We’re covering the U.S. response to Russia’s security demands and the recapture of a Syrian prison from ISIS.
A delivery of defensive equipment provided by the U.S. arrived in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday.Credit…Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times
U.S. responds to Russia’s demands
The U.S. and NATO gave formal responses on Wednesday to Russia’s demands that NATO pull back forces from Eastern Europe and bar Ukraine from ever joining the alliance. The U.S. response “sets out a serious diplomatic path forward should Russia choose it,” the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said.
Russia has insisted for weeks that the U.S. provide written responses before it would decide on its next course of action, while asserting that it had no plans to invade Ukraine. Blinken said he expected to speak in the coming days with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, once Russian officials are “ready to discuss next steps.”
The document has not been released publicly, but Blinken said it proposed “reciprocal transparency measures regarding force posture in Ukraine, as well as measures to increase confidence regarding military exercises and maneuvers in Europe” and nuclear arms control in Europe.
Blinken added that the response “reiterates publicly what we’ve said for many weeks” and that the U.S. would not rule out Ukraine’s membership in NATO in the future.
Sanctions against Putin: President Biden said on Tuesday that economic sanctions against Russia could target President Vladimir Putin personally, drawing a dismissive response from the Kremlin. Although Putin is believed to have amassed a great deal of personal wealth, it’s highly unlikely that any of it is in the U.S. A travel ban, experts said, would also have limited impact.
Diplomacy: Envoys from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine met in Paris on Wednesday, but expectations of a breakthrough were low.
Kurdish militia retakes Syrian prison from ISIS
A Kurdish-led militia that had been fighting Islamic State members for control of a Syrian prison regained full control on Wednesday. The Kurdish-led group’s forces besieged the remaining ISIS militants into surrender, bringing to an end one of the most audacious attacks by Islamic State fighters in three years.
ISIS had attacked the prison, in the northeastern city of Hasaka, in a bid to free thousands of the group’s fighters taken captive as the caliphate fell apart, as well as about 700 boys whose families had joined the Islamic State. Officials deemed the boys dangerous, but human rights activists said their detention could violate international law and potentially radicalize them, creating a new generation of jihadists.
The prison siege highlighted a growing ISIS comeback.
After Omicron, another variant?
Global Covid surges caused by the Omicron variant appear to be cresting in some nations — particularly in Western Europe, the U.S. and South Africa — but new cases are still climbing in regions with low vaccination rates.
The vaccine gap could set the stage for another dangerous variant, according to the World Health Organization.
“The fact remains that more than three billion people haven’t received their first dose yet, so we have a long way to go,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the agency’s Covid-19 technical lead, said this week.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the W.H.O., said that the emergency phase of the pandemic was still very much here.
“It’s dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant or that we are in the endgame,” Tedros said at a W.H.O. executive board meeting on Monday. “On the contrary, globally, the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge.”
Data: New daily cases remain at record highs globally, averaging about 3.4 million — an increase of more than 30 percent over two weeks, according to a Times database.
The divide: In low-income countries, only 10 percent of the population has received at least one vaccine dose. In high- and upper-middle-income countries, 78 percent have.
Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.
In other developments:
Pfizer and BioNTech have begun a study of an Omicron-specific vaccine.
European nations are diverging in their Omicron approaches. Austria and England are throwing out many rules. Poland and Germany are tightening them.
South Korea is saving P.C.R. tests for high-risk groups.
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ARTS AND IDEAS
How do you say Kyiv?
It is perhaps not the most important question regarding the international maelstrom currently brewing in Ukraine — but it is a common one, with an unexpectedly political answer: How do you pronounce the capital’s name, Kyiv?
Many Russian speakers favor the two-syllable “key-EV.” But the preferred pronunciation among Ukrainians is less commonly heard among English speakers. Marta Jenkala, who teaches Ukrainian language at University College London, has a tip: “It helps if you smile a little bit to say it, especially on the first syllable,” she said.
In 2019, Yuri Shevchuk, a lecturer in Ukrainian at Columbia University, told The Times that native Ukrainians stress the first vowel, and pronounce it like the “i” in “kid” or “lid.” The second vowel, pronounced as a separate syllable, sounds like the “ee” sound in “keel.”Listen to a recording here.
Andrii Smytsniuk, a Ukrainian who teaches Ukrainian and Russian at the University of Cambridge, would argue that people should pronounce it in a Ukrainian way “that is as close to the original as possible.” A good analogue is people’s names, he said, adding, “I think it makes sense to pronounce someone’s name the way the person would pronounce it.”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Roasted mushrooms, sweet potatoes and poblano chiles become a comforting filling for this vegetarian burrito in just 30 minutes.
What to Watch
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Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Happy tail movements (four letters).
And here is today’s Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Melina
P.S. Mohammed Hadi, who has worked in Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore and New York, has been named as The Times’s new deputy business editor.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is about Covid and partisanship in the U.S.
Natasha Frost wrote the Arts and Ideas section. You can reach Melina and the team at email@example.com.