Welcome to Wednesday, where Russia takes out Kyiv’s central TV tower and secures control of the southern Ukraine city of Kherson, more multinationals freeze business ties with Moscow and President Biden vows to make Putin pay for Ukraine invasion. We also gathered snapshots of some of the Russian VIPs who have publicly come out against the war.
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• Russian control Kherson, more strikes hit civilians in Kharkiv and Kyiv: Russia is claiming full control of the southern city of Kherson, while major attacks are still underway in Kharkiv. Ukraine’s second largest city has been hit by bombings on its central Freedom Square, including the opera house, concert hall and some government offices, leaving at least 10 dead and 35 injured. In the capital of Kyiv, five people were killed dead after Russian shelling struck the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial and Kyiv’s main TV tower. The television broadcast was only disrupted temporarily.
• Biden’s State of the Union address focused on Ukraine: U.S. President Joe Biden addressed the Russia-Ukraine conflict, COVID-19 and inflation in his first State of the Union speech. He announced that, along with Canada and the EU, the U.S. will also be banning Russian planes from its airspace. Expressing strong support for Ukraine, Biden also warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unwavering aggression must incur consequences.
• ExxonMobil, Boeing, Apple cut ties with Russia: ExxonMobil, Boeing and Apple are the latest major companies to announce that they will withdraw or freeze their business in Russia following the invasion of Ukraine, joining BP, Disney, Ford and Mastercard and others that had announced similar measures.
• COVID record in Hong Kong: The omicron variant has sparked Hong Kong’s worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic, with health officials reporting 55,353 infections and 117 deaths yesterday, and cases expected to continue rising.
• Libya parliament backs new government, political crisis: 92 out of 101 members of Libya’s parliament approve a new government and declare Fathi Bashagha as prime minister. Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, the current prime minister installed by a UN-backed process last year, rejected the vote and vowed not to cede power.
• Severe rain in Australia forces evacuations: In anticipation of extreme weather, tens of thousands are forced to evacuate in Sydney. The storm has already submerged towns, destroyed homes, cut power lines and caused 13 deaths on Australia’s east coast.
• Ukrainian grandma completes 7-hour trek to Hungary: Along with her daughter and 14-year-old granddaughter, 80-year-old Piroska Baksa walked seven hours from her village of Chomonyn to the Hungarian border.
Austrian daily Salzburger Nachrichten features a satellite image showing a 60-kilometer-long Russian military convoy moving towards Ukraine’s capital city Kyiv. According to latest reports, the convoy has temporarily stalled, due to potential logistics problems such as fuel and food shortages.
A leftover rocket of about three tons will smash into the moon at 9,300 kph (5,800 mph) on Friday, with experts expecting the objects to carve a hole 33 to 66 feet across, although it may take weeks or even months to assess the impact.
Meet the Russian VIPs defying Putin to say no to war
In Russia, there are increasing signs of domestic anger over Putin’s attack on a neighboring country where many have friends and family. In addition to repeated public protests in cities across the country in defiance of a ban on anti-government opposition, Russians are seeing some of the country's most prominent personalities speak out against the war on Ukraine. From pop singers to artists and athletes, here are some of the Russian VIPs using their platform to oppose Putin's war.
🩰 Vladimir Urin is the head of Russia’s cultural pride: the Bolshoi Theater. He has been a President Putin loyalist… until now. Urin has joined a group of artists who signed an appeal to stop “the special operation in Ukraine.” The message was posted on Facebook by Maria Revyakina, director of the Art Theater of Moscow. “We call for preservation of the highest value — human life.” Vladimir Urin’s team also helped choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, former artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet, to quickly leave Russia.
🏒 Alex Ovechkin is an ice hockey star who plays in the US as Washington Capitals’ winger. After days of silence, he addressed the invasion during a press conference. The athlete said he had family and "lots of friends in Russia and Ukraine" and that he was hoping for peace. "Please, no more war," Ovechkin concluded. As a vocal pro-Putin celebrity, his position regarding Russia’s move was under scrutiny. This opinion was both acclaimed and deemed as too little too late, especially since he still hasn’t changed his Instagram profile picture where he poses with the Russian President doing a V sign.
💰 Evgeny Lebedev is a British-Russian media magnate and a member of the House of Lords. Son of billionaire and former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev, he wrote in the Evening Standard — which he owns — a direct call to Vladimir Putin for an end to the war. “Please, Mr Putin, stop this war,” he begs. “As a Russian citizen, I implore you to stop sending Russian soldiers to kill their brothers and sisters in Ukraine.” Coming from an oligarch, this stance is particularly revealing of the concern now shaking Russian VIPs abroad.
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I’m not iconic, I think Ukraine is iconic.
— Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky responded to journalists from CNN and Reuters, who asked him about his transformation from an actor and comedian to a worldwide hero for defending democracy.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Lorraine Olaya
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