In 1998, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright greets U.S. soldiers while visiting Air Base Eagle in Tuzla, Bosnia. Photo: Amel Emric/AP
Madeleine K. Albright, who died of cancer yesterday at 84, fled the Nazis as a child, then climbed to the summit of diplomacy and foreign policy in the U.S. — breaking the glass ceiling as the first female secretary of state, and setting the pace for other women to follow, AP’s Matt Lee writes.
· President Bill Clinton said in announcing his historic choice for America’s top diplomat in 1996: “She has watched her world fall apart, and ever since, she has dedicated her life to spreading to the rest of the world the freedom and tolerance her family found here in America.”
In Gaza City in 1999, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright listens as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat talks to President Bill Clinton about a peace deal. Photo: Reuters
For decades, Albright was a popular professor at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, where her “Modern Foreign Governments” was a required course and examined autocracies and the rise and fall of nation states, including in Ethiopia, the Czech Republic … and the Soviet Union.
· The late AP Diplomatic Correspondent Barry Schweid contributed to this report.
Albright was a central figure in President Bill Clinton’s administration, first serving as US ambassador to the United Nations before becoming the nation’s top diplomat in his second term. While in office, she championed NATO expansion and pushed for the alliance to intervene in the Balkans to stop genocide and ethnic cleansing.
Throughout her retirement, Albright continued working for democracy around the world and speaking about US policy. Asked by USA Today in August 2020 how she defined courage, Albright replied that it is “when you stand up for what you believe in when it’s not always easy and you get criticized for it.”
A young Albright sits with her father, Josef Korbel, in this photo circa 1945. Korbel was a Czech diplomat, and the family escaped Czechoslovakia 10 days after the Nazi invasion.
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Albright, center, works on the newspaper staff at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She graduated in 1959 and later received a master’s degree and a Ph.D from Columbia University.
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In 1988, Albright worked as a senior foreign policy adviser for Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. She also worked for Walter Mondale’s unsuccessful campaign in 1984. During the Jimmy Carter administration, she was a White House staff member and congressional liaison for the National Security Council under Zbigniew Brzezinski.
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Albright, as the US ambassador to the United Nations, casts a vote in 1993. She was confirmed shortly after the election of President Bill Clinton, who she also advised during his campaign.
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Albright presents a poster from the World Conference on Women as she meets with Myanmar political leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 1995.
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Albright reaches out to a Burundian orphan while visiting the country in 1996.
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Albright is sworn in as US secretary of state in 1997.
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Albright looks over at North Korea during a visit to the border village of Panmunjom in 1997.
Albright puts on a jacket as she visits the US Naval Academy in 1997.
Albright’s red outfit stands out in a sea of suits as she poses with other foreign ministers during a NATO meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1997.
Albright has lunch with US troops serving in Bosnia in 1997.
Albright greets well-wishers in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in 1997. She was the first US secretary of state to visit the city since the Vietnam War.
Albright talks with a member of the FBI while visiting the site where a US embassy was bombed in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1998.
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Albright wipes away a tear as she and the Clintons attend a memorial ceremony for US citizens who were killed in an embassy bombing in Kenya in 1998.
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Albright is interviewed by John F. Kennedy Jr. for George magazine in 1998. Kennedy co-founded the magazine.
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Albright talks to US Brig. Gen. John Craddock, commander of the US troops that would be taking part in the Kosovo implementation force in 1999. Albright was crucial in pushing President Clinton to intervene in Kosovo to prevent a genocide against ethnic Muslims by former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.
Albright testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1999. The committee was conducting hearings on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that the Senate would be voting on.
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President Bill Clinton is surrounded by Albright and others in 2000 while signing bipartisan legislation normalizing trade relations with China.
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Albright prepares to testify before a House committee in 2000 about how Russian President Vladimir Putin rose to power.
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Albright shares a toast with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il at a dinner in Pyongyang, North Korea, in 2000. Albright left office in 2001 after President Clinton’s second term ended.
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Albright visits a polling station in Abuja, Nigeria, in 2007. She was heading a delegation of election observers from the US-based National Democratic Institute.
Albright speaks to a guest at the unveiling of her official portrait in Washington, DC, in 2008.
Albright and presidential candidate Barack Obama attend a roundtable discussion on foreign affairs in 2008.
Albright visits with students in Chicago in 2012. The city was hosting a NATO summit the next month.
M. Spencer Green/AP
Albright helps plant a tree at a botanical garden in her native city of Prague, Czech Republic, in 2012.
Obama presents Albright with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. “As the first woman to serve as America’s top diplomat, Madeleine’s courage and toughness helped bring peace to the Balkans and paved the way for progress in some of the most unstable corners of the world,” Obama said in his remarks.
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Albright plays the drums while attending the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2012.
Paul Morigi/Getty Images for The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz
Albright, second from left, joins other secretaries of state at the groundbreaking ceremony for the US Diplomacy Center in 2014. From left are Hillary Clinton, Albright, Henry Kissinger, John Kerry, James Baker and Colin Powell.
Albright talks with Ukrainian presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko at a meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, in 2014.
Albright shows off her sneakers with Olympic athlete Angela Ruggiero as they attended an alumni weekend at Wellesley College in 2014.
Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Albright was known for wearing brooches or decorative pins to convey her foreign policy messages. More than 200 of them were part of the “Read My Pins” collection.
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Albright attends the Glamour Women of the Year awards in 2015. She was a past honoree.
Amy Lombard/The New York Times/Redux
Albright speaks at the Democratic National Convention in 2016.
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Actor George Clooney embraces Albright at the United Nations headquarters in 2016. They were attending a Leaders Summit for Refugees.
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Albright attends the funeral for former US Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2021.
PAGE 2 Oprah: We’ve all heard that on September 11 America was forever changed. What does that mean to you?
Madeleine: Americans have always felt pretty invulnerable here at home—until we were violated on our own territory in a way we have never been. In September more Americans died than on any other day in our history—and that has changed the way we look at things. In some ways we need to change. This attack was so awful that if we don’t change, the lives lost will be without vindication. I obviously can’t identify with what happened to those who lost their lives—but in a way I was in those buildings, you were in those buildings, every American was.
Oprah: That’s so true. When we last talked, you said you had seen unimaginable atrocities around the world. Have you ever seen anything like this?
Madeleine: Nobody has ever seen this kind of terrorism. I witnessed similar devastation when I visited our embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania [after the August 1998 bombings]. But there wasn’t the same loss of life. Through television we saw this tragedy in real time. While we were watching the first tower burn, all of a sudden the second plane goes through the other side—we’re watching it, and then we see the buildings come down. It was a visual horror that is unparalleled.
Oprah: I had to say out loud what I had seen, just so my brain could take it in.
Madeleine: What’s weird is that we’ve all probably seen movies like this and walked away thinking, “This couldn’t possibly happen.” So we’re left trying to get our minds around the fact that it’s not a horror show, it’s real life. I knew people in those buildings, so I felt a combination of every possible horrible feeling.
