Biden, Putin agree to summit after Macron calls
US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have agreed to hold a bilateral summit, followed by a meeting with all relevant parties on the security situation in Europe. The proposal came after both leaders spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron. However, the meeting would “only be held on condition that Russia does not invade Ukraine”, the Elysée said. Macron spoke with Putin twice on Sunday, the first time for an hour and 40 minutes and the second for an hour, as Western leaders attempt to de-escalate the crisis sparked by the deployment of more than 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine’s borders. Macron’s second call with Putin came after the French president spoke with Biden for around 15 minutes. The Elysée said Macron had proposed the summit between Biden and Putin, and then with all parties, “to discuss security and strategic stability in Europe” with Biden and Putin having “both accepted the principle of such a summit”. The summit would be prepared by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a meeting scheduled for this Thursday, February 24.
Zelensky calls for ceasefire in Donbass
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, after a telephone conversation with President Macron, made it known that he was in favour of an “immediate ceasefire” in Donbass. He tweeted, “We want the peace process to be intensified. We support the urgent convening of a meeting of the trilateral contact group (Ukraine, Russia, OSCE) and the immediate introduction of a ceasefire”. As Macron told Zelensky he agreed they must work on a ceasefire, shooting continues in the Donbass, with pro-Russian separatists accusing the Kiev forces of killing two civilians – the first since the resumption of fighting in the region.
Thousands evacuated from Donbass, Lugansk
The authorities of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in Donbass evacuated thousands of civilians, mostly women and children, and transferred them to the Russian Rostov region. Also towards Rostov thousands of civilians from another self-proclaimed pro-Russian republic of Donbass, that of Lugansk, were also evacuated. In both cases, artillery bombardments by Kiev on cities and villages of the two pro-Russian republics were reported.
Russian commanders ‘given go-ahead for Ukraine invasion’
Russian commanders have been given the green light to proceed with an invasion of Ukraine, according to reports from US intelligence quoted by CBS News. Confirmation also came from the Washington Post and the New York Times. According to CNN, 75% of the Russian forces are positioned for the attack.
IOC chief calls for peace as 2022 Games close
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has sent a message of peace from the Olympic community. As the the Olympic flame was been extinguished in Beijing, marking the end of the most locked-down games in history, Bach praised China and thanked the people of the country for staging the Games in a safe way. He called on the international community to give equal access to vaccines to everybody around the world. Norway topped the medal table with 16 gold medals, followed by Germany with 12 and China with nine. The U.S. came in fourth with eight gold medals. Paris will host the 2024 Summer Olympics while the 2026 Winter Games will be held in the Italian cities of Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Australia fully reopens borders
Australia on Monday fully reopened its international borders to travellers vaccinated against the coronavirus after nearly two years of pandemic-related closings as tourists returned and hundreds of people were reunited with family and friends. More than 50 international flights will reach the country through the day, including 27 touching down in Sydney, its largest city, as the tourism and hospitality sectors look to rebuild after getting hammered by COVID-19 restrictions.
‘Swissleaks’ investigation targets Credit Suisse bank
Credit Suisse bank faced a fresh challenge on Sunday through allegations that it had handled dirty money for decades. The investigation, coordinated by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), unites 47 different media outlets worldwide including France’s Le Monde and The Guardian in Britain. This latest project, dubbed “SwissLeaks” by the OCCRP, arose out of a leak of data to Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung newspapers a little over a year ago. Credit Suisse rejected the “allegations and insinuations”, saying that many of the issues raised were historical, some dating back as far as the 1940s.
Bernie Madoff’s sister and her husband found dead
The sister of the Wall Street fraudster Bernie Madoff and her husband were found dead with gunshot wounds in Florida in what investigators said was an apparent murder-suicide. The Palm Beach county sheriff’s office on Sunday identified the couple as 87-year-old Sondra Wiener of Boynton Beach and her 90-year-old husband, Marvin Wiener. Madoff was known for orchestrating a massive Ponzi scheme that wiped out people’s fortunes. After pleading guilty in 2009 to fraud and other charges, he was sentenced to 150 years in prison. He died last year, at 82 and while incarcerated.
Jamal Edwards dies, aged 31
British Music entrepreneur and YouTube star Jamal Edwards has died at the age of 31. He gained fame from setting up new music platform SBTV, helping to launch a string of UK music careers including Dave, Ed Sheeran and Jessie J. He was awarded an MBE in 2014 for his services to music. He was a teenager when he decided to launch the youth broadcasting and production film SBTV to upload clips he recorded of his friends performing on the estate where he lived in Acton, west London. By 2014, he had amassed an estimated fortune of around £8 million.