Your Wednesday Briefing: Russia’s Military Drills

Your Wednesday Briefing: Russia’s Military Drills

We’re covering Russia’s military drills and relaxed rules for E.U. travelers.

Russia on Tuesday announced a flurry of military drills across its vast territory, spanning from the Pacific Ocean to its western flank near Ukraine. They include joint drills with the Chinese fleet in the Arabian Sea.

The announcement followed a series of military moves made by the U.S. and NATO this week aimed at deterring a Russian incursion into Ukraine.

Russia is blaming the U.S. for the escalation and insists that it has no plans to invade Ukraine. The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, said the U.S. and NATO were orchestrating “information hysteria” about Ukraine by reporting “lies” and “fakes.”

Military moves: Russia’s drills involved tanks, drones, paratroopers and ships. In a part of Belarus close to Ukraine, Russian troops disembarked heavy-duty armored vehicles and other equipment before joint drills with Belarusian forces. In Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, Russian tanks launched planned shooting exercises.

The European Union will relax its travel rules for residents vaccinated against the coronavirus, as well as those who can prove recent infection.

The bloc recommended on Tuesday that E.U. residents traveling through the 27 member states who have been vaccinated in the past nine months or recovered from the coronavirus should not face additional restrictions like testing or quarantine.

The new rules, set to go into effect Feb. 1, were the latest indication that the bloc is accepting Covid as a part of everyday life, a day after the W.H.O. said that the spread of the Omicron variant could change the pandemic from overwhelming to manageable.

“Omicron offers plausible hope for stabilization and normalization,” Dr. Hans Kluge, the W.H.O. director for Europe, said.

But the bloc recommended additional restrictions for people who are not vaccinated or have not recovered from the virus, and who are coming from high-risk areas. To encourage booster shots, the bloc also said that proof of two-dose vaccinations would expire after nine months. So far, slightly over 40 percent of the bloc’s residents have received an extra dose.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

ISIS militants have been trying to break out the prisoners since Thursday. They used suicide bombers to blow open the gates and seized control of about a quarter of the facility.

By Tuesday, ISIS attackers still controlled part of the prison, even after the U.S. sent in ground troops and air support for the Kurdish-led forces trying to take it back.

Background: The prisoners include boys as young as 12 — some of the thousands of foreign children brought to the Islamic State caliphate in Syria by their parents.

Asia Pacific

A longstanding source of local pride and affection, Welsh mountain ponies have seen many of their traditional roles vanish. A new initiative aims to ensure their continued survival by giving them new jobs.

The soundtrack to Disney’s “Encanto” has hit the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s album chart for a second time. If you don’t live with young children, this may be surprising. If you do, you may wonder: “Only twice?”

“Encanto” is an animated movie about a family in Colombia with magical powers, featuring a soundtrack by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The songs are classic Disney fare fused with salsa, bachata, hip-hop and Broadway. (A Times review called the film “brilliant.”)

Leading the way is the single “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” which reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart yesterday. That makes it Disney’s biggest hit in decades, outperforming “Let It Go” from “Frozen.” TikTok has contributed to its success, with people singing along or acting out moments from the song. “I could look at the TikToks all day,” Jared Bush, one of the film’s directors, told The Times.

For more: The Wall Street Journal explained what it took to translate “Bruno” into more than 40 languages.

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