Biden is ‘convinced’ Putin has decided to invade Ukraine
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — U.S. President Joe Biden said Friday that he is “convinced” Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine, including an assault on the capital, as tensions spiked along the militarized border with attacks that the West called “false-flag” operations meant to establish a pretext for invasion.
A humanitarian convoy was hit by shelling, and pro-Russian rebels evacuated civilians from the conflict zone. A car bombing hit the eastern city of Donetsk, but no casualties were reported.
After weeks of saying the U.S. wasn’t sure if Putin had made the final decision to invade, Biden said that assessment had changed, citing American intelligence.
“As of this moment I’m convinced he’s made the decision,” Biden said. “We have reason to believe that.” He reiterated that the assault could occur in the “coming days.”
Meanwhile, the Kremlin announced massive nuclear drills to flex its military muscle, and Putin pledged to protect Russia’s national interests against what it sees as encroaching Western threats.
Ottawa crackdown: police arrest 100 after 3-week protest
OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — Police arrested scores of demonstrators and towed away vehicles Friday in Canada’s besieged capital, and a stream of trucks started leaving under the pressure, raising authorities’ hopes for an end to the three-week protest against the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.
By evening, at least 100 people had been arrested, mostly on mischief charges, and nearly two dozen vehicles had been towed, including all of those blocking one of the city’s major streets, authorities said. One officer had a minor injury, but no protesters were hurt, interim Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell said.
Police “continue to push forward to take control of our streets,” he said, adding: “We will work day and night until this is completed.”
Those arrested included four protest leaders. One received bail while the others remained jailed.
The crackdown on the self-styled Freedom Convoy began in the morning, when hundreds of police, some in riot gear and some carrying automatic weapons, descended into the protest zone and began leading demonstrators away in handcuffs through the snowy streets as holdout truckers blared their horns.
Kim Potter sentenced to 2 years in Daunte Wright’s death
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kim Potter, the former suburban Minneapolis police officer who said she confused her handgun for her Taser when she fatally shot Daunte Wright, was sentenced Friday to two years in prison. Wright’s family denounced the sentence as too lenient and accused the judge of giving more consideration to the white officer than the Black victim.
Potter was convicted in December of first- and second-degree manslaughter in the April 11 killing of Wright, a 20-year-old Black motorist. She was sentenced only on the more serious charge in accordance with state law.
Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, said after the sentencing that Potter “murdered my son,” adding: “Today the justice system murdered him all over again.” She also accused the judge of being taken in by “white woman tears” after Potter cried during her pre-sentencing statement.
Speaking before the sentence was imposed, a tearful Wright said she could never forgive Potter and that she would refer to her only as “the defendant” because Potter only referred to her son as “the driver” at trial.
“She never once said his name. And for that I’ll never be able to forgive you. And I’ll never be able to forgive you for what you’ve stolen from us,” said Wright, who also sometimes uses the last name Bryant.
National Archives: Trump took classified items to Mar-a-Lago
WASHINGTON (AP) — Classified information was found in the 15 boxes of White House records that were stored at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, the National Archives and Records Administration said Friday in a letter that confirmed the matter has been sent to the Justice Department.
The letter from the agency follows numerous reports around Trump’s handling of sensitive and even classified information during his time as president and after he left the White House. The revelation could also interest federal investigators responsible for policing the handling of government secrets, though the Justice Department and FBI have not indicated they will pursue.
Federal law bars the removal of classified documents to unauthorized locations, though it is possible that Trump could try to argue that, as president, he was the ultimate declassification authority.
No matter the legal risk, it exposes him to charges of hypocrisy given his relentless attacks during the 2016 presidential campaign on Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server as secretary of state. The FBI investigated but ultimately did not recommend charges.
Trump recently denied reports about his administration’s tenuous relationship with the National Archives and his lawyers said that “they are continuing to search for additional presidential records that belong to the National Archives.”
Judge rejects effort by Trump to toss Jan. 6 lawsuits
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge on Friday rejected efforts by former President Donald Trump to toss out conspiracy lawsuits filed by lawmakers and two Capitol police officers, saying in his ruling that the former president’s words “plausibly” led to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta said in his ruling that Trump’s words during a rally before the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol were likely “words of incitement not protected by the First Amendment.”
“Only in the most extraordinary circumstances could a court not recognize that the First Amendment protects a President’s speech,” Mehta wrote. “But the court believes this is that case.”
The order is the latest example of growing legal peril for the former president. Just hours earlier, the National Archives said records found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort contained classified information and that it had notified the Justice Department.
On Thursday, a judge in New York ruled that Trump and two of his children must answer questions under oath in New York state’s civil investigation into his business practices. Another judge ordered that his company’s financial chief be subjected to questioning in another probe by the District of Columbia attorney general’s office. And earlier this week, the firm that prepared Trump’s annual financial statements said the documents, used to secure lucrative loans and burnish Trump’s image as a wealthy businessman, “should no longer be relied upon.”
Gu’s global coming-out party ends with 3rd Olympic medal
BEIJING (AP) — Eileen Gu turned the Beijing Olympics into her own personal playground.
In the city. In the mountains. Spinning, flipping and flying above three different venues.
The American-born Gu came into the Games hoping to win three gold medals in freestyle skiing while representing China, where her mother was born. She didn’t, but she did come away with two golds and one silver, making her the first action-sports athlete to win three medals at the same Olympics.
The 18-year-old Gu capped her global coming-out party Friday by winning the gold medal in women’s halfpipe. She had such a big lead after two runs that she was able to take a carefree final run down the halfpipe.
“I was very emotional at the top and I chose to do a victory lap,” Gu said. “Because I felt like, for the first time, I like really deserved it and I really earned it.”
Ukraine-Russia crisis: What to know as the tension grinds on
Spiking tensions in eastern Ukraine are heightening Western fears of a Russian invasion and a new war in Europe, with U.S. President Joe Biden saying he’s “convinced” that Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the decision to invade.
NATO countries fear that the volatile east, which has seen intense shelling in recent days and orders for civilians to evacuate, could be a flashpoint in their tensest standoff with Russia since the Cold War, providing the Kremlin with a pretext to invade Ukraine.
The United States upped its estimate of Russian troops for a possible invasion to as many as 190,000. Russia also plans to hold military exercises on Saturday, including multiple practice launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles and cruise missiles in a display of military might.
The United States and its European partners are keeping on with their strategy of diplomacy and deterrence, offering to keep talking with the Kremlin while threatening heavy sanctions if an invasion happens.
Here’s a look at what is happening where and why:
Afghanistan’s Taliban detain Brits, American; reason unclear
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have detained several British citizens and an American, including a former freelance television journalist who has been coming to Afghanistan for more than 40 years, both governments and a family member say.
A statement from the British government this week said there are a number of British nationals currently in Taliban custody. While the government refused to release their identities, Hassina Syed, the wife of Peter Jouvenal, a former freelance cameraman turned businessman, told The Associated Press, her husband was taken on Dec. 13.
And U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that Washington was “actively working” to get the American released from Taliban custody. He refused to say more, citing the “sensitivity of it.”
The American detainee and at least four other British nationals in custody remain publicly unidentified. It was not clear how many were detained together.
Speaking to The AP by phone from her home in London, Syed, an Afghan, said her husband was in Afghanistan investigating business opportunities, including investment in lithium mining. Afghanistan is rich in lithium, a key component of energy-storage batteries. He was traveling alone and not associated with the other detainees, she said.
At least 9 more deaths as 2nd major storm hits north Europe
LONDON (AP) — The second major storm in three days smashed through northern Europe on Friday, killing at least nine people as high winds felled trees, cancelled train services and ripped sections off the roof of London’s O2 Arena.
The U.K. weather service said a gust provisionally measured at 122 mph (196 kph), thought to be the strongest ever in England was recorded on the Isle of Wight as Storm Eunice swept across the country’s south. The weather system, known as Storm Zeynep in Germany, is now pushing into the European mainland, prompting high wind warnings in Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany.
The storm caused mayhem with travel in Britain, shutting the English Channel port of Dover, closing bridges linking England and Wales and halting most trains in and out of London.
At least three people died in Britain, including a man in southern England killed when a car hit a tree, another man whose windshield was struck by debris in northwest England and a woman in her 30s who died in London when a tree fell on a car, police said,
In the Netherlands, firefighters said three people were killed by falling trees in and around Amsterdam, and a fourth died in the northern province of Groningen after driving his car into a fallen tree.
Locals fret as Colombia to declare hippos invasive species
PUERTO TRIUNFO, Colombia (AP) — Álvaro Molina has had his run-ins with the burly bunch of neighbors with disreputable contacts who showed up about a decade ago along the river in front of his house in Colombia’s Antioquia province. But he’s learned to live with them and says he is worried about a government plan he fears could harm them.
People around Puerto Triunfo have grown accustomed to the herd of hippopotamuses descended from a few that were imported illegally from Africa in the 1980s by flamboyant drug lord Pablo Escobar, whose former ranch is nearby.
Molina, 57, says he supports the hippos even though he is one of the few Colombians to have been attacked by one. He was out fishing one day when he felt a movement beneath his canoe that spilled him into the water.
“The female attacked me once — the first pair that arrived — because she had recently given birth,” he said.
Within weeks, Colombia’s government plans to sign a document declaring the hippos an exotic invasive species, according to Environment Minister Carlos Eduardo Correa. This means coming up with a plan for how to control their population, which has reached 130 and is projected hit 400 in eight years if nothing is done as they flourish in Colombia’s rivers.