Russia has cut off natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria as tension over the war in Ukraine continues to escalate. The Russian company Gazprom said it suspended gas delivery because both countries refused to begin paying in rubles. The president of the European Commission accused Russia of using gas as an “instrument of blackmail.” Both Poland and Bulgaria rely heavily on Russian gas.
Meanwhile, a series of explosions occurred inside Russia this morning in three provinces bordering Ukraine. At least one of the blasts occurred at an ammunition depot.
Germany has announced it will begin sending dozens of armored anti-aircraft vehicles to Ukraine in a marked policy shift. On Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with military leaders from 40 nations at the U.S. air base in Ramstein, Germany. Austin vowed allied nations would do more to help arm Ukraine.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin: “But we don’t have any time to waste. The briefings today laid out clearly why the coming weeks will be so crucial for Ukraine, so we’ve got to move at the speed of war. And I know that all the leaders leave today more resolved than ever to support Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression and atrocities.”
More details are emerging about how the United States is providing real-time intelligence — even specific coordinates — to Ukraine to help them attack Russian forces. NBC News is reporting Ukraine shot down a Russian transport plane carrying hundreds of troops in the early days of the war based on information provided by the United States. The U.S. intelligence has also helped Ukraine move its air defenses to avoid Russian strikes. In addition, NBC is reporting the CIA is “devoting significant resources” by gathering intelligence to help protect Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the West’s arming of Ukraine is jeopardizing negotiations to end the fighting. He accused NATO of waging a proxy war in Ukraine, saying it could lead to World War III.
Sergey Lavrov: “Of course, these weapons will be a legitimate target for Russia’s military acting within the context of the special operation. And the storage facilities, including those in western Ukraine, have been targeted more than once by Russian forces. How can it be otherwise, if NATO essentially engages in war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy? War means war.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also warned about the risk of a nuclear war.
Sergey Lavrov: “Really, the risks are really considerable, and I would not want to elevate those risks artificially. Many would like that. The danger is serious, real, and we must not underestimate it.”
The U.S. denounced Lavrov’s comments about nuclear war as the “height of irresponsibility.”
On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres met with Lavrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. During their meeting, Putin agreed in principle to allow the U.N. and the International Committee of the Red Cross to help evacuate civilians from a besieged steel plant in Mariupol. Guterres is meeting with Zelensky in Kyiv Thursday. We will speak to professor Alfred McCoy about the war in Ukraine later in the program.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency visited the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine on Monday on the 36th anniversary of the plant’s meltdown. Rafael Grossi vowed help for Ukraine to repair damage caused when Russian forces seized the facility in February. He praised workers at the plant for helping to prevent what could have been another nuclear disaster.
Rafael Grossi: “In this case, what we had was a nuclear safety situation that was not normal, that could have developed into an accident. I think the first credit must go to the operators, to these people here, because they carried on their work in spite of all the difficulties, in spite of the stress, in spite of the fact that they could not be working normally. They continued working as if nothing had happened, so they kept the situation stable, so to speak.”
Russia and the United States have participated in a prisoner swap. Russia has released Marine veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for a Russian pilot who was jailed in Connecticut on drug charges. Reed had been jailed in Russia since 2019. Russia is continuing to hold WNBA player Brittney Griner, who was arrested in February after authorities say they found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow.
Vice President Kamala Harris has tested positive for COVID-19. According to her office, she is not showing any symptoms. Due to her recent travel schedule, she has not been in recent close contact with President Biden.
New research from the CDC suggests that more than 60% of adults and 75% of children in the United States have been infected with COVID-19 at some point during the pandemic — a far higher total than the official number of confirmed cases.
The World Health Organization is warning that cuts to COVID testing are making it harder for public health officials to track the pandemic. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke Tuesday in Geneva.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “As many countries reduce testing, WHO is receiving less and less information about transmission and sequencing. This makes us increasingly blind to patterns of transmission and evolution. But this virus won’t go away just because countries stop looking for it. It’s still spreading, it’s still changing, and it’s still killing.”
The New York Times has published new audio of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy privately saying that members of his own party were “putting people in jeopardy” by using dangerous rhetoric following the deadly January 6 insurrection. This recording is from January 10, 2021.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy: “I just got something sent now about Newsmax, something Matt Gaetz said where he’s calling people’s names out, saying an anti-Trump in this type of atmosphere, in some of the other places. This is — this is serious stuff people are doing that has to stop.”
