We’re covering Moscow’s response to the U.S. diplomatic moves on Ukraine, and fears of a lost generation in India after two years of pandemic school closures.
Russia is pessimistic on the U.S. response to demands
After the U.S. and NATO presented a written response to Russia’s demands regarding Ukraine, the Kremlin warned that there was “not much cause for optimism.” President Vladimir Putin is taking his time to study the response as fears of a Russian attack on Ukraine grow by the day.
“All these papers are with the president,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, told reporters. “There will of course be some time needed to analyze them — we won’t rush to any conclusions.”
Peskov did not discuss much about the content of the response, referring only to what U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken shared on Wednesday. “There is not much cause for optimism,” Peskov said, replying to a question about whether Russia would be satisfied with the Western responses. “But I would continue to refrain from making any conceptual evaluations.”
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, sounded a similarly negative note, saying in comments published on his ministry’s website that the American document contained “no positive reaction” to Russia’s main demands.
What’s next: Officials on all sides say there is still a chance for diplomacy to resolve the crisis. President Biden was to speak with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine on Thursday. Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, will speak by phone with Putin today.
A shooting raises tensions: A national guard soldier in Ukraine opened fire at an aerospace and rocket factory in the eastern part of the country, killing five people. There was no immediate sign, however, that the shooting was related to the military buildup in the region.
Russia’s upgraded military: Under Putin’s leadership, Russian forces have been overhauled into a modern sophisticated army that now provides leverage in the Ukraine crisis.
Covid stunts education in India
For years, India has been counting on its vast pool of young people as a wellspring of future growth. Now, after two years of the pandemic, it is looking more like a lost generation, crushing the middle-class dreams of families looking for opportunities for their children.
Hundreds of millions of students across India have received little to no in-person instruction, with schools intermittently shut down since the start of the pandemic. As pandemic restrictions are lifted, then reimposed, schools are often the first places to close and the last to reopen.
The repercussions can be especially dire in South Asia. Girls are entering into child marriages, and boys have abandoned their education to work.
Until the pandemic, India was pulling millions of people out of poverty, pinning its hopes of greater economic growth on education. Now, the undereducated and underemployed people could turn into a burden for India, consuming resources like no-cost medicine and food subsidies.
Quotable: “In India, the numbers are mind-numbing,” said Poonam Mattreja, the head of the Population Foundation, an advocacy group in New Delhi. “Gender and other inequalities are widening, and we’ll have much more of a development deficit in the years to come.”
In other developments:
The U.S. military wants safer air wars
The U.S. defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, ordered the military to improve efforts to prevent civilian deaths after reports of several botched airstrikes.
A new directive outlines steps intended to change how commanders think about their jobs and to make preventing civilian harm a core part of their missions. The directive follows a series of investigations by The Times into U.S. airstrikes, revealing systemic failures to prevent civilian deaths in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.
Other military news: U.S.-backed forces in Syria are still fighting the Islamic State at a prison in Hasaka, despite earlier claims that the forces had regained full control of the complex.
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A string of coups in Africa
It’s never a good sign when a soldier in fatigues appears on television in a live broadcast.
That’s what happened this week in Burkina Faso after soldiers ousted the democratically elected president. It was the fourth coup on the continent in less than a year, after similar takeovers by the military in Mali, Guinea and Sudan.
The success of these coups points to a shift in the African political landscape: an erosion of democratic norms, said Faith Mabera, a senior researcher at the Institute for Global Dialogue in Johannesburg.
One big factor behind this backslide is the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to economic struggle in Africa, Mabera said. Daily hardships have taken their toll on citizens, even when recorded deaths are lower on the continent compared with other regions.
Other everyday concerns can determine whether the public will support a coup. In Burkina Faso, for example, the ever-present threat of an Islamist insurgency fueled unease. In Mali, where two coups occurred within a year, citizens seem to have resigned themselves to a military-led government after a civilian government failed to provide basic conditions, like a working economy, peace and security.
Mali and Burkina Faso are part of the Sahel region, where soldiers have been trained and well-equipped by France, the U.S. and other countries as part of an intervention against terrorism. The soldier who declared himself the new leader of Guinea was trained by American Green Berets.
Coup plotters have been emboldened by a lack of consequences. “There’s also a failure of regional bodies and international partners to actually anticipate and respond to an evolving coup playbook,” Mabera said.