First Thing: Ukrainians paying for ‘weak’ sanctions with their lives, says Zelenskiy | US news

By | March 29, 2022

Good morning.

Ukraine’s neutrality and the status of contested areas in the east could be on the table in ceasefire talks that began this morning in Turkey, but with Russia’s invasion largely stalled, Kyiv will make no concessions on territorial integrity, officials have said.

Before the discussions, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, delivered some emphatic lines in his most recent national address regarding what he described as “passive” penalties imposed by the west on Russia, saying that Ukrainians were paying for “weak” sanctions with their lives.

Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, meanwhile, has said sanctions on trade and oligarchs are akin to “total war” against Russia, and that the west has pushed the Kremlin “into the corner” with Nato expansion.

Dmitry Peskov said the sanctions leveled against Russia were “quite unfriendly” and made the country feel as if it were at war with the US and its western allies.

  • Will the talks be a success? Both sides have played down the chances of a significant breakthrough, and a senior US official said Putin did not appear ready to compromise.

  • What else is happening? The Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and the Ukrainian MP Rustem Umerov experienced symptoms consistent with poisoning during talks this month. Abramovich has not let that put him off, as he has been pictured at today’s talks in Istanbul.

  • What’s happening in Ukraine? Here’s what we know on day 34 of the Russian invasion.

US Capitol attack panel votes to recommend prosecution of Trump duo

Peter Navarro
Peter Navarro, a former Trump senior advisor, in 2020. He refused to provide documents or testimony after he was subpoenaed. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack was voted yesterday to recommend the criminal prosecution of two of Donald Trump’s top former White House aides, Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino, for defying subpoenas to try to undermine the January 6 inquiry.

The select committee unanimously approved the contempt of Congress report it had been examining. The citations now head for a vote before the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, which is expected to approve resolutions for referrals to the justice department.

The congressman Bennie Thompson, the chair of the select committee, said the panel was seeking the criminal prosecution for Navarro and Scavino to punish their non-cooperation over claims of executive privilege it did not recognize.

“Executive privilege doesn’t belong to just any White House official. It belongs to the president. Here, President Biden has been clear that executive privilege does not prevent cooperation with the Select Committee by either Mr Scavino or Mr Navarro,” Thompson said.

  • What about Ginni Thomas? The select committee was expected to huddle to discuss whether to demand that Ginni Thomas, the wife of the supreme court justice Clarence Thomas, assist the investigation.

  • What did the congressman Jamie Raskin say? “This is America, and there’s no executive privilege here for presidents, much less trained advisors, to plan coups and organize insurrections.”

Progressives push Biden to act with Democrats’ midterm hopes in balance

Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus: ‘Our work is far from done.’ Photograph: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/Rex/Shutterstock

When Senator Joe Manchin announced in December that he would not support the Build Back Better Act, House progressives immediately got to work, writes Joan E Greve, As the Congressional Progressive Caucus continued to lobby for passing a social spending package, its members also started crafting a list of potential executive orders that Biden could sign to advance the Democrats’ policy agenda.

That list was released in mid-March after months of deliberations, and it outlines a specific strategy for Biden to combat the climate crisis and lower costs for American families with the flick of his pen.

The suggestions from the CPC demonstrate the increasing pressure that Biden faces from progressive Democrats to take more decisive action before the midterm elections in November, where many in his party fear they could get badly beaten.

Progressives warn that, if Biden does not start signing more executive orders, Democrats’ failure to follow through on many of their campaign promises will result in severely depressed voter turnout among their supporters in November, probably allowing Republicans to regain control of the House and the Senate.

  • What’s on the CPC’s list of possible orders? The list addresses everything from the climate crisis to immigration reform and healthcare costs, covering a broad array of issues that affect a large swath of the Democratic coalition.

In other news…

Smith's onstage slap
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences condemned Will Smith’s actions and said it would launch an inquiry. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters
  • Will Smith has issued an apology to Chris Rock, the Academy and viewers after slapping the comedian on stage at the 94th Academy Awards, saying he was “out of line” and his actions were “not indicative of the man I want to be”. Smith added apologies to the film academy, TV producers, attendees and viewers.

