U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived within the Capitol of Ukraine at this time. The unannounced go to to Kyiv is the primary by a senior U.S. official since Congress handed a $60 billion assist bundle final month.


And it comes as Ukrainian troops are struggling to push again a brand new Russian offensive alongside the northeastern border, not removed from the nation’s second largest metropolis, Kharkiv. In the meantime, Ukraine, which already has a scarcity of troopers, is shifting troops from different components of the entrance line to reply.

FADEL: With me now to debate the newest is NPR’s Ukraine correspondent Joanna Kakissis in Kyiv. Good morning.


FADEL: Joanna, let’s begin with the newest on this conflict. How did Russia break via Ukraine’s defenses right here?

KAKISSIS: So Leila, Ukraine has been warning for weeks that Russia was amassing troops alongside this a part of the border as a part of a brand new offensive. After which this previous Friday, Russian troops stormed into Northeastern Ukraine in two formations towards the town of Kharkiv and a city referred to as Vovchans’ok. Hundreds of Ukrainians have since fled. The Russians moved rapidly via a border space referred to as the grey zone – it is a contested space between the 2 international locations, they usually say they’ve captured a number of small villages there. Some troopers instructed Ukrainian media that the realm was not nicely fortified. We did converse to a soldier named Dima Yermolovich (ph) who’s serving within the space. Right here he describes the challenges.

DIMA YERMOLOVICH: (By means of interpreter) It’s actually exhausting to maintain again Russians with out sufficient tools, being as outnumbered as we’re, as they assault repeatedly with tanks and infantry, with troops that basically ready for this assault.

FADEL: So troopers really feel outnumbered. They don’t seem to be nicely outfitted. What about civilians? What have the previous few days been like for them?

KAKISSIS: Effectively, it has been very scary and chaotic based mostly on what we have been listening to from emergency employees attempting to get the civilians out. We spoke to Grigory Cherban (ph). He is an area volunteer serving to to evacuate folks from the city of Vovchans’ok, and that city is simply 5 miles from the Russian border, and he described how rapidly situations deteriorated there.

GRIGORY CHERBAN: (Talking Ukrainian).

KAKISSIS: So he is saying that within the few hours he was within the space, the Russians dropped no less than three guided aerial bombs, that are extremely harmful. After which after that, there was fixed gunfire. Instantly, the requests for evacuations elevated dramatically. And, you understand, this city, Vovchans’ok, used to have a inhabitants of 17,000. Only some hundred folks stay there. Most of them are aged. Rescue employees stated they’ve refused to go away. The townspeople have already lived via one latest Russian occupation for the primary few months of 2022 till Ukrainians managed to regain management later that 12 months, and now this city faces one other occupation.

FADEL: So how does this offensive have an effect on Ukraine’s general place on the battlefield?

KAKISSIS: Effectively, which means Ukraine is now shifting troops to this a part of the entrance, and Ukraine doesn’t have troops to spare. They’re additionally defending the jap a part of the entrance line the place the Russians are closing in on key cities there. There’s a new conscription regulation that goes into impact this month, however will probably be a number of months earlier than new troopers are drafted and trains. So that is one thing that’s nonetheless going into impact.

FADEL: And actually rapidly, Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kyiv, what message is he carrying with him?

KAKISSIS: He is assembly with high officers, together with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and he is right here to say that the U.S. continues to face by Ukraine.

FADEL: NPR’s Joanna Kakissis In Kyiv. Thanks, Joanna.

KAKISSIS: You are welcome.


FADEL: President Biden is about to announce new tariffs on Chinese language imports at this time.

MARTIN: The White Home says the transfer, valued at $18 billion, is to guard key American sectors. It additionally says that China would not play by the principles on the subject of commerce. And that is all occurring in an election 12 months. President Biden is operating in opposition to former President Donald Trump who slapped a whole bunch of billions of {dollars} price of tariffs on Chinese language items throughout his time in workplace.

FADEL: NPR White Home correspondent Asma Khalid joins us now. Good morning, Asma.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So the brand new tariffs will goal electrical automobiles, semiconductors, and photo voltaic cells. Why is the administration centered on these items?

KHALID: Effectively, most of those tariffs will cowl gadgets that the Biden administration has sought to put money into via laws, just like the Inflation Discount Act and the Chips And Science Act. And so, you understand, the argument right here is that it will be self-defeating for the administration to be pouring billions of {dollars} into boosting American manufacturing via these investments, whereas on the similar time, permitting low-cost Chinese language imports. To provide an instance that you simply talked about, Biden will double the tariffs on photo voltaic cells and semiconductors. However the huge one, Leila, is that current tariffs on electrical automobiles will quadruple from roughly 25% all the way in which as much as 100% tariff price. And that is actually fascinating as a result of consultants will say that there will not be an entire lot of Chinese language EVs at present being imported into the U.S. However the administration is, in principle, attempting to get forward of the curve as a result of they are saying China might unfairly flood the market, and they’re attempting to stop that from occurring.

FADEL: Okay, so these are all new tariffs, however what occurred to the $300 billion price of tariffs that Trump imposed?

KHALID: Yeah. Effectively, when Trump first enacted these tariffs a couple of years again, some Democrats did warn that they may actually harm the economic system and that American shoppers would pay the worth. When President Biden got here into workplace, his workforce started reviewing current China coverage and particularly these tariffs. And at this time, the White Home says it’s conserving them in place. I requested Michael Froman about this. He served because the US commerce consultant within the Obama administration.

MICHAEL FROMAN: One of many challenges is as soon as tariffs have been imposed, it’s fairly troublesome politically to scale back them as a result of the affected trade tends to get used to them, like them, function with them as baked into their plans.

KHALID: And, you understand, frankly, additionally, diplomatically, it is difficult for Biden to roll these tariffs again as a result of China has not likely improved any of its commerce practices. And so, you understand, what is the incentive for Biden to vary course, notably in an election 12 months when his doubtless opponent is certainly the architect of the present tariff program?

FADEL: So Biden criticized Trump’s method to China throughout his marketing campaign in 2020. So at this time, how does this Biden plan differ from what Trump has stated about his imaginative and prescient for comparable tariffs?

KHALID: Effectively, to be clear, the Biden White Home is conserving the Trump tariffs in place. And so they say they’ve helped diversify the provision chain considerably away from China. It’s also including new tariffs, however solely in sure particular areas. They are saying that it is a focused method, they usually emphasize that they’re combining the tariffs with a bigger plan to spice up American manufacturing. Former President Trump has additionally promised to extend tariffs if he had been to win a second time period in workplace, but it surely’s troublesome to pin down precisely what he would do. He has particularly singled out the Chinese language auto trade, however he is additionally spoken about slapping an throughout the board 10% tariff on imports from each nation, not simply China. Now, economists will let you know that the price of tariffs, by and enormous, are paid for by American shoppers.

FADEL: Is there an opportunity issues might escalate?

KHALID: There’s that concern. I imply, keep in mind that China reacted strongly to Trump’s tariffs when he put them in place, however we’ll see how this announcement performs in China. The administration has – says that they’ve introduced up unfair commerce practices a number of occasions to Beijing. And so the White Home says that this isn’t going to come back as a shock to China.

FADEL: NPR’s Asma Khalid Thanks.

KHALID: Good to speak to you.


FADEL: Felony gangs from China and Mexico are flooding the U.S. with fentanyl and different lethal medication at an unprecedented price.

MARTIN: Sure, that is in keeping with two new research that present fentanyl smuggling has elevated dramatically regardless of efforts to focus on cartels and tighten border safety.

FADEL: NPR Habit correspondent Brian Mann joins us. Good morning.


FADEL: The U.S. is spending billions of {dollars} to maintain fentanyl out of American communities. Have efforts to cease the stream of the drug been efficient?

MANN: Effectively, the outcomes have actually been combined. As you talked about, the U.S. has labored to tighten border safety. It is concentrating on Mexican cartels right here contained in the U.S. and world wide. And the excellent news, actually, is that police are seizing much more fentanyl within the type of these counterfeit tablets. They’re formed to appear to be the ache tablets you would possibly purchase on the pharmacy. In 2017, there have been 50,000 of those tablets seized. By final 12 months, that had surged to 115 million tablets. Dr. Nora Volkow is head of the Nationwide Institute on Drug Abuse. She says these counterfeit tablets are flooding the entire nation, however the provide is very heavy in Western states, together with Arizona and California.

NORA VOLKOW: Stunned me as a result of I didn’t anticipate the best entry of those tablets was within the West. And this new information reveals the magnitude, variety of tablets was larger within the West than within the East. So it is shifting.

MANN: So much more tablets being seized, Leila. The dangerous information right here is consultants, together with Volkow thinks that is simply the tip of the iceberg for each counterfeit fentanyl capsule they’re seizing. They consider much more of this lethal drug is getting via.

FADEL: The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration launched a brand new report on efforts to cease fentanyl smuggling. What did they discover?

MANN: Effectively, it is not excellent news. The DEA says the Mexican cartels and Chinese language prison gangs are extra highly effective, extra subtle than ever. In keeping with this report, the Mexican cartels now management complete delivery ports in Mexico to take care of their fentanyl provide chains. Chinese language gangs have additionally gotten higher at utilizing cryptocurrencies to maneuver drug income round and conceal them from authorities. Once more, there are some successes, extra of those fentanyl tablets being seized. However fentanyl is so low-cost, really easy to make. The gangs are simply churning out extra. The DEA report discovered that every one of those efforts didn’t make fentanyl more durable to search out or costlier to purchase in any a part of the U.S.

FADEL: Brian, with a lot fentanyl accessible, what does this imply for communities?

MANN: Yeah. So there are indicators, Leila, that overdose deaths are leveling off, possibly even declining a bit. Partly, that is as a result of the general public well being response is getting higher. Extra folks, for instance, are carrying naloxone – that is this easy-to-use drug that may reverse opioid overdoses. That seems to be serving to. However overdoses are nonetheless operating nicely above 100,000 deaths a 12 months. Fentanyl is a number one explanation for loss of life for People beneath the age of fifty. So that is nonetheless a very lethal public well being disaster. And there is one different concern I am listening to about from dependancy consultants. This pipeline of artificial medication described in these two new research – it is not simply getting greater, it is also more and more unpredictable and harmful.

Fentanyl is the massive menace proper now, however gangs are pushing a lot of different poisonous substances and drug cocktails. They’re making drug use increasingly more perilous. Nobody’s actually certain what’s coming subsequent. And to date, nobody’s discovered a method to shut down and even gradual this drug pipeline.

FADEL: NPR’s dependancy correspondent Brian Mann. Thanks, Brian.

MANN: Thanks.

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