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A Latvian flag flutters in the wind next to a Russian flag near a hotel in Daugavpils.

REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

Hard Numbers: Latvians vote against Russia, Paraguay squeezes Taiwan, Rwandan genocide trial begins, US offers Pacific cash

5.1: When Latvians go to the polls in a general election Sunday, only 5.1% of them say they'll cast a ballot for Harmony, the opposition party favored by ethnic Russians and Belarusians. Harmony came in first in the last election in 2018, but other parties agreed to keep it out of the government — and it’ll be out of parliament if it doesn’t get at least 5% of the vote.

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Paige Fusco

A “combustible situation” in the eastern DRC

At least 17 people — including three UN personnel — have died after three days of violent protests against the UN peacekeeping mission in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Demonstrations in the region have now spread to other cities.

On Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of people surrounded and looted the UN base in Goma, demanding its forces withdraw from the eastern DRC. After the Congolese cops were unable to quell the protests, the UN decided to bring its peacekeepers home.

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An elderly woman walks past a poster encouraging seniors to get vaccinated against COVID in Beijing.

REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

What We’re Watching: Beijing vax mandate, DRC-Rwanda tensions

Beijing gets China's first COVID vax mandate

Somewhat late to the party compared to many parts of the world, China introduced on Wednesday its first COVID vaccine mandate in Beijing. Starting next week, residents of the capital will need to show proof of vax to enter most public spaces as authorities scramble to contain a new outbreak of a more infectious omicron subvariant. Oddly enough for an authoritarian state, China shunned mandates early in the pandemic because most people agreed to get vaxxed on their own, which helped keep the virus under control until late 2021. While nearly 90% of the population is fully vaccinated, inoculation rates among the elderly — those most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID — are lower because many older Chinese adults are wary of getting jabs. What's more, China's vaccines are not as effective as Western mRNA jabs against new variants, so perhaps the goal of Beijing's mandate is to keep the unvaccinated elderly at home without implementing a citywide lockdown like in Shanghai. How will this affect Xi Jinping's zero-COVID policy? If major outbreaks are reported, expect other big Chinese cities to follow Beijing's lead.

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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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Migrants onboard a Border Force vessel after being rescued while crossing the English Channel.

REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Hard Numbers: UK feels Rwanda migrant deal heat, Ecuadorian flower lives, Argentina’s eccentric politician, Russian trucks bolt to beat sanctions

156 million: The British government has come under fire for a new deal that would send asylum seekers who arrive on British shores – especially those arriving by boat – to Rwanda to await processing and potential resettlement in the East African country. The UK will give Rwanda an initial $156 million in economic investment in what critics have called an immoral quid pro quo.

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Security forces stand guard at a roadblock after Peru's President Pedro Castillo imposed a curfew in Lima.

REUTERS/Sebastian Castaneda

Hard Numbers: Lima curfew, Hotel Rwanda hero’s jail term upheld, Chilean constitutional meh, Zambian prez rules for free

25: Peruvian President Pedro Castillo enforced a curfew in Lima Tuesday in an attempt to stop disgruntled Peruvians from protesting against soaring energy prices. Castillo, a leftist and former school teacher, has a nationwide approval rating of just 25%. What’s more, he recently survived his second impeachment attempt in just eight months.

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A serviceman of the Russian Southern Military District's 150th Rifle Division looks through binoculars during a military exercise at Kadamovsky Range.

Erik Romanenko/TASS

What We’re Watching: Ukraine updates, Qatari gas, North Korean missile tests, Rwanda-Uganda thaw, Portuguese election

Ukraine troops, talks, and TV. As Russia moved medical units to support its troops at the Ukrainian border — which the Pentagon assessed as a Cold War throwback — US President Joe Biden now says he’ll send a small contingent of American troops to Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, US lawmakers are working on a bipartisan “mother of all sanctions” bill that aims to preempt a Russian invasion. The UK, for its part, upped its game with more troop and air deployments of its own, as well as possible action against Russian oligarchs with London-based assets and connections to Vladimir Putin. On Monday, US diplomats will face off against the Russians at the UN Security Council, although Russia and its ally China will veto any measure they don’t like. As for bilateral diplomacy, the US formally rejected Russia’s demand that Ukraine be barred from NATO, but another round of talks with Moscow is likely. (By the way, don’t miss SNL’s take on Russian misinformation in the Ukraine crisis.)

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What We're Watching: Rwandan "justice," ISIS-K hits the Taliban, Canada's vote, COVID vaccines for kids, the UNGA podium

Hotel Rwanda hero given 25-year sentence: It's been more than a year since Paul Rusesabagina — the former hotel manager credited with saving more than 1,200 Tutsis and Hutus during the 1994 Rwandan genocide as portrayed in the film Hotel Rwanda — was misled into boarding a plane that eventually flew him to Kigali, where he was arrested. Now, Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen and US permanent resident who received a Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush in 2006, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison on terrorism charges. Rwandan authorities say Rusesabagina's punishment is for his support for the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change, a group accused of coordinating a string of attacks in southern Rwanda in 2018. But supporters of Rusesabagina say the trial is simply retaliation for his public criticism of President Paul Kagame, who has ruled the country since the civil war ended in the mid-1990s and has been dubbed a "benevolent dictator." Western governments have criticized Kagame for targeting Rusesabagina, and President Biden could bring up his case directly with the Rwandan president when the two leaders attend a G20 summit in Rome next month.

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