Your Monday Briefing: Shelling in Ukraine intensifies

Your Monday Briefing: Shelling in Ukraine intensifies

U.S. intelligence learned last week that the Kremlin had ordered an invasion of Ukraine to proceed, prompting a dire warning by President Biden that President Vladimir Putin had made the decision to attack.

The new intelligence reveals that 40 to 50 percent of the Russian forces surrounding Ukraine have moved out of staging and into combat formation.

Russian artillery fire escalated sharply in eastern Ukraine this weekend, deepening fears of an imminent attack and potentially giving Russia a pretext to invade. Ukrainians reluctantly left their homes, some evacuating to Russia.

After repeated assurances that military drills would end this weekend, Belarus said that it and Russia would continue to “test” their military capabilities and that Russian troops would stay longer than planned. NATO has long warned that the deployment could be used as cover to build an invasion force.

For all of China’s efforts to carry on the Winter Games with a festive spirit, Beijing 2022 unfolded as a joyless spectacle: constricted by the pandemic, fraught with geopolitical tensions and tainted once again by accusations of doping.

Television viewership dropped significantly in the U.S., Canada, Britain and other countries, underscoring concerns facing the Olympic movement. But the sports shone through.

Medals: Norway repeated its extraordinary success in the Winter Olympics, with a record 16 golds and 37 medals overall.

China: The Chinese team had its best medal haul in a Winter Olympics: nine golds and 15 overall. Inside the country, online propagandists promoted a vision of the Games free of rancor or controversy.

Athletes: Eileen Gu, an 18-year-old skier from San Francisco who competed for China, became the event’s breakout star. Some Chinese Americans see themselves in the duality she has embraced.

Pandemic: China’s “closed loop” approach worked — and birthed new infrastructure. Only a few athletes had to miss their competitions, and there were days when not a single test came back positive.

Business: Olympic sponsors are struggling to straddle a widening political gulf between the U.S. and China: What is good for business in one country is increasingly a liability in the other.

The 95-year-old British monarch was “experiencing mild coldlike symptoms,” Buckingham Palace said.

Although the circumstances of the queen’s infection remained clouded in questions, Prince Charles, her eldest son and heir, tested positive in a breakthrough infection two days after meeting with her earlier this month.

After canceling public events in the fall, citing exhaustion, the queen has begun appearing in public again. Her frailty is deepening anxiety that her extremely popular reign may be coming to an end.

Pandemic: Prime Minister Boris Johnson was expected to announce the lifting of the remaining restrictions in England on Monday, including the legal requirement for those who test positive to isolate.

In other pandemic developments:


Explorers have started combing Antarctica’s icy Weddell Sea for one of the most revered ships in the history of polar exploration: Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance. As underwater drones scan the seafloor for the wreck, scientists are also looking for signs that the climate crisis is changing the pack ice.

With Omicron cases ebbing, travel agents and operators have reported a significant increase in bookings for spring and summer trips. Big bucket-list trips seem to be in high demand.

Here are a few trends to watch:

Air travel will probably open up. Expect fewer restrictions in 2022, more travelers and more flights. Maybe even cheaper fares, too.

Entry requirements may still snarl plans: Here’s a guide of what to expect at international borders.

Cities are back: Travelers are itching for museums and great restaurants, especially in European capitals.

So are all-inclusive resorts, catering to pandemic-scarred travelers wary of leaving the grounds.

There’s also a rise in sexual wellness retreats, education-focused jaunts for families looking to help children supplement missed learning and smaller, more niche cruises. Happy trails!

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