Daily Skimm: Russia, Texas, and SCOTUS Nominee

A Ukrainian serviceman rides atop a military vehicle past Independence square in central Kyiv
Getty Images
Feb 24, 2022

Invasion

The Story 

Russia has boots on the ground in Ukraine.

I heard.

Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed his troops had made their way into Ukraine. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed missiles and airstrikes had destroyed more than 70 Ukrainian military targets. And Ukrainian officials say that Russian forces seized control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

But why is Putin doing this?

That’s the million-dollar question. Which we break down here. But TLDR: Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union before it collapsed in 1991. In recent years, Ukraine’s pro-Western leaders have tried to move the democratic country away from Putin’s grip and towards NATO membership (which it doesn't have yet). But Putin’s long believed that Moscow’s got a claim to Ukraine. And has even described Ukrainians and Russians as “one people.” Many believe Putin’s gunning for the return of the Soviet Union. And that he’s been chipping away at this goal for years.

Can I get more info on that?

Here’s the sparknotes: In 2014, tensions were high in Ukraine after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych put a trade pact with the EU on hold. Ukrainians took to the streets and ousted him. In protest, and after having lost their ally, pro-Russian separatists (backed by the Kremlin) took over gov buildings in Crimea (an autonomous region in southern Ukraine). And helped Moscow formally annex (aka plant a Russian flag in) Crimea.

And since then?

A Kremlin-backed leader has been put in place. But Crimea was never Putin’s only goal. There’s also Belarus (which is a story for another time). And the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine (comprised of Donetsk and Luhansk) — where conflict between pro-Russia separatists and Ukraine has been ongoing for the last eight years. This week, Putin recognized Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states. And used it as a pretext to send in "peacekeepers" (cough, Russian troops, cough) to the region. And begin the invasion.

What’s the latest?

Ukrainian officials say Kyiv is under bombardment. Over 130 Ukrainians have died – and hundreds are injured. Air raid sirens are still screaming. Ukrainian airspace was closed and roads blocked. People are sheltering in subway stations. (Hear from a journalist on the ground here.) Russian forces are closing in on the capital, Kyiv. Some fear they will try to topple the government. But Ukrainians aren’t backing down. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the country “won’t give up its freedom.”

And the rest of the world…

Is watching it unfold. President Biden said “Putin chose this war” and would suffer the consequences. A sentiment felt by thousands of Russians, who protested their leader’s actions. Biden also announced he’s deploying an additional 7,000 troops to help defend NATO allies. But reiterated he will not send US boots into Ukraine. And he doubled down on “severe sanctions” the US, the G7, and EU countries will impose against Russia.

theSkimm

After years of hinting at it — whether through direct threats or disinformation campaigns — and despite some of his citizens’ wishes, Putin is now steps away from seizing Ukraine. Many are saying peace in Europe is coming to an end. And millions of Ukrainians are at risk of being caught in the crossfire. Here’s how you can help

Skimm More: Have more questions about the invasion? We answer your big Qs about Russia's attack on Ukraine here. And if you need to catch up with how this all started, check here.

And Also...This

What's sparking conversations in Texas...

Gender-affirming medical care. In another 'tell on your peers' initiative, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) is asking Texans to tattle on parents whose kids are undergoing “elective procedures for gender transitioning.” Instead of suing (like in the abortion ban bill's case), Abbott's telling people to report the parents to state authorities. And warned that those who don't 'see something, say something' could face criminal penalties. Texas AG Ken Paxton was of the same opinion, even calling transition care (think: puberty blockers, hormone therapy or surgery) "child abuse." But some county and district attorneys are saying 'not on our watch.' Reminder: this directive is neither a bill nor a law. Yet. 

  • Timing’s everything: Some advocates say the timing of Abbott’s statements is interesting considering there’s a crowded Republican primary election next week. And he's running for re-election. 

Skimm More: Here's a history of LGBTQ+ stigma — and how it affects the community's mental health today.

Who’s offering a helping hand…

Colin Kaepernick. His org, Know Your Rights Camp, will offer families and friends of people killed in "police-related" incidents a free, secondary autopsy. They'll be able to work with board-certified pathologists to get a second opinion on their relatives' cause of death. Kaepernick called the move “one important step” to make sure loved ones get the info they need. 

  • Context is key: This initiative comes after the killings of several Black Americans at the hands of police. Just yesterday, three of the officers involved in George Floyd's murder were found guilty of violating Floyd’s civil rights.

  • Commemorate: It also comes just days before the 10-year anniversary of Trayvon Martin's death. 

What’s offering people more options…

Abortion pills. New data from the Guttmacher Institute shows that more than half of abortions in 2020 were carried out via abortion pills. (Up from just 39% in 2017.) Compared to the surgical procedure — which can take weeks to schedule and days to recover from — pills are less invasive and some prefer the privacy of being able to terminate their pregnancy at home. In 2021, the FDA moved to permanently let people receive the pills by mail. Which some states haven’t taken too kindly to. 

Skimm More: How the abortion pill is different from the morning-after pill.

What we've all been waiting for...

President Biden's SCOTUS nominee. He's reportedly made his choice and is expected to announce who he's tapped to hopefully fill Justice Steve Breyer's seat on the bench any day now.

When it's been a long week...

Traumatic news can affect your health. But instead of saying, “I need a drink,” here are some other ways to cope.

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