WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia has assembled at least 70 percent of the military firepower it likely intends to have in place by mid-month to give President Vladimir Putin the option of launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, U.S. officials say. The officials, who discussed internal assessments of the Russian buildup on condition they not be identified, sketched out a series of indicators suggesting Putin intends an invasion in coming weeks, although the size and scale are unclear. They stressed that a diplomatic solution appears to remain possible. Among those military indicators: an exercise of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces that usually is held each fall was rescheduled for mid-February to March.
BEIJING (AP) — The Latest on the Beijing Winter Olympics: ___ Russian skier Alexander Bolshunov pulled away from the pack early to win gold in the 30-kilometer skiathlon. Bolshunov, the World Cup points leader in distance races, grabbed a Russian Olympic Committee flag in the final stretch and waved it in the air as he crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 16 seconds. Bolshunov and Iivo Niskanen of Finland led the race through the first four classic ski laps but Russia’s Denis Spitsov passed Niskanen once they were on the freestyle legs. Spitsov stayed out front and secured the silver, 1 minute, 11 seconds behind Bolshunov.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — In 2016, Donald Trump overtook the Republican National Committee through a shock and awe campaign that stunned party leaders. In 2020, the party was obligated to support him as the sitting Republican president. Heading into 2024, however, the Republican Party has a choice. The RNC, which controls the party’s rules and infrastructure, is under no obligation to support Trump again. In fact, the GOP’s bylaws specifically require neutrality should more than one candidate seek the party’s presidential nomination. But as Republican officials from across the country gathered in Utah this week for the RNC’s winter meeting, party leaders devoted considerable energy to disciplining Trump’s rivals and embracing his grievances.
BEIJING (AP) — Explore Guangzhou’s old city. Wander a historic neighborhood in Shanghai. Visit with the giant pandas out west in Sichuan province. All these experiences are available to those attending the Beijing Olympics. By videolink — without ever leaving the press center. Welcome to China. But not really. The Olympics are usually a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the host country to showcase its culture. This year, however, athletes, coaches and others traveling to the Winter Games in Beijing are entirely sequestered in a bubble so complete that it even contains its own intercity trains. It’s all part of the elaborate effort by China to control the spread of COVID-19 (and, some say, control the curious visitors as well).
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Fears are rising about what would happen to Europe’s energy supply if Russia were to invade Ukraine and then shut off natural gas exports in retaliation for U.S. and European sanctions. The tensions show the risk of Europe’s reliance on Russia for energy, which supplies about a third of the continent’s natural gas. And Europe’s stockpile is already low. While the U.S. has pledged to help by boosting exports of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, there’s only so much it can produce at once. It leaves Europe in a potential crisis, with its gas already sapped by a cold winter last year, a summer with little renewable energy generation and Russia delivering less than usual.
BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is flying to Washington this week on a mission to reassure Americans that his country stands alongside the United States and other NATO partners in opposing any Russian aggression against Ukraine. Scholz has said that Moscow would pay a “high price” in the event of an attack, but his government’s refusal to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine, bolster its troop presence in eastern Europe or spell out which sanctions it would support against Russia has drawn criticism abroad and at home. “The Germans are right now missing in action. They are doing far less than they need to do,” Sen.
BEIJING (AP) — The men’s downhill at the Beijing Olympics was postponed a day because of wind that gusted at up to 40 mph at the top of the course when the race was supposed to start Sunday, delaying the opening event of the Alpine schedule. The downhill now shifts to Monday, which already was the day for the women’s giant slalom, with Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States defending her Olympic gold from 2018. The downhill will be at the slope used for speed races at Yanqing Alpine Skiing Center, and the giant slalom will be about a half-mile away on the slope used for technical races.
WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Biden’s administration was asked for evidence to back up dramatic claims about national security developments this past week, it demurred with a simple rejoinder: You’ll have to trust us on that. No, they would not reveal what led them to say they knew that Russia was plotting a false flag operation as a pretext to invade Ukraine. No, they would not explain their confidence that civilian casualties were caused by a suicide bombing rather than U.S. special forces during a raid in Syria. The administration’s response took a particularly caustic turn as spokespeople suggested that reporters were buying into foreign propaganda by even asking such questions.
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Maksim Goldenshteyn recounts a story his late grandmother once told him about how, as a 4-year-old child, she snuck out of a Jewish ghetto during World War II to retrieve her favorite dolls that had been left behind the day her family was forcibly evicted from their home in occupied Soviet Ukraine. “She knew even at that age that because she had lighter hair and blue eyes, she could pass for a local Ukrainian girl,” said Goldenshteyn. “She put on a kerchief and slipped out of the ghetto.” It is one of the stories that Seattle native Goldenshteyn tells in his book, “ So They Remember,” which recounts — with a blend of intimate family memoir and vigorous historical research — the Holocaust in Transnistria, a territory in occupied southern Ukraine that was controlled by Romania, a close ally to Nazi Germany for most of the war.
NEW YORK (AP) — Spotify’s popular U.S. podcaster Joe Rogan apologized Saturday after a video compilation surfaced that showed him using a racial slur in clips of episodes over a 12-year span. The mea culpa came after Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter India.Arie posted the compilation on Instagram and announced that she was removing her music from Spotify’s streaming service because of it. Spotify is facing growing discontent from artists over Rogan’s podcast, which it reportedly paid more than $100 million to license. Last month, musician Neil Young removed his music over concerns that Rogan was magnifying vaccine skepticism. In a video posted on his Instagram account, Rogan, who hosts a podcast called “The Joe Rogan Experience,” said his use of the N-word in the compilation Arie posted was the “most regretful and shameful thing that I’ve ever had to talk about publicly.” But he said the clips were “taken out of context.” “It’s not my word to use.