Your NPR news source

People sit in the Kyiv subway, using it as a bomb shelter in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Russia has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending troops and tanks from multiple directions in a move that could rewrite the world’s geopolitical landscape.

Zoya Shu

The Rundown: The latest on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Good afternoon. It’s Thursday, and Ukrainian Americans in Chicago are protesting Russia’s invasion. “I don’t know what’s worse, being over there and being in danger or being here and knowing that we can’t do anything, really,” said one man. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Biden says Russia will face consequences as Moscow sends forces further into Ukraine

President Joe Biden announced a new round of sanctions targeting Russia after it invaded Ukraine, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin “chose this war, and now he and his country will bear the consequences.”

The sanctions, aimed partly at Russian banks and oligarchs, come as Russian forces plunged further into Ukraine today, killing dozens of Ukrainian soldiers in the first major war in Europe in decades.

One of the most dangerous battles erupted around the radioactive Chernobyl exclusion zone, where Russian forces seized the abandoned nuclear power plant, the site of a terrible disaster in 1986.

Ukrainian officials warned the fighting risked exposing European nations to radioactive dust.

Meanwhile, a senior U.S. defense official tells NPR that the Russian assault on Ukraine is in the “initial phase” of a “large-scale invasion” and is likely to be “multi-phases and how long we don’t know.”

It’s believed that Russian forces are moving to take control of Kyiv, with the “intention of basically decapitating the government and installing another method of governance.” [NPR]

Inside Russia, Putin’s image as a calm and calculating leader has been shattered as he drags the nation into a war with no end in sight. [New York Times]

Thousands of Russians protested Putin’s attack on Ukraine, with more than 1,000 people arrested in 47 cities. [Washington Post]

2. Russia’s invasion threatens to raise gas prices and destabilize the global economy

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent oil prices soaring to above $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014. And that surge could result in Americans paying even more at the pump and further raise concerns over already record-high inflation in the U.S.

Acknowledging this ripple effect, President Biden today sought to assure Americans that his administration is focused on gas prices, saying “we are closely monitoring energy supplies for any disruptions.”

Russia is a dominant supplier of natural gas and crude oil, and the invasion is raising several questions about the flow of supplies. Will the conflict on the ground disrupt exports? Will President Biden impose direct sanctions? Or will Moscow shut them down as a strategic move against Europe?

Economists say the economic fallout could become more severe depending on how large the conflict grows.

And, as NPR reports, the “most likely source of near-term price relief would be any news of a new nuclear deal with Iran, a major oil producer currently under U.S. sanctions.” Nailing down a deal could bring a significant amount of oil into global markets. [NPR]

3. The Chicago Park District’s lifeguard abuse scandal has cost taxpayers nearly $330,000

The Chicago Park District has racked up legal bills totaling almost $330,000 from outside law firms that were hired to help deal with the sexual abuse scandal involving lifeguards at the city’s beaches and pools, reports WBEZ’s Dan Mihalopoulos.

The firm that investigated the park district’s response to the widespread allegations charged more than $259,000 for producing a blistering report last fall.

Another firm has charged about $70,000 more to help the park district inspector general’s office as the internal watchdog looked into dozens of complaints of harassment, abuse and assault, according to records.

The city of Evanston also has employed outside lawyers to deal with similar allegations from dozens of female current and former beach workers in the north suburb. Evanston officials said they will release the report from the Salvatore Prescott Porter & Porter firm, which was hired last summer, by the end of the week.

The firm’s total bill so far for Evanston taxpayers: about $103,000. [WBEZ]

4. Fight over mask mandates at Illinois schools heads to the state’s high court

The Illinois Supreme Court has been asked to weigh in on whether the governor has the authority to mandate masks and other pandemic measures for K-12 schools.

School districts across the state were thrown a curve ball earlier this month when a downstate judge issued a temporary restraining order against the mandates, saying Gov. JB Pritzker overstepped his authority.

The governor this week said the state’s high court needs to clarify what powers the executive branch has during a public health crisis.

“This really is about what do we do in the next emergency, as much as anything, what happens when there is another omicron wave or, God forbid, at some future date, another pandemic or some other major emergency that affects everybody in the state,” Pritzker said. [Sun-Times]

Meanwhile, the head of Chicago Public Schools said he hopes the school district will go mask optional by the end of the academic year. [Sun-Times]

5. The Chicago area could see up to 5 inches of snow

In addition to the snow, we could get the unpleasant sounding “freezing drizzle” from this afternoon and into tomorrow morning, according to the National Weather Service.

If you’re driving this afternoon or evening, be careful and keep it on the slower side. Roads could see 2 to 5 inches of snow, according to the weather service, with areas near Lake Michigan getting the highest.

The winter weather advisory also affects Will, DuPage, Kendall, Kane, Grundy, DeKalb and Ogle counties until 6 a.m. tomorrow. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Teacher retirements and resignations jumped about 85% at Chicago Public Schools since July. [Chalkbeat Chicago]
  • The FBI raided another Chicago-based COVID-19 testing company. [Block Club Chicago]
  • Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick announced a new initiative to offer free second autopsies to family members of anyone whose death is “police-related.” [NPR]
  • Chef Gordon Ramsay will open a Hell’s Kitchen restaurant in Chicago early next year. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Oh, and one more thing …

Weird Al is having a moment.

This week, we got a sneak peek of actor Daniel Radcliffe playing the beloved comedian-singer in an upcoming biopic, WEIRD: The “Weird Al” Yankovic Story. [A.V. Club]

And today saw the announcement of a Weird Al pinball machine called Weird Al’s Museum of Natural Hilarity, which features several of the artist’s songs. Yes, there’s a video of the machine in the link. [Gizmodo]

Tell me something good ...

What are you looking forward to the most during spring?

Elizabeth W. writes:

“I look forward to more natural light and warmth in the community. I want to observe birds as they bathe and groom and plant more to feed them. I really need to get outside my COVID shell and draw something simple and alive.”

Melody Robb writes:

“Spring. Dear Spring. I’m longing to sit on our front lawn bench, coffee in hand, and enjoy the early morning neighborhood activity. It’s a bustle of joggers, dog walkers and folks headed to work or school. A symphony of motion.”

And Ali writes:

“I’m looking forward to washing my windows as the weather gets warm. It feels so Little House on the Prairie / gendered to be excited about housework, but the windows haven’t been washed since before the first autumn cold snap — I’m scared I’ll crack them somehow when trying to close them — so they’re covered in five months of street sweepings and car exhaust and gray road salt.

“And on Monday as the sun streamed in I realized: they are disgusting. I want to wash them so I can let in even more light and warmth in time for the next sunny day.”

Feel free to email or tweet me, and your responses might be shared here this week.

The Latest