The White House publicly confirmed that Russia has obtained a “troubling” emerging anti-satellite weapon but said it cannot directly cause “physical destruction” on Earth. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said U.S. intelligence officials have information that Russia has obtained the capability but that such a weapon is not currently operational. U.S. officials are analyzing the information they have on the emerging technology and have consulted with allies and partners on the matter. “First this is not an active capability that’s been deployed and though Russia’s pursuit of this particular capability is troubling, there is no immediate threat to anyone’s safety,” Kirby said. “We’re not talking about a weapon that can be used to used to attack human beings or cause physical destruction here on Earth.’’ - AP


Donald Trump’s hush-money trial will go ahead as scheduled with jury selection starting on March 25, a New York judge ruled Thursday, turning aside demands for delay from the former president’s defense lawyers who argued it would interfere with his campaign to retake the White House. The decision means that the first of Trump’s four criminal prosecutions to proceed to trial is a case centered on years-old accusations that he sought to bury stories about extramarital affairs that arose during his 2016 presidential run. Other cases charge him with plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 election and illegally hoarding classified documents at his Florida estate -AP

Ukrainian troops are withdrawing from the eastern town of Avdiyivka after months of heavy fighting for control of the city, a Ukrainian military spokesman said on February 15 as Kyiv's hold on the city appeared increasingly shaky. Maksim Zhorin, deputy commander of the 3rd Assault Brigade, wrote on Telegram that the soldiers must perform combat tasks in conditions that "were difficult to imagine…The battles in Avdiyivka are many times more hellish than the hottest battles of this phase of the war, which were in Bakhmut," he noted - RFE/RL


Separately, the US has warned that Russia could seize Avdiivka. "Avdiivka is at risk of falling into Russian control," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, citing Ukraine's ammunition shortages. The BBC has reported shortages of explosive charges among frontline Ukrainian troops, forcing them to ration artillery. Cases of frostbite have also been documented

The Ukrainian government says about 300 citizens have left Gaza in staggered evacuations since war erupted on Oct. 7 with a devastating Hamas attack on Israel. Others have fled by private means or through aid groups. Dozens more Ukrainians remain trapped under Israeli bombardment, along with spouses and children, as evacuations dwindle and the death toll climbs past 27,000, according to figures from the Gaza Health Ministry. Gaza’s Ukrainian population has been estimated as high as 1,500 in recent years; the community emerged as an outgrowth of a Soviet-era program for Palestinians to study medicine in Ukrainian universities - Washington Post

Israeli forces stormed the main hospital in southern Gaza on Thursday, hours after Israeli fire killed a patient and wounded six others inside the complex. The Israeli army said it was a limited operation seeking the remains of hostages taken by Hamas. The raid came a day after the army sought to evacuate thousands of displaced people who had taken shelter at Nasser Hospital in the city of Khan Younis, the focus of Israel's offensive against Hamas in recent weeks. The war shows no sign of ending, and the risk of a broader conflict is growing as Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah step up attacks after a particularly deadly exchange on Wednesday - NPR/AP


Hamas on Thursday condemned the voting on a bill in a preliminary reading in the Knesset, or Israel’s parliament, to ban the work of the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in occupied East Jerusalem and Israel, Anadolu Agency reports. The Palestinian group said the move is to “terminate the work of the agency which represents an international witness on the suffering of our people, on their forcible expulsion from their homes and on their right to return to them…We reject this occupation decision which contradicts the related international resolutions,” said Hamas. It urged the international community and the UN “to take all necessary steps and measures to ensure the continuity of the agency’s work.”


A United Nations agency that defends human rights was ordered on Thursday to leave Venezuela by the government of President Nicolás Maduro, an extraordinary move that will further strip the country of foreign oversight at a time when its government stands accused of intensifying repression. The announcement, by foreign minister Yvan Gil, comes just days after the detention and disappearance of Rocío San Miguel, a prominent security expert and human rights advocate. Following her detention, several United Nations entities issued online statements expressing concern about the arrest, some calling it part of a pattern in which the government tries to silence critics through intimidation. Mr. Gil said he was giving the staff of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights 72 hours to “abandon” the country - NYT

This review is reprinted with the author’s permission from his World Briefing blog.

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