Oprah: How can we process the fear, the anxiety, the uncertainty of not knowing what’s next?
Madeleine: I’m not sure—I’m still processing the magnitude of what happened myself. But we have to be determined that we won’t let this stop us. The balance I have struggled with is between having a normal day and knowing that there are people wandering the streets of New York holding photographs and signs that read HAVE YOU SEEN MY HUSBAND?
Oprah: Yes. With every show I taped right after the tragedy, I thought, “How can I do this while they’re still rescuing people?”
Madeleine: I even feel awful having conversations about other matters. And yet I know that if we don’t continue getting back to normal, the terrorists will have won. It’s important that we invest in America—literally. The terrorists wanted to destroy our economy, and we can’t let our system fall apart. We also have to invest in one another. As I listen to the stories of those grieving, I know we’re all grieving with them. We have to go through that entire grief process.
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A list that includes even an ex-president’s favorite? Learn how epic histories keep former secretary of state Madeleine Albright in the know.
After doing plenty of academic writing over the years, I’m now working on my autobiography. The plot is somewhat complicated: I was born in Czechoslovakia, which was invaded by Hitler and taken over by the Communists. My family came to the United States in search of freedom. I was married, raised three children, divorced, and worked hard enough to end up in a pretty good job.
The most difficult part in writing about all this is deciding what to leave out; there are so many good stories. It’s also totally counterintuitive for me to write about myself. All my life, I’ve been taught not to be self-centered. As a result, I’m having a little trouble describing the main character. But it has been fascinating to look back, and I hope it will be interesting for others, as well. In many ways, my experiences have paralleled those of millions of women of my generation, in juggling the personal and the professional. As secretary of state, I experienced a lot of pressure, but also many moments of excitement and reward, and I have memories of people in Washington and around the world that shared both the high points and the low with me. I have received a lot of advice about how to write the book, which I have appreciated. But it wouldn’t seem right to tell the story of my life except in my own words and style, which is exactly what I intend to do.
Madeleine Albright’s autobiography will be published this fall.
What’s on Madeleine Albright’s Bookshelf? Read more!
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My mother was hyperprotective—she hovered over me. In 1947 I was 10 years old, and we lived in Yugoslavia, where my father was the Czech ambassador. I had a governess who gave me lessons, and I would play with the children of other diplomats. It was a pretty limited life. We’d moved around a lot, so I couldn’t go to the regular school until the next year; I’d gotten ahead of myself. So my mother and father made the decision to send me away from our very close, loving family to a Swiss boarding school, and it was up to my mother to take me there.
I was a very serious child, and obedient. (I always thought when I wrote my memoir I would start with “I was born an adult.”) But I did not want to go. How would I manage? I didn’t speak a word of French. My way of resisting was to develop a rash. I don’t know whether it was psychosomatic or a genuine rash. But my mother, who was unexpectedly resolute, said, “We’re going.” On the flight to Zurich, I was crying so much that my mother’s whole arm was wet. Next morning in Zurich I told her, “I can’t move my legs.” Oh, she said, “Zurich is a center for polio research—we’ll find a doctor.” All of a sudden I could get out of bed.
My mother took me to that school and, overprotective though she was, made me go. And it was one of the most important years of my life. My first problem at the school was that in order to eat, you had to speak French. And you needed French to participate in class. So the early weeks were hard. In those days, you didn’t call your family every five minutes, and there was no e-mail. I didn’t even go home for Christmas. But in the end, I conquered the situation. I learned French, I learned to ski, I learned to be in a place that I wasn’t at all comfortable in, and I had to make it comfortable for myself. I learned to be independent. That year has stood me in good stead forever. And I grew to love it there.
I have three daughters now, and I remember nights when I lay in bed paralyzed with unreasonable fear over where they were. I think the hardest thing for a mother is to make it possible for a child to be independent and at the same time let the child know how much you love her, how much you want to take care of her, and yet how truly essential it is for her to fly on her own. It’s definitely the “pushing out of the nest syndrome.”
I think of my own mother, knowing what I know now. How difficult this must have been for her. She died in 1989. Without her, it sometimes feels as if there’s nothing between me and the sky, but then her lesson always shows itself. It is nothing short of a wonder that she sent me away. But she knew to do it.
Madeleine Albright was the first woman to serve as Secretary of State for the United States. She is the author of Madam Secretary (2003), The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs (2006) and Read My Pins (2009).
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Albright and her daughters know there’s no one answer for working moms. Born in prewar Prague, Albright’s earliest years were defined by her family’s political flight—first from Hitler and, after 1948, from Czechoslovakia’s Communist government. Albright was a Wellesley alumna, a naturalized citizen, and had worked as a journalist by the time she became a mother for the first time in 1960. She served as Ambassador to the UN for President Clinton’s first term and was appointed Secretary of State at the start of his second term, thereby becoming the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government.
Madeleine Albright’s Pin Collection
Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright wore pins to convey how she felt without saying a word. “The first President Bush had been known for saying ‘Read my lips,'” she says. “I began urging colleagues to ‘Read my pins.'”
The Dove Pin
Madeleine Albright was given this pin as a gift from the widow of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was slain because of his support for peace. She wore the dove pin while speaking about Middle East peace negotiations to convey the need for ending violence and to encourage reconciliation between historic rivals in Israel.
The Eagle Pin
Albright decided to wear this pin showing a gold eagle with widespread wings for her swearing-in ceremony—but later would come to regret it!
“What I failed to notice was that the clasp was not only old but complicated: Fastening it was a multistep process that I neglected to complete. All went well until I had one hand on the Bible and the other in the air.
“Then, I looked down and saw that my beautiful pin was dangling sideways. With all the commotion, I had no time to fix the problem until after the photographers had done their work, showing me standing next to the president with an eagle that had forgotten how to fly.”
The Katrina Pin
This beautiful flower pin composed of amethysts and diamonds was given to Albright by a young man whose mother died as a result of Hurricane Katrina. “I wear it as a reminder that jewelry’s greatest value comes not from precious stones or brilliant designs, but from the emotions we invest,” she says.
The Ladybug Pin
Not all of Albright’s pins had a serious message. When she wore pins like these ladybugs or a butterfly, the other foreign ministers would know she was in a good mood.
The Lion Pin
During four years of Middle East peace negotiations, Dr. Albright would wear this lion pin to encourage bravery.
The Serpent Pin
The serpent pin is the brooch that started it all. Albright served as America’s ambassador to the United Nations in President Bill Clinton’s first term. When she criticized Saddam Hussein for refusing to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors, Iraq’s government-controlled press responded angrily, publishing a poem that denounced her as an “unparalleled serpent.”
Soon after, Albright was scheduled to meet in New York with Iraqi officials. She decided to wear a pin in the shape of a serpent, thereby sending the message: “Don’t tread on me.” From that day forward, pins served as a way for Albright to communicate ideas and feelings without even saying a word.
