All eyes are on Ukraine as concerns mount, western citizens leave, and President Zelensky continues his calls for calm.
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KEEPING A VERY CLOSE EYE...
I think it is safe to say all eyes are on Ukraine at what appears to be a perilous moment. It is the top story across all mainstream media this morning.
What's the latest? The US has warned Russia could invade Ukraine "as soon as this week". At least a dozen countries - including the UK, US, Ireland, Israel, Bulgaria and Portugal - have urged their citizens to leave the country. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the risk is high enough, and the threat is imminent enough to justify the move.
Presidents Putin and Biden spoke over the phone over the weekend, but there was no significant breakthrough. Biden has committed to pursuing "diplomacy and deterrence" to prevent a war. Meanwhile, the UK's Defence Secretary said there was a "whiff of Munich in the air".
What does that mean? Well, back in 1938 The Munich Agreement was an effort to avoid major conflict in Europe. It gave Nazi Germany parts of Czechoslovakia, but it failed to prevent World War II breaking out by September 1939.
The airspace: Dutch airline KLM has stopped flights to Ukraine, while Germany's Lufthansa, according to Reuters, are considering the same. It is important to remember that back in 2014 a Malaysia Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine by a Russian-made missile. The majority of passengers were Dutch.
Okay, so what is Ukraine's view on all of this? Like he has been for weeks, President Zelensky has called for calm. He has also said he's seen no proof of a Russian plan to invade in the coming days, and has invited Biden to visit the country - something US media reports suggest is "extremely unlikely".
And what is Russia saying? They continue to deny any plans for an invasion. The Foreign Minister also responded to reports of an imminent threat, saying "hysteria has reached its peak".
Important to remember: We do not know what is going to happen, and we are trying to balance keeping you all informed without sensationalising the story or exploiting the concerns.
As The Financial Times wrote, "it is a bold commentator that tries to predict the conclusion of the diplomatic game of chess that is the Ukraine-Russia border crisis. But the next seven days will produce some significant moves, if not an attempt at checkmate".
ON TODAY'S AGENDA...
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro is due to visit Russia today.
Meanwhile, Germany's relatively new chancellor, Olaf Scholz, is in Ukraine today ahead of a Moscow visit on Tuesday.
WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?
This week, an unusual federal hate crimes trial will take place in the US.
What is it about? It will look at whether or not the three men - Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and their neighbour William Bryan - who were already convicted of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in 2020 were motivated by racism.
As The New York Times noted, some potential evidence will include messages by Travis McMichael where he referred to Black people as both "monkeys" and "savages".
Remember: Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while jogging through a neighbourhood in Georgia in broad daylight in February 2020. The three men who were ultimately convicted of his murder argued - without evidence - he was a suspect in a recent spate of robberies. Video of the incident - filmed by one of the convicted - circulated two months later, just before the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin.
In Switzerland, a majority of people voted against increasing state funding for the media.
Nearly 55% of referendum voters were against the move. As RTÉ News noted, the country has less than nine million people but four official languages, so an array of media platforms is needed. It was also noted that in the last 20 years, advertising figures for newspapers, magazines and radio were down by 40%.
TWEET OF THE DAY
In New Zealand, a number of protestors have set themselves up on the grounds of the country's parliament.
How are authorities dealing with it? Well, they're playing songs by Barry Manilow and James Blunt in an effort to disperse them. After Blunt - who is known for his sarcastic tweets - offered for his music to be used, New Zealand's parliament speaker Trevor Mallard tweeted a cracking response 👇🏽
SUPER BOWL SUNDAY
The Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Sunday's Super Bowl.
The real winners? Well, some would say Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J Blige, Eminem, 50 Cent and Kendrick Lamar who all performed at the half-time show. Prepare for some serious nostalgia, the video below has been watched nearly six million times in five hours.
From a news point of view, Eminem - as the only white performer - made headlines for taking the knee. As CNN noted, "the kneeling gesture became a subject of controversy when former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick used it as an act of protest against police brutality and racial discrimination".
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Did you know Afghanistan was the world's largest producer of opium and heroin? The latest UN statistics suggest in 2020 opium produced in Afghanistan accounted for 85% of global production, and supplied some 80% of all opiate users in the world.
Read our latest in-depth piece here.
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- The Financial Times: Scholz to warn Putin of western resolve on Ukraine
- Al Jazeera: Timeline: How the Ukraine-Russia crisis reached the brink of war *very helpful read
- The Irish Times: Should you work out before work? A new study on the best time of day to exercise
Valentine's Day! Ever wondered how it came about, starting with ancient Romans? Of course you did... 👇🏽
ON A LIGHTER NOTE...
What. A. Shot. What a reaction.