Russia prepares a land grab in Ukraine
The Kremlin announced that it would hold a ceremony today to begin absorbing four Ukrainian territories, pressing ahead with a widely condemned annexation effort.
In Moscow, authorities put up billboards and a giant video screen in Red Square. President Vladimir Putin will deliver a speech during the ceremony at the Kremlin. State media described the event as a rally and concert “in support of the outcome of the referendums,” in which some people in Ukraine were made to vote at gunpoint.
The annexation move has been greeted with international condemnation, and Ukraine has essentially ignored the Kremlin’s plans. Russian officials have spoken of defending their claims to the annexed territory by any means, a hint at the potential use of nuclear weapons.
Context: Even though Russia has failed to fully control the four territories it seeks to annex, and even as Ukrainian forces are gaining ground in some of those areas, the Kremlin’s show was designed to present a sheen of legitimacy to its illegal takeover.
The front lines: Ukrainian forces are closing in on the city of Lyman, a Russian-occupied rail hub. Capturing Lyman would leave Moscow’s troops in an increasingly perilous position in Ukraine’s east.
More war news:
Myanmar sentences Australian adviser to prison
Sean Turnell, an economic adviser to Myanmar’s imprisoned civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was convicted yesterday of violating an official secrets act and of visa violations. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
Turnell, 57, was arrested in Myanmar five days after the military seized power in a coup last year, setting off months of demonstrations and widespread killing. He pleaded not guilty to the charge and has remained in prison since February 2021, unable to meet with his lawyer or representatives of the Australian embassy.
Context: Turnell is now among more than 15,000 political prisoners arrested since the coup, according to an international monitoring group. Aung San Suu Kyi received the same sentence for violating the official secrets act, the latest in a series of convictions that already has her serving 20 years in prison.
Wittenoom, a town in Australia’s outback, was ruined by asbestos mining. The government has been trying to close down Wittenoom for over a decade and is now close to reaching that goal. But first, it has to remove those who want to stay.
Lives lived: Maria Orosa, a Filipino nationalist and innovative food scientist who invented banana ketchup, sought to reduce the Philippines’ dependence on imported food.
SPOTLIGHT ON AFRICA
In a pessimistic global economic climate, Zambia seems to be the exception.
Last year, the southern African nation elected Hakainde Hichilema, a wealthy businessman and political outsider, as president. Since then, many Zambians have hailed their new leader as a miracle worker.
Before the election, Zambia defaulted on its debts, and inflation was skyrocketing. Now, inflation has dropped to single digits, and the country’s currency, the kwacha, is one of the best performing in the world.
“I felt a lingering sense of relief in my travels in Zambia,” said Ruth Maclean, The Times’s West Africa bureau chief. Ruth recently met with Hichilema at his home in Lusaka, the capital. As an opposition leader, he was detained 15 times and ran for president five times. Many Zambians relate to his poor upbringing in a grass-thatched hut, and African leaders see in him a new model of leadership.
“He had a sort of steely, steady confidence that I can imagine might be very reassuring to countries and companies with which Zambia does business,” Ruth said.
But Zambia’s honeymoon phase may not last. To overhaul the economy, Hichilema struck a deal with the International Monetary Fund that would include the reduction of fuel and agricultural subsidies. Economists say that such policies will hurt the poor and test Hichilema’s vision.
“Zambia is the guinea pig of the moment,” Ruth said. “Watch this space.”
— Lynsey Chutel, briefings writer based in Johannesburg
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
What To Watch
Disney’s “Hocus Pocus 2” manages to capture the same hokey magic of the original while creatively updating its humor.
Now Time to Play
Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Paintings and such (3 letters).
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Jonathan
P.S. The 111th annual campaign of The Neediest Cases Fund has begun.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is a conversation with a man who fled Putin’s draft.
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