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Russia and Ukraine are talking

The curfew in Kyiv has been lifted briefly as negotiations take place near the Belarusian border.

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 are talking. The curfew in Kyiv has been lifted briefly as negotiations take place near the Belarusian border, apparently “without preconditions.”

Russia’s central bank raised interest rates to 20%. As global sanctions kick in, the ruble is crashing, and crippling hyperinflation could be on its way.

BP is offloading its 20% stake in Rosneft. The British energy giant will take a $25 billion hit as it exits Russia’s oil industry, while Norway’s Equinor followed suit.

Putin invoked Russia’s deadly nuclear capability. The Russian president ordered the military, including specialists in nuclear weapons, to go on “special alert.”

The EU will allow Ukrainians to enter as refugees. They may not need to formally apply for asylum, a shift in policy compared to other waves of conflict-driven migration. Meanwhile, Germany is re-arming.

Sporting authorities keep refusing to kick Russia out. Several countries led protests, most notably Poland, but the global governing body FIFA responded only by banning the Russian flag.

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 are also intended to impede Russian banks from conducting transactions, devalue Russia’s currency, and limit its access to reserve funds abroad (about $300 billion). It’s difficult for Russia to bypass sanctions by using friendly countries to conduct business.

The impact could be huge. With the central bank already raising rates to protect the plunging ruble and prevent hyperinflation, 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 (✦). And while president Vladimir Putin likely won’t personally pay the price, the wealthy oligarchs in his inner circle are under threat.

Mapping Ukraine’s internet infrastructure

What if Ukraine gets cut off from the internet?

It’s happened elsewhere, from Cuba to Iran. But 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.

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.

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Our best wishes for a productive day. Send any news, comments, Kyiv mules, and “Save Hank the Tank” t-shirts to hi@qz.com. Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our iOS app and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Hasit Shah, Nicolás Rivero, Alexandra Ossola, Scott Nover, and Morgan Haefner.

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