Good morning … It’s March Madness Selection Sunday. Smart Brevity™ count: 1,150 words … 4½ mins. Edited by Fadel Allassan.
Bulletin:National security adviser Jake Sullivan, warning Russia could be preparing to use chemical weapons in Ukraine, told Margaret Brennan on CBS’ “Face the Nation”
“[T]here is an escalating level of rhetoric on the Russian side trying to accuse the Ukrainians and the United States of potentially using chemical or biological weapons. And that’s …. an indicator that in fact, the Russians are getting ready to do it and try and pin the blame elsewhere.”
2. U.S. journalist killed in Ukraine
An elderly resident hides in a basement with no electricity, water or food, in the center of the Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on Friday. Photo: Efrem Lukatsky/AP
A freelancer who formerly worked on New York Times projects was killed covering the war in Ukraine, The Times said today.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of Brent Renaud’s death. Brent was a talented filmmaker who had contributedto The New York Times over the years,” The Times said in a statement emailed to Axios.
“Though he had contributed to The Times in the past (most recently in 2015), he was not on assignment for any desk at The Times in Ukraine. Early reports that he worked for Times circulated because he was wearing a Times press badge that had been issued for an assignment many years ago.”
Renaud, 50, was a writer, filmmaker, and photojournalist from Little Rock, according to his Nieman bio.
NATO’s doorstep: Waves of Russian missiles pounded a military training base near Ukraine’s western border with NATO member Poland, killing 35 people, Ukrainian authorities told AP.
More than 30 Russian cruise missiles targetedthe sprawling facility, less than 15 miles from the closest border point with Poland, according to the governor of Ukraine’s western Lviv region.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of using blackmail and bribery in an attempt to force local officials in the southern Kherson region to form a “pseudo-republic.”
Breaking: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned of “a new stage of terror” in a video posted to Telegram last night, referring to the abduction of the mayor of Melitopol by Russian forces.
Zelensky accused Russiaof “a war of annihilation” as devastation intensified across Ukraine, including in Kyiv, The New York Times reported.
Russian forces pounding the port city of Mariupol shelled a mosque sheltering 80+ people, including children, the Ukrainian government said. Get the latest.
1 big thing: Dems ask Americans to sacrifice
Speaker Pelosi and House Democratic leaders at their issues conference in Philadelphia yesterday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Facing a bleak midterm outlook, Democrats see a potential reset with voters based on President Biden’s handling of the Ukraine crisis, Axios’ Sophia Cai reports from Philadelphia:
Why it matters:S. sanctions on Russia are worsening inflation and increasing gas prices — adding misery for Democrats, who are bracing for the possible loss of the House and even the Senate in November.
At a conference for House Democrats in Philadelphia this week, lawmakers made the case for Americans’ shared sacrifice — including paying more for gas.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Gregory Meeks(D-N.Y.) said: “I’m asking the people of the United States to also make that kind of sacrifice because in the long run, democracy is at stake.”
Between the lines: The war is giving Biden a chance to showcase attributes that appealed to Americans who backed him for president —foreign-policy experience, empathy and respect for institutions.
Reality check: Some House Dems tell Axios they’re skeptical voters will embrace surging gas prices — and reward or forgive Biden and Democrats just because they find Vladimir Putin repugnant, or value democracy over oppression.
“It’s not enough for us to say, ‘It’s a tough time and it’s because of the war in Russia,'” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told Axios. He and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) introduced legislation to tax the largest oil companies, and assist individuals earning less than $75,000 or couples earning less than $150,000.
“We’ve got to figure out something to reduce prices, and we need to be getting more money into the hands of working families.”
What we’re watching: A Wall Street Journal poll out yesterday (subscription) found that “57% of voters remained unhappy with Biden’s job performance, “despite favorable marks for the president’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and a recent State of the Union speech.”
Democratic advantagesover Republicans narrowed on education, COVID response and protecting middle-class families, the poll found.
What they’re hoping: DCCC Chair Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) advised Biden: “Be the man you saw on Tuesday night — who crushed it at the State of the Union, who right now is leading the world standing up to Russian aggression.”
“The next chapteris going to be where the American people rediscover they elected a strong, decent man who is fighting for very important things.”
Go deeper: See Wall Street Journal poll results (not paywalled).
A Ukrainian serviceman photographs a damaged church yesterday, after shelling hit a residential district in Mariupol, Ukraine. Photo: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP
The White House is sounding the alarm over a new Russian propaganda campaign that officials fear is a pretext for an appalling new phase of the war:
The use of biological or chemical weapons, Axios’ Zachary Basu reports.
Why it matters: Vladimir Putin has a history of deploying illegal nerve agents against enemies, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny and former double agent Sergei Skripal. In Syria, Russia helped Bashar al-Assad cover up the use of chemical weapons against his own people.
What’s happening: Kremlin propagandists have been frenetically spreading baseless claims that the Pentagon is funding dangerous bioweapons labs in Ukraine.
Chinese diplomats and state-controlled media have joined in on the conspiracy theories, raising fears about a level of coordination between the two powers not seen during the conflict thus far.
Reality check: The U.S. and Ukraine have vigorously denied the presence of any U.S.-backed bioweapons program, saying the only labs the U.S. supports in Ukraine are standard research facilities that focus on “diagnostics, therapeutics, treatment, prevention and vaccines.”
The Biden administration has issued statements calling the Russian claims “preposterous” and “total nonsense,” and urging the world to “be on the lookout” for Russia to use chemical weapons itself or attempt a “false flag” operation in Ukraine.
“Allegedly, we are preparing a chemical attack,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a new video address. “This makes me really worried because we’ve been repeatedly convinced: if you want to know Russia’s plans, look at what Russia accuses others of.”
Between the lines: The U.S. has repeatedly sought to debunk Russia’s narratives about Ukraine by declassifying intelligence about Putin’s plans ahead of time, a novel approach that undermines his element of surprise.
War intensifies the impulse to share powerful images, but leaves users with uncomfortable choices and pitfalls in the social media wilderness, Axios’ Ina Fried writes in her weekly “Signal Boost” tech column.
Why it matters: Platform moderators face complex ethical and legal calls over photos of dead soldiers, images of teens taking up arms and videos of prisoners of war criticizing the conflict.
A video went viral of a Russian soldier denouncing the invasion after being captured in Ukraine.
It wasn’t long before observers pointed outthat such footage, if produced by a government, might well violate the Geneva Conventions.
Detainees“must be treated with dignity, and not exposed to public curiosity — like circulating images on social media,” the International Red Cross said as part of a Twitter thread explaining those rules.
Spotted yesterday on Manchester Boulevard in Inglewood, near LAX
Banks reveal billions in potential Russia losses
Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios
With Russia’s economy collapsing, its stock market cryogenically frozen and its bonds near default, global investors are set to endure major losses, Axios Markets co-author Matt Phillips reports.
Why it matters: For decades, Russian investments were a cornerstone of “emerging market” investing — the financial world’s marketing rubric encouraging the free-flowing global investments that helped define the post-Cold War era.
