Your Wednesday Briefing

Russia sentences Aleksei Navalny.

By Melina Delkic

Good morning.

We’re covering a prison sentence for the Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, efforts to forge a global response to the Myanmar coup and wildfires during a coronavirus lockdown in Perth, Australia.

Navalny sentenced to more than 2 years in prison

A Moscow court found that President Vladimir Putin’s loudest critic had violated his parole. Aleksei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, was sentenced to more than two years in prison on Tuesday, a decision likely to send him to a far-flung penal colony for the first time.

The authorities have put several of his top allies under house arrest, and on Sunday they deployed a huge police presence in cities across Russia to quell protests calling for his release — some of the biggest street demonstrations of the Putin era.

“You cannot lock up the whole country,” Mr. Navalny told the court. He said the Russian president was angry at him for surviving after being poisoned with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok in August.

Accusations: Prosecutors claimed that Mr. Navalny had violated parole on a suspended prison sentence that he received in 2014. He and his brother were convicted of stealing from two companies, a conviction that the European Court of Human Rights called “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable.”

What’s next: The decision to send him to prison removes his direct voice from Russia’s political landscape, but it could energize his supporters and further rally Russian opposition to Mr. Putin around the figure of Mr. Navalny.

Weighing a response to the Myanmar coup

President Biden on Monday pledged to “stand up for democracy” and threatened to reimpose sanctions on Myanmar after a military coup. The return to military rule in Myanmar after five years of quasi-democracy is shaping up as a test of the new administration’s foreign policy.

State Department officials said on Tuesday they had determined that a military coup had taken place — an assessment that automatically puts restrictions on U.S. assistance to Myanmar. The U.N. Security Council was to meet to discuss a global response.

Western governments have called for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s civilian leader, who was detained in the coup along with her top lieutenants. Protests broke out in Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon, on Tuesday. People banged pots, honked car horns and chanted, “Evil be gone,” Reuters reported.

Analysis: Myanmar’s army is now fully in charge — but it never truly left, our Southeast Asia bureau chief writes. With the coup, the generals ripped apart the democratic front they built for a system that still heavily favored them.

Interpreter: Outsiders often assumed Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi defended the generals against genocide accusations to avoid angering them — but it turned out that she was “much harder-line than the military was” with anti-Rohingya sentiment, as one analyst put it.

Study finds Russia’s vaccine is effective and safe

The Sputnik V vaccine developed in Russia has been shown to be 91.6 percent effective against the coronavirus, appears safe and does not cause serious side effects, according to an analysis published in the medical journal The Lancet.

The results leave Russia well positioned to deliver a cheap vaccine at home and abroad — the requisite two shots of the Sputnik V vaccine cost $10 each, and they do not need deep cold storage. Around 50 countries, including India and South Korea, have pre-ordered the vaccine.

Russia had faced skepticism about approving its vaccine without the release of clinical trial data. The vaccine’s developer, the Gamaleya Research Institute, which is part of the Russian Health Ministry, announced in December that the vaccine showed 91.4 percent efficacy. Here’s how the Sputnik V shots work.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

Japan has extended the state of emergency in Tokyo and nine other prefectures by one month, to March 7. Though infections had declined, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said hospitals were still under strain.

A coronavirus variant first observed in Britain has gained a worrisome mutation that could make it harder to control with vaccines.

If you have 3 minutes, this is worth it

Online memorials for Covid-19 victims

Mayandi Soundara Raj, an engineer pictured astride a motorcycle, was “a perfect husband” to his wife until he died on July 10. Arkadipta Basu, who died on Sept. 17, showered her family with “love and affection,” according to her husband.

Mr. Raj and Ms. Basu are among those memorialized on a new website dedicated to India’s more than 154,000 coronavirus victims. The site aims to provide families some dignity and closure since funerals were so limited. Above, a funeral in New Delhi in August.

Here’s what else is happening

Trump impeachment: The nine House impeachment managers presented their case against former President Donald Trump in a filing, arguing that he was “singularly responsible” for the attack on the U.S. Capitol last month. The trial is scheduled to begin next Tuesday.

Chinese dissident: Friends and family have lost contact with Yang Maodong, a dissident who tried to visit his sick wife in the U.S. but was stopped from boarding a flight to San Francisco. He disappeared after sending out messages from the Shanghai airport about his predicament.

Alibaba: The Chinese e-commerce titan said it was conducting internal reviews of its business in response to an antitrust investigation by the Chinese government. Regulators in Beijing have been increasingly concerned about big companies’ influence and have begun scrutinizing them like never before.

Snapshot: Above, firefighters near Perth, Australia. Just days after residents of Perth, the country’s fourth-largest city, were ordered to stay in because of the coronavirus, some were forced to flee their homes as a ferocious wildfire bore down on the city’s outskirts.

What we’re reading: This BBC article about the success of goat Zooms. It’s a creative idea offering a boost to farmers — and who can resist reading about goats with names like Lola and Margaret?

Now, a break from the news

Cook: This rich, savory pork and eggs in caramel sauce is a must-have on many southern Vietnamese Lunar New Year menus.

Listen: “The History of Sketch Comedy,” a new 10-part podcast by the actor and producer Keegan-Michael Key is a surprising and earnest defense of a relatively unsung art form.

Do: Not ready to return to the gym? Here are seven simple workouts at home that can help everyone get a healthy start in 2021.

Let us help you start a new project. At Home has ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do while staying safe at home.

And now for the Back Story on …

Facebook groups that spread lies

The QAnon conspiracy theory, promotions of bogus health treatments and calls for violence based on false claims of election fraud have a common thread: Facebook groups. Our On Tech newsletter compiled recommendations from experts on how to make these forums less toxic.

Stop automated recommendations. Facebook has said it would extend a temporary pause on computerized recommendations for people to join groups related to politics or health. Some experts said that Facebook should go further and stop computer-aided group suggestions entirely.

Provide more oversight of private groups. Two social media researchers, Nina Jankowicz and Cindy Otis, have proposed not allowing groups above a certain number of members to be private — meaning newcomers must be invited and outsiders can’t see what’s being discussed — without regular human review of their content.

Target the habitual group offenders. Renée DiResta, a disinformation researcher at Stanford, said that Facebook needed to “take more decisive action” against the groups that repeatedly engage in harassment. Jade Magnus Ogunnaike from the civil rights organization Color of Change said that Facebook should make the staff members responsible for reviewing material on the site — typically contractors — full-fledged employees.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
Carole Landry helped write this briefing. Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected]

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is on President Biden’s climate plan.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Counterparts of zeroes, in binary code (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Our Moscow correspondent Anton Troianovski joined Radio New Zealand and Channel 4 News to discuss the arrest of Aleksei Navalny.

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