First Thing: Russia ‘agrees’ to ceasefire in humanitarian corridors


Good morning.

Russian armed forces have agreed to hold fire in areas of humanitarian corridors from 9am to 9pm local time today, the Ukrainian deputy prime minister has said.

Iryna Vereshchuk said the evacuation corridors would be open in several areas, including the port city of Mariupol, but warned Russian forces against opening fire in those areas.

Meanwhile, US congressional leaders reached a bipartisan deal in the earlier hours this of Wednesday morning to provide $13.6bn to help Ukraine and European allies, the Associated Press reports.

Joe Biden originally requested $10bn for military, humanitarian and economic aid, but the backing from both Democrats and Republicans was so strong that the figure rose to $13.6bn.

Are there any more diplomatic talks planned? The Russian foreign ministry has claimed that its goals in Ukraine would be better achieved through talks and that it does not plan to overthrow the country’s government. Maria Zakharova, a Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, said Russia hoped to make more significant progress in the next round of talks.

Is this really a fossil fuel war? That is what Ukraine’s top climate scientist believes. Both the invasion and the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report crystallized the human, economic and geopolitical catastrophe of fossil fuels for Dr Svitlana Krakovska.

What else is happening? Here’s everything we know on day 14 of the Russian invasion.

Saudi Arabia and UAE leaders ‘decline calls with Biden’ amid fears of sky-high oil price

The Biden administration is seeking to increase oil supply after formally banning Russian oil imports to the US on Tuesday. Photograph: Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty Images

The leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have declined to arrange calls with Biden in recent weeks as the US and its allies have sought to contain a surge in energy prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

According to the Wall Street Journal, citing Middle East and US officials, both the Saudi crownprince, Mohammed bin Salman, and his Emirati counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, have been unavailable to Biden after US requests were made for discussions.

“There was some expectation of a phone call, but it didn’t happen,” a US official said of a plan for Prince Mohammed and Biden to speak. “It was part of turning on the spigot [of Saudi oil].”

Last week, the oil cartel Opec+, which includes Russia, declined to increase production despite western entreaties.

Why won’t they talk to Biden? Relations between the US and Saudi Arabia have chilled during the Biden administration over American policy in the Gulf. Issues include the revival of the Iran nuclear deal; lack of US support for Saudi intervention in Yemen’s civil war and its refusal to add Houthis to its list of terrorist groups.

Texas man convicted for role in Capitol attack in landmark case

Guy Reffitt was arrested less than a week after the riot at the Capitol and has been jailed in Washington for months. Photograph: John Minchillo/AP

A Texas man who joined the assault on the US Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump was found guilty for his role in the attack on Tuesday, a milestone victory for federal prosecutors in the first such case to go before a jury.

Guy Reffitt was found guilty on all five of the felony charges he faced, including bringing a gun on to the Capitol grounds and obstructing an official proceeding.

His trial was seen as an important test case as the Department of Justice attempts to secure convictions from hundreds of defendants who have not taken plea deals.

The federal jury in Washington returned the unanimous verdict after just two hours.

What did he do on the day of the attack? Reffitt never entered the Capitol on 6 January 2021 but video showed him egging on the crowd and leading other rioters up a set of stairs outside the building. “I didn’t come here to play – I’m taking the Capitol. I just want to see Pelosi’s head hitting every stair on the way out,” he is heard saying during the footage.

How was he caught? Reffitt’s estranged son Jackson, now 19, turned his father in to the FBI and testified against him during the week-long trial.

In other news …

‘This is by far the finest wooden shipwreck I have ever seen. It is upright, well proud of the seabed, intact, and in a brilliant state of preservation.’ Photograph: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust/National Geographic/PA

The wreck of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship has been found off the coast of Antarctica, according to the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust . Endurance had not been seen since it was crushed by ice and sank in the Weddell Sea in 1915. It was found at a depth of 3,008 metres.

The Republican-dominated Florida legislature passed the “ don’t say gay” bill, which forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through to third grade , despite a wave of criticism from Democrats and others that the legislation marginalizes LGBTQ+ people.

About 40,000 residents in eastern New South Wales, Australia, remain under evacuation orders on Wednesday morning as a dangerous weather system is predicted to bring damaging winds before drifting off into the Tasman Sea. Meanwhile, rivers in Sydney were still at major flood levels.

Title 42, which was enacted under Trump and kept in place by Biden, has led to hundreds of thousands of people being denied their right to asylum since the start of the pandemic. “Title 42 has nothing to do with Covid, it’s a terrific vehicle for stopping immigration,” said John Orlowski from Shelters for Hope.

Stat of the day: 1,400 Texas women on average cross state lines for abortions each month

The states where Texas residents sought abortions included Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Photograph: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Texas’s highly restrictive abortion law has forced thousands of women to cross state lines to seek the procedure, according to research by the University of Texas. Since the passing of the law, known as senate bill 8 (SB8), last year, banning almost all abortions in the state, an average of 1,400 Texan women a month traveled to nearby states between September and December 2021 seeking abortion services at 34 facilities.

Don’t miss this: ‘We’re having way better sex than our kids!’ The joy of lovemaking in your 70s

‘You just have to be honest and if you don’t have a sense of humour, you might as well pack it in anyway.’ Illustration: Steven Gregor

Without work or children taking up their time, and with decades of experience, many older people say sex has never been more enjoyable – whether it ends in orgasms or a cup of tea. Kate, 71, says she is having the best sex of her life. She met her partner, Lindy, nearly two years ago. “There is no more pretence any more,” she says. “All the bumps and bruises of our lives, all the experiences, it’s like a fire that burns off all the unnecessary stuff. I think it’s the understanding that this really is the last bit, and to make the very best of it.”

… or this: ‘You cannot play nice with Putin. He is insane,’ says former Pussy Riot member

‘I’m in a panic, I’m crying every day’: Nadya Tolokonnikova at a concert in Tennessee earlier this month. Photograph: Paul Hebert/LiveMusicToday/Rex

“The global community was extremely complacent, and I see two reasons: hypocrisy, based on greed. People would make statements that they did not support Putin’s politics and his oppression of the political opposition and the wars that he started – this isn’t the first war by any means. But at the same time they would continue doing business with him … Stupidity. This is the second reason. People underestimate how dangerous dictators are,” says Nadya Tolokonnikova.

Climate check: CO 2 will have to be removed from air to achieve 1.5C, says report

Tree planting is a community effort in Monte Frío in Colombia. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Removing carbon dioxide from the air will now be essential if there is to be any chance of meeting global climate targets, a UK-based thinktank has said. Carbon offset markets will need to be tidied up and managed properly, as offsets will form a critical route to limiting global heating to 1.5C in line with scientific warnings, according to the Energy Transitions Commission, as switching to renewable energy alone will not produce enough carbon savings. Other methods, such as tree planting and carbon capture and storage, will be critical.

Last Thing: octopuses were around before dinosaurs, fossil find suggests

Researchers concluded the ancient creature lived millions of years earlier than previously believed. Photograph: Bernd Kammerer/AP

Scientists have found the oldest known ancestor of octopuses – an approximately 330m-year-old fossil unearthed in Montana. The researchers concluded the ancient creature lived millions of years earlier than previously believed, meaning that octopuses originated before the era of dinosaurs. The 4.7in (12cm) fossil has 10 limbs – modern octopuses have eight – each with two rows of suckers. “This is a very exciting finding. It pushes back the ancestry much farther than previously known,” said Dr Mike Vecchione, a zoologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

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