News Headlines 3/16/22

RUSSIA INCREASES STRIKES ON KYIV; ZELENSKYY TO ADDRESS CONGRESS TODAY: Russia increased its bombardment of Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv on Tuesday (March 15th), with shelling getting closer to the city center. Kyiv’s mayor imposed a curfew through Thursday morning, as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said four multi-story buildings were hit, killing dozens of people. AP cited a senior U.S. defense official as saying Russian forces were using long-range fire to hit civilian targets in Kyiv with growing frequency, but that ground forces were making little to no progress around the country. Despite the danger, the leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia visited Kyiv and met with Zelenskyy in a show of support.

A senior aide to Zelenskyy said some 20,000 people were able to leave Mariupol yesterday via a humanitarian corridor, the largest evaucation yet from the besieged southern city where people are struggling to find food, water and medicine. However, Russian troops seized Mariupol’s largest hospital, with a regional leader saying they forced some 400 people from nearby homes into the hospital and weren’t allowing them to leave, holding them there along with some 100 patients and staff as human shields. The number of refugees fleeing Ukraine passed three million yesterday. 

Zelenskyy readied to give a virtual speech before the U.S. Congress today. Previewing his speech, he gave thanks for the support that Ukraine has received, but appealed for more weapons and more sanctions against Russia, and repeated his call to, quote, “close the skies,” meaning instituting a no-fly zone. Meanwhile, after another round of talks was held with Russia, Zelenskyy said that Moscow’s demands were becoming, quote, “more realistic.” In what AP said seemed to signal potential grounds for agreement, Zelenskyy told European leaders gathered in London that he realizes NATO doesn’t intend to accept Ukraine, stating, “We have heard for many years about the open doors, but we also heard that we can’t enter those doors. This is the truth, and we have simply to accept it as it is.” Zelenskyy has repeatedly said he realizes NATO isn’t going to offer membership to Ukraine. More talks about expected today.

In other developments: 

Biden Going to Europe to Meet with Leaders: President Biden will be going to Europe next week for face-to-face meetings with European leaders about the invasion, the White House said yesterday. The leaders will meet at a NATO summit in Brussels on March 24th, and Biden will also attend a scheduled European Council summit. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “While he’s there, his goal is to meet in person face-to-face with his European counterparts and talk about, assess where we are at this point in the conflict[.]”

Fox News Says Two Journalists Killed: Two journalists working for Fox News were killed in Ukraine when the vehicle they were traveling in was hit by fire Monday on the outskirts of Kyiv, the network said yesterday. The two were veteran videographer Pierre Zakrzewski, and Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynova, who was assisting the Fox News crew. Fox reporter Benjamin Hall was injured in the same attack and remains hospitalized. News of his injury was revealed a day earlier.

NORTH KOREA REPORTEDLY HAD FAILED MISSILE TEST LAUNCH: South Korea’s military says that North Korea had a failed missile test launch this morning (March 16th), with the missile exploding soon after liftoff. The reported launch is the 10th of its kind this year by the North, and comes amid speculation that it’s been readying launch its longest-range missile. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said North Korea fired a ballistic missile, but didn’t say whether it failed, while Japan said a ballistic missile test flight hadn’t been confirmed, and it was working with the U.S. and South Korea to further analyze what happened. The U.S. has urged the North to return to nuclear talks, but it has refused, insisting the U.S. must withdraw what it considers hostile policies first. 

PFIZER ASKS FDA, CDC TO APPROVE FOURTH COVID-19 VACCINE SHOT FOR SENIORS: Pfizer on Tuesday (March 15th) asked the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to authorize a fourth dose of its Covid-19 vaccine — a second booster — for seniors over age 65. Pfizer said data from Israel, where seniors were give a fourth shot, showed infections were two times lower and rates of severe illness were four times lower than for those who just got one booster. Currently, a fourth dose in the U.S. is only recommended for immunocompromised people. Authorities say current Covid vaccination continue to offer strong protection against severe illness, but haven’t done as well as preventing milder infections, particularly those from the omicron variant.

SUSPECT CAUGHT IN SHOOTING OF HOMELESS IN NYC, D.C.: The suspect in the recent shooting of five homeless people in New York City and Washington, D.C., was arrested Tuesday (March 15th) in Washington on charges including murder and assault. Two of the homeless people that were shot died. The 30-year-old suspect, Gerald Brevard, lives in the Washington area, and has a criminal history that includes assaulting a police officer and assault with a deadly weapon. Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said that Brevard so far hasn’t given any indication of a motive, but his family said he has a history of mental illness.

PROUD BOYS LEADER ORDERED JAILED UNTIL TRIAL: Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group, was ordered yesterday (March 15th) to remain jailed until his trial on charges that he led a plot to stop Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential victory on January 6th, 2021. In making the ruling, the judge cited the danger that prosecutors say Tarrio poss to the community. Tarrio wasn’t at the Capitol on January 6th during the attack, but prosecutors say he created the leadership structure, organized the group of men and directed them to the Capitol. Tarrio’s attorney, Nayib Hassan, said other defendants charged in the same alleged conspiracy and who were present at the Capitol during the attack have been allowed pretrial release.