COVID-19 - The number of Covid-19 infections in Romania is going down significantly, with 30% fewer cases than last week being reported. The number of infections per one thousand inhabitants is also on the wane, but it still is above 3/1,000 in Romania's counties. The infection rate in the capital Bucharest is 32.8/1,000. Almost 7,700 new cases have been reported in Romania on Monday, by 4,000 less than a week ago. This is the smallest daily number of new infections since the beginning of the 5th wave, more than a month ago. Some 85 related deaths have also been announced. 1,100 people are treated in intensive care units. The biggest number of daily infections in Romania was reported on February 1st - 40,018.
CRISIS IN UKRAINE - Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, on Monday said he is looking into the request of pro-Moscow separatists in Eastern Ukraine to recognize the independence of the two self-proclaimed people's republics in Donbas. Putin said this topic will be raised on the sidelines of the country's Security Council, which experts say convenes on special occasions. The Russian president also said the peacemaking process in the region has no prospect of success. Previously, the leaders of the two separatist territories in Eastern Ukraine called on Vladimir Putin to recognize the independence of these territories and to enforce a so-called defense cooperation strategy. In December, 2021 the president of the DNR and LNR republics, Leonid Pasenchnik and Denis Pushilin, became members of the United Russian presidential party. This year, they called on the Kremlin leader to recognize the unilaterally proclaimed independence of the two breakaway republics. In other news, on Monday Ukraine official dismissed of having sent saboteurs to Russia. Previously, the Russian army claimed to have killed five Ukrainian saboteurs in the borderland region of Rostov, accusing Ukrainian military vehicles of forcing to cross the border. The incident, which analysts say is the most serious since the crisis broke out, follows after the United States earlier this month said it holds evidence proving that Russia plans on filming false Ukrainian attacks as a pretext to invade this country. Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, said Russia could also produce a propaganda film depicting bodies and pretended families in mourning, buildings destroyed by Ukrainian and Western armies, either in Russia or in Eastern Ukraine.
ROMANIA AND UKRAINE - Romania's Foreign Minister, Bogdan Aurescu, argued in favor of continuing efforts to come up with a diplomatic solution to the current crisis in Ukraine, while at the same time finalizing a comprehensive set of sanctions against Russia, as a firm and reliable response of the European Union, in close coordination with the United States, Great Britain and Canada. Attending Monday's meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels, Minister Aurescu underscored the importance of cooperation between the EU and NATO regarding the developments in Ukraine. Bucharest has expressed its full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbor. As an EU and NATO member state, Romania has rallied to all the sanctions introduced against the Russian Federation. The Romanian media writes that, should Russia invade Ukraine, Bucharest authorities have also considered receiving a steady flow of migrants from Ukraine. The Romanian community in Ukraine totals over 400 thousand people, mostly clustered in northern Bukovina, northern and southern Bessarabia and in the Hertsa region. These territories were annexed by the USSR in 1940 and then taken over by Ukraine in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
SIIJ - The Chamber of Deputies on Monday adopted a draft law for the dismantling of the Section Investigating Crime in Justice (SIIJ). According to the law, the prerogatives of the Section will be transferred to the Prosecution and Forensics Department with the High Court of Cassation and Justice. The investigations will be handled by prosecutors nominated by the Superior Council of Magistracy and appointed by the Prosecutor General for a period of four years. Justice Minister Cătălin Predoiu says the dismantling of SIIJ had a clear deadline for implementation in the governing program and might contribute to Romania's Schengen accession. Minister Predoiu went on to say the bill is the result of transparent consultations, including with Romania's foreign partners. Set up under the former Social-Democrat administration controlled by Liviu Dragnea, who in the meantime was sentenced for corruption, the Section Investigating Crime in Justice was considered by many analysts an instrument to strong-arm magistrates.
TENNIS - Romanian tennis player Simona Halep went down four spots in the WTA standings and is now ranked 27th. This is the lowest ranking since July 2013 (30 WTA) for Halep, a former world no. 1, despite the semi-final played last week in Dubai. Ashleigh Barty of Australia is in top position, followed by Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic. Romania has six players in WTA Top 100, Simona Halep, Sorana Cîrstea (31 WTA), Irina-Camelia Begu (55 WTA), Elena-Gabriela Ruse (56 WTA), Jaqueline Cristian (71 WTA) and Ana Bogdan (99 WTA). Additionally, there are six Romanian players also represented in the doubles standings: Raluca Olaru (36 WTA), Monica Niculescu (40 WTA), Irina-Camelia Begu (52 WTA), Irina Bara (70 WTA), Elena-Gabriela Ruse (97 WTA) and Andreea Mitu (98 WTA). In other news from tennis, on Monday, at the WTA tournament in Doha, Simona Halep was ousted by France's Caroline Garcia in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3 in the opening round. Another Romanian, Irina-Camelia Begu, was also knocked out by Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-1. (EE & VP)