Thursday was Day 1 of the first major land war in Europe in decades. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a grim, unsettling development and one that has, rightfully, eclipsed the local stories typically highlighted in this newsletter.
So today I’ll be sharing some links and resources that hopefully will provide you with some context for what’s happening in Europe and how it could affect us here in California.
First, if you’re still trying to wrap your head around the situation in Ukraine, I recommend this explainer from The New York Times. If you’re already up to speed, these maps tracking the invasion can help you keep up with the latest.
To recap what has happened so far: On Thursday, Russia invaded Ukraine, ignited battles that left dozens dead and seized the former power plant at Chernobyl. Early Friday, videos verified by The Times showed a large explosion in the sky over the outskirts of southern Kyiv, the capital.
It remains unclear what the end goal is for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia or whether the U.S. sanctions announced on Thursday will persuade him to pull back.
The attacks on Ukraine are upsetting for anyone watching from the United States, but particularly for those of Ukrainian descent. More than 90,000 Californians claim Ukrainian ancestry, about 15 percent of the nation’s total Ukrainian population, according to 2019 American Community Survey data.
Many news outlets in California have covered anguished Ukrainian communities — in Sacramento, San Diego, Los Angeles and the Bay Area — that are raising money or gathering in local churches to pray.
Irina Hetman, who lives in Southern California, told ABC7 that she feared for her 38-year-old son who serves in the Ukrainian armed forces. He has a young daughter and is currently stationed in the country’s eastern region, which is under attack.
“I would like to go to Ukraine and be close to my son,” Hetman said. “But right now, I don’t know what I can do.”
Rising gas prices
One consequence of the conflict you may have already felt is high gas prices. On Thursday, the average cost of a gallon in California reached an all-time high of $4.77, according to AAA.
We had the most expensive gas in the nation yesterday and were one of the few states where the average gallon price exceeded $4. To blame are California’s high gas taxes, myriad effects of the coronavirus pandemic — and, of course, the invasion.
Russia is the world’s third-largest supplier of oil, so oil prices have been creeping upward in recent days amid fears that an invasion could lead to sanctions limiting gas exports. Though California doesn’t import any oil from Russia, limited supplies globally would lead to greater demand and rising costs here too, experts say.
Indeed, gas price records were set Thursday across large swaths of California, including San Diego, Sacramento, Redding, Napa and Orange County.
But after crude oil prices surged to their highest price in seven years on Thursday, they began to stabilize after President Biden said the United States was working with other countries to coordinate the release of supplies from strategic petroleum reserves. (In fact, