On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: Russia presses Ukraine invasion to outskirts of capital
Ukrainians are fleeing the country, as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urges calm. Plus, breaking news reporter Gabriela Miranda explains Russia’s rationale for invading, reporter Claire Thornton talks about the Texas governor’s comments on gender-affirming care for transgender youth, President Joe Biden may reveal his Supreme Court nominee today and the CDC is set to announce its latest COVID-19 guidelines.
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Buenos dias. I’m Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Friday, the 25th of February 2022. Today, Russian invasion nears the Ukrainian capital, plus Biden’s Supreme Court nominee could be on the way and more.
Here are some of the top headlines:
- Three former Minneapolis police officers were found guilty on all counts yesterday of violating the civil rights of George Floyd. They were convicted of depriving Floyd of medical care as he was pinned to the ground. And two of them were convicted of willfully failing to intervene.
- A judge has ordered a Michigan couple to stand trial after their son killed four in a high school shooting last year. They’re accused of not doing enough to help prevent the tragedy.
- And Sally Kellerman has died. The actress was 84.
Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine continued yesterday as the country unleashed airstrikes on cities and military bases nationwide.
[Sounds of explosions]
Several explosions have even been heard in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv over the past day, and there are reports that Russian forces have now moved to the outskirts of the capital. Karina Zaiets, from the USA TODAY graphics team told us about her past day there trying to get out.
I woke up in my hotel at 7:50 from the sound of air sirens and I went downstairs and asked hotel staff, but I was told that it’s probably training because nobody said anything. I went outside and there was a message translating throughout the city that you need to seek shelter, help the elderly and stock on food and water, but also stay calm. But a lot of people were walking on the streets and they seemed calm. Some of them had backpacks with them. There were also huge lines near ATMs, people waiting to withdraw cash, and big lines near pharmacies as well. A lot of people in COVID-19 centers, I guess one of the reason maybe because Poland and other neighboring countries require a COVID-19 test to enter. And I saw a lot of cars standing in line waiting to get fuel at gas stations as well. People in Western Ukraine didn’t believe that Russian military would get there and the people that I talked to, they weren’t really calm. But also, when I went online trying to buy tickets for the train and one moment there were available tickets and the next moment there were no ticket at all. And the same was with buses. There were no tickets available for buses departing in the next few hours. On the Polish border, they let us in without checking even vaccines or tests, but with thoroughly searching our car. And I saw military people stationed at the posting.
Ukrainian civilians and service members have already been killed. Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said that 137 people were killed and more than 300 wounded. The dead include all border guards on the Zmiinyi Island, which was taken over by Russian forces, and Ukraine officials say they’ve lost control of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant. President Zelenskyy declared Martial law nationwide and has officially cut diplomatic ties with Moscow, but he yesterday urged his citizens to remain calm.
Taylor Wilson translating for Volodymyr Zelenskyy:
“Today. We need you, each of you to be calm. If possible, stay at home, please. We are working. The army is working. The entire security and defense sector of Ukraine is working. I, the national security and defense council, the government will be in touch. Soon, I will be in touch again. Don’t panic. We are strong. We are ready for everything. And we will defeat everyone because we are Ukraine. Glory to Ukraine.”
Still many like Karina, who you heard from earlier, have fled the country over the past 24 hours. Alexander made it to Poland from Kyiv.
I was getting a feeling that something’s going to happen, and I was lucky enough to get the last tickets. And that was a couple of hours before the bombing started. It was a crazy night.
Meanwhile, anti-war protests are popping up around the world, including in Russia, like these scenes last night in Moscow.
[Sounds of protests in Moscow]
And these in New York.
[Sounds of protests in New York]
Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has promised major consequences for anyone who stands in Russia’s way. He’s even turned to nuclear rhetoric, saying yesterday, “Even after the dissolution of the USSR and losing a considerable part of its capabilities, today’s Russia remains one of the most powerful nuclear states.”
World leaders are rolling out new sanctions against Russia. President Joe Biden’s latest sanctions target Russian banks, oligarchs and state controlled companies. And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he aimed to cut off Russia from the UK’s financial markets.
If you’re still not clear on why Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine, producer PJ Elliot sat down with breaking news reporter Gabriela Miranda for some context.
