Russia says it detained eight people linked to Saturday’s blast on a key bridge connecting Russia to the Crimean Peninsula. Russia has accused Ukraine’s military intelligence service of orchestrating the explosion, though Kyiv has not claimed responsibility. The blast sparked deadly retaliatory attacks across Ukraine, killing at least 20 people. The barrage of missiles came under the command of the Kremlin’s newly appointed head of military operations in Ukraine, Sergei Surovikin. Surovikin has been dubbed “General Armageddon” and oversaw the mass destruction of civilian infrastructure in Syria as part of Russia’s war efforts there. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has appealed to members of the G7 to boost Ukraine’s air defenses to counter Russian attacks, and called for new sanctions on Moscow.
President Volodymyr Zelensky: “For this new wave of terror, there must be a new wave of accountability for Russia — new sanctions, new forms of political pressure and new forms of support for Ukraine.”
The White House said Tuesday President Biden would “reevaluate” the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia following OPEC’s recent announcement it would cut oil production by 2 million barrels a day, boosting the cost of gas and providing a boon to Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine. On Monday, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez called for a “freeze” on cooperation with Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Senator Richard Blumenthal and Congressmember Ro Khanna announced a bill to block all U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. Congressmember Khanna tweeted, “Their brutal war in Yemen and their fleecing of American consumers at the pump must have consequences.” President Biden addressed the issue on CNN last night.
President Joe Biden: “When this House and Senate gets back, they’re going to have to — there’s going to be some consequences for what they’ve done with Russia.”
Jake Tapper: “What kind of consequences? Menendez says suspend all arms sales. Is that something you’d consider?”
President Joe Biden: “I’m not going to get into what I’d consider and what I have in mind.”
Meanwhile, United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan held talks with Vladimir Putin Tuesday in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Israel and Lebanon have reached a deal over a long-disputed maritime border. The U.S.-brokered deal could pave the way for Israel to extract and export gas to Europe as the continent grapples with a worsening energy crisis amid Russia’s war in Ukraine. The deal still must be signed by the two countries’ leaders.
In Iran, anti-government protests are in their fourth week, sparked last month by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of Iran’s “morality police.” On Monday, oil workers went on strike in support of the protests. Meanwhile, the death of 16-year-old Nika Shakarami has ignited more public rage. The girl’s family says she disappeared after being chased by security forces for burning her headscarf during a protest, and was found 10 days later at a mortuary.
This comes as human rights groups warn of the deadly crackdown on protesters. In Iran’s Kurdistan province, one group says at least 32 people in the region have been killed, another 1,500 injured and thousands arrested.
President Biden has called for the resignation of the three beleaguered Los Angeles city councilmembers who were caught on tape making racist comments. The audio was recorded last year and recently leaked. It featured Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León making racist remarks about Indigenous and Black people in Los Angeles. Nury Martinez, who referred to the Black son of another city councilmember as a “little monkey” in Spanish, announced yesterday she was taking a leave of absence from her post. On Tuesday, scores of protesters gathered outside L.A. City Hall and packed the council chamber demanding resignations.
Protester: “We’re the most marginalized community in the city. So I’m going to say all this. I challenge all of you on the City Council. Y’all need to address anti-Black racism. And if you don’t, we will. You have two choices: being on the right side of history or being on the wrong side of history. Please.”
In Texas, the police officer who shot 17-year-old Erik Cantu as he was eating in a McDonald’s parking lot last week has turned himself in to face aggravated assault charges. James Brennand opened fire on the teen moments after opening the driver-side door, even though Cantu posed no risk and was unarmed. Cantu remains hospitalized in critical condition. Brennand’s arrest comes just days after he was fired from the San Antonio Police Department over the shooting.
A Baytown, Texas, police officer was acquitted in the 2019 fatal shooting of Pamela Turner. Juan Delacruz was on trial for aggravated assault for shooting Turner, a 44-year-old Black woman and grandmother, five times in an apartment complex while trying to arrest her in May 2019. Turner’s family says she was having a mental health crisis and that Delacruz knew Turner had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Turner and Delacruz lived in the same apartment complex, where Delacruz also served as a security guard.
Prosecutors in Baltimore have dropped the charges against Adnan Syed, asserting he was “wrongly convicted,” weeks after he was released from prison and had his murder conviction overturned. Syed spent 23 years in prison after being convicted of the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. The case gained national attention in 2014 when it was featured on the hugely popular podcast “Serial.”
In Florida, jurors begin deliberations today to determine the fate of Parkland mass shooter Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. Cruz could face the death penalty. This is lead prosecutor Michael Satz delivering closing arguments to the jury Tuesday.
Michael Satz: “He picked Valentine’s Day to do it while school was in session. And you could tell by the evidence in the testimony — you’ve been sitting here and listening to everything — this plan was goal-directed, it was calculated, it was purposeful, and it was a systematic massacre.”
The Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to reject Donald Trump’s request to allow a special master to review classified documents seized by the FBI from his Mar-a-Lago estate in August. The DOJ argued Trump has no “plausible” claims of ownership over the materials and that a review by the special master could imperil national security.
In other news from the Supreme Court, justices on Tuesday declined to review a case that would determine whether a fetus has constitutional rights. The so-called fetal personhood case was brought by a Catholic group and two pregnant women who were seeking to sue on behalf of the women’s fetuses.
In another case Tuesday, the Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling which allowed for the counting of undated mail-in ballots in a Pennsylvania election for county judge. The decision will not reverse the results of the 2021 judicial election, which was won by Democrat Zachary Cohen, but could prove significant in future challenges related to undated ballots.
The Labor Department has proposed a new rule that could prevent companies like Lyft and Uber from misclassifying workers as independent contractors and deny them essential rights and benefits. The Labor Department said, “Misclassification is a serious issue that denies workers’ rights and protections under federal labor standards, promotes wage theft, allows certain employers to gain an unfair advantage over law-abiding businesses, and hurts the economy at-large.”
A massive leak of over 4 million confidential documents from the Mexican government has revealed Mexico’s military sold hand grenades and tactical equipment to drug cartels. Mexico’s Ministry of National Defense was targeted by a group of hackers known as Guacamaya. The leak is one of the biggest in Mexico’s history. Documents also show Mexican officials monitored journalists using the Israeli Pegasus spyware and evaded cooperation with the investigation into the disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa. The Zapatistas are also one of the most heavily surveilled resistance groups in Mexico. Watch our interview on the leaks.