Get all your news in one place
100’s of premium titles. One news app. Zero ads. Just $10 per month.

First Thing: Russia says it will withdraw some of troops from Ukraine border

A Russian navy battleship taking part in artillery drills
A Russian navy battleship taking part in artillery drills. Photograph: Russian navy black sea fleet/Tass

Good morning.

Russia’s defence ministry has announced it is to withdraw some of its troops from the border with Ukraine in a possible de-escalation of the threat of a potential invasion.

The size of the withdrawal remains unclear and may involve only a fraction of Russia’s forces at the Ukrainian border, which western officials estimate at more than 60% of the country’s ground forces.

The announcement of the withdrawal came in a statement from the defence ministry spokesperson, Igor Konashenkov, who described ongoing exercises that involved forces from “practically all military districts, fleets, and the airborne forces”.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson and Joe Biden believe there remains “a crucial window for diplomacy and for Russia to step back from its threats towards Ukraine” after a 40-minute call between the two leaders last night.

  • Is this really a de-escalation? Russia has previously announced the conclusion of military exercises near the Ukrainian border, but social media and satellite photography taken in the following days have not shown considerable changes to Russia’s force posture.

  • Is this any different? It’s unclear yet but Russia’s rouble currency reportedly posted gains following the announcement, indicating that investors hoped this would mark the beginning of a de-escalation of tensions between Russia and the west.

The US private equity firms funding dirty energy projects

Indigenous youth in Washington DC demand Joe Biden ‘Build Back Fossil Free’ and halt the Dakota Access pipeline
Indigenous youth in Washington DC demand Joe Biden ‘build back fossil free’ and halt the Dakota Access pipeline Photograph: Sue Dorfman/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

A report, shared exclusively with the Guardian, provides a snapshot of industry’s involvement in some of the country’s most controversial fossil fuel investments.

US private equity tycoons are profiteering from the global climate crisis by investing in fossil fuels that are driving greenhouse gas emissions, an investigation reveals.

Oil and gas pipelines, coal plants and offshore drilling sites linked to Indigenous land violations, toxic leaks and deadly air pollution are among the dirty energy projects financed by some of the country’s largest private equity firms, according to an investigation by the corporate accountability non-profits LittleSis and the Private Equity Stakeholder Project (Pesp).

Private equity refers to an opaque form of financing away from public markets in which funds and investors buy and restructure companies including startups, troubled businesses and real estate.

  • The findings have renewed calls for greater transparency in the booming private equity industry, so that communities bearing the brunt of toxic emissions and extreme weather can track the money behind the misery.

New Yorkers in high stop-and-frisk areas subject to more facial recognition tech

A New York City police department surveillance camera in Times Square, New York.
A New York City police department surveillance camera in Times Square. Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA

New Yorkers who live in areas where controversial stop-and-frisk searches happen most frequently are also more likely to be surveilled by facial recognition technology, according to research by Amnesty International and other researchers.

Research also showed that in the Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens boroughs of the city there was a direct correlation between the proportion of non-white residents and the concentration of controversial facial recognition technology.

“Our analysis shows that the NYPD’s use of facial recognition technology helps to reinforce discriminatory policing against minority communities in New York City,” said Matt Mahmoudi, an artificial intelligence and human rights researcher at Amnesty International.

The research is a part of the global anti-facial recognition technology campaign, Ban the Scan, investigating increasing use of surveillance initiatives in the New York police department (NYPD).

  • How did the researchers work out the link? Using thousands of digital volunteers through the Decode NYC Surveillance project, more than 25,500 CCTV cameras were mapped across New York City. Data scientists and researchers from Amnesty International compared the data on the camera placement with statistics on police stop-and-frisk.

In other news …

Judge throws out the former vice-presidential candidate’s case while allowing the jury to continue deliberations.
Judge throws out the former vice-presidential candidate’s case while allowing the jury to continue deliberations. Photograph: Eduardo Muñoz/Reuters
  • Sarah Palin’s lawsuit accusing the New York Times of defaming her by incorrectly linking her to a mass murder was thrown out on Monday. “I think this is an example of very unfortunate editorializing on the part of the Times but having said that, that’s not the issue before this court,” the judge said.

  • The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has invoked legislation that gives his government sweeping powers to fight a growing number of “illegal and dangerous” blockades across the country. Trudeau said the measures would be time-limited and only apply to specific geographic regions.

  • Workers at the Amazon warehouse in Alabama, have begun the rerun of a historic union election after the US labor regulator ruled Amazon’s conduct had interfered with a previous election in 2021 and ordered a new vote. Other large US employers including Starbucks and Target are also fighting off union drives.