Rep. Steve Scalise: “Mo and Louie’s comments, too, a lot of members have said some real concerning things. It’s potentially illegal, what he’s doing.”
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy: “He’s putting people in jeopardy. And he doesn’t need to be doing this. We saw what people would do in the Capitol, you know, and these people came prepared, with rope, with everything.”
That was Kevin McCarthy as well as Republican Congressmember Steve Scalise on a call with other Republican lawmakers on January 10, 2021. McCarthy would later defend the same lawmakers he privately criticized.
Tension is continuing to escalate over the Solomon Islands after the Pacific island nation signed a security deal with China. On Tuesday, a high-ranking U.S. diplomat refused to rule out the U.S. taking military action against the Solomon Islands if China established a military presence on the islands. During a press briefing, the State Department official, Daniel Kritenbrink, said the U.S. respects the Solomon Islands’ sovereignty, but warned against China’s presence in the region, saying the United States would “very naturally respond to those concerns.” By some counts, the U.S. operates over 800 military bases around the world. China opened its first overseas base just four years ago in the African nation of Djibouti.
In Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to another five years in prison after a closed military court found her guilty on corruption charges. Suu Kyi was overthrown alongside Burma’s civilian leadership in a deadly military coup in February 2021.
At least one migrant is dead, and at least 24 others are missing, after their boat capsized about 135 miles from Spain’s Canary Islands. The Spanish coast guard has rescued 36 people so far. This comes just days after at least 20 migrants died after a group of boats sank off the coast of Tunisia.
Israel has carried out deadly airstrikes in Syria targeting several locations near Damascus. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is reporting nine people have died, including five Syrian soldiers.
Israeli forces have killed an 18-year-old Palestinian after Israel conducted an armed raid near Jenin in the occupied West Bank. Three other Palestinians, including a 16-year-old, were shot. On Tuesday, hundreds of Palestinians gathered in Jericho for the funeral of a 20-year-old Palestinian man who was shot in the head by Israeli troops during a raid on a refugee camp.
In news from Colombia, the nation’s human rights ombudsman has revealed at least 52 Colombian human rights activists and local leaders were killed in the first three months of the year, marking a significant increase over last year. The victims included 28 land defenders and nine Indigenous activists.
Ten retired members of Colombia’s military have publicly admitted to assassinating more than 100 civilians about 15 years ago and then covering up their deaths by falsely portraying their victims to be militants killed in combat — so-called false positives. The soldiers admitted to their role in the deaths and disappearances during a tribunal organized by the country’s transitional justice tribunal, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. This is Nestor Gutierrez, a former Colombian Army official.
Nestor Gutierrez: “We made a theater to show supposed combats because of the pressure from the high command. I executed, I killed relatives of the people who are here, taking them with lies and deceit, shooting them, murdering them cruelly, cowardly, and planting guns and saying that they died in combat, that they were guerrilla.”
Tuesday’s testimony came just days after Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace revealed that nearly 6,000 people were killed or disappeared by paramilitaries over a two-decade period as part of a military-backed campaign against the left-wing Patriotic Union party.
President Biden has privately told members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that he is considering taking executive action to cancel an unspecified amount of federal student debt in the coming months. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Biden was considering taking executive action.
bq. Press Secretary Jen Psaki: “And we have talked about how we are looking at and he is looking at other executive authority options he has to bring relief to people who have student loans. So that’s what he conveyed during the meeting yesterday.”
President Biden has pardoned three people and commuted the sentence of 75 nonviolent drug offenders. One of the pardons went to 86-year-old Abraham Bolden Sr., who was the first Black Secret Service agent to serve on a presidential detail. Bolden was jailed on federal bribery charges in the 1960s, but he has long claimed he was framed after speaking out against racism within the Secret Service.
Harvard University has pledged to spend $100 million fund to redress the school’s deep ties to slavery. On Tuesday, the school issued a 130-page report that revealed at least 41 prominent people connected to the school owned enslaved people — this includes four former presidents of Harvard. The report states, “Enslaved men and women served Harvard presidents and professors and fed and cared for Harvard students. Moreover, throughout this period and well into the 19th century, the University and its donors benefited from extensive financial ties to slavery.”