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Russia and Ukraine agree to talks near Belarus border

Russia and Ukraine agree to talks with no preconditions

Evacuees from the city of Kyiv are seen walking down stairs at a railway station.
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  • Morgan Haefner
By Morgan Haefner

Deputy email editor


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Here’s what you need to know

Russia and Ukraine agreed to talk. The negotiations will happen near the Belarusian border and are without preconditions. But the situation is still tense—Russia put its nuclear forces on high alert, a move condemned by NATO.

EU interior ministers met Sunday to decide how to help Ukrainian refugees. EU interior commissioner Ylva Johansson said one measure, which would trigger a never-before-used law, received “great support” and plans to formally propose it to the bloc on March 3. The EU is also shutting its airspace to Russian planes.

BP offloaded its 20% stake in Rosneft. A former executive and the CEO of the British energy giant also left the Russian oil company’s board.

Russia’s invasion sparked global protests. Supporters of Ukraine demonstrated in Europe, Australia, Japan, Iran, and the US. Meanwhile, Poland and the UK are refusing to play Russia in soccer matches.

Two studies identified a Wuhan seafood market as the origin of covid-19. The studies, which are not yet peer reviewed, found no evidence that the coronavirus escaped from a lab.

India reports its GDP today. Economists predict the country’s economy grew by 6.6% in the quarter that ended in December.

What to watch for

Over the weekend, the US, EU, and their allies moved to defund Russia’s military efforts by kicking some private banks off the global money transfer system SWIFT and freezing Russia’s central bank assets. The sanctions, though largely symbolic, are also intended to impede Russian banks from conducting transactions, devalue Russia’s currency, and limit the country’s access to reserve funds abroad (about $300 billion). Together these efforts inhibit Russia from diluting sanctions by, say, making payments via still-friendly nations.

The impact could be huge. Central bank sanctions could bankrupt the Russian banking system and render the ruble worthless. One estimate suggests the SWIFT bans alone could cost Russia 5% of its GDP.

Russia isn’t totally cut off—it’s still allowed to trade natural gas (✦) with these nations. And while president Vladimir Putin likely won’t personally pay the price, some countries are going after the wealthy oligarchs in his inner circle.

Mapping Ukraine’s internet infrastructure

What if Ukraine gets cut off from the internet? It’s happened to other countries in the throes of violence, from Cuba to Iran. And though web traffic has fallen (at least part of the drop-off can be explained by Ukrainians fleeing the country), it’s unlikely that this will happen in Ukraine. The physical infrastructure that powers the web in Ukraine is vast, owned by many independent internet service providers, and has several connections to the outside world—there’s no single choke point that an oppressive government could use to snuff out internet access all at once.

A map showing Ukraine's web infrastructure, including many cross-border connections to other countries, especially in the west.
Image copyright: Atracom
In this map of Ukraine’s web infrastructure from Ukrainian fiber optic cable company Atracom, the points marked “M” represent places where fiber optic cables cross Ukraine’s borders and connect the country to the outside world.

Each “M” on this map is a place where a fiber optic cable crosses Ukraine’s borders and connects the country to the outside world.

Can deepfakes be ethical?

Tom Cruise deep fake conceptual imagery
Image copyright: Photo-illustration by Quartz

Images of explosions and combat in Ukraine have proliferated on social media, but not all of them are real or contextualized. Twitter has removed several videos and captions that have proven to be misleading or downright fake.

In an age of rising misinformation and cyberattacks, deepfakes—computer-generated videos that transplant a person’s face, voice, and overall likeness onto another body—are becoming increasingly worrisome, especially if technology is used as hostile political propaganda.

🔮 Quartz reporter Scott Nover asked Tom Graham, the co-founder of the company behind Deep Tom Cruise, if a deepfake company can truly be ethical. The interview is part of our Next 10 Years series, which explores how industries marked by rapid change are adapting and evolving.

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Surprising discoveries

Some US bars have stopped using Russian vodka. But they’ll gladly get you drunk on Ukrainian brands.

The US has a lot of leftover covid tests. About 250 million free tests are unclaimed (thank the bullwhip effect for wild swings in demand).

Hank the Tank was framed. The 500-pound (227 kg) bear isn’t the sole culprit behind more than 30 home break ins in California.

An auction for offshore wind power set a record in the US. A breezy $4.4 billion worth of turbines was sold off the coast of New York and New Jersey.

Would you spend 10% of your net worth on a wedding? In India, that’s the average, but it’s not affordable for most. Find out how the massive parties are paid for in the latest episode of the Quartz Obsession podcast.

🥻 Listen on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google | Stitcher 

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