Russia was a star of the “BRICS” — a rubric coined by Goldman Sachs analysts that stood for the fast-growing emerging market economies that were investor favorites over the last two decades.
BRICS = Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa.
What we’re watching: Russia is considering seizing and potentially nationalizing assets of companies that quit the country.
A woman outside a maternity hospital that was shelled yesterday in Mariupol, Ukraine. Photo: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba met in Turkey this morning for the highest-level peace talks since the war began, Axios’ Zachary Basu reports.
The two sides discussed the possibilityof a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but otherwise failed to come to any agreement on a ceasefire.
The big picture: As Putin’s frustration builds, Russian forces have increasingly turned to targeting civilians with indiscriminate shelling. (Photo above.)
The meeting came just one day after Russia bombed a maternity ward and children’s hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol, killing three people in an attack that Zelensky calledproof of genocide.
Lavrov falsely claimedat his press conference in Turkey that Ukraine was the aggressor, at one point telling reporters: “We are not planning to attack other countries. We didn’t attack Ukraine in the first place.”
Breaking: The U.K. this morning froze the assets of seven Russian oligarchs, including Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich — who was in the midst of attempting to sell the storied London soccer team.
Protesters form a human peace sign in Heroes’ Square in Budapest, Hungary, yesterday.
Fear in Europe: Who’s next?
Photo: Richard B. Levine/Sipa USA via Reuters
Some European countries, watching Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine, fear they could be next, AP reports.
Why it matters: Vladimir Putin “has said right from the start that this is not only about Ukraine,” said Michal Baranowski, director of the German Marshall Fund’s Warsaw office, but also “about the eastern flank of NATO and the rest of Eastern Europe.”
Western officials say the most vulnerable could be those who aren’t members of NATO or the European Union, and thus alone and unprotected — including Ukraine’s neighbor Moldova and Russia’s neighbor Georgia, both of them formerly part of the Soviet Union — along with the Balkan states of Bosnia and Kosovo.
Analysts warn that even NATO members could be at risk, including Estonia, Latviaand Lithuania on Russia’s doorstep, as well as Montenegro, either from Moscow’s direct military intervention or attempts at political destabilization.
Aftermath of Mariupol Hospital after a Russian attack severely damaged the children’s hospital and maternity ward. Photo: Mariupol City Council via AP
Russian shelling in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupolhas killed at least 1,170 people and destroyed a children’s hospital that also housed a maternity ward, Deputy Mayor Sergiy Orlov said today. Go deeper.
The Chernobyl nuclear power plantthat’s now controlled by Russian forces no longer has electricity, threatening efforts to safely store radioactive material, the Ukrainian government warned. Go deeper.
A grand jury indicted Colorado election official Tina Peters on seven felony counts as part of an investigation into tampering with the results of the 2020 election. Peters is a Republican candidate for secretary of state. Go deeper.
Breaking: Congressional leaders reached a bipartisan deal early today to provide $13.6 billion to help Ukraine, as part of a $1.5 trillion measure funding the government. Party leaders hoped to whip the 2,741-page measure through the House today and the Senate (perhaps) by week’s end. —AP
1 big thing: Putin’s failure
A charred Russian tank is seen Monday in Ukraine’s Sumy region. Photo: Irina Rybakova for the press service of the Ukrainian Ground Forces via Reuters
Vladimir Putin’s plan to seize Ukraine’s capital in the first two days of Russia’s invasion has been a complete failure, Axios’ Zachary Basu writes.
It’s been thrown off courseby a fierce Ukrainian resistance, poor planning and a series of profound miscalculations, top U.S. intelligence officials say.
Why it matters: An isolated and angry Putin is expected to double down on his brutality as the war in Ukraine drags on for weeks, months or even years. It could be his undoing.
Reality check: A devastating punch that levels Ukrainian cities is more likely than ever. It’ll be less targeted … more indiscriminate.
State of play: CIA Director Bill Burns testified at a House hearing yesterday that Putin “has no sustainable political end game in the face of what’s going to continue to be fierce resistance from the Ukrainians.”
Even if Russia eventually captures Kyiv, the U.S. intelligence community doesn’t see a way that a pro-Russian puppet regime can stay in power given the Ukrainian people’s absolute refusal to capitulate.
Ukraine’s Armed Forces say this is a downed Russian jet crashing in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sunday. Image from video released by Ukrainian Ground Forces via Reuters
The U.S. estimates between 2,000 and 4,000 Russian troops have already been killed, “far in excess” of what Putin anticipated or has admitted, Burns said.
Putin was readyfor sanctions, but not the speed and unity with which the Western world brought the hammer down — especially private companies. McDonald’s, Starbucks and Coca-Cola all halted Russian sales yesterday.
What we’re watching: Despite the setbacks, Putin is “unlikely to be deterred,” Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testified.
The people who will suffer most are Ukrainian civilians, who are already beginning to see the vicious tactics Putin adopted to achieve his military aims in Syria and Chechnya.
The upside is that what Putin “might be willing to accept as a victory may change over time, given the significant costs he is incurring,” Haines predicted.
Data: UNHCR; Map: Jared Whalen and Will Chase/Axios
Stunning stat: At the end of 2021, before the invasion of Ukraine, 1 in 29 people worldwide needed humanitarian assistance, according to the U.N.
After a pandemic, multiple food shortages, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan — and now an exodus of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian military — global aid groups tell Axios’ Stef Kight they can barely keep up.
Why it matters: “The world’s humanitarian funding machine just doesn’t have enough money to face all of the people in need this year,” Bob Kitchen, the International Rescue Committee’s director of emergencies, tells Axios.
What’s happening: Aid groups are scrambling to help Ukraine, as well as the surrounding nations welcoming 2 million+ refugees — the world’s fastest population movement since at least World War II, experts say.
Many of the same agencies sprang into action as refugees poured out of Afghanistan last year.
At the same time, West Africa is headed toward devastating drought and food insecurity: Over 38 million people will likely experience a severe food emergency this summer.
Separately, the Horn of Africa is facing what could be the worst food crisis in 30 years .
Conflict and other disasterscontinue in Yemen, Syria, Myanmar and elsewhere.
“I would love to know the top 3 or 5 ways that I can help Ukraine besides donating money to charity,” Stephanie Worthington, a Finish Line reader and tech marketer in Shingle Springs, California, emailed last night.
“I’ve given to charity, but there must be more ways to help that I just don’t know about.”
Here ya go:
Give critical supplies: Meest, a Ukrainian logistics company with warehouses in several states, is accepting humanitarian aid packages for Ukraine. The urgent needis for medical and tactical supplies, including backpacks, Tylenol and bandages. Here’s how to drop off or ship packages to a Meest warehouse.
Give your time: You can sign upto volunteer with Nova Ukraine, and help organize fundraisers and spread awareness.
