Your Monday Briefing: Fears of Invasion Mount

Good morning. We’re covering escalating tensions in Ukraine, judgments in the Canadian trucker protest and the fate of Afghan government funds.

Diplomacy is stabling and US officials believe an invasion could begin at any time. Here are live updates.

On Sunday, airlines suspended flights over Ukraine, though the country said its airspace was open. Foreign embassies in Kyiv continued to withdraw nonessential staff and nations urged their citizens to leave the country.

On Sunday, President Biden spoke with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who has continued to urge calm. A day earlier, Biden warned Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, that invading Ukraine would have severe costs. Russia continued to deny that it was planning to invade its neighbor, though its military buildup has showed no signs of slowing.

Diplomacy: Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, plans to travel to Kyiv on Monday. France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, is trying to leverage the chaos to reshape Europe — and bolster his re-election campaign.

After declaring “zero tolerance,” the police cleared protesters who had been obstructing the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit, though the bridge remained closed.

The judgments were the first major police action since truckers and other Canadians laid siege to the area around the Parliament in Ottawa three weeks ago. Here are live updates.

Cost: The blockade of the bridge, a critical trade route, has cost automakers millions of dollars.

aim: The protests, which began as an outcry against a vaccine mandate for drivers entering Canada from the US, have ballooned into a sprawling anti-government campaign.

police: Canadian authorities were outnumbered and unprepared for the convoy’s sophisticated tactics. Many are frustrated that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has moved slowly against the uprising.

Movement: Protests have spread across Canada. In Paris, officials fired tear gas at demonstrators blocking the Champs-Élysées, after hundreds of vehicles evaded police checkpoints.


President Biden announced plans to split $7 billion in frozen funds from Afghanistan’s central bank between humanitarian aid to the country and relatives of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The highly unusual move would effectively bankrupt the central bank.

Many Afghans are outraged, and some Afghan diplomats in the US have worked without salaries for months. The country is hurtling toward economic collapse and mass starvation. Many blame the US withdrawal for the current chaos.

“It is a cruel act and a betrayal of the rights of the Afghan people,” one shopkeeper in Kabul said. “It is clear that the poor economic situation right now is due to the US economic constraints on Afghanistan.”

background: The Afghan central bank had kept most of its assets at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. When the government dissolved in August, the Fed made the remaining funds unavailable for withdrawal because it was unclear who — if anyone — had the legal authority to gain access.

Separately: The Taliban freed two Western citizens and two Afghans working for the UN They had been held in Kabul for several days.

Olympics

Fifty years ago, China sent two pandas to the US as a gesture of good will. Now, some say the animals have taken on a new role: softening China’s authoritarian image.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, The Times has gathered essays that illuminate how Black people live and love in this moment, in a collaborative project between Modern Love and Black History, Continued.

Some highlights:

  • Staceyann Chin’s gay husband helped her, a lesbian, explore the modern family in New York City: “No one understood the quirky, kooky couple who arrived together, left together, but flirted with everyone in between.”

  • Damon Young meditates on an electric first date that may have been derailed by his teeth: “In America, good, strong, bright, straight teeth signal good, strong, bright, straight money.”

  • Brandon Kyle Goodman tells of his godfather: “From the time my brain was able to hold memories, my Uncle Ronnie was there.”

Read them all: An attorney who decides to stop dating white men, an aspirational love for a cousin’s confidence, a crush formed on the backs of bicycles, a foray into an open relationship and a healer who helped an author leave an empty relationship.

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