Day 441: "The height of hypocrisy."
1/ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of committing a broad range of “the most terrible war crimes” since World War II. During a meeting of the U.N. Security Council, Zelenskyy urged members to do more to stop Moscow’s atrocities, saying Russia was abusing its veto powers at the Security Council to block peace efforts and that Russian leaders and soldiers should face a special tribunal like the one established at Nuremberg after World War II. Zelenskyy, appearing via video from Ukraine, said Russian forces killed unarmed civilians and children. “They cut off limbs, cut their throats. Women were raped and killed in front of their children. Their tongues were pulled out only because their aggressor did not hear what they wanted to hear from them.” Zelenskyy added that Russia should be removed from the U.N. Security Council or it should otherwise be dissolved. The Security Council hasn’t taken action against Russia because Moscow and its ally China are permanent members of the council and hold veto power over any measures it might take. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, meanwhile, said she will seek to remove Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council. “Russia should not have a position of authority in a body whose purpose is to promote respect for human rights,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “Not only is it the height of hypocrisy, it is dangerous. Russia is using its membership on the Human Rights Council as a platform for propaganda to suggest Russia has a legitimate concern for human rights.” A suspension would require a two-thirds vote by the 193-member General Assembly. Separately, the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court at the Hague opened an investigation a month ago into possible war crimes in Ukraine. (NBC News / NPR / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg)
2/ The U.S., European Union, and G7 are coordinating on a new round of sanctions on Russia following allegations of potential war crimes in Ukraine against civilians by Russian forces. The new sanctions package will ban all new U.S. investment in Russia, increased sanctions on financial institutions and state-owned enterprises in Russia, and sanction Russian government officials and their family members. “It’s a part of the continuation of our efforts to put consequences in place, hold Russian officials accountable,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, adding that an announcement would come Wednesday. The European Commission, meanwhile, proposed a ban on imports of Russian coal, a ban Russian vessels from E.U. ports, as well as blocking the access of Russian road and shipping goods carriers into the E.U. The E.U. sanctions will also target two of Putin’s daughters. (Bloomberg / CNN / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)
3/ The Treasury Department blocked Russia from withdrawing funds held in American banks to pay its debt obligations. The move is designed to force Russia into either depleting its international currency reserves or spending new revenue to make bond payments to avoid its first foreign currency debt default in a century. The Treasury Department said the action was taken on Monday, when more than half a billion dollars in Russian sovereign debt payments came due. Before it invaded Ukraine, Russia had more than $630 billion in foreign currency reserves, and continues to receive billions of dollars a week in payments under oil and gas contracts with customers in Europe. (New York Times / Bloomberg / Washington Post / Politico / Wall Street Journal)
4/ Senate negotiators announced a deal on a $10 billion coronavirus aid package, which would largely repurpose unused money from earlier bills passed by Congress. The package falls short of the initial $22.5 billion requested by the White House. Lawmakers are pushing to pass the aid package before the end of the week, when both chambers are scheduled to leave for a two-week recess. However, Mitt Romney, one of the key negotiators of the deal, is also still working to get 10 Republican senators to join with all 50 Democrats to clear the Senate’s 60 vote threshold. (ABC News / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / NPR / Politico)
5/ The Biden administration will extend the moratorium on federal student loan payments through the end of August. The move applies to more than 43 million Americans who owe a combined $1.6 trillion in student debt held by the federal government. The announcement is due Wednesday, marking the sixth extension since the coronavirus pandemic-era relief policy took effect in March 2020. (Politico / Associated Press / Bloomberg / USA Today)
6/ Ivanka Trump testified before the House Jan. 6 committee. “She’s answering questions,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, who chairs the committee, said. “I mean, you know, not in a broad, chatty term, but she’s answering questions.” Ivanka was with Trump for most of Jan. 6, including key Oval Office meetings, and was one of several aides who tried to persuade him to call off the violence that injured more than 150 police officers, and sent lawmakers and Pence fleeing for safety. Jared Kushner answered the committee’s questions for more than six hours last week, providing what one member of the panel described as “valuable” and “helpful” information. “There were some things revealed, but we’ll just share that a little later,” Thompson said of Kushner’s testimony. (NBC News / CNN / New York Times / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal)
7/ Oklahoma lawmakers approved a near-total ban on abortion. The measure would make performing an abortion “except to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency” a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. With little discussion and no debate, the Republican-controlled House voted 70-14 to send the bill to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who previously promised to sign “every piece of pro-life legislation” that came to his desk. (Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg)
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