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Officials: Russia at 70 percent of Ukraine military buildup

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. That coincides with what U.S. officials see as the most likely window for invasion. The officials made no suggestion that a prospective conflict would involve the use of nuclear weapons, but the Russian exercise — likely involving the test-launching of unarmed long-range missiles on Russian territory — could be used as a message aimed at deterring the West from intervening in Ukraine.

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U.S. officials have said in recent weeks that a Russian invasion could overwhelm Ukraine’s military relatively quickly, although Moscow might find it difficult to sustain an occupation and cope with a potential insurgency.

The ongoing Russian buildup comes as the Biden administration has been disclosing intelligence in hopes of preemptively countering Russian disinformation and blocking Putin’s plans for creating a pretext for an invasion. But it has come under criticism for not providing evidence to back up many of its claims.

Olympics Live: Sweden’s van der Poel wins speedskating gold

BEIJING (AP) — The Latest on the Beijing Winter Olympics:

Nils van der Poel gave Sweden its first Olympic speedskating medal since 1988, pulling off a stunning comeback to win gold in the 5,000 meters at the Beijing Olympics.

Van der Poel was a big favorite coming into the event as the reigning world champion with an undefeated record in the distance events on this season’s World Cup circuit.

He lived up to the hype in the 12 1/2-lap race at the Ice Ribbon oval, turning on the speed at the end to overcome Patrick Roest of the Netherlands with an Olympic record of 6 minutes, 8.84 seconds.

UN experts: North Korea seeks to produce material for nukes

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — North Korea has continued to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programs including its capability to produce nuclear device components in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, U.N. experts said in a new report.

The panel of experts said in the executive summary of the report obtained Saturday night by The Associated Press that there was “a marked acceleration” of Pyongyang’s testing and demonstration of new short-range and possibly medium-range missiles through January, “incorporating both ballistic and guidance technologies and using both solid and liquid propellants.”

“New technologies tested included a possible hypersonic guiding warhead and a maneuverable re-entry vehicle,” the panel said. North Korea also demonstrated “increased capabilities for rapid deployment, wide mobility (including at sea), and improved resilience of its missile forces.”

The experts said North Korea “continued to seek material, technology and know-how for these programs overseas, including through cyber means and joint scientific research.”

A year ago, the panel said North Korea had modernized its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles by flaunting United Nations sanctions, using cyberattacks to help finance its programs and continuing to seek material and technology overseas for its arsenal including in Iran.

Lata Mangeshkar, legendary Indian singer, dies at 92

NEW DELHI (AP) — Lata Mangeshkar, a legendary Indian singer with a prolific, groundbreaking catalog and a voice recognized by a billion people in South Asia, has died. She was 92.

The iconic singer died Sunday morning of multiple organ failure at Breach Candy hospital in Mumbai, her physician, Dr. Pratit Samdani, told reporters. She was hospitalized on Jan. 11 after contracting COVID-19. She was taken off the ventilator after her condition improved in late January but her health deteriorated on Saturday and was put back on life support.

India declared two days of national mourning and said Mangeshkar will be given a state funeral before being cremated in Mumbai on Sunday evening. The country’s flags will fly at half-staff.

Condolence messages poured in immediately after her death was announced.

“I am anguished beyond words,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet. “She leaves a void in our nation that cannot be filled. The coming generations will remember her as a stalwart of Indian culture, whose melodious voice had an unparalleled ability to mesmerize people.”

Trump’s GOP: Party further tightens tie to former president

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. As the earliest stages of the next presidential contest take shape, their actions made clear that choosing to serve Trump and his political interests remains a focus for the party.

“If President Trump decides he’s running, absolutely the RNC needs to back him, 100%,” said Michele Fiore, an RNC committeewoman who has represented Nevada since 2018. “We can change the bylaws.”

Inside the Olympic bubble, looking for China — or ‘China’

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).

Nothing is supposed to leave this alternate universe. But what clues of China might seep in?

The country is celebrating Lunar New Year. That much is clear. Traditional lantern decorations adorn the streets outside (as seen from the Olympic shuttle buses) and the venues inside. You’re unlikely to participate in any actual celebrations — but the Games’ swag bag includes a small lantern decoration. If you have the souvenir, did you also have the experience?

EXPLAINER: What happens to Europe’s energy if Russia acts?

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. Prices have skyrocketed, squeezing households and businesses.

Here’s what to know about Europe’s energy supply if tensions boil over into war and Russia is hit with sanctions:


Valieva sends Russians into Olympic team figure skating lead

BEIJING (AP) — Kamila Valieva stood at the edge of the rink to get some last-second advice from her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, then took one deep breath and glided swiftly to the middle of the ice inside cavernous Capital Indoor Stadium.

And proceeded to leave everyone else breathless.

In a performance that confirmed her place as the gold medal-favorite at the Beijing Games, the 15-year-old Valieva laid down one of the highest-scoring short programs in history. Her score of 90.18 points on Sunday thrust the heavily favored Russian team into the lead after the second of three days of competition in the team event.

“I’m obviously happy that we’re in the lead at the moment,” she said, “and I hope that continues in the free skate as well.”

It did through the men’s free skate, where Mark Kondratiuk finished a surprising third behind Yuma Kagiyama of Japan. That left the Russians with 45 points, three ahead of the U.S. and six ahead of Japan, heading into the free dance, pairs and women’s free skates that will decide the medals on Monday.

German leader’s stance on Russia looms over 1st visit to US

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. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat and member of the Armed Services Committee, recently told an audience of Ukrainian Americans in his state, Connecticut.

This sentiment was echoed by Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who questioned why Berlin hadn’t yet approved a request to let NATO member Estonia pass over old German howitzers to Ukraine. “That makes no sense to me, and I’ve made that very clear in conversations with the Germans and others,” Portman told NBC.

Publicly, German officials insist their country is doing its part. Germany’s ambassador in Washington, Emily Haber, appeared on Fox News last month to defend Berlin’s restrictive stance on arms exports and highlight the generous economic support provided to Ukraine.

Book aims to shine light on Romanian role in the Holocaust

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.

In that territory, where around 150 camps and ghettos operated, there played out a lesser-known but equally sinister chapter of the Holocaust, where hundreds of thousands of Jews were brutalized, exploited, and murdered.

Many died of starvation; some succumbed to disease or exposure; some were executed.

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