  • Novak Djokovic says he would rather miss out on grand slams than be vaccinated against Covid, in his first major interview since being deported from Australia. Djokovic told the BBC he was not anti-vaccination in general but believed people had the right to choose whether they were jabbed or not.

Don’t miss this: I want my daughter to be inspired by my miraculous scars

‘There are no women like me on the billboards or the TV adverts’ … Laura Pearson.
‘There are no women like me on the billboards or the TV adverts’ … Laura Pearson. Photograph: Fabio De Paola/The Guardian

“By the time my mother developed breast cancer, I was 30. She was double that age and there was an ocean between us: I was married and living in New York, so when the news came, I couldn’t hold her to me, or be a practical support. I sat on my bed and cried. The next time I saw her, it was all over. One breast removed and carefully reconstructed. The cancer gone. It was only five years later that I found my lump,” writes Laura Pearson.

… or this: like Earth, we are changing quickly through the violence of climate collapse

‘The assaults on my body are akin to the assaults wounding the body of Earth’ … Terry Tempest Williams.
‘The assaults on my body are akin to the assaults wounding the body of Earth’ … Terry Tempest Williams. Photograph: Zak Podmore/AP

“My body understands I take her for granted, and why wouldn’t I? We are conditioned, as women, to believe there is divine purpose in busyness and distraction – forgetting ourselves, forgetting the soul-needs of our children: the soil, the air, savannas and forests, wetlands and oceans. My body is my collaborator, whether I think about her or not. She continues to construct my health and wellbeing in the blood and bones of my body, even as my nervous system registers danger and adrenal glands sound the alarm. Every muscle and organ is inflamed with the heartache of this burning world,” writes Terry Tempest Williams.

Climate check: Flourishing plants show warming Antarctica undergoing ‘major change’

Dramatic spread of native plants over past decade is evidence of accelerating shifts in fragile polar ecosystem, study finds.
Dramatic spread of native plants over past decade is evidence of accelerating shifts in fragile polar ecosystem, study finds. Photograph: Felipe Trueba/EPA


Antarctica’s two native flowering plants are spreading rapidly as temperatures warm, according to the first study to show changes in fragile polar ecosystems have accelerated in the past decade. The increase in plants since 2009 has been greater than the previous 50 years combined, coinciding with rapidly rising air temperatures and a reduction in the number of fur seals, according to researchers working on Signy Island in the South Orkney Islands.

Last Thing: New Hampshire students launched a boat in 2020. It was just found in Norway

The 6ft-long Rye Riptides was packed with photos, fall leaves, acorns and state quarters and equipped with a GPS.
The 6ft-long Rye Riptides was packed with photos, fall leaves, acorns and state quarters and equipped with a GPS. Photograph: Sheila Adams/AP


A small boat – containing photos, fall leaves, acorns and state quarters – launched in October 2020 by some New Hampshire middle school students has been found 462 days later by a sixth grader in Norway. It had lost its hull and keel on the 8,300-mile journey and was covered in gooseneck barnacles, but the deck and cargo hold were still intact. The student who found it, Karel Nuncic, took the boat to his school, and he and his classmates eagerly opened it last week. The school in Norway plans a call with the Rye Junior High students soon.

Sign up

First Thing is delivered to thousands of inboxes every weekday. If you’re not already signed up, subscribe now.

Get in touch

If you have any questions or comments about any of our newsletters please email newsletters@theguardian.com

Related Stories
Russia says it's pulling back some troops from Ukraine border
It's a sign that Russian President Vladimir Putin may agree to de-escalate the crisis, but the threat of war isn't…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Russia confirms ‘partial’ withdrawal of troops from Ukraine border
Move could be sign of de-escalation but western officials say there are no immediate signs of Russian drawdown
U.S. says Russia's claim of withdrawing troops from border with Ukraine is 'false'
A senior Biden administration official on Wednesday told reporters that the United States believes Russia's claim it was withdrawing troops…
Russia says some troops pulling back from Ukraine border but exercises continue
Mixed military signals from Moscow come as Germany’s chancellor arrives for talks with Putin 
Russia Says It Is Pulling Back Some Troops From Ukraine Border As Other Drills Continue
Russian troops positioned along its southern and western border with Ukraine are moving back to their garrisons.
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Russia returns some troops from Ukraine border amid invasion fears
It comes as Boris Johnson said there is still time to save Ukraine through diplomacy