Your Monday Briefing: U.S. Floats Russian Sanctions

Hello. We cover the potential fallout from US sanctions on Russia, the defeat of Islamic State fighters in Syria and China’s pandemic surveillance state.

The most punitive sanctions that President Biden has threatened in an effort to deter an invasion of Ukraine could devastate the Russian economy. Analysts predict a stock market crash and other forms of financial panic that would inflict suffering on the Russian people.

The “swift and severe” response promised by the United States could also upset other major economies, and even threaten the global financial system. UK lawmakers will also consider expanding the range of penalties available.

Sanctions could stoke anger against President Vladimir Putin. But resilience is part of Russia’s national identity, and three reactionary security officials dedicated to restoring former Soviet glory have Putin’s ear. On Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the country had sent an “urgent request” to NATO to clarify its position, a sign of hope for continued diplomacy.

To analyse: Some analysts warn that Russia could retaliate by cutting off natural gas shipments to Europe or with cyberattacks on US and European infrastructure. Ukrainian officials have slammed the Biden administration for its warnings of an impending Russian attack, saying they raised alarm bells unnecessarily.

Kurdish-led forces regained full control of a prison in northeastern Syria on Sunday after an uphill battle to subdue the last Islamic State gunmen barricaded in a prison during a siege of ‘one week.

The fighting was the heaviest urban fighting involving US soldiers in Iraq or Syria since the fall of the self-proclaimed Islamic State caliphate in 2019. Times reporters saw at least 80 bodies in the town of Hasaka, some dressed in orange prison jumpsuits, transported in a small prison management truck.

Fund: The fighting began eight days ago after an Islamic State attack on the prison, which housed more than 3,000 men accused of fighting for the militant group and nearly 700 detained minors.

Region: The United States maintains about 700 troops in the Kurdish-ruled region of Rojava, which has become a haven for remnants of the self-proclaimed caliphate. Experts say the Islamic State may be biding its time until conditions in the unstable countries where it thrives allow it to grow.


The coronavirus pandemic has given Chinese leader Xi Jinping a powerful argument to deepen the reach of the Communist Party in the lives of the country’s 1.4 billion citizens.

In the two years since the Wuhan lockdown, the Chinese government has honed its already extensive powers to track and encircle its people in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.

Now authorities are turning their heightened surveillance to other risks, including crime, pollution and “hostile” political forces. Broad public support reinforces Xi’s vision of order in contrast to what he calls “the chaos of the West”.

Details: Individuals are assigned a health code – green, yellow or red – determined by location, travel history, test results and other health data. The code can be used to restrict travel, and it has been key to China’s zero Covid goal. It is also the basis for increased monitoring.

Results: A human rights lawyer said authorities changed his health code to ban him from travelling. Authorities have also used pandemic health surveillance systems to flush out fugitives.

Here are the latest pandemic updates and maps.

In other developments:

  • A South Korean naval unit is quarantined in Oman after an outbreak on its ship.

  • The world has administered 10 billion doses of vaccines, more than the world’s population, but gaps persist between countries.

  • A mutated version of the Omicron variant could slow the steep decline in cases, but is unlikely to change the course of the pandemic, the scientists said.

  • England will extend coronavirus vaccines to at-risk children aged 5 to 11 on Monday.

Asia

Pegasus, the most powerful spyware in the world, is able to decipher encrypted communications from smartphones. A Times investigation found that Israel, which controls its exports, has made software a key part of its national security strategy. (Here are the highlights.)

Saturday profile: After 600 years, Cassandre Berdoz is the first woman to provide night watch above the cathedral in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Last summer, a condo meltdown in Surfside, Florida, killed 98 people. It also revealed a startling truth: Thousands of aging condo buildings could be next.

Florida has approximately 1.5 million residential condominium units, many of which are just yards from shore. According to a recent study, 918,000 of these dwellings are over 30 years old, like those in the Tours Champlain Sud.

But a powerful and lucrative condo and co-op industry has long pushed back on any policy it sees as burdensome or unduly costly. That means less regulation, less safety analysis, and more residents wary of buildings assembled during the boom years.

“It’s a ticking scenario,” a veteran condominium lawyer told The Times. “A bomb went off, back then, and it’s about to go off.”

What to cook

These palak ki tikki, or spinach and potato pancakes, are incredibly easy to make.

What to listen to

In this week’s playlist, our pop critics recommend new tracks from Raveena, The Weather Station, Immanuel Wilkins and more.

What to read

Our editors recommend these 12 new books, which include a therapist’s look at Zen Buddhism and a frolic on a Greek island.