Your Friday Briefing: Russia May Invade in ‘Coming Days,’ U.S. Warns
We’re covering a U.S. warning of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine and a shift in South Korea’s Covid strategy.
U.S. says Russia is set to invade ‘in the coming days’
Despite Russia’s insistence that it is withdrawing troops from the border with Ukraine, U.S. officials warned that an invasion was imminent.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the U.N. Security Council that Russia’s “forces, including ground troops, aircraft, ships, are preparing to launch an attack against Ukraine in the coming days.”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who met with the head of NATO in Brussels, said Russia continued to move troops closer to Ukraine’s borders, was adding combat aircraft and was stocking up on blood supplies in anticipation of casualties on the battlefield.
President Biden warned that the threat of an attack remained “very high.” We have live updates.
On the ground: Artillery shells struck a town in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, damaging a kindergarten and wounding three adult civilians. Ukraine blamed Russia-backed separatists, while the Kremlin said “the Ukrainian side” had launched the first strike. The exchange of fire raised fears of an escalation.
Diplomacy: The U.S. State Department revealed that Russia had expelled the No. 2 American diplomat in Moscow. Also, in an official response to U.S. proposals about the crisis, the Kremlin said it was not planning any invasion but that if the U.S. did not agree to its demands, including lessening NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe, it would “be forced to respond” with military action.
Analysis: After 30 years of post-Cold War peace, the Ukraine crisis is shaking a sense of complacency among many Europeans, our chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe writes.
Canadian police appear to prepare clampdown
A confrontation between protesters and the police loomed in Ottawa on Thursday. Ontario’s police force gathered outside Ottawa’s city center in an apparent preparation to end the trucker protests that have stalled traffic there for the past few weeks.
The police have distributed written notices to the protesters, warning them to leave the area or face penalties. Crews of workers put up wire fencing around the Parliament building downtown.
Inside the building, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on the protesters to go home. “It is high time that these illegal and dangerous activities stop, including here in Ottawa,” he said.
Many protesters vowed to stay put. One protester said their instructions were to remain in their trucks, lock the doors and not open them for anyone, including the police. Here’s the latest.
Background: The protests began weeks ago with a group of truckers who objected to a requirement that they be vaccinated against the coronavirus to cross the U.S.-Canada border. With help from right-wing activists, the protests ballooned into a broader movement opposed to pandemic measures and Trudeau in general.
After two years of effectively battling off major Covid-19 surges with its broad and heavy-handed three-T strategy — testing, tracing and treating — South Korean authorities have announced a new game plan: “select and focus.” The country is asking patients who test positive to look after themselves at home, while it redirects resources to those who are at greatest risk of dying.
The change, the government says, was necessary to cope with Omicron’s rise. Until last year, South Korea never had more than 7,849 confirmed cases a day. But as Omicron became dominant, the daily caseload soared to 93,135 on Thursday. The government expects up to 170,000 new patients a day later this month.
Critics have argued that the government’s new approach disadvantages underprivileged classes, like poor people who lack access to medical care or other social services. The new strategy will focus on people in their 60s and older and those with pre-existing medical conditions — supplying them with at-home treatment kits and calling twice a day to check on their condition.
Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.
In other virus developments:
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