  • Police in London will issue 20 fixed-penalty notices for lockdown rule breaches after of numerous illegal parties in Downing Street, the home and office of the prime minister. The Metropolitan police said those who received the fines would not be named publicly.

  • The Republican governor of Florida, Ron DeSantishas signed into law a bill that forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third gradea policy – ​​which has become known as the “don’t say gay” bill – that has drawn intense national scrutiny.

  • The government of El Salvador said it had arrested more than 600 gang suspects and ordered reductions in food for inmates after a wave of killings over the weekend, The government declared a state of emergency and locked down prisons after 87 murders were committed across Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Stat of the day: Climate groups say a change in coding can reduce bitcoin energy consumption by 99%

A facility that once was used by the Alcoa coal power plant that now provides electricity for the Whinstone US bitcoin mining facility in Rockdale, Texas
A facility that was once used by the Alcoa coal power plant now provides electricity for the Whinstone US bitcoin mining facility in Rockdale, Texas. Photograph: Mark Felix/AFP/Getty Images

Bitcoin mining already uses as much energy as Sweden, according to some reports, and its booming popularity is revitalizing failing fossil fuel enterprises in the US. But all that could change with a simple coding switch, according to a campaign launched today which claims such a change could reduce bitcoin energy consumption by 99%. The US now leads the world in cryptocurrency mining after China launched a crackdown on mining and trading last May.

Don’t miss this: Bunker sales soar as anxiety over Russia rises

Ukrainians take shelter
Ukrainians have been huddling together deep underground but the US has few public shelters and some people are making panic purchases. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Gary Lynch is the chief executive of Rising S Company in Texas. When I first visited his warehouse in 2018, I watched his crew assemble, deliver and bury a handful of bunkers in people’s backyards every month, writes Bradley Garrett, The bunkers are thick plate steel boxes welded together like a giant Lego set. Sales, he says, have risen by 1,000% since that time as anxieties around the pandemic, civil unrest, the climate crisis and war have driven more buyers to his company.

… or this: America is entering the great experiment of hybrid work

Businesspeople commuting to office in the morning carrying office bags and using mobile phones
‘Surveys show that people have liked working from home so much that many are willing to switch jobs to keep that option.’ Photograph: Jacob Lund/Alamy

It can be hard to remember what work at the office was like before the pandemic forced millions of Americans to start working from home, writes Lauren Aratani, That shift was monumental and seemingly implausible, until it happened. But people soon adapted to saying “sorry, you’re on mute” on Zoom calls and wearing sweatpants all day. This spring, workers are finally heading back to the office en masse and into another untested and ambitious experiment in work life: hybrid working.

Climate check: Three months after a wildfire swept through, displaced Colorado residents struggle to rebuild

The remains of a house in Superior three months after the Marshall fire.
The remains of a house in Superior three months after the Marshall fire. Photograph: The Guardian

Though it burned for just six hours, the Marshall prairie fire became the most destructive in Colorado history, destroying 6,000 acres and almost 1,100 houses and businesses across the towns of Louisville, Superior and unincorporated Boulder county. One person died and tens of thousands of people were displaced. Three months on and many are struggling to rebuild their lives amid delays and loopholes in insurance coverage and building regulations.

Last Thing: The row over the non-vanishing Irish lake

Tom Carney, on the makeshift road that maintains access to his home.  Gate, trees and his farm submerged for six years
Tom Carney on the makeshift road that maintains access to his home. Photograph: Lisa O’Carroll

It is the disappearing lake that has stopped disappearing. Lough Funshinagh in the west of Ireland used to drain through a “swallow hole”, as if someone had pulled the plug in a bath, but for an unknown reason nature’s plumbing has broken down, flooding an area thought to be twice the lake’s usual size and threatening homes and livelihoods. Now the lake is at the center of is a bitter environmental legal tussle.

Sign up

Sign up for the US morning briefing

First Thing is delivered to thousands of inboxes every weekday. If you’re not already signed up, subscribe now.

Get in touch

If you have any questions or comments about any of our newsletters please email newsletters@theguardian.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.