Your Wednesday Briefing: The West Sanctions Russia

We’re covering sanctions on Russia and a sweeping Covid testing effort in Hong Kong.

President Biden spoke on Tuesday about tensions between Russia and Ukraine.Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

West hits Russia with sanctions

President Biden announced harsh new sanctions on Tuesday aimed at punishing Russia for what he called “the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” joining European leaders in imposing severe economic consequences on Russia over the crisis. Here are the latest updates.

Biden condemned President Vladimir Putin of Russia, saying that the Russian action was “a flagrant violation of international law and demands a firm response from the international community.”

By blocking two Russian financial institutions and imposing sanctions on Russian debt, he said, “we’ve cut off Russia’s government from Western finance.” Russian elites and their families will also be punished. The U.S. Senate began working on a multipronged legislative response.

Biden’s announcement came less than a day after Putin issued a decree sending troops into two separatist-held regions in Ukraine. Russia’s Parliament authorized the use of military force abroad on Tuesday.

Allies: Germany will block the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, a major project in partnership with Russia. Britain said it would block all business with the separatist regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, in what Prime Minister Boris Johnson called a “first tranche” of actions. E.U. sanctions include asset freezes and travel bans.

On the ground: Two European officials said on Tuesday that Russia had sent troops into Ukraine, but Russia’s Foreign Ministry denied having done so. Our correspondent talked to Ukrainians who were boarding trains out of the separatist areas with weary resignation.

Kremlin messaging: Propaganda has been ramping up for days in Russia, putting in place the rationale for a possible invasion.

World economy: Oil prices jumped to nearly $100 a barrel yesterday, and big banks are bracing for impacts. Stocks fell.

Residents lined up to get tested in Hong Kong.Credit…Kin Cheung/Associated Press

A mass testing of Hong Kong residents

Hong Kong will require its more than seven million residents to undergo coronavirus testing in March, Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, said Tuesday, as the territory struggles to contain its worst outbreak.

Residents will have to take three tests over a short period, starting in March. And Hong Kong will expand its testing capacity to one million tests a day from about 200,000 a day by next month, Lam said.

Many students’ summer breaks will also start early to lessen crowding and so their schools can be used as testing, isolation and vaccination facilities.

It comes after pressure from Beijing to use stricter measures to stamp out the virus. The move is a challenge for Hong Kong, which lacks the staffing and movement-tracking apps Beijing uses to enforce its restrictions.

Details: Hong Kong has at least 37,000 active Covid cases, with a daily average far surpassing previous surges. Hospitals are overflowing and new isolation facilities are being built. The territory has recorded 145 deaths this year, compared with 213 in 2020 and 2021.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Queen Elizabeth canceled all virtual engagements as she recovers from Covid.

  • From Google to Meta to DoorDash, Big Tech is still betting on workers using offices.

Taliban fighters at the Torkham crossing as seen from the Pakistani side, last August.Credit…Danial Shah/Getty Images

Pakistan weighs relationship with Taliban

Amid a spike in terror attacks in recent months, Pakistan faces a tough decision: how much to help the new Taliban government in Afghanistan while contending with growing risks to its own citizens.

The group’s rule in Kabul has emboldened the Pakistani Taliban, which has extorted traders and senior government officials with threats, and killed scores of police officers. But Pakistani officials stress that a stable Afghanistan is essential for a stable Pakistan.

“Is there a chance that if the Taliban government is squeezed, there could be a change for the better? No.” Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan said in an interview this month.

Some analysts say such views are overly optimistic now that the U.S. is no longer a major counterterrorism partner there — and, reflecting the country’s dilemma, Pakistan has not diplomatically recognized the Afghan Taliban.

Rising attacks: Pakistan witnessed a 42 percent increase in terrorist attacks in 2021 compared with the previous year, according to the Pak Institute of Peace Studies, based in Islamabad, with a significant surge after Kabul fell. The report noted that the takeover had made it harder for Pakistan to stamp out militant activity at home.


Asia Pacific

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, left, and Anthony Albanese, the opposition leader, in Canberra, Australia. Credit…Lukas Coch/EPA, via Shutterstock
  • Accusations of shadowy Chinese financing, failures to report large donations and other dark-money issues are dominating Australia’s May election.

  • Tonga reconnected to the internet yesterday after a submarine cable was restored, a month after a volcanic eruption and tsunami cut it off from the world, Reuters reported.

  • The U.N.’s Myanmar expert said Russia and China were providing fighter jets to the junta, Reuters reported.

Around the World

The defendants, from left: William Bryan, Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael. Credit…Elijah Nouvelage/Associated Press, Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press, Octavio Jones/Getty Images,
  • Three men in the state of Georgia were convicted of hate crimes for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. They had already been convicted of murder and face life in prison.

  • The Israeli justice ministry said its investigation found no evidence that the police had bypassed judicial oversight to hack civilians’ phones.

  • Turkey is facing soaring electricity bills as it recovers from pandemic lockdowns.

  • Colombia decriminalized abortion in the wake of similar actions in Mexico and Argentina.

A Morning Read

In 1956, a woman carries cement at Le Corbusier’s Capitol Complex in Chandigarh, India. Credit…Ernst Scheidegger, via Museum of Modern Art, New York

“The Project of Independence: Architectures of Decolonization in South Asia, 1947-1985,” at the Museum of Modern Art, surveys Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh after the dissolution of the British Raj. “It’s a sweeping, occasionally heartbreaking exhibition full of big ideas and beautiful work, too much of it not widely known,” our architecture critic Michael Kimmelman writes.

The lives they lived: Paul Farmer, whose organization Partners in Health delivered high-quality health care to some of the world’s poorest people, died on Monday at 62.


New ways to bake

Baking is a science: Measure ingredients carefully, mix them together the right way and it should turn out as planned. As in all sciences, though, experimentation is key — sometimes doing things the wrong way can yield exciting results.

Credit…Ryan Liebe for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

A new feature from NYT Cooking presents 24 innovative baking recipes. Did you know that 7Up can replace baking soda and baking powder? Or that dunking a tray of freshly cooked brownies into an ice bath can make them rich and fudgy? Not all involve baking in the traditional sense: Several are prepared on a stovetop or in a food processor, or set in the refrigerator.

For more — including a mango pie, Earl Grey cookies and a single-bowl chocolate cake — open the collection of recipes.


What to Cook

Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Judy Kim.

Give leftover rice a new lease on life in this sheet-pan bibimbap.

What to Watch

“Downfall: The Case Against Boeing,” a documentary about the ill-fated 737 Max, is likely to leave viewers shaken.

What to Read

Three new books explore forms of repression by the Chinese government.

Now Time to Play

Here’s the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Company that became a verb in 2020 (four letters).

Try today’s Wordle. (If you’re worried about your stat streak, play in the browser you’ve been using.)

And here is the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

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

P.S. The Times won two George Polk Awards for investigations, one about the assassination of Haiti’s president and the other about U.S. airstrikes.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about what’s next for Ukraine and Russia.

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

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