Attend a peaceful protest: Here’s a live logof upcoming demonstrations, including events all over the U.S. (h/t The Guardian)
Support on-the-ground journalism: The Kyiv Independent, an English language news site that has been reporting the facts in real time, is raising money via GoFundMe.
The Chinese government is scrubbing the country’s internet of sympathetic or accurate coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and systematically amplifying pro-Putin talking points, Axios China author Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian writes.
· Why it matters: China’s use of its propaganda and censorship muscle helps insulate Beijing from domestic backlash against its support for Putin — and leaves its citizens with an airbrushed, false version of events, similar to what’s seen in Putin’s state-controlled Russia.
What’s happening: Chinese media outlets were told to avoid posting “anything unfavorable to Russia or pro-Western” on their social media accounts, and to only use hashtags started by Chinese state media outlets, according to a leaked censorship directive.
· Online comments expressing sympathy for Ukraine have been deleted — even the anti-war speech given by the Paralympic Committee president during the opening ceremony was censored on Chinese TV.
· Pro-Putin social media posts on Chinese social media were allowed to proliferate, as were posts blaming the U.S. and NATO for the conflict.
· Chinese state media have widely aggregated content from Russian outlets.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyposted a video of himself in his presidential office in Kyiv last night, declaring in the face of multiple alleged assassination attempts: “I’m not hiding. And I’m not afraid of anyone.”
Why it matters: Zelensky’s nightly addresses, in which he details Russian attacks and honors fallen heroes, have become appointment viewing for news and inspiration, Axios’ Zachary Basu writes.
“You know, we used to say: Monday is a hard day,” Zelensky said as he filmed out his window on Bankova Street on the 12th day of the invasion.
“Now there is a war in the country, so every day is Monday.”
Zelensky entered selfie-style, then sat at his desk. Photo from Ukrainian Presidency video
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is threatening the global food supply.
The big picture: The two countries combine for nearly 1/3 of global wheat and barley exports, AP reports. Ukraine is a major exporter of corn.
Lebanon, Egypt and Syria are among the countries most dependent on affordable wheat. “Any [price] hikes will be catastrophic not only for me, but for the majority of the people,” Ahmed Salah, an Egyptian father of seven, told AP.
Supplies were already tight because of droughts hitting the wheat belts of North America, NPR notes.
European livestock farmers are heavily reliant on Ukraine for corn and other grain additives for animal feed.
Between the lines: This also threatens efforts to help famine-stricken countries like Afghanistan, Yemen and Ethiopia, the Financial Times reports (paywall).
The bottom line: Ukraine and Russia “account for about 12% of the calories the world trades,” NPR reports.
Go deeper:Tomorrow’s Axios Markets will dive into what the war means for global wheat markets.
Russia “nearly 100%” deployed
A woman arrives at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland. Photo: Visar Kryeziu/AP
Russia has now deployed “nearly 100%” of the combat power that it had massed on Ukraine’s borders, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters today.
The World Health Organization confirmed at least 14 attacks on Ukrainian health facilities since the start of Russia’s invasion, reports Axios’ Oriana Gonzalez.
?The U.S. is deploying another 500 troops to Europe in response to the invasion, a senior defense official said today, “pushing the total number of American forces in the region to 100,000.” — The Wall Street Journal
AXIOS AM: Mar 7, 2022
Mike Allen <email@example.com>
15 Running for their lives
Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters
Above, residents flee the town of Irpin, outside Kyiv, after heavy shelling landed on the only escape route used by locals, with Russian troops advancing towards the capital.
At least four civilians killed: The top of the front page of today’s New York Times includes a photo of a family lying on the ground in Irpin after being hit by a Russian mortar shell. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said they were killed.
“When the family — a mother, her teenage son and a daughter who appeared to be about 8 — was spotted sprawled on the ground, soldiers rushed to help, but could do little for them or a man described as a family friend who had been helping them escape,” Addario reports.
A factory and a store burn after being bombarded in Irpin.
AXIOS AM: Mar 6, 2022
Mike Allen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
1 big thing: Blinken sees evidence of war crimes
Secretary of State Tony Blinkentold CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” from Moldova this morning: “[W]e’ve seen very credible reports of deliberate attacks on civilians, which would constitute a war crime.”
“And what we’re doingright now is documenting all of this, putting it all together, looking at it, and making sure that as people and the appropriate organizations and institutions investigate whether war crimes have been or are being committed, that we can support whatever they’re doing,” Blinken added.
“They’re very credible. And we’re documenting everything.”
Breaking:The Ukraine exodus is the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, topping 1.5 million in 10 days, the UN refugee agency said today.
“In the coming days,millions more lives will be uprooted, unless there is an immediate end to this senseless conflict,” the UNHCR said. Go deeper.
Pope Francis said today in his weekly address to crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square: “In Ukraine, rivers of blood and tears are flowing. This is not just a military operation [as Putin described it], but a war which sows death, destruction and misery.” (Reuters)
Ukrainians crowd under a bridge destroyed by a Russian airstrike, as they wait to flee across the Irpin River on the outskirts of Kyiv yesterday.
Photo: Emilio Morenatti/AP
Assisted by Ukrainian soldiers, they lugged pets, infants, purses and flimsy bags stuffed with minimal possessions, AP reports.
Photo: Vadim Ghirda/AP
Some of the weak and elderly were carried along the makeshift path in blankets, carts — and even a wheelbarrow.
AXIOS AM: Mar 5, 2022
Mike Allen <email@example.com>
1 big thing: Zelensky’s Zoom plea
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Ukraine leaders appreciate the worldwide solidarity, but are frustrated by how far the talk exceeds the action, Axios’ Sophia Cai writes.
Why it matters:The survival of some cities could come down to hours or days. While missiles are arriving in Ukraine and crushing sanctions are being felt in Moscow, neither is stopping the invasion.
This morning, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after senators held a Zoom call with President Volodymyr Zelensky that the Ukrainian leader “made a desperate plea for Eastern European countries to provide Russian-made planes to Ukraine.”
“These planesare very much needed,” Schumer said. “I will do all I can to help the administration to facilitate their transfer.”
Andriy Yermak, a longtime top aide to Zelensky, wrote in a New York Times op-ed under the headline, “I’m Writing From a Bunker With President Zelensky Beside Me. We Will Fight to the Last Breath”:
We need more — and, please, stop telling us military aid is on the way. … We need antitank and antiaircraft weapons and other ammunition delivered to our brave soldiers right now.
Many countries promised aid to Ukraine to help repel the invasion. But the strongest declarations from the West and elsewhere haven’t fully materialized.
The UN General Assemblyvoted 141-5 to demand Vladimir Putin withdraw forces, but there’s no mechanism for enforcement.
The European Union promised to send fighter jets. But that never happened, after three nations with Russian-made aircraft refused.
About 20 countries— mostly NATO and EU members — pledged to send weapons. But the arms have been slow to reach Ukraine, and it’s unclear whether they’ll arrive in time to make a difference.
TIME’s new coverfeatures President Zelensky’s words to the European Parliament on March 1: “Life will win over death, and light will win over darkness.” Cover stor
The U.S. has also been heavy on symbolism over substance:
First lady Jill Bidenhosted Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S. at the State of the Union address. Many senators and representatives wore Ukrainian blue and yellow.
Congress left for the weekend,though, without passing a multibillion-dollar aid package.
Schumer told Zelensky today, according to a source on the call: “Senator McConnell and I — along with the other members on this Zoom — are working very hard in a bipartisan fashion to get all the assistance the administration has requested for the Ukrainian people. Together we will get that assistance of over $10 billion in economic, humanitarian, and security assistance to the Ukrainian people quickly.”
Alexander Vindman, the Ukraine-born, retired Army officer and former National Security Council director for Europe, called for $35 billion in reconstruction aid — what’s been dubbed a “Marshall Plan for Ukraine.”
Go deeper … Axios explains: Why Ukraine isn’t getting a no-fly zone.
White House open to cutting Russian oil
Cecilia Rouse, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, joins Jen Psaki’s briefing yesterday. Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters
The White House signaled openness yesterday to reducing imports of Russian oil — without saying exactly how, Axios’ Hans Nichols reports.
Why it matters:A ban could translate to higher prices at the pump in parts of the U.S. and increase inflation, a key concern for Biden.
Michael McFaul, U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama, said yesterday that he expects the practice of importing Russian oil to “change soon.”
“The United States should not be importing Russian oil. Period,” McFaul said during an onlinepanel discussion about the Russian invasion of Ukraine moderated by Axios’ Jonathan Swan.
“I understand inflation.I understand the arguments. But there’s no ethical or moral reason that we should be doing that, and I expect that to change soon.”
The context: Oil from Russia accounted for roughly 3% of U.S. crude imports in 2021.
It’s mostly importedin Hawaii and the coasts, where refiners don’t have access to the pipelines connecting the big domestic oil fields in places like the Southwest’s Permian Basin.
Energy analysts and economists disagree about how much of a price spike an import ban would generate.
State of play: Cecilia Rouse, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told reporters yesterday: “[W]e are looking at options that we can take right now if we were to cut the U.S. consumption of Russian energy. But what’s really most important is we — that we maintain a steady supply of global energy.”
Between the lines: That appears to be a shift from the White House’s initial dismissal of the congressional effort to effectively impose an embargo on Russian oil for U.S. refiners.
Speaker Pelositold reporters on Thursday about a ban: “I’m all for that. Ban it. … Ban the oil coming from Russia. Yeah.”
New efforts by the Kremlin to bully the press and silence dissent are forcing independent media and social networks out of the country, Axios’ Sara Fischer writes:
The BBC and Bloomberg said they’re suspending operationsin Russia, and CNN will stop broadcasting there, following a new law threatening to imprison journalists for up to 15 years if they publish what Moscow deems to be “fake” information about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
ABC and CBS saidthey’ll temporarily stop broadcasting from Russia.
Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor (Russian) yesterday blocked the websites of several outlets, including U.S. government-funded VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, for spreading what it called fake news on the “special operation in Ukraine.”
High-quality Russian independent news agenciesare being yanked off the air, forcing journalists to flee the country.
Russia alsoblockedFacebook entirely yesterday, after partially restricting the social network last week.
Zoom out: Putin’s propaganda push has intensified as protests erupt at home. The Kremlin is relying on state media to sell the war as a success domestically.
This image, made from a video released by the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, shows a bright, flaring object landing at the plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine, today. Photo via AP
As the Ukraine invasion enters Week 2, Russian shelling ignited a fire at Europe’s biggest nuclear plant. That led to global alarm about a meltdown, as the world watched ghostly nighttime video of the complex.
But the fire is out.Russian forces took control of the site.
Why it matters: Ukraine’s state nuclear regulator said losing the ability to cool nuclear fuel at the plant could lead to an accident even worse than the 1986 Chernobyl accident — the world’s worst nuclear disaster — or the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns in Japan, AP reports.
The assault led to a phone call between President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The U.S. Energy Department activated its nuclear incident response team as a precaution.
Ukraine saidno changes in radiation levels have been recorded.
In an emotional speech in the middle of the night, Zelensky accused Russia of “nuclear terrorism” and said he feared an explosion that would be “the end for everyone. The end for Europe. The evacuation of Europe.”
Photo: Maksim Levin/Reuters
This is a drone’s-eye view of a residential building destroyed by shelling, in the settlement of Borodyanka, about 35 miles outside
Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
A family of Ukrainian refugees in Lonya, Hungary, yesterday after walking across the border. Long queues are forming at border crossings.
Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting yesterday at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow. Photo: Andrei Gorshkov/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
Thousands of Russians are rushing to flee the country ahead of this weekend, as rumors swirl that Vladimir Putin could soon declare martial law, close the borders and crack down even harder on domestic dissent, Axios’ Zachary Basu reports.
Why it matters: For as devastating as the humanitarian situation in Ukraine has become, widespread suffering is rapidly arriving at Russia’s own doorstep.
More than 8,000 people have already been detained at anti-war protests since Feb. 24, according to the independent monitor OVD-Info.
Russia’s Duma has passeda law making the spread of “fake news” about the Russian military punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The last pillarsof Russia’s already-limited independent press were forced to close under pressure from the Kremlin this week.
Russia’s state communications watchdog blocked the websitesof the BBC, Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Deutsche Welle and other foreign media outlets for spreading “fake” information.
What to watch: Russia’s second-largest airline announced it will cease all international flights from tomorrow, as Russia’s upper house of parliament meets for an emergency session that many fear could mark the descent of a new Iron Curtain.
Invasion’s economic dominoes
Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios
Ripping Russia, the world’s 11th largest economy, out of the global financial system is already causing collateral damage around the world, Axios Markets author Emily Peck writes.
Oil and gas prices have skyrocketed, even though energy was purposefully carved out of sanctions.
Internal conflicts could erupt elsewhere due to food insecurity.
Catch up quick: Since Russia invaded Ukraine last week, the U.S. and its European allies moved fast to levy some of the harshest sanctions ever imposed.
The strikes were targeted. The West tried to keep the energy sector — a massive part of the Russian economy — out of the most severe penalties, so European countries could continue to buy oil and gas.
Reality check: Russia will start to operate in different ways, carving out an alternate financial system — much like Iran has done after being cut off from SWIFT by the Trump administration.
Axios explains: Why Ukraine isn’t getting a no-fly zone
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly urged Western leaders to impose a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine. But establishing one appears unlikely any time soon, Axios’ Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath writes.
Why it matters:Imposing a no-fly zone (NFZ) would mark a significant escalation in the war — potentially bringing NATO directly into a conventional conflict with a nuclear power.
A no-fly zone is airspace where certain aircraft aren’t allowed to enter.
In a war, no-fly zones must be enforced militarily — which can include shooting down banned aircraft.
