Russia’s assault on Ukraine continues, two weeks after it launched its invasion. Hundreds of civilians have been killed, over 2 million people have become refugees, as thousands more attempt to flee Ukraine’s cities amid the Russian onslaught. Residents in besieged areas are running out of medicine, food and water, and hundreds of thousands have lost power. The International Committee of the Red Cross called the humanitarian situation “apocalyptic.” Ukraine says it will attempt to evacuate civilians through six “humanitarian corridors,” after Russia pledged to observe local ceasefires, though previous efforts have failed. On Tuesday, 5,000 people were evacuated from the city of Sumy, including around 700 Indian students who had been trapped since the start of the war.
The Pentagon rejected an offer by Poland to send its fleet of MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine using a U.S. airbase in Germany, saying it “raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance.” This comes as Vice President Kamala Harris embarks on a two-day visit to Poland and Romania. Meanwhile, efforts are ramping up to further isolate Russia. On Tuesday, President Biden announced the U.S. is banning Russian oil.
President Joe Biden: “Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at U.S. ports, and the American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin’s war machine. This is a move that has strong bipartisan support in Congress and, I believe, in the country. Americans have rallied support — have rallied to support the Ukrainian people and made it clear we will not be part of subsidizing Putin’s war.”
In response, the Kremlin accused the U.S. of declaring an economic war on Russia. The U.S. imports 3% of its crude oil from Russia. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the U.K. will phase out Russian oil imports by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the European Union outlined plans to cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds this year and end dependency on Russian fossil fuels “well before 2030.” McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Starbucks have temporarily stopped doing business in Russia.
Ukraine’s state-run nuclear company is warning of a radioactive leak risk after losing power at the Russian-occupied Chernobyl plant. Meanwhile, a Moldovan oil tanker appears to still be burning in the Black Sea, nearly two weeks after it was reportedly hit by a Russian military strike.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky became the first foreign head of state to virtually address the British Parliament Tuesday, where he told lawmakers over 50 children have been killed since the start of the invasion. The U.N. said 1 million children have become refugees. At a pediatric hospital in Kharkiv, doctors report treating children with critical injuries.
Dr. Oleksandr Dikhnovskiy: “We have operated on four children suffering from shrapnel wounds or bullet wounds. Sadly, one little girl died yesterday. She was admitted on the first night of the aggression and invasion of our country. … Yesterday, another little boy was admitted. The boy was inside a multi-story residential block which was hit by a missile.”
Venezuela has released two jailed U.S. citizens following a rare visit to Caracas by a delegation from Washington, D.C. One of the freed prisoners is Gustavo Cardenas, a Citgo oil executive who was arrested in 2017 and convicted of corruption — a charge rejected by the U.S. The other is Cuban American Jorge Alberto Fernández, reportedly accused of terrorism for flying a drone. The White House said talks about releasing American prisoners were not related to a possible easing of sanctions on Venezuela amid the Russian oil ban.
In Guatemala, a massive data leak has revealed the multinational mining giant Solway Group bribed local police and other officials to repress Indigenous resistance to its destructive open-pit nickel mine in the town of El Estor in the eastern Izabal region. Leaked documents show Solway — which is based in Switzerland — hid evidence of environmental destruction in the region, including the pollution of a sacred lake; spied on journalists who investigated the mine; and intimidated and bribed local community leaders. The report was published by Forbidden Stories and was led by 65 journalists from around the world.
A Washington, D.C., jury found Guy Wesley Reffitt, the first Capitol insurrection defendant to go to trial, guilty on all five charges he faced. Reffitt, who is aligned with the far-right militia the Three Percenters, led the pro-Trump mob that breached the Capitol building as Congress was certifying the 2020 election. He also threatened his children so they wouldn’t turn him in to authorities. His 19-year-old son, Jackson Reffitt, nonetheless shared information with the FBI about his father’s participation in the attack and testified against him during the trial. Guy Reffitt now faces 20 years in prison for obstruction of Congress and obstruction of justice.
In related news, a federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted Enrique Tarrio, leader of the far-right Proud Boys, with conspiracy to obstruct Congress on January 6. Tarrio was not at the Capitol insurrection, having been arrested two days earlier for vandalism at a Black church. But prosecutors say he was fully involved in planning the attack and was in touch with other Proud Boys during the assault.
The Florida Senate passed the anti-LGBTQ education bill known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill Tuesday, despite stark opposition from Democrats, rights advocates and many students and educators. The bill, which would ban discussions of sexuality and gender identity in schools, now heads to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis, who has voiced support for the measure. On Tuesday, state Senator Shevrin Jones, Florida’s first openly gay member of the Senate, made an emotional plea to his colleagues during debate.
Sen. Shevrin Jones: “And to those who think you can legislate gay people away, I’m sorry, you cannot. I think you should spend your time legislating to protect them. … So, to those children who were out there yesterday and to every person who has been rejected by anyone, we love you. Thank you for showing up every single day as your true, authentic self. Keep going.”
The Idaho state House has passed a bill that would criminalize gender-affirming healthcare for transgender children and teens — joining several other U.S. states that have enacted or introduced similar legislation. The bill makes it a felony punishable with life in prison for a doctor to provide the medically necessary care, which includes surgeries and hormone treatments. It would also make it a felony to take trans youth out of the state to receive the lifesaving care elsewhere. The bill now heads to the Idaho state Senate for consideration.
In Minnesota, around 3,500 Minneapolis public school teachers and education support staff are on strike demanding better conditions for students and fair wages. Demands include reduced class sizes, ensuring all schools have a counselor and social worker, and a more diverse staff. It’s the first teachers’ strike in Minneapolis in over 50 years. This is Greta Callahan of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, speaking Monday as the union announced the strike.
Greta Callahan: “We continue to say our students need and deserve more. And we continue to be shut out of the decision-making process. Those of us on the ground floor are here to say that our kids deserve better. And when you have thousands of people saying we will go without pay so that our kids can have the schools they deserve, you know that something is wrong in the Minneapolis public schools.”
A bipartisan Senate passed a major $107 billion overhaul of the U.S. Postal Service Tuesday. The Postal Service Reform Act eliminates a costly 2006 mandate that required the USPS to fund employee retirement benefits 75 years in advance, and instead directs retired employees to enroll in Medicare. The plan also ensures deliveries six days a week, orders the creation of an online delivery dashboard and strengthens financial reporting requirements to Congress. The measure, which cleared the House with overwhelming support last month, now heads to Biden’s desk for signing. Meanwhile, a House bill is expected to be introduced today that would require a contract for a new fleet of delivery trucks to be made up of at least 75% electric vehicles.
Here in New York City, immigrant workers left out of government pandemic relief took to the streets Tuesday, International Women’s Day, shutting down traffic on the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. Workers and advocates are demanding $3 billion be added to the Excluded Workers Fund and the creation of a permanent unemployment insurance program. This is Ana Maria Archila, longtime activist, who is now running for lieutenant governor of New York.
Ana Maria Archila: “Governor Hochul had an opportunity to include the Excluded Workers Fund in her budget, and she chose not to. Governor Hochul had an opportunity to make sure that immigrant families would not be excluded from healthcare, and she chose not to. And that’s why we are on the streets, because she is choosing to prioritize the needs and the priorities and the interests of billionaires in a moment when immigrant workers have been at the forefront of protecting every single one of us.”
Elsewhere on International Women’s Day, Russian police arrested women who led an antiwar protest. Meanwhile, Ukrainian women in Kyiv spent the day in bomb shelters. In Turkey, at least 38 women were detained in Istanbul as riot police set up barricades and fired pepper gas at protesters. In Sudan, security forces fired tear gas at a women’s rights rally. This is one of the protesters.
Taqi: “In spite of all the violations that happened to me, and so it doesn’t happen to others — there are women who have been humiliated, who have been raped — so this will not happen to others, because we reject all these violations. And in spite of all these violations, these things will not prevent us from revolting. We will go on, in spite of the repression and persecution of women. They will not scare us with all this. We will continue our revolution and will not fear a thing.”