Today’s Headlines: Russia moves on Ukrainian coastal cities as refugee crisis deepens

A soldier stands alongside a highway holding up a rifle.
A soldier looks down the scope of his rifle along the highway near Sytnyaky, Ukraine, on Thursday.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

By Laura Blasey and Amy Hubbard

Hello, it’s Friday, March 4, and — as in recent days — we’re leading the newsletter with Ukraine. We’d like to pause first to recognize the incredible work being done by our correspondents Nabih Bulos and Marcus Yam. Nabih is The Times’ Middle East bureau chief. (Interestingly, he’s also a concert violinist.) His reporting has taken him to Lebanon, Iraq and myriad other locations. Before Ukraine, he and Marcus, a Times photographer since 2014, worked together covering the fall of Afghanistan, the Gaza war and the 2020 fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Times Managing Editor Scott Kraft said: “We’re so proud of Nabih and Marcus and the brave, important work they are doing in Ukraine. Their coverage has been poignant, powerful and extraordinarily insightful.”

For the record:

10:26 a.m. March 4, 2022An earlier version of this article said Kings Canyon became a national park in 1872. It was 1940.

Here’s a photo essay on Ukraine from Marcus (some images are disturbing).


Kyiv subway station
Uliana, 9, gifted Marcus with an embroidered heart while sheltering with her family in a Kyiv, Ukraine, subway station.

Now here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:


Russia seizes a nuclear power plant as number of refugees soars

Russian forces shelled and seized a nuclear power plant as they bombarded and besieged a swath of southern Ukrainian cities, seeking to sever access to the country’s crucial seacoasts even as the invaders appeared stalled in a bid to knock out Ukraine’s leadership by capturing or subduing the capital, Kyiv.

During an attack early Friday on the southeastern city of Enerhodar, home to Europe’s largest nuclear power complex, a fire broke out in one of the six reactors. Hours later, authorities reported that the blaze had been extinguished, radiation levels remained normal and the complex was in the hands of Russian forces — whom Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had beseeched to stop targeting the plant, for fear of a nuclear nightmare.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine shuddered into a second week, the full extent of a European refugee crisis on a scale not seen since World War II was coming into focus. An estimated 1 million Ukrainians — half of them children — have sought refuge outside the country, the United Nations and humanitarian organizations say.

More about Ukraine

  • President Biden announced new sanctions on more than a dozen Russian oligarchs and their families, as pressure continued to build on Capitol Hill for an even tougher response to Moscow a week after it invaded Ukraine.
  • At home, Putin has waged an all-out assault on the LGBTQ community, framing it as part of a larger campaign to protect Russia’s “traditional culture” from the West. The Ukrainian LGBTQ community fears what a Russian occupation might bring.
  • On paper, the U.S. decision to freeze Putin’s personal assets looks like an empty gesture: Official Russian documents say all he owns are a couple of old cars, a small apartment and a salary of around $140,000. Nobody believes the official documents present the real picture.
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has profoundly changed Europe’s security outlook, with support for joining NATO surging to record levels in famously neutral Finland and Sweden.
  • China denounced a report that it asked Russia to delay invading Ukraine until after the Beijing Winter Olympics as “fake news.”

No more indoor masking in L.A. County starting today

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer confirmed Thursday that the county would issue a new health order, effective today, that would lift the indoor mask order, regardless of vaccination status, in places such as bars, stores, offices, restaurants, gyms and movie theaters.

The move was made after Los Angeles County was deemed to be in the “low” category among the CDC’s coronavirus community levels.

More coronavirus news

Stay up to date on variant developments, case counts and vaccine news with Coronavirus Today.

Judges could order help for homeless Californians under Newsom’s new plan

As California cities struggle to address a homelessness and mental health crisis on their streets, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration unveiled a proposal to push more people with severe psychiatric disorders and addiction issues into court-ordered care that includes medication and housing.

The proposal is the state’s latest effort to address one of California’s greatest struggles, and a recognition that something more robust is needed to solve the problem. Columnist Anita Chabria writes that the plan is just the opening salvo in what is likely to be months of debate over where the right to be mentally ill ends and where society’s obligation to intervene begins.

More politics

  • Beverly Hills physician Simone Gold, a prominent anti-vaccine doctor, pleaded guilty to unlawfully entering and remaining in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
  • Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey will not run for Senate this year, the Republican said, putting an end to speculation that he would hop into one of the most hotly contested battles in the upcoming midterm elections.

Sign up for our California Politics newsletter to get the best of The Times’ state politics reporting and the latest action in Sacramento.