Russia’s invading Ukraine because their President Putin said that Ukraine’s interest in NATO, which is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and as a military alliance, says that Ukraine’s interest in that organization is a direct threat to Russia. And Putin has also added that Ukraine’s past alliance and involvement in the Soviet Union and similar cultural background with Russia, Putin says that Ukraine should be a part of Russia and should not exist without Russia. So basically he’s saying that property should be apart of Russia.
Putin has said that at the end of the day, Russia and Ukraine are inseparable. They’re one people in a single hole is what he has said. And he’s also added that because Ukraine is pro-democracy and has had a lot of activists and civil servants in the past, and Putin has directly tried to push back on those revolutions in Ukraine, he said that they were once part of the Soviet Union before the collapse and in the cold war, and he wants them to be back with Russia.
So what impact is this going to have on the United States and for the rest of the world?
The biggest effect so far is economically. And so Russia’s a major producer of oil and natural gases, and they produce 10 million barrels of oil a day, and that’s really affecting Europe. Not so much the US because we are not super dependent on imports for Russia, but it does affect prices. So if oil changes, oil prices change in Europe or other parts of the country, it will change in the US. So that’s the biggest thing right now. And then for Europe, it’s a big issue because Russia is the world’s largest wheat exporter and a huge supplier to Europe. So as we see, sanctions come into place and this unrest within Russia. And Ukraine, that’s definitely going to affect Europe and prices. The stock market margin has dropped and other things have dropped so far. So that’s the biggest effect it’s going to have so far.
Bills banning gender affirming care for transgender youth have failed to become law in the Texas legislature, but the state’s governor set off a national firestorm declaring that the medical procedures should be investigated as child abuse. Breaking news reporter Claire Thornton has more.
On Tuesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he’s ordering the state’s department of family and protective services to investigate instances of gender affirming procedures as child abuse. People are now asking, “Will parents of trans kids in Texas be investigated? What are the implications of Abbot’s order?” As I reported this story yesterday, I learned that there are a lot of different pieces to this because a lot of different parts of the Texas government would have to be involved. To start, Abbot’s mandate is based on a legal opinion that Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, wrote on Monday saying, “Gender affirming procedures should be considered child abuse.” It’s very important to note that Paxton’s opinion is pretty much just that, it’s his stance from him and actually does not carry the weight of law.
The Texas legislature did try, and they failed, to pass a law that would’ve banned gender affirming care in the state last year. They didn’t pass that law, so gender affirming care is still legal in Texas. It’s not illegal. But now because of Abbot’s order, a lot of people are super worried about the potential that child protective services could start investigating instances of gender affirming procedures among kids.
I spoke with an ACLU lawyer who really helped clarify what would actually have to happen for there to be legal consequences for families of trans kids, legal consequences. So Chase Strangio, a lawyer from the ACLU, told me that because the order does not carry the weight of law, it means that in the immediate legal sense nothing has changed. There are laws in place, separate laws in place, that separately protect a family’s right to due process, privacy and first amendment rights, and laws that protect a doctor’s first amendment rights, doctors who refer for gender affirming care. While the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services could potentially start investigations based on Abbot’s directions, those investigations would have no legal consequences without the sign-off of a judge. And a judge who hears a case on this, they’re not bound by Abbot’s order.
You can read Claire’s full story and more coverage in today’s episode description.
President Joe Biden has made a decision on his first nomination to the Supreme Court. Two sources told USA TODAY last night that Biden knows who he will choose to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer. His search for him, so far, has centered on US Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger and US District Judge J. Michelle Childs. The decision could be revealed as soon as today. As a presidential candidate, Biden pledged to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court for the first time in history.
The CDC will announce new guidelines today for COVID 19, among them a major shift away from looking at case counts to determine guidance to a more holistic view of coronavirus risk to the community. Under new recommendations, most Americans will not be located in areas where masking is encouraged. Masking had been recommended for people and communities with substantial or high transmission. That’s about 95% of US counties. But with the omicron variant wave in the rear view mirror, nearly all states that had mask mandates have already dropped them or announced that they will, that’s except for settings like schools, public transit and medical facilities.
Thanks for listening to 5 Things. You can find us right here, wherever you’re listening, right now, seven mornings a week. Thanks to PJ Elliott for his great work on the show, and I’m back tomorrow with more than 5 Things from USA TODAY.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism