United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres travels to Moscow today to meet at the Kremlin with Russia’s foreign minister and its president, Vladimir Putin. His trip comes as the U.N. struggles to bring humanitarian relief to civilians trapped by Russia’s assault on eastern Ukraine. Guterres will again press Russian and Ukrainian troops to silence their guns — after his previous calls for a ceasefire went unheeded. Ahead of the secretary-general’s visit to Moscow, Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations said a truce was unlikely.
Dmitry Polyanskiy: “So, we don’t think that a ceasefire is a good option right now, because the only — the only advantage it will give, it will give a possibility for Ukrainian forces to regroup.”
Moldova’s president has convened an emergency meeting of her nation’s Supreme Security Council after a series of explosions rocked a region near Ukraine’s southern border that’s home to a pro-Russia separatist movement. Early this morning, twin explosions destroyed a Soviet-era radio tower that was used to broadcast Russian radio programs across Moldova. Elsewhere, unknown assailants fired grenades at a state security building in the provincial capital of Transnistria. The region in eastern Moldova is home to pro-Russia separatists, and Russian troops have been permanently based there since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is visiting Ramstein Air Base in Germany today, joining officials from more than 40 countries for U.S.-hosted talks on providing military support to Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded by accusing NATO of fighting a proxy war against Russia.
On Monday, three NATO warships arrived at a port in southwestern Finland less than 200 miles from Russia’s border. Sweden and Finland have reportedly agreed to submit simultaneous membership applications to join NATO as early as the middle of next month.
In Norway, police arrested 20 protesters Monday after they blocked a massive shipment of Russian oil from reaching shore. Members of Greenpeace held signs reading “Oil fuels war” as they chained themselves to the anchor chain of the massive Ust Luga oil tanker, which was waiting to offload nearly 100,000 metric tons of fuel to a terminal operated by ExxonMobil. This is Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway.
Frode Pleym: “This oil tanker is fully loaded with Russian oil bound for the Esso terminal ashore here in Norway. Greenpeace is demanding from Esso and the Norwegian government to ensure that this Russian oil is not imported to Norway. It fuels Putin’s war on Ukraine. It’s wrong.”
About 4,000 protesters rallied in the village of Lützerath in western Germany over the weekend, seeking to halt the expansion of a massive open-pit coal mine. The village is set to be demolished to make way for the nearby Garzweiler mine, which produces brown coal, or lignite — one of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels.
The world’s richest man, Elon Musk, is set to become the new owner of Twitter after the company’s board agreed to sell the influential social media platform for $44 billion. The deal is expected to close later this year pending regulatory approval. The watchdog group Media Matters criticized Musk’s takeover of Twitter, saying it will be a “victory for disinformation and the people who peddle it.” At the White House, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden was “concerned” about Musk’s takeover.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki: “No matter who owns or runs Twitter, the president has long been concerned about the power of large social media platforms, what they — the power they have over our everyday lives, has long argued that tech platforms must be held accountable for the harms they cause. He has been a strong supporter of fundamental reforms to achieve that goal, including reforms to Section 230, enacting antitrust reforms, requiring more transparency and more.”
Nicaragua has withdrawn from the Organization of American States and has expelled OAS representatives from the country. The OAS says the move is a “violation of the most basic international norms” and that Nicaragua cannot leave the organization until 2023. Nicaragua has long accused the OAS of being a tool for U.S. intervention. This is Nicaragua’s foreign minister.
Denis Moncada: “We ratify our unwavering decision to leave the Organization of American States, as expressed on November 19, 2021, and by confirming our irrevocable denunciation and resignation, before this calamitous, truculent and lying dependency of the State Department of Yankee imperialism.”
El Salvador has extended a state of emergency that was imposed a month ago by another 30 days — despite reports of serious human rights violations. The crackdown was enacted due to rising homicides attributed to gangs. The order suspends freedom of assembly, weakens due process rights for those arrested and extends the time people can be held without charge. Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele says over 18,000 accused gang members have been detained. Residents of the capital San Salvador say everyone is being targeted.
Luis Contreras: “The people are being affected, not only the bad guys but also good people. Children are being frisked, and I think this means rights violations.”
Jorge Urruela: “They arrest anyone. They arrest people because of the way they dress or their hairstyle. It’s a matter of luck. They have even detained elderly people.”
A federal judge in Louisiana has temporarily blocked the Biden administration from ending Title 42, a Trump-era policy that’s allowed the U.S. government to expel asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border without due process. The Biden administration planned to end Title 42 by next month, facing backlash from both Republicans and Democrats. Since Title 42 was first invoked in March 2020, over 1.7 million asylum seekers have been expelled from the U.S. and returned to places where they face kidnapping, torture, sexual assault or threats to their lives.
Chinese authorities have ordered three-and-a-half million residents of Beijing’s most populous district to undergo mass testing for COVID-19. The order set off a run on grocery stores, as residents feared they may soon suffer the same fate as Shanghai, where some 25 million people have been shut in their homes for weeks. Another 30 million people in Chinese cities outside Shanghai and Beijing also remain on lockdown. China recently reported its highest rates of community spread since the start of the pandemic, as it struggles to enforce its “zero-COVID” strategy.
In Hong Kong, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club has postponed its annual human rights journalism awards over concerns the event could violate a sweeping national security law imposed by Chinese authorities in Beijing. Washington Post correspondent Shibani Mahtani resigned from the correspondent club’s press freedom committee in protest. She told the Financial Times, “It is emblematic … of the self-censorship many institutions feel forced to subject themselves to in today’s Hong Kong … and entirely indicative of how the national security law has changed the landscape for all.”
In Turkey, a court has sentenced businessman and civil society leader Osman Kavala to life in prison without the possibility of parole, in a decision condemned by human rights groups. Seven co-defendants each received 18-year prison terms. Osman Kavala has been jailed in pretrial detention since 2017, after he was arrested on charges related to the 2013 Gezi Park protests. He was also accused of organizing a failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government in 2016. Kavala’s supporters gathered outside a courthouse in Istanbul Monday as his life sentence was handed down.
Sera Kadigil: “If this was a lawful decision, we would be able to comment on it, but it is not. This is the culmination of the government’s revenge against the Gezi Park protesters. This is the execution of orders coming from the Turkish president.”
Amnesty International condemned the harsh sentences for Kavala and his co-defendants. The group said in a statement, “Today, we have witnessed a travesty of justice of spectacular proportions. This verdict deals a devastating blow not only to Osman Kavala, his co-defendants and their families, but to everyone who believes in justice and human rights activism in Turkey and beyond.”
A New York judge has found Donald Trump in civil contempt of court for failing to fully comply with a subpoena from Attorney General Letitia James asking for records on the Trump Organization’s business dealings. The court ordered Trump to pay $10,000 each day he fails to turn over the records. Trump’s lawyers have promised to appeal the order. Attorney General James has been investigating whether the Trump Organization inflated the values of its properties to obtain loans and then reduced them to evade taxes.
A new study finds prosecutions of corporate criminals have hit a record low under President Joe Biden — worsening a trend that saw corporate impunity set records under President Trump. Public Citizen reports the number of corporate prosecutions in fiscal year 2021 dropped to just 90 — or less than half the average rate over the previous quarter-century.
Meanwhile, human rights and environmental lawyer Steven Donziger has just been released from nearly 1,000 days of house arrest. Donziger’s legal ordeal began after he successfully sued Chevron on behalf of 30,000 Ecuadorian Amazonian Indigenous people for dumping 16 billion gallons of oil into their ancestral land.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has granted a stay of execution for Melissa Lucio and ordered a lower court to consider new evidence of Lucio’s innocence in the death of her 2-year-old daughter Mariah. Lucio was scheduled to die on Wednesday; now she may get a new trial. Her attorneys say Lucio, who is a survivor of a lifetime of abuse, was pressured to make a false confession and didn’t get a fair trial. On Monday, The Texas Tribune recorded as state Representative Jeff Leach spoke by phone with Lucio to break the news. He was talking to her on death row.
Rep. Jeff Leach: “You haven’t heard the news yet?”
Melissa Lucio: “No. What happened?”
Rep. Jeff Leach: “The court of criminal appeals issued a stay of your execution for Wednesday.”
Melissa Lucio: “Are you serious? When is this happening?”
Rep. Jeff Leach: “We just got word about 15 minutes ago.”
Melissa Lucio: “Oh my god! That is wonderful! Oh my god!”
On Monday, members of Lucio’s family gathered at the Gatesville prison north of Austin, where they celebrated news of the reprieve. This is Melissa Lucio’s son, John.
John Lucio: “It’s been 15 long years, you know? And so we say to ourselves, I mean, god forbid, I mean, but if it takes another two years, three years, four years, it really don’t matter; I mean, we’re going to hug her regardless, you know? I mean, and it will be soon because she won’t be on death row much longer. And we’ll have, more likely, physical contact.”