital city was still around 18 miles away.  Russian formations are also pushing north from Crimea and west from the Russian border.

6

Conservative legal group slams Ketanji Brown Jackson

Carrie Severino, the president of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network and a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote in a Fox News op-ed published Saturday that Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson is a "politician in robes" who will "rubber stamp" a "left-wing political agenda." Severino accused Jackson of being anti-business, soft on illegal immigration, and hostile toward the pro-life movement. She also attempted to link Jackson to Arabella Advisors, which Severino described as a "liberal … dark money network." President Biden nominated Jackson to the Supreme Court on Friday. If confirmed, she would be the first Black woman to serve on the nation's highest court.

7

Russia has reportedly detained almost 2,700 anti-war protesters since Thursday

Russia has detained 2,692 anti-war protesters since the invasion of Ukraine began on Thursday, Russian human rights media group OVD-Info said Saturday. At least 1,370 of those protesters were detained in Moscow, but protests were ongoing in at least 27 Russian cities. On Friday, Russia began limiting access to Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp — platforms on which protest organizers rely — in response to parent company Meta's refusal to stop fact-checking reports from Russian state media.

8

North Korea tests ballistic missile

North Korea launched a ballistic missile on Sunday, its first such test since late January. The missile flew about 190 miles and landed harmlessly in the sea. "If North Korea deliberately carried out the missile launch while the international community is distracted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, such an act is absolutely unforgivable," Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters. South Korea's National Security Council concurred. "Launching a ballistic missile at a time when the world is making efforts to resolve the Ukraine war is never desirable for peace and stability in the world, the region, and on the Korean Peninsula," they said in a statement.

9

Colbert producer tapped to lead CNN

Chris Licht, the executive producer of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, will take over as president of CNN after Discovery Inc. acquires the network as part of its merger with WarnerMedia. The merger is expected to go through sometime in the second quarter of 2022, which begins in April. CNN's new streaming service, CNN+, is expected to launch in March. Former CNN president Jeff Zucker resigned earlier this month after failing to disclose a relationship with a colleague. Executive vice presidents Michael Bass and Amy Entelis are serving as CNN's interim co-heads. Licht has also worked as executive producer of CBS This Morning and MSNBC's Morning Joe.

10

SNL cold open features Ukrainian chorus singing hymn for their country

After a monthlong hiatus for the Winter Olympics, Saturday Night Live returned Saturday with a moving tribute to Ukraine. The broadcast began with Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong standing side by side. "Ladies and gentlemen: the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York," they said. The lights dimmed and the two cast members departed as the camera pulled back, revealing a group of Ukrainian singers in traditional dress illuminated by soft candlelight. The chorus performed a piece called "A Prayer for Ukraine." According to one translation, the lyrics include, "Lord, oh the Great and Almighty  / Protect our beloved Ukraine" and "Bless us with freedom, bless us with wisdom, / Guide [us] into [a] kind world."

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