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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference following talks with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban in Moscow on February 1, 2022.

Yuri Kochetkov/Pool via REUTERS

What We’re Watching: Much ado about Ukraine, Myanmar anti-junta strike, Horn of Africa drought

Busy day for Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin continued his diplomatic offensive on Tuesday with a press conference alongside Hungary’s Kremlin-friendly Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Putin previously spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian PM Mario Draghi in an ongoing effort to exploit divisions of opinion among European leaders over the future of NATO and Ukraine. Putin wants NATO to roll back from Eastern Europe and to guarantee that Ukraine will never join the alliance. He reiterated that Washington continues to “ignore” Moscow’s concerns about Russia’s national security. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is working on a new “partnership” with the UK and Poland. This appears to be little more than diplomatic window-dressing, since Britain and Poland have already pledged to supply Ukraine with weapons. Zelensky also unveiled a plan to expand Ukraine’s army by 100,000 troops over the next three years. Military action doesn’t appear imminent, but you can count on more posturing.

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A member of the people's defence forces is seen holding a gun during the military training at the forest of Kayin State.

Kaung Zaw Hein / SOPA Images/Sipa USA

What We're Watching: Myanmar massacre

Massacre of civilians in Myanmar. Myanmar experienced its worst single case of state-sponsored violence since the February coup on Christmas Eve, when the army gunned down more than 30 civilians — including women and children — and torched their vehicles in Kayah state. Several people are still missing, including two aid workers from Save the Children. It's unclear what prompted the attack, but it took place amid heavy fighting between the military and armed resistance groups in the area. Two weeks ago, soldiers had 11 civilians burned alive because they were suspected of belonging to an anti-junta guerrilla army. Both massacres show that the generals are not backing down in their campaign to wipe out those who oppose their takeover, which ended Myanmar's brief experiment with democracy after decades of military rule. The fighting has also recently intensified along the border with Thailand, whose hardline PM is one of the junta's few foreign friends but doesn't want a refugee crisis on his doorstep (and has already sent back thousands of migrants).

What We're Watching: Suu Kyi's verdict in Myanmar

Suu Kyi's first verdict handed down. On Monday, a Myanmar court sentenced deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi to four years in prison for breaking COVID rules and incitement. Suu Kyi faces 11 charges in total, including corruption and leaking state secrets – which could land her in prison for more than 100 years. The UN has said the charges are a sham meant to secure the military junta’s hold on power. To date, the trial has been closed to the media, while Suu Kyi’s lawyers have also been banned from making public statements. Suu Kyi, who is seen by many in Myanmar as the only politician that can steer the country’s full democratic transition, has not been seen in public since the coup. Since then, the military has been accused of human rights violations for cracking down on peaceful anti-junta demonstrators, resulting in at least 1,200 deaths. Just this past weekend, the military rammed vehicles into a group of demonstrators, injuring dozens. The UN has warned that armed groups are training in jungles to overthrow the military, and that the country is on the cusp of full-blown civil war.

Jonas Gahr Støre of the Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) during the Norwegian Parliamentary Election on September 13, 2021 in Oslo

Jon Olav Nesvold / BILDBYRÅN

What We’re Watching: Left wins Norway’s climate vote, everyone wants India’s jabs, junta denied Myanmar’s UN seat

Norway's climate election result: Most votes have now been counted from Norway's parliamentary election, and the left-leaning Labour party, headed by former FM Jonas Gahr Støre, has reaped 46 out of 168 seats up for grabs, ousting the conservative government led by PM Erna Solberg. Støre will now try to form a coalition government that's expected to include the agrarian Centre Party as well as the Socialist Party. The election was broadly seen as a referendum on climate change policy, given that oil accounts for more than 40 percent of Norway's exports and employs 7 percent of the entire workforce — though Norway itself has rolled out an ambitious green agenda at home. Støre says that he'll limit new oil explorations, but has ruled out getting rid of fossil fuels, saying that oil revenues could help fund the transition away from oil in the long run. Importantly, the Greens, the only political party that called for an end to all oil exploration, reaped only 4 percent of the vote, and is therefore unlikely to yield enough (or any) influence. Regardless, Støre may need to incorporate some smaller left-wing parties in his coalition that could force him to take a more forceful stance on climate change, like raising carbon taxes.

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A soldier looks at a banner attached to a military vehicle outside Myanmar's Central Bank during a protest against the military coup, in Yangon, Myanmar, February 15, 2021.

REUTERS/Stringer

Myanmar is a danger to its neighbors — will anyone step in?

Remember Myanmar? It's been over five months since the military — the Tatmadaw — seized power in a coup, sidelining the quasi-democratic civilian government led by former human rights icon Aung San Suu Kyi. Anti-coup demonstrations quickly arose around the country, and the Tatmadaw tried to put them down just as swiftly, responding with brutal violence that killed over 800 civilians.

And although the media has largely moved on, the situation is getting worse in ways that aren't only bad for Myanmar's people, but also for its neighbors.

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Myanmar migrant workers protesting against the military junta hold a picture of leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a candlelight vigil at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok, Thailand.

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

What We’re Watching: Suu Kyi on trial, Blinken in Israel, Mali coup 2.0

Suu Kyi in the dock: Myanmar's former leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday made her first court appearance since the military coup that deposed her last February. Suu Kyi, 75, faces uncorroborated charges — ranging from illegally importing walkie-talkies to breaching COVID rules — that could put her behind bars for the rest of her life. The National League for Democracy, Suu Kyi's political party that defended her in court, is now also at risk as the military junta is trying to dissolve it — mainly because it trounced the pro-military party in the December parliamentary election. Myanmar's generals seem to think that they can go back in time to the days of complete dominance if they throw Suu Kyi in jail and ban the NLD. But they may be underestimating the popular appetite for democratic change in a country where the military is as powerful as it is unpopular. Whatever the junta decrees, expect the NLD to continue its political activities underground and in exile.

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Annie Gugliotta

With its interests in flames, what will China do in Myanmar?

Over the weekend, protesters demanding the return of democracy in Myanmar burned down and looted Chinese-owned businesses in Yangon, the country's main city. China's embassy then asked the junta to restore order. In a few hours, the generals obliged: soldiers killed scores of demonstrators, and martial law was declared.

The anti-China riots add a fresh international dimension to Myanmar's political crisis. The protesters are angry not only at the military rulers, but increasingly at China's thinly veiled support for the junta. This backlash is a big test for Beijing. As a rising global power and regional heavyweight, is China going to simply look the other way as its interests in Myanmar literally go up in flames?

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US Sanctions on Russia Don't Hit Hard | Nicolas Sarkozy Found Guilty | World In :60 | GZERO Media

US sanctions on Russia don't hit hard; Nicolas Sarkozy found guilty

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (a little over) 60 Seconds:

The Biden administration announced its first sanctions. How will it affect US-Russia relations?

Not very much. About as bad as they were under the Trump administration, even though Trump personally wanted to be aligned with Putin, the administration was not. This is the same approach on sanctions as we've seen from the European Union, they could go a lot harder. It's not sector level. It's not major state enterprises. It's a few Russian officials that were involved in the chemical program for Russia. And at the end of the day, the Russians are annoyed, but they're not going to hit back. That's that. Okay.

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