Russia plans to annex land in Ukraine

The Kremlin announced it would hold a ceremony today to begin absorbing four Ukrainian territories, moving ahead with a widely condemned annexation effort.

In Moscow, the authorities put up billboards and a giant video screen in Red Square. President Vladimir Putin will deliver a speech during the ceremony in the Kremlin. State media described the event as a demonstration and concert “in support of the result of the referendums”, in which some people in Ukraine were forced to vote at gunpoint.

The annexation move has been met with international condemnation, and Ukraine has essentially ignored the Kremlin’s plans. Russian officials have spoken of defending their claims to the annexed territory by any means, a hint at the potential use of nuclear weapons.

Context: Although Russia has failed to fully control the four territories it seeks to annex, and even as Ukrainian forces are gaining ground in some of those areas, the Kremlin show was designed to present a gloss of legitimacy to its illegal takeover.

The front lines: Ukrainian forces are closing in on the city of Lyman, a Russian-occupied railway hub. Capturing Lyman would leave Moscow’s troops in an increasingly dangerous position in eastern Ukraine.

More war news:

Sean Turnell, economic adviser to jailed Myanmar civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was convicted yesterday of violating an official secrets law and visa violations. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

Turnell, 57, was arrested in Myanmar five days after the army seized power in a coup last year, sparking months of widespread demonstrations and killings. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge and has been in prison since February 2021, unable to meet with his lawyer or representatives from the Australian embassy.

Context: Turnell is now among more than 15,000 political prisoners arrested since the coup, according to an international monitoring group. Aung San Suu Kyi received the same sentence for violating the Official Secrets Act, the latest in a series of convictions that already has her serving 20 years in prison.

Wittenoom, a town in the Australian outback, was blighted by asbestos mining. The government has been trying to close Wittenoom for more than a decade and is now close to achieving that goal. But first, he has to take out those who want to stay.

lives lived: Maria Orosa, a Filipino nationalist and innovative food scientist who invented banana ketchup, sought to reduce the Philippines’ dependence on imported food.

In a gloomy global economic climate, Zambia appears to be the exception.

Last year, the southern African nation elected Hakainde Hichilema, a wealthy businessman and political outcast, as president. Since then, many Zambians have hailed their new leader as a miracle worker.

Before the elections, Zambia defaulted on its debts and inflation soared. Now, inflation is down to single digits, and the country’s currency, the kwacha, is one of the best performing in the world.

“I felt a lingering sense of relief on my trips to Zambia,” said Ruth Maclean, West Africa bureau chief for the Times. Ruth recently met Hichilema at her home in Lusaka, the capital. As opposition leader, he was arrested 15 times and ran for president five times. Many Zambians relate to him being rude in a thatched hut, and African leaders see in him a new model of leadership.

“He had a kind of firm, steadfast confidence that I imagine could be very reassuring to the countries and companies that Zambia does business with,” Ruth said.

But Zambia’s honeymoon phase may not last. To reform the economy, Hichilema reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund that would include the reduction of fuel and agricultural subsidies. Economists say such policies will hurt the poor and test Hichilema’s vision.

“Zambia is the guinea pig of the moment,” said Ruth. “Look at this space.”

— Lynsey Chutel, Johannesburg-based report writer

what to cook

what to see

Disney’s “Hocus Pocus 2” manages to capture the same cheesy magic of the original while creatively updating its humor.

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That’s all for today’s briefing. See you next time. —Jonathan

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