Your Monday Briefing: U.S. Floats Russian Sanctions

Good morning. We’re covering the potential fallout of U.S. sanctions on Russia, the defeat of ISIS fighters in Syria and China’s pandemic surveillance state.

The most punishing sanctions that President Biden has threatened in an effort to deter an invasion of Ukraine could devastate the Russian economy. Analysts predict a stock market crash and other forms of financial panic that would inflict pain on Russia’s people.

The “swift and severe” response promised by the U.S. could also roil other major economies, and even threaten the global financial system. British lawmakers will also consider broadening the range of sanctions available.

Sanctions could foment anger against President Vladimir Putin. But resilience is part of Russia’s national identity, and three reactionary security officials dedicated to restoring former Soviet glory have Putin’s ear. On Sunday, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said the country sent an “urgent demand” to NATO to clarify its stance, a sign of hope for further diplomacy.

Analysis: Some analysts warn that Russia might retaliate by cutting off natural gas shipments to Europe or with cyberattacks against American and European infrastructure. Ukrainian officials criticized the Biden administration for its warnings of an imminent Russian attack, saying they had needlessly spread alarm.

Kurdish-led forces regained full control of a prison in northeastern Syria on Sunday, after a difficult fight to subdue the last Islamic State gunmen barricaded in a prison in a weeklong siege.

The fighting was the most intense urban combat involving American soldiers in Iraq or Syria since the self-declared ISIS caliphate fell in 2019. Times journalists saw at least 80 bodies in the city of Hasaka, some dressed in orange prison jumpsuits, being transported in a small truck from the direction of the prison.

Background: The fighting began eight days ago after an attack by ISIS on the prison, which housed more than 3,000 men accused of having fought for the militant group and almost 700 detained minors.

Region: The U.S. maintains about 700 troops in the Kurdish-led Rojava region, which has become a haven for the remnants of the self-declared caliphate. Experts say the Islamic State could be biding its time until conditions in the unstable countries where it thrives allow it to expand.

The coronavirus pandemic has given China’s leader, Xi Jinping, a powerful case for deepening the Communist Party’s reach into the lives of the country’s 1.4 billion citizens.

In the two years since the Wuhan lockdown, China’s government has honed its already-expansive powers to track and corral its people in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

Now, officials are turning their sharpened surveillance against other risks, including crime, pollution and “hostile” political forces. Broad public support bolster’s Xi’s vision of order in contrast to what he calls “the chaos of the West.”

Details: Individuals are assigned a health code — green, yellow or red — determined by location, travel history, test results and other health data. The code can be used to restrict movement, and it has been key to China’s zero-Covid goal. It’s also the foundation for increased surveillance.

Outcomes: One human rights lawyer said the authorities meddled with his health code to bar him from traveling. Officials have also used pandemic health-monitoring systems to flush out fugitives.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • A South Korean naval unit is quarantining in Oman after an outbreak on its ship.

  • The world has administered 10 billion vaccine doses, more than the global population, but gaps persist among countries.

  • A mutated version of the Omicron variant could slow the steep decline in cases, but it is not likely to change the pandemic’s course, scientists said.

  • England will extend coronavirus vaccines to at-risk children ages 5 to 11 on Monday.


Pegasus, the world’s most potent spyware, is capable of cracking encrypted smartphone communications. A Times investigation found that Israel, which controls its export, had made the software a key component of its national security strategy. (Here are the highlights.)

The Saturday Profile: After 600 years, Cassandre Berdoz is the first woman to keep a night watch above the cathedral in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Last summer, a condo collapse in Surfside, Fla., killed 98 people. It also exposed a startling truth: Thousands of aging condo buildings could be next.

Florida has roughly 1.5 million residential condo units, many of which stand just feet from the shore. According to a recent study, 918,000 of those units are more than 30 years old, like the ones in Champlain Towers South.

But a powerful, lucrative condo and co-op industry has long pushed back against any policy it views as constrictive or unduly expensive. That means less regulation, fewer security scans and more residents wary of buildings slapped together during the boom years.

“It is a ticking-clock scenario,” a veteran condo-law specialist told The Times. “A bomb got set off, back in the day, and it’s about to go off.”

What to Cook

These palak ki tikki, or spinach and potato patties, are incredibly easy to put together.

What to Listen to

In this week’s playlist, our pop critics recommend new tracks from Raveena, the Weather Station, Immanuel Wilkins and others.

What to Read

Our editors recommend these 12 new books, which include a therapist’s look at Zen Buddhism and a romp on a Greek island.

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