WNBA Brittney Griner Released in Prisoner Swap for Russian Arms Dealer

WNBA star Brittney Griner was freed in a prisoner swap for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer, concluding the whirlwind of delicate negotiations between Russia and the United States.

The United Arab Emirates facilitated the release. According to BBC news, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shares a relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and assisted in co-ordinating swaps of hundreds of prisoners held by Russia and Ukraine.

Two private planes reportedly brought Griner and Bout to Abu Dhabi airport from Moscow and Washington.

The pair reportedly walked past each other on the airport tarmac and made their way home.

The big story

Griner was imprisoned for months in Russian prisons and was sentenced to 9 years after she was found with vape cartridges of cannabis oil in her luggage in February.

Bout was sentenced to 25 years in US prisons for conspiracy to kill Americans and has become known as the ‘Merchant of Death’ because he was a gun runner and ran fleets of Soviet-era cargo planes to Africa. He provided support to terrorist organizations and  inspired the film, “Lord of War.”

What President Biden says

“She’s safe. She’s on a plane,” Biden said in brief remarks at the White House Thursday morning. “She’s on her way home. After months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances, Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones and she should have been there all along. This is a day we’ve worked toward for a long time. We never stopped pushing for her release.”

Putin Dangerously Escalates War Strikes and Threatens More Missile Attacks

President Vladimir Putin ups the ante and threatens more missile attacks on Ukraine after Russia hit Kyiv with an intense barrage of strikes.

“It was not possible to leave [Ukrainian attacks] unanswered. If attempts at terrorist attacks continue, the response from Russia will be severe and correspond to the level of threat,” Putin said on Monday at a televised meeting of his Security Council.

“Let there be no doubt about it.” 

The big story

Ukraine blasted a key bridge to the Crimean Peninsula over the weekend which is marked as Putin’s flagship project.

Putin launched attacks on Ukraine in February fearing that its neighbor Ukraine was leaning toward Western ideals and was a constant threat to Russia’s existence. 

Thousands of people have since died since the war started, towns and cities in Ukraine such as Mariupol lie in ruins and over 12 million people are displaced. 

Why it matters

It marks a dangerous new escalation since the war started. The world fears Putin may resort to nuclear weapons.

What Ukraine President Zelensky says

On his Telegram channel, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, “They are trying to destroy us and wipe us off the face of the Earth.” He urged Ukrainians to stay in bomb shelters as air-raid alerts echoed in every region of the country.

“Unfortunately there are dead and wounded.”

The Bahamas Votes to Suspend Russia From Human Rights Council After Putin’s Warning

The Bahamas and 92 other countries voted to suspend Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council following its “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” in Ukraine.

Twenty-four other countries voted ‘no’ while 58 countries abstained from voting.

Why  it matters

Russia warned that any country voting yes or abstaining will be viewed as an “unfriendly gesture” and will suffer consequences for bilateral ties.

The big picture

The United States moved a motion to remove Russia from the Human Rights Council, saying it was hypocritical for the Putin-led country to be on the council.

Some countries like Brazil, India and Mexico which abstained from voting called for further investigation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, before its removal.

The UNGA needed only a two-thirds majority to suspend Russia. It is the second country to be removed from the council following Libya’s suspension in 2011 due to atrocities on protesters by Muammar Ghadafi-led forces.




Russian Entities Have $3 Billion in Bahamian Offshore Banks

$3 billion of Russian money are believed to be in Bahamian international banks.

According to Reuters, the Central Bank of the Bahamas found $420 million in deposits and $2.5 billion in custody or trust assets “with ultimate beneficial owners from or connected to Russia” in its offshore banks.

The bank says the figures do not include Russian assets that may be in Bahamian commercial banks but only the international banks which serve wealthy clients outside of the country.

Last week, the Bahamas joined other western nations in sanctioning transactions with Russian entities.

The Bahamas is a tax haven for wealthy clients who set up finances there because it has low or no corporate taxes.  Tax havens rarely disclose the companies and the owners hiding in their banks.

Last year, the Bahamas ranked eighth in its investment in Russia with $22.96 billion.

US Bans Russian Oil and Gas. What Will the Bahamas Do Next? Hike at Gas Pump is Imminent

As President Vladimir Putin continues to wage war on Ukraine, causing one of the world’s greatest humanitarian crises, President Joe Biden announced a ban on Russian fuel, hoping to cripple the “main artery of Russia’s economy.”

“We’re banning all imports of Russian oil and gas energy. That means Russian oil will no longer be accepted in U.S. ports, and the American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin’s war machine.”

While the US used an abrupt approach because its dependency on Russian fuel is less, the European Union is planning to cut its reliance on Russian gas by two-thirds this year and end it “well before 2030”.

What it means

The ban on Russian oil will automatically further spike gas prices, where consumers are already seeing a surge at the gas pump.

At the onset of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Paul Hepburn, a proprietor of three Esso Gas Stations warned that Bahamians can expect to pay $6 a gallon, while Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell estimated $8 a gallon.

The big story

Ten percent of the world’s fuel comes from Russia, so if dealers source fuel from other places, the demand will cause the price of fuel to increase.

“We think that a complete ban on Russian energy imports would cause the prices of Brent crude oil and European natural gas to surge to $160 [per barrel],” economists at Capital Economics said in a research report.

Russia is the EU’s top gas supplier.

