Welcome to Tuesday, where tensions between Russia and the U.S. over Ukraine arrive at UN, Myanmar marks one year since its coup and record-breaking lightning has been measured, by length. We also look at what Boris Johnson’s “partygate” means for the West's united front against Russia.
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• Russia-U.S. clashes at UN meeting: Russia and the United States sparred in a public face-off over Moscow's troop buildup on the Ukrainian border at the UN Security Council on Monday. Top Russian and U.S. diplomats will confer again on Tuesday, resuming private diplomatic negotiations aimed at de-escalating tensions in Eastern Europe.
• COVID update: Austria’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for anyone over 18 years old comes into force today, the first nation in Europe to implement such sweeping measures. Unvaccinated citizens will face fines up to 3,600 euros. Meanwhile, Beijing Winter Olympics officials say the COVID-19 situation is within the “expected controllable range” despite reporting more than 200 cases among athletes and staff since Jan. 23.
• Activists stage “silent strike” as Myanmar marks coup anniversary: Myanmar’s junta marks one year in power since a government led by Aung San Suu Kyi was overthrown, despite new American, British and Canadian sanctions. Calls for international action are intensifying, notably from the National Unity Government (NUG), as protesters called for a “silent strike” against the countrys’ military on Tuesday.
• Pregnant journalist in Afghanistan allowed to return to NZ: Charlotte Bellis, a pregnant journalist from New Zealand who was stranded in Afghanistan because of her home country’s strict coronavirus border policy, will finally be able to return to NZ after her government offered her a place in the quarantine system. Bellis had said she had turned to the Taliban for help, sparking outcry in the country.
• Boris Johnson facing more questions on parties scandal: The probe into the parties linked to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that violated COVID-19 lockdown rules cited a “failure of leadership” over the 16 events examined. A full report will be published by investigator Sue Gray once the Metropolitan police finish its investigation into the alleged breaches of lockdown rules. Officers have received more than 500 pages of documents and 300 pictures as part of the inquiry, which has prompted both members of the opposition and Johnson’s own party to call for his resignation.
• David Attenborough and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya among Nobel Peace Prize nominees: British nature broadcaster and environmentalist David Attenborough, Belarusian dissident Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Greta Thunberg, the World Health Organization, Pope Francis and the Myanmar National Unity Government were announced as nominees for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, which will be awarded in October.
• The New York Times buys viral game Wordle: The hit word-guessing game Wordle has been acquired by The New York Times for an undisclosed price in the low-seven figures, to join the newspaper’s suite of word games as a way to attract new subscribers. Wordle will “initially remain free to new and existing players.”
Ecuadorian daily La Hora reports on the deadly landslide, which killed at least 11 and engulfed houses in Ecuador’s capital city Quito, triggered by the heaviest rainfall in the country in 20 years.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) certified two new world records for a lightning “megaflash” on the American continent, both of which were recorded in 2020. The longest distance flash stretched a full 477.2 miles (768km), across Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, overtaking the previous record by 60 kilometers.
Putin is watching: The foreign policy price of BoJo's partygate scandal
The damning findings of Sue Gray’s independent probe into the “partygate” scandal held No. 10 Downing St responsible for “serious failure to observe high standards.” But whether Boris Johnson is forced to resign, the impact internationally should not be overlooked, particularly as it relates to the West's need to stand up to Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
🔍 The release Monday of the findings of Sue Gray’s independent probe into the “partygate” scandal — which held No. 10 Downing Street responsible for “serious failure to observe high standards” and “failures of leadership” — hit British domestic politics with full force. Speculation the past month swirling of Johnson being forced to resign will no doubt multiply. But whether Johnson stays or not, the impact internationally should not be overlooked, particularly as it relates to his largely empty boasts on leading the effort to stand up to Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
👱👎 British scholar and broadcaster Mike Galsworthy dismissed the Prime Minister's words about the UK role in the West's “resistance” to Russia. “The claim that the British government is uniting the whole West against Russia is bizarre. He is not liked in Europe, he is not trusted by Biden. He has nothing to do with any of this at all." Indeed, the image circulating around the world — and in Russia in particular — is of something of a beer-fest and hedonistic haven for Boris and his band of “lads” and “lasses.”
🇬🇧🇷🇺 Not only is Britain unable to sway Moscow, some even question whether the Kremlin is pulling strings in Whitehall. Johnson has been forced to face questions last year about certain Russian oligarchs providing financial support to the Conservative party. What makes this situation all the more troubling is the fact that Johnson has tried to make his personal and ideological antagonism with Vladimir Putin a centerpiece of his foreign policy. He has publicly promised to prove to Putin that Western liberalism is alive and well.
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We were too optimistic perhaps.
— Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison faced criticism of his leadership during an address to the National Press Club in Canberra, saying he hasn’t “got everything right” about the impact of coronavirus vaccinations on the spread of the Omicron variant. Morrison’s approval rating has fallen to its lowest level in two years, as the country prepares for a federal election in May 2022.
✍️ Newsletter by Jane Herbelin and Anne-Sophie Goninet