First Thing: Ukraine’s Zelenskiy vows revenge on Russian forces – The Guardian

Good morning.

Volodymr Zelenskiy has vowed to punish “every bastard” who committed atrocities during the invasion of Ukraine amid outrage at Russia’s shelling of civilians as they tried to flee a town on the outskirts of Kyiv, killing a young family.

The president of Ukraine said in a video address last night: “They were just trying to get out of town. To escape. The whole family. How many such families have died in Ukraine? We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will punish everyone who committed atrocities in this war.”

Ukraine has also criticised a proposal by Moscow to open refugee corridors as “completely immoral” after the Russian defence ministry announced that civilians fleeing some cities would only be allowed to leave for Belarus or Russia.

Meanwhile, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, issued a pledge yesterday to increase pressure on Russia through sanctions and provide more aid to Ukraine.

  • What else did Blinken say? He warned that Russia held a military advantage that western allies were finding hard to counter and the war was likely to last “some time”.

  • What else is happening? A plane carrying Russian diplomats expelled by the US left John F Kennedy airport in New York en route to Moscow. Here’s everything we know so far today.

  • If Ukraine holds on as Putin’s bombardments grow more barbarous, will the western powers belatedly come to their rescue? Simon Tisdall argues Nato should act now to stop the slaughter.

Truck convoy loops around Washington to protest Covid restrictions

Truckers and their supporters make their way to drive around the Washington beltway.
Truckers and their supporters make their way to drive around the Washington beltway. Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters

A long line of huge semi-articulated trucks, recreational vehicles and cars was circling Washington DC, yesterday, in preparation for what their protesting drivers have pledged will be a week of traffic disruption around the US capital aligned around a loose collection of demands, including the end to all coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions.

From its temporary base at a speedway vehicle racing site in Hagerstown, 80 miles north-west in Maryland, organizers of what they term the “people’s convoy” of about 1,000 vehicles have said they plan to welcome the new work week by driving slowly around Washington on the already notoriously congested Beltway, or ring road, at the minimum legal speed in an attempt to get their message across to national politicians.

The convoy, a spin-off of trucker protests further north that have snarled Ottawa and disrupted Canadian transport arteries to the US, began assembling in California last week.

As it has made its way east, it has picked up similarly mobile, ideologically aligned, fellow travelers along the way.

  • But aren’t pandemic restrictions easing anyway as the most recent surge of infections subsides? Yes. The changing circumstances is prompting convoy organizers to adapt their demands to a more free-ranging basket of aspirations and motives.

  • Are they planning to enter the city? It remains unclear if the convoy plans to drive into the small area occupied by Washington, or snarl masses of government workers and lawmakers on their morning and evening Beltway road commutes.

Wave of House Democratic retirements stokes fears for party’s election prospects

Brenda Lawrence
Brenda Lawrence will retire from Congress when her term ends. Photograph: Tom Williams/AP

The decision not to seek re-election is deeply personal and political. But as the party braces for a grueling midterm election in November, a rising number of House Democrats are opting not to return to Congress next year.

On Monday, the Florida congressman Ted Deutch announced that he would not seek re-election, bringing the total number of Democratic departures from the House so far this cycle to 31.

It’s a worrying trend for Democrats. Congressional retirements are often an early sign of a wave election – for the other party. In 2018, dozens of House Republicans did not seek re-election, including the then House majority leader, Paul Ryan. The party lost 41 seats that year, and Democrats gained control of the chamber, in an election cycle widely viewed as a referendum on Donald Trump.

  • What have the Republicans said about the trend? They see it as a sign that Democrats’ hopes of keeping their majority are fading. “Their majority is doomed,” Mike Berg said recently. “Retire or lose.”

In other news …

Judge Alison Nathan, far left, speaks to the jury during the Ghislaine Maxwell sexual abuse trial in December.
Judge Alison Nathan, far left, speaks to the jury during the Ghislaine Maxwell sexual abuse trial in December. Photograph: Elizabeth Williams/AP
  • Scott David, one of the jurors in Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial, faces questioning under oath on Tuesday about his answers to a jury selection question about sexual abuse. David revealed in a newspaper interview he was a survivor of sexual abuse – sparking a chain of events that could potentially undermine the trial’s outcome.

  • More than 4,300 people have been arrested after demonstrators took to the streets in 21 Russian cities to condemn Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, TikTok has imposed restrictions on its service in Russia, and Netflix has suspended streaming, after the Kremlin criminalizes reporting of Ukraine invasion.

  • A Texas congresswoman has called for Russia to release Brittney Griner as fears grow Vladimir Putin could use the US basketball star as a pawn during the war in Ukraine. The two-time Olympic champion has been detained after vape cartridges containing hashish oil were allegedly found in her luggage.

  • People who have a rosy outlook on the world may live healthier, longer lives because they have fewer stressful events to cope with, research suggests. Scientists found optimists fared better emotionally because they had fewer stressful events in their daily lives.

Don’t miss this: Inside the private company surveilling US immigrants

Illustration of migrants
Illustration of migrants Illustration: Damien Jeon/The Guardian

Part of the US government’s Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (Isap), a private enterprise BI runs a surveillance system launched in 2004 and pitched as a way to keep immigrants out of detention centers while they await a court hearing on their legal status. BI claims it provides immigrant tracking and ‘high quality’ case management. A Guardian investigation paints a very different picture.

… or this: Putin’s Hollywood pals – the stars who snuggled up to the Russian dictator

Golden photo ops … clockwise from top left, Steven Seagal, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gérard Depardieu and Mickey Rourke.
Golden photo ops … clockwise from top left, Steven Seagal, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gérard Depardieu and Mickey Rourke. Composite: Getty, Reuters, AFP

As big names from Angelina Jolie to Sean Penn and Mark Ruffalo issue their support for besieged Ukraine, Hollywood must be cringing at the days when a public appearance with Putin wasn’t beyond the pale. By the mid-00s, Russia had become an important emerging film market, and firmly on the celebrity junket circuit. Photo ops with big stars also worked in Putin’s favor, helping normalize his rogue state in the eyes of the world.

Climate check: US beef industry emerges from Biden’s climate pledges ‘relatively unscathed’

Cattle in cages
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, according to the UN, and livestock are a significant source. Photograph: Larry Mayer/Getty Images

The US beef industry has escaped “relatively unscathed” from Joe Biden’s attempts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to leaders at the industry’s recent CattleCon convention. Biden and the EU announced a global pledge to cut methane gas 30% by 2030 at November’s Cop26 climate summit – but industry leaders have expressed relief about the administration choosing to incentivize rather than force ranchers and feedlots to reduce emissions.

Last Thing: Japan’s ‘killing stone’ splits in two, releasing superstitions amid the sulphur springs

Artwork
According to the mythology the Sessho-seki, or killing stone contains the transformed corpse of Tamamo-no-Mae. Photograph: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. H.O Havemeyer Collection

Predictions of dark forces being unleashed by an evil vixen hung over social media in Japan today after a famous volcanic rock said to kill anyone who comes into contact with it was found split in two. Its separation into two roughly equal parts, believed to have occurred within the past few days, has spooked online users who noted that, according to folklore, the stone continually spews poisonous gas – hence its name.

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