A Beverly Hills store admitted to using safe deposit boxes to launder drug money

Under a plea deal with U.S. Private Vaults Inc., the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles agreed not to file criminal charges against the company’s two owners. The company admitted that it recruited drug traffickers as customers and used the illicit proceeds to run the business.

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The California Supreme Court declined to lift an enrollment cap on UC Berkeley. That left the campus scrambling for ways to avoid what it initially feared could be cuts as large as one-third of its incoming fall class, or 3,050 seats. A university spokesman said the campus would meet the court-ordered cap by offering at least 1,500 incoming first-year and transfer students online enrollment for fall or deferred admission next January for the spring semester.

More California nurse practitioners could work independently and offer abortions under a new bill. The proposal is one of several introduced this year by California Democrats who have been preparing countermeasures to expand abortion access for those who live both in and out of the state.

The Jim fire topped 550 acres in the Cleveland National Forest. Crews on Thursday were making progress against the fire burning near the Riverside-Orange County line, but officials said the fire’s fast growth provided a grim preview of what the 2022 wildfire season could have in store.

The man accused of killing Jacqueline Avant in her Beverly Hills home last year pleaded guilty to murder and weapons charges. Police said Aariel Maynor, 30, broke into Avant’s Trousdale Estates home with an AR-15 rifle shortly before 2 a.m. on Dec. 1 and opened fire, fatally wounding the prominent philanthropist.

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Watching Ukraine, Taiwan is worried about its own fate. Chinese President Xi Jinping is determined to eventually bring the democratically ruled island back into the Communist Party’s fold. Although Beijing has called for peaceful reunification, record incursions by Chinese warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone are a regular reminder that Xi hasn’t ruled out the use of force.

California drought and Australian floods are two sides of a La Niña amplified by climate change. La Niña is part of a natural cycle in the Pacific Ocean that influences climate around the world and is often a factor in climate extremes. But recent droughts, floods and heat waves suggest something has changed.

The Supreme Court upheld the government’s claim of secrecy in the case of a prisoner tortured by the CIA. By a 6-3 vote, the justices said the U.S. government could claim a privilege of secrecy even if there was no secret — allowing the government to block former U.S. contractors from testifying about the now well-known waterboarding and other torture of prisoners.

Purdue Pharma and U.S. states agreed to a new opioid settlement. The OxyContin maker reached a settlement over its role in the nation’s deadly opioid crisis that includes U.S. states and thousands of local governments, with the Sackler family members who own the company boosting their cash contribution to as much as $6 billion.

A Texas judge blocked the investigation of a trans teen’s parents over gender-confirmation treatments. District Judge Amy Clark Meachum issued a temporary order halting the investigation into the parents of a 16-year-old girl but stopped short of preventing the state from looking into other reports under Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s order last week that officials view such treatments as abuse.


In a polarized world, TV’s best sitcoms are about solving problems — together. Whether set in a workplace or a family or among friends, shows from CBS’ “Ghosts” to ABC’s “Abbott Elementary” model a world in which characters solve problems together, and — as important — in which problems are, in fact, solvable, a tonic in an absurdly polarized world.

How Amanda Seyfried found her (deep) voice as Elizabeth Holmes in “The Dropout.” The Hulu series tracks the rise and fall of Holmes and her biomedical company, Theranos, but no aspect of Holmes’ persona has fed into the public’s fascination more than her peculiar deep voice.

Can a rebooted “Batman” save the box office? With “The Batman,” director Matt Reeves and star Robert Pattinson set out to reinvent an iconic 80-year-old character — and throw a much-needed lifeline to the ailing movie business.


“The One” sold for less than half its list price. Los Angeles’ most extravagant mansion sold for $126 million at a bankruptcy auction. That’s a huge discount from its $295-million listing price, even with a 12% auction fee bringing the total to about $141 million.

“We’re coming for you. We’re coming for your yacht. We’re coming for your jet.” To intensify sanctions on Russia and further throttle the finances of the Kremlin’s uber-wealthy allies, the Biden administration this week announced a “KleptoCapture” task force that is aggressively targeting Russian oligarchs by seizing real estate and other prized assets. Other countries are imposing similar measures, setting off a global game of hide-and-seek on the high seas as Russian billionaires hastily attempt to move their boats to safe haven.

Science hasn’t shown these medications work. They’re being sold anyway. Federal regulators are increasingly approving medicines before studies have shown they work, leaving patients at risk of taking prescriptions that could harm but not help them. Last year, 14 new drugs received so-called accelerated approval.


