Your Monday Briefing: Fears of Invasion Mount

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

Ukrainian soldiers in eastern Ukraine, on Saturday.Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Fears of Russian invasion mount

Diplomacy is stalling and U.S. 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.

Tactics: The U.S. has sought to complicate any plans to invade by declassifying information about Russia’s plans. (The Pentagon is also sending 3,000 more troops to Poland.)But the Biden administration still does not have an ambassador to Ukraine, a 13-month delay that diplomats say is impossible to explain.

Police detain a protester for trespassing near the U.S.-Canada border.Credit…Carlos Osorio/Reuters

Canadian police arrest truckers

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 arrests 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 U.S., have ballooned into a sprawling anti-government campaign.

Understand Russia’s Relationship With the West

The tension between the regions is growing and Russian President Vladimir Putin is increasingly willing to take geopolitical risks and assert his demands.

  • Competing for Influence: For months, the threat of confrontation has been growing in a stretch of Europe from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
  •  Threat of Invasion: As the Russian military builds its presence near Ukraine, Western nations are seeking to avert a worsening of the situation.
  • Energy Politics: Europe is a huge customer of Russia’s fossil fuels. The rising tensions in Ukraine are driving fears of a midwinter cutoff.
  • Migrant Crisis: As people gathered on the eastern border of the European Union, Russia’s uneasy alliance with Belarus triggered additional friction.
  • Militarizing Society: With a “youth army” and initiatives promoting patriotism, the Russian government is pushing the idea that a fight might be coming.

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.

Afghan workers measuring out food from the World Food Program.Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

The fate of Afghanistan’s funds

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 U.S. have worked without salaries for months. The country is hurtling toward economic collapse and mass starvation. Many blame the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.N. They had been held in Kabul for several days.



Real snow on the slopes, an unusual sight for Beijing.Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Here’s a look at the week ahead, the latest updates, the medal count and how to watch.

  • A rare snowstorm hit Beijing this weekend, shaking up the Olympic schedule. Skiers floated through fresh powder.

  • The hearing ended for the Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva, the 15-year-old gold medal favorite who tested positive for a banned heart medication. Delays and confusion revealed failures of the Games’ anti-doping strategy.

  • Ayumu Hirano of Japan won the halfpipe. Shaun White, the 35-year-old snowboarding legend, concluded his Olympic career with a fourth-place finish.

  • A Ukrainian athlete displayed a “no war in Ukraine” sign after his skeleton competition, despite a ban on political demonstrations.

  • An unexpected buying frenzy has emerged for Olympics memorabilia in China.


The dispute over religious symbols became a flash point over minority rights.Credit…Manjunath Kiran/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • An Indian court has said that students in the southern state of Karnataka should stop wearing religious garments until it rules whether a school there can ban hijabs.

  • The Australian government declared the koala an endangered species.

  • On his Asia-Pacific trip, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signaled that the U.S. was committing to competition with China. He also pledged to open a new embassy in the Pacific islands and vowed to unite with South Korea and Japan against North Korea.

  • To film “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” — Bhutan’s first nominee for an Academy Award — the director traveled to a remote Himalayan village and shot the movie on a single, solar-powered camera.


  • International groups are struggling to help Tonga recover from the tsunami, balancing fears about the pandemic with uncertainties about contactless aid.

  • The C.D.C. released data showing that boosters lost much of their potency after about four months, raising the possibility of a fourth dose, especially for immunocompromised people.

  • People struggling with long Covid are finding it difficult to exercise, perhaps because of vascular issues.

What Else Is Happening

  • Attacks by settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank have both reached a five-year high, but prosecutions are uneven.

  • Donald Trump is profiting off his post-presidency mystique.

  • Switzerland voted to ban tobacco advertisements in places where they could be seen by children under 18.

  • New details have emerged in the U.S. killing of the Islamic State leader: A spy drone saw that the man on the roof was missing his right leg.

A Morning Read

Mei Xiang, a giant panda, at the U.S. National Zoo last summer.Credit…Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA, via Shutterstock

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


Credit…Hannah Buckman

What is Black love today?

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.


What to Cook

Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food stylist: Sue Li. Prop stylist: Pamela Duncan Silver.

These seared scallops with brussels sprouts come together with a tangy mix of lime juice, maple syrup and Dijon mustard.

What to Watch

Do you love Valentine’s Day? Do you hate it? Either way, here are some movies for you.

The Big Game

The Super Bowl starts at 6:30 p.m. Eastern on Sunday night (7:30 a.m. in Hong Kong), and features the event’s first-ever rap-focused halftime show.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia

P.S. The “Modern Love” podcast — which is based on The Times’s column — is back for a new season.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the American podcast host Joe Rogan.

You can reach Amelia and the team at [email protected].

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