What Biden says

The president said he made the decision in consultation with European allies but they may not be in a position to join the ban. He said the United States is working closely with them to develop a “long-term strategy” to reduce their dependence on Russian energy.

The Bahamas Votes Against Vladimir Putin in UN Resolution

The Bahamas joined 141 countries on Wednesday, in condemning the war actions of Russia against Ukraine, demanding the withdrawal of Russian forces from the neighboring territory.

Five countries including Russia opposed the UN resolution– Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea and Syria.

Thirty-five countries abstained from voting, including China, Iraq, Iran, India, Pakistan, and South Africa.

Why it matters

The vote helps to isolate Russia. The resolution, though non binding, shows global unity.


What President Zelensky is saying

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised the outcome of the vote, tweeting, “I’m grateful to everyone & every state that voted in favor. You have chosen the right side of history.”

The results “convincingly show that a global anti-Putin coalition has been formed and is functioning. The world is with us. The truth is on our side.”

Bahamian Basketball Player Leaves Russia as Putin Ramps Up Attack on Ukraine

As Russia steps up its relentless attacks on Ukraine, Bahamian professional Basketball player Jonquel Jones has fled the Putin-led country for Turkey.

28-year-old Jones took to social media today, announcing her flight’s arrival in Turkey.

“Just landed in Turkey,” she said.  “And all I want to do is cry.

“That situation was way more stressful than I realized.  Thank God for always watching over and protecting me.”

Leaving Russia was a quick change since last week Jones who plays for Connecticut Suns, suggested she felt safe in Russia though family and friends were urging her to leave.

“No changes on my end. If it wasn’t for family members messaging me and me following the news, I really wouldn’t be able to tell,” she said on Thursday.

But today she is thanking friends for ensuring her safety.

“To everyone that messaged me, checked on me, asked a friend about me while I was in Russia. I really want to say thank you. I felt for the love.”

The big problem

Despite sanctions and rebukes, Vladimir Putin has ramped up attacks on Ukraine, whose President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pleads for international assistance as talks resume for a peaceful end to the war tactics.

According to the United Nations, more than 800,000 refugees have fled Ukraine for safety as Russia invades the neighboring country.

Why it matters

Russians have protested President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, many assembling in Saint Petersburg, shouting, “No to war.”

Many sporting organizations are cutting ties with Russia as Motion Picture Association follows suit.

Bahamian Basketball Player Feels Safe in Russia

Bahamian-born professional basketball player Jonquel Jones says she feels safe in Russia though President Vladimir Putin launched an “unprovoked” attack on its neighbor Ukraine.

The 28-year-old WNBA player who plays for Connecticut Sun, took to social media to say, “No changes on my end. If it wasn’t for family members messaging me and me following the news, I really wouldn’t be able to tell.”

But concerned family members are urging her to leave the country.

Jones says her brother advised her to “may case come home and get out dem people yard.”

Other posters on Twitter joined the chorus pressing her to leave Russia as the war intensifies.

Bobbi tells her, “I am glad to hear you all are safe as can be in this situation.  I thought that things on the Russian end wouldn’t escalate immediately. Continue to be aware of all that is going on.”

Patti Talahongva advises, “Come home. Remember the WNBA is so important. We need all of our players safe.”

Another tells her, “Make haste.”

Last week, as tension grew between Russia and Ukraine, the Bahamas Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged Bahamians to leave Ukraine.

Jones, though raised in the Bahamas,  has Bosnian citizenship.


Bahamas Gas Prices to Skyrocket as Russia-Ukraine War Intensifies

The Russian-Ukrainian conflict can cause gas prices to skyrocket, according to Paul Hepburn, a proprietor of three Esso Gas Stations, who warned consumers to expect gas prices to hit $6 per gallon.

“With this war starting, it’s only going up and up…there are talks about six dollars a gallon. That is real people.”

Hepburn suggests consumers keep their gas tanks full as they could feel the increase in fuel prices within the next month.

“It may not last long but we don’t know.  But it’s coming. Six dollars a gallon is coming.

“Ten percent of the fuel that the world uses come from Russia so you’ll have a reduction. And now we have to deal with the fuel, the rest from around the world, so it increases the demand,” Hepburn said.

The big story

Russia is recognized as the world’s second-largest oil producer and its attack on Ukraine caused turbulence in the financial markets.

Crude increased to $105 a barrel, the first since August 2014. This is after experts say there was a rise in more than 8% on the international markets.

Why it matters

The Bahamas is already dealing with rising inflation on grocery items. Bahamians must now cope with high fuel prices.

Photo credit: Indianexpress

The World Begs for Peace but Putin Attacks Ukraine in the Early Morning

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an attack on neighboring country Ukraine, early Thursday morning, defying the United Nation’s call for restraint.

AP Photo

Explosions were heard in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital as reports swirled that Boryspil International Airport was attacked. Sirens were heard around the city.

US President Joe Biden wasted no time in condemning the “unprovoked and unjustified” attack on Ukraine, promising the world will “hold Russia accountable”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Putin to “stop troops from attacking Ukraine” while Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Putin did not respond to his invitation to hold discussions.

The big story

World leaders fear this can become the biggest war in Europe since 1945. The UN held an emergency meeting to dissuade Russia from attacking Ukraine, but the messages did nothing to discourage Putin from making his move.