The U.S. and other major powers have so far ruled out establishing a NFZ over Ukraine.
Giant global businesses in every sector are abandoning Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.
Why it matters:In addition to condemning the invasion, the companies see an impossible environment — from worker safety … to the logistics of getting supplies … financial and sales disruption … and the complexity of complying with sanctions, Axios’ Hope King writes.
State of play: Financial sanctions have isolated Russia from the rest of the world. Businesses operating in Russia have an increasingly limited ability to collect revenue or pay workers and suppliers.
Economic sanctions, including export controls, have curtailed imports.
Some workers are being moved out of Russia.
Restricted airspace and travelare preventing companies from getting the equipment they need to continue to operate.
Between the lines: Some companies that have very little physical presence in Russia — including many in tech, retail and media — are limiting how products are used in the country or have pulled them.
Flashback: Since the Soviet Union’s collapse three decades ago, Russia had been seen as an emerging market with long-term growth potential.
In the seven days since the invasion began:
Boeingsuspended major operations in Moscow, as well as maintenance and technical support for Russian airlines.
Shellwill sever ties with Russian gas giant Gazprom and end its roughly $1 billion financing of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
Exxon Mobil saysit will exit Russia oil and gas operations valued at more than $4 billion and cease new investment.
GM, which sells only about 3,000 cars a year in Russia, saysit will suspend exporting vehicles.
Only four countries — Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea and Syria — joined Russia today in voting against a non-binding UN resolution that condemned the invasion of Ukraine.
Another 35 abstained, including India and China, Axios’ Ivana Saric and Zachary Basu report.
Between the lines:India has military ties with Russia from the Soviet era, causing headaches for the U.S. as it seeks to integrate India into an alliance to counter China in the Indo-Pacific.
141 countries voted in favor of the resolution.
AXIOS AM: Mar 2, 2022
Mike Allen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
1 big thing: Ukraine splinters internet
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Moves to restrict Kremlin disinformation after the Ukraine invasion are further splintering the global internet.
Why it matters:A universal internet — where everyone can access the same messages and services — is slipping out of reach as democracies falter and governments limit usage, Axios’ Ashley Gold writes.
Zoom out: Social media execs have warned against the dangers of a Balkanized internet for years as many nations — including Russia, China, India, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ethiopia and Turkey — limited access.
In China, American apps like Facebook and Twitter are blocked.
Between the lines: Cutting countries off can help dictators win.
In democracies, including the U.S., it’s easy to focus on the harms of Big Tech and look to the government for answers, Kate Klonick, an assistant law professor at St. John’s University, told Axios.
But “what we’re seeing with Russia and Ukraine is a return to some of the formative ideas around the power that the internet brings to individuals.”
Reality check: Authoritarian countries plow ahead with their own visions for the internet as the U.S. and Europe search for alignment on privacy, AI, competition, content moderation and cybersecurity regulations.
Biden: “I get it”
What President Biden sees. Photo: Shawn Thew/EPA/Pool via AP
President Biden said in his State of the Union address that getting inflation under control is his “top priority,” while warning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could lead to higher costs for American consumers.
Why it matters:The White House knows the country is frustrated with price hikes. But officials also want credit for strong GDP growth, job creation and low unemployment, Axios’ Hans Nichols writes.
“With all the bright spots in our economy, record job growth and higher wages, too many families are struggling to keep up with the bills,” the president said.
“Inflation is robbing themof the gains they might otherwise feel. I get it.”
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images
Above: An old-fashioned scrum greets President Biden after the speech.
Secretary of State Tony Blinkentalked with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.).
Go deeper: Read Biden’s vow to seize yachts and jets of Russian oligarchs, from the Axios AM Thought Bubble that dropped in your inbox late last night ET.
Zelensky: “The best people on Earth”
Cover: The Times of London
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a video on Facebook today in which he praised Ukrainians as “a symbol of invincibility,” as the Russian invasion entered a seventh day.
“Another night of Russia’s full-scale war against us, against the people, has passed,” Zelensky said. “We’ve hardly slept for seven nights.”
Zelensky said invading forces “know nothing about our capital,” Kyiv, or Ukrainian history: “But they have an order to erase our history … Erase our country. Erase us all.”
“Today you,Ukrainians, are the symbol of invincibility, a symbol that people in any country can become the best people on Earth at any moment.”
A member of the Ukrainian Emergency Service beholds Kharkiv City Hall following shelling yesterday. Photo: Pavel Dorogoy/AP
Explosions rang out in Kyiv and Kharkiv as Russian forces intensified their bombing campaign on Ukraine today.
Kharkiv has been the scene of some of the worst shelling by Russian troops since the invasion began.
Zelenskyhas called a strike on Kharkiv’s central square yesterday an act of state terrorism.
A Russian missile hit the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial site in Kyiv today, killing at least five people, Ukrainian officials said.
President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted:“[W]hat is the point of saying ‘never again’ for 80 years, if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of Babyn Yar?”
“Between 1941 and 1943,the Nazis shot between 70,000 and 100,000 people at Babyn Yar, including almost the entire Jewish population of Kyiv,” according to the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center.
The Russians were targetingthe nearby Kyiv TV tower, saying it was among the infrastructure used for “information attacks” from Ukraine’s security services.
A blast is seen in the TV tower, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, today. Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters
The bottom line: A senior U.S. defense official told reporters that Russia’s advance on Kyiv had stalled and that there were signs of flagging Russian morale, Axios’ Zachary Basu and Dave Lawler report.
State of the Union spoiler
The House chamber yesterday. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Look for President Biden to be very tough on Vladimir Putin in tonight’s State of the Union address (9 p.m. ET).
Why it matters: The White House has scrambled to be sure he meets the moment.
The president will point to the U.S. role in protecting democracy, before moving on to Americans’ pocketbooks — how to grow the economy from the “bottom up and the middle out,” as he puts it.
The speech is built around four buckets:
World stage:Biden will say “democracy will prevail” in Ukraine.
Economy:He’ll call for lowering costs for working families.
COVID:He’ll stress the U.S. is “in a new moment” of the pandemic and has the tools to contain the virus.
The future of America:He’ll point to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, his nominee for the Supreme Court, and vow to make inroads on immigration and climate.
Catch up quick
Photo: Emilio Morenatti/AP
Above: Animal keeper Kirilo Trantin comforts an elephant at the Kyiv Zoo.
“Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century”:About 677,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in neighboring countries. Go deeper.
The U.S. will release 30 million barrelsfrom the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as part of international plans to release 60 million barrels. Go deeper.
The ACLU is suing to block aTexas directive that would have a state agency investigate parents for child abuse if they seek gender-affirming care for their children. Go deeper.
Exclusive: A small group of Latino U.S. House members recently expressed “extreme concern” about a plan to potentially dispatch robot dogs along the U.S.-Mexico border, Axios’ Russell Contreras reports.
President Biden set his sights on Russian oligarchs, COVID fraudsters, social media platforms and even defund-the-police efforts tonight — populist targets in a broader speech about national and global unity.
Biden’s anti-Russia,pro-Ukraine passages inspired the only real partisan unity in the chamber:
The U.S. Department of Justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of Russian oligarchs.
We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets. We are coming for your ill-begotten gains.
On Vladimir Putin, Biden ad-libbed: “He has no idea what’s coming.”
Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova is applauded by first lady Jill Biden. Photo: ABC News
Twitter erupted when Biden accidentally said Putin would never gain the hearts and souls of the “Iranian” people, instead of Ukrainian.
Biden’s other targets:
He announced that the Justice Department will appoint a chief prosecutor to go after pandemic fraud.
He bluntly distanced himselffrom the defund-the-police movement: “The answer is not to defund the police. The answer is to fund the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities.”
With Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen in the audience, Biden framed social media as part of a larger mental health crisis and urged Congress to “strengthen privacy protections” and ban targeted advertising to children.
Reality check:Privacy legislation has been stalled for years, notes Axios managing editor Scott Rosenberg.
Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) sat with Republican senators. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP
What we were watching, from Axios’ Sophia Cai, in the House chamber:
Fellow Supreme Court justicesstanding to applaud retiring Stephen Breyer — but careful to avoid politics by sitting when Biden mentioned his nominee to replace Breyer, Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Joe Manchin(D-W.Va.) sitting with Republicans — but rising for most of the Democrats’ applause lines.
Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) shouting “13 of them!” as Biden spoke, referring to Americans killed at Kabul airport during the frantic evacuation from Afghanistan. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) shouted: “Stay out of women’s sports!”
Axios.com has the latest reaction, including the Republican response.
1 big thing — Biden’s dilemma: Putin off-ramp
Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on economic issues at the Kremlin yesterday. Photo: Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images
With Ukraine holding Russia off longer than many U.S. officials had expected, President Biden now faces a great unanswered question — how to give Vladimir Putin an off-ramp to avoid even greater calamity.
Why it matters: A cornered, humiliated Putin could unleash untold pain on the world, from cyberattacks to nuclear threats. After enacting brutal sanctions, the White House now must consider how the invasion can end without a new catastrophe, Axios’ Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu report.
Between the lines: Nobody knows what Putin would accept.
Many officials fear that we are heading into a very dangerous period — the punishing Western sanctions pushing an autocrat into a corner.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), vice chair of the Senate intelligence committee, has hinted Putin could be addled.
“This is the most dangerous moment in 60 years,” Rubio tweetedSunday night. Putin, he said, “is facing a humiliating military fiasco & he has triggered extraordinary consequences on #Russia’s economy & people that will not be easy to reverse … And his only options to reset this imbalance are catastrophic ones.”
A European diplomat told reporters at a briefing yesterday: “It’s like the Sun Tzu thing of giving someone a golden bridge to retreat across. How do you get him to go in a different direction?”
“I think the door to diplomacy remains open,” the diplomat continued. “Putin … doesn’t normally back down. But he also controls the information environment in his own country to such an extent that if he does, he can cover his tracks. … So I think there is room for him to de-escalate — and that’s certainly what we’re pressing for.”
The diplomat pointed to yesterday’s Russia-Ukraine peace talks in Belarus as the most viable off-ramp in a sea of bad options, noting that negotiations lasted for four hours and appear headed for a second round.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskysaid before the talks that he was willing to discuss “neutral status” for Ukraine — one of Putin’s three demands.
But the other two— demilitarization and “denazification” of Ukraine, and recognition of Russia’s claim to Crimea — suggest Putin will never accept a deal in which Zelensky remains in power.
The bottom line: The West’s response to Putin — for so long, uncertain and halting — has moved at astonishing speed and ferocity over the past week. How Putin will respond — and whether de-escalation is even possible — is keeping national-security leaders up at night.
The West is ratcheting up economic pressure on Russia’s oligarchs — known for splashy yachts and piles of dark money squirreled away around the globe, Axios Markets co-author Emily Peck writes.
· Why it matters: Some of these wealthy Russians may have a measure of influence over Vladimir Putin. The U.S. and Europe are hoping that if they squeeze the oligarchs, the oligarchs may pressure Putin. In the longer term, going after hidden Russian wealth could curtail the power of Putin and his circle.
The EU yesterday banned travel and froze assets of 26 businessmen, government officials and even journalists with longstanding ties to Putin, the Financial Times first reported (subscription).
· On the list: Igor Sechin, CEO of Rosneft, Russia’s state oil company, “considered to be one of the most powerful members of the Russian Political elite,” the EU said in its statement.
· Nikolay Tokarev, CEO of Transneft, a major oil and gas company, is also among the West’s specific targets. He served with Putin in the KGB in the 1980s and is one of the oligarchs who took control of state assets in the 2000s, the EU said.
Reality check: There’s a lot of Russian money hidden around the globe, including in the U.S. and U.K. — and it’s not always clear where it is.
· Recent laws passed in the U.S. and EU are intensifying efforts to untangle this dark web, but they’re just at the start.
Maxar Technologies says the Russian convoy converging on Kyiv stretches 40 miles — up from the 17 miles we told you about in Axios PM.
The tanks, self-propelled artillery and armored vehiclesare spaced fairly far apart in some stretches. In others, the military equipment is traveling two or three vehicles abreast, Maxar says.
“The Russian advance on Kyiv has made little progress over the past 24 hours probably as a result of continuing logistical difficulties,” the British defense ministry said in a military intelligence update quoted by Reuters.
But the war entered a new, uglier phase:70 Ukrainian servicemen were killed by a Russian rocket attack, and dozens of civilians have died in “barbaric” shelling, Ukrainian officials said.
On this edition for Sunday, March 13, Russian forces attack a military training center in western Ukraine. American journalist and documentarian Brent Renaud, who reported for PBS in the past, is killed outside of Kyiv. And in our signature segment, the challenges of tackling drug smuggling in Antwerp, Belgium, a key entry point into Europe. Hari Sreenivasan anchors from New York. Stream your PBS favorites with the PBS app: https://to.pbs.org/2Jb8twG Find more from PBS NewsHour at https://www.pbs.org/newshour Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2HfsCD6
Ukraine Russia conflict: Russia threatens Western weapons supplies as missiles hit near Nato border
It’s day 18 of the war in Ukraine and there has been no let up in the fighting. (Subscribe: https://bit.ly/C4_News_Subscribe) Russian forces have continued their operation all over the country. There was more heavy shelling of Chernihiv and an American journalist was shot dead near Irpin. The attack on the Yavoriv base near the Polish border is the furthest west the Russians have attacked since the invasion started. Ukrainians have also been protesting against the Russian occupation in Kherson. But there have been hopeful messages from both sides over negotiations, although it is too early to tell whether that will lead to anything. ——- Watch more of our explainer series here – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list… Get more news at our site – https://www.channel4.com/news/ Follow us: Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Channel4News/ Twitter – https://twitter.com/Channel4News