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Your Wednesday Briefing: Putin’s defiance

todayApril 12, 2022 1

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Good morning. We’re covering Vladimir Putin’s defiant remarks, Sri Lanka’s default and China’s economic pivot.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia said that peace talks with Ukraine had reached a “dead end.” He also said there was “no doubt” that Russia would achieve its goals in a campaign that has left cities in ruins, forced millions to flee their homes and raised disturbing accounts of atrocities committed by Russian soldiers.

Here are the latest updates.

“What we are doing is helping people and saving people, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, we are simply taking measures to ensure the security of Russia itself,” Putin said on Tuesday. “It is obvious that we had no other choice.”

The remarks appeared calculated to show Russians that their country would still be capable of innovating despite Western sanctions.

“We are not going to isolate ourselves, and it is generally impossible to isolate anyone in the modern world, and most certainly not as huge a country as Russia,” he added, speaking alongside his ally, President Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus.

Russia is now pouring troops and equipment into the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. “I said it from the very beginning,” Putin said. “The main goal is to help people in the Donbas.”

Other Ukraine news: New Zealand will send more than 50 soldiers to Europe to help distribute aid, a rare move by the country’s government. And Chinese state media is increasingly parroting Russian propaganda.


As an economic crisis deepened and frustrated citizens protested in the streets, Sri Lanka’s government suspended payments on its international debt Tuesday. The move — an effort to preserve its shrinking dollar stockpiles to pay for imported food, medicine and fertilizer — effectively put the small island nation in default on $50 billion in debt.

Sri Lanka closed its borders to tourists for nearly a year and a half during the coronavirus pandemic, depriving the nation of much-needed tourism revenue. Its currency has also cratered, a plunge that was exacerbated by government missteps.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of protesters swarmed the streets of the capital, Colombo, clashing with security forces outside the ruling family’s official residences. They are demanding that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa step down.

Analysis: Sri Lanka once appeared to be a fast-developing economy committed to healing after decades of sectarian conflict. Instead, it backslid into authoritarianism. Rajapaksa has jailed dissenters and quashed the opposition, while filling the government with his relatives, fellow military men and right-wing monks aligned with his law-and-order mind-set.

What’s next: The government is in talks with creditors and the IMF to restructure its debt and is seeking aid from India and China, Bloomberg reports.

Xi Jinping, China’s leader, has sought to portray China as more prosperous, powerful and stable under his rule, especially as he prepares to claim a third five-year term. Officials are now scrambling to reverse a slowdown in growth, made worse by surging global oil prices, the war in Ukraine and Covid lockdowns.

Analysis: The party’s overriding priority of delivering growth makes it difficult to enact changes that could address deep-rooted problems with its economic model. Borrowing for infrastructure projects loaded the country with trillions of dollars in debt, and efforts to rein in real-estate speculation have led to debt defaults by huge developers like Evergrande.

Quotable: “Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government system runs like a sports car — the gas pedal and the brake pedal act extra fast,” a top analyst said. “When he wants to implement a policy, even a long-term policy, the car instantly accelerates, and that might not be what is intended.”

Covid in China:

The town of Zipolite — and its nude beach — have long been an oasis for Mexico’s queer community. But the area’s surging popularity and growing party culture may threaten its laid-back, counterculture vibe.

Every day, thousands of people jog for a few miles in New York City’s Central Park. But last week, one man took it to the extreme.

Oz Pearlman, who has a day job performing feats of mental magic, ran a record-setting 19 loops around Central Park, totaling 116 miles, in a single day.

To train, Pearlman completed several runs over 20 miles, usually on the road before or between shows. He literally runs his errands and has won seven marathons, with personal best times that place him just outside the range of men invited to the Olympic trials.

His mentalist feats — like guessing the name of our reporter’s childhood crush while running his 80th mile — help him physically, too: “If I can get inside your brain, I can get inside my own brain when I’m suffering, dig deep and keep running.”

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