Some Republican leaders find sorry is the hardest word. Politics has always been about finding the means to an end, and winning at all costs is hardly a new concept, writes columnist Mark Z. Barabak. But there is something particularly unworthy and low about Republican leaders refusing to readily condemn and ostracize the haters, extremists and nut cases in their midst.

The U.N. should kick Russia off the Security Council. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed the world. While Ukrainians try to defend themselves and call for collective self-defense, millions of people in the free world plead for action. The post-World War II international political order is failing. But it has not yet fallen: The United Nations still can take action to regain moral standing and to secure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and all other member states, writes Iryna Zaverukha.

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Reggie Jackson’s season-high 36 points powers Clippers’ rout of Lakers. Thursday night was miserable for the Lakers as a 132-111 blowout proceeded and the yawning gap between these franchises’ season was never more apparent inside Arena.

UCLA exits early from Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament with loss to Oregon. Jaelynn Penn and Ilmar’l Thomas scored 18 points but it wasn’t enough in UCLA’s 63-60 loss to Oregon.

A plea for baseball fans, by Joe Kelly. The pitcher and World Series champ writes about the lockout: “Is it the money that is at stake here? No, it’s the game itself that’s at stake. And I — along with my friends from all corners of the sports and entertainment worlds — am on a mission to save it.”

Trevor Bauer filed a defamation lawsuit against the sports news website Deadspin. The Dodgers pitcher claimed the outlet “knowingly published false information” in its coverage of sexual assault allegations made against Bauer last year.


A tray with baked goods.
Gather for Good cofounder and Sugarbear Bakes chef-owner Steph Chen will be raffling savory hand pies during this weekend’s fundraiser for Ukraine.
(Carolina Korman / Gather for Good)

Eat hand pies for a good cause. Humanitarian organizations are working to support Ukrainians seeking food and shelter during the Russian invasion — and in Los Angeles, dozens of members of the food community have joined their ranks. On Saturday, roughly 40 bakers, chefs and food retailers will participate in a fundraiser benefiting two nongovernmental organizations helping Ukrainians on the ground.

Go scouting for a sea turtle. Endangered Eastern Pacific green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), which nest and mate on sandy beaches in central Mexico, have been showing up more and more in the waters of San Diego Bay, La Jolla Cove and Marina del Rey, our colleague Mary Forgione writes in the Wild newsletter. She says one of the more reliable places to see turtles from land is along the San Gabriel River Bike Trail, where it ends in Long Beach. “You can see heads popping up in the shallow waters along the path.”


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The ugly, embarrassing spectacle of ‘milling’ around online. The Russian invasion of Ukraine elicits a range of emotions, from anxiety to grief. And like other global and political conflicts of the last decade, it’s also inspired online rhetoric that is misguided at best as people attempt to process the news — cringy poetry, invocations of Marvel movies, nervous jokes. It’s “the agitated, aimless buzzing of the type of crowd that gathers in the aftermath of some bewildering catastrophe,” as the Atlantic puts it. Sociologists have a term for this kind of behavior: “milling.” The Atlantic

“I asked her what she wanted to do with the girls. She said, ‘I want to cut them.’” In Somaliland and other parts of Africa, pandemic lockdowns kept girls out of school, making them vulnerable to “cutters” who practice female circumcision — believing it keeps girls pure for marriage. Health workers and activists call it female genital mutilation and are working to end the practice. But officials say instances of FGM rose alarmingly during the pandemic. Associated Press

America’s oldest competitive snowboarder still rips at 76. Dick Schulze defies both age and gravity. He didn’t take up the sport until his 50s and plans, despite a titanium knee and helmet crumpled in a fall that blacked him out, to keep going until he hits at least 100. Why does he do it? Because the combination of speed and agility — the sensation of skimming through a giant bowl of whipped cream, of hurtling forward like the brakes have gone out, of moving with the fluid ease of quicksilver — thrills him in ways he can’t describe. Los Angeles Times


A deep, rocky canyon with clouds above.
Circa 1940: A view east into Middle Fork Canyon and the Kings River of Kings Canyon National Park.
(National Park Service)

Eighty-two years ago today, on March 4, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a park bill to establish Kings Canyon National Park. Not long after, The Times printed a multipage photo spread and waxed eloquent on the “forest-clad valleys with sheer rock walls reminiscent of Yosemite.” Kings Canyon had “a tumbled array of mountains unequaled in North America for massed effect of peaks, palisades and minarets, with hundreds of lakes, meadows and streams.” The park was “447,499 acres of California wonderland,” The Times wrote.

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