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General view of Severodonetsk from the last floor of a damaged building in the outskirts of the city.

Rick Mave / SOPA Images/Sipa USA via Reuters Connect

What We’re Watching: Russian progress in Ukraine, gun ban plans in Canada, DRC-Rwanda tensions

Ukraine update: Is the war really shifting?

In recent days, Russian forces have made incremental gains in the Donbas. Vladimir Putin’s military now controls most of Luhansk province, and they are close to taking the strategic city of Severodonetsk, which would open the way to a wider Russian occupation of Donetsk province. Russia has shifted strategy in recent weeks, withdrawing from areas it couldn’t hold around Kyiv and Kharkiv to focus on more limited objectives in the East and South. Some military analysts warn that Russia’s recent gains are still coming at a very high cost in terms of human losses and morale. But even these slight shifts in the winds of war have raised fresh questions in the EU and US about what comes next. Driving Russia out of the east and south does not seem immediately possible. And although Washington continues to send Ukraine advanced weapons, US President Joe Biden on Monday said he would exclude rockets that could strike into Russian territory. After more than three months of war, the Ukrainians are still fighting like hell to defend their country and their democracy, but it’s no clearer yet what a reasonably achievable endgame looks like for Ukraine, for its Western backers, or for Moscow.

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A truck is towed from in front of Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

REUTERS/Patrick Doyle

What We’re Watching: Canada freezes protesters’ assets, Spanish right in turmoil

Canadian protesters see accounts frozen. Authorities have started blocking accounts of people linked to Canada’s trucker convoy and protests in accordance with the Emergencies Act invoked last week by PM Justin Trudeau. Royal Canadian Mounted Police froze more than 200 financial products, including bank and corporate accounts, linked to vaccine mandate protesters who have brought chaos to Ottawa and US border crossings in recent weeks. Opposition leaders and a Canadian civil rights group question the legality of the move, which Trudeau says is necessary for restoring order. American truckers and President Joe Biden, meanwhile, will be watching closely as a similar convoy gets underway in the US this week. Plans are reportedly in place to set up perimeter fencing around the US Capitol building ahead of Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1 for fear of similar protests plaguing the nation’s capital.

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A Ukrainian soldier tests a US-supplied M141 Bunker Defeat Munition weapon in Lviv.

REUTERS/Roman Baluk

What We’re Watching: Foreigners advised to leave Ukraine, Egypt-Sudan blockade, Canadian truckers vs auto makers

Ukraine alert level rises. Americans and Brits are being urged to leave Ukraine. On Friday, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan advised American citizens “to depart [Ukraine] immediately” within the “next 24 to 48 hours” and characterized the threat as “immediate.” A Russian military move against Ukraine, he said, could begin "before the Olympics have ended." Sullivan also noted that a significant amount of territory in Ukraine could be occupied by Russian troops. The British foreign office similarly told Brits living in the region to leave while commercial flights are still available.

Lithuania, meanwhile, says it will send Kyiv a cache of Stinger surface-to-air missiles in the next few days to bolster Ukrainian defenses against a possible Russian invasion. Battlefield bonafides aside, the symbolism is rich: these same weapons helped bury the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to prevent war continue, if choppily. The UK defense minister will meet his Russian counterpart in Moscow on Friday, though the Kremlin doesn’t seem to take London very seriously. Russia’s top diplomat shot down threats of British sanctions as “empty slogans” and said his talks on Thursday with UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss were a meeting of “the mute with the deaf.” With Russia massing troops on Ukraine’s border and running massive war games in neighboring Belarus, stakes are high. The next big diplomatic moves? German Chancellor Olaf Scholz meets Monday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky before heading to Moscow to see Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

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Paige Fusco

The Graphic Truth: Land borders crucial to trade

Hundreds of Canadian truckers angry about vaccine mandates have paralyzed Ottawa, the capital, for more than a week. They’ve blocked roads, honked their horns, and called for Trudeau’s resignation. Now, they have obstructed access to the Ambassador Bridge — a crucial artery connecting Detroit, Michigan, to Windsor, Ontario, that accommodates the transfer of more than a quarter of US-Canada annual trade worth a whopping $137 billion. Here’s a look of how this route compares with a few other major land trade routes.

A truck sits near Parliament Hill as truckers protest COVID vaccine mandates in Ottawa.

REUTERS/Patrick Doyle

Freedom Convoy or disorder fleet?

Canada’s picturesque capital isn’t known for high-stakes political protests and standoffs with police. But for many days, Ottawa has been paralyzed by the Freedom Convoy, a fleet of some 500 trucks whose drivers crossed the country to protest a new federal law requiring all unvaccinated truckers to quarantine when returning from the US.

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Macron & Putin Discuss Ukraine & De-Escalation | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Signs of Russian climbdown following Macron-Putin meeting

How did the Macron-Putin meeting go? What is going on with the Canadian truckers' protest? Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60.

How did the Macron-Putin meeting go?

What was five hours long and it was like a football field away from each other. And of course, Macron is focused on his election coming up. So with all of that, you'd think it would be problematic, but actually engagement between Macron and Biden the day before was pretty strong. And it does look like the ball’s moved a little bit diplomatically. Most importantly, some of the news coming out of the Kremlin overnight that indeed the Russians are planning on taking those troops out of Belarus after the military exercises are over. Now I mean, of course, if they say they are planning on taking them back out of Belarus and putting them into Ukraine, that would be a technicality, but pretty bad. But no, actually that does seem like a bit of a climbdown. Still, Putin is not friendly. He is blustering all over the place and certainly, he wants to be respected. He doesn't feel like he is right now. But on balance we're in a slightly better place because of the Macron meeting than we were the day before.

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Biden’s Legacy Largely Won’t Be About Afghanistan | Macron Egged | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Biden's legacy rests on pandemic leadership (not Afghanistan mistakes)

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the US Senate hearing on Afghanistan, French President Macron's popularity, and China's hostage diplomacy.

As top US military officials testify right now on Capitol Hill, just down the road, do you expect the Biden administration to suffer any long-term consequences for its botched Afghanistan withdrawal?

The answer is yes, but at the margins. I still think Biden will be most remembered overwhelmingly for how he handles the pandemic as well as for the three trillion plus dollars that will likely, but not certainly, get passed to pay for infrastructure and improve the social contract in the US. On both, he has been taking hits. Certainly the former has not gone well in terms of the pandemic response and on balance, I still think that means that the House in midterm elections is going to flip fairly solidly Republican. Means that they understand they have a narrow window to get policy done. Okay. That's it.

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Biden's UN Speech Avoids China Mention | US Lifts Travel Restrictions | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Biden's UN speech avoids China mention; US lifts travel restrictions

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at US President Biden's UN General Assembly speech, eased US travel restrictions, and Canadian PM Trudeau's election gamble.

How did President Biden's first address to the United Nations General Assembly live go?

It was okay. I thought it was very notable that China was not directly mentioned at all. So my mother used to say, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything. Did say that the US didn't want to be in a "Cold War". That's notable, because a lot of people out there are pushing in that direction in the US and in China. Certainly it was all about multilateral leadership. The Americans want to do more. We want collective leadership. We care about values. We care about democracy, but increasingly not seen as credible by a number of Europeans, as well as by the developing world, particularly when it comes to Afghanistan, COVID, and climate. Can't just say the words, have to have a pathway to get there. It's getting more challenging for the Americans. This is a tough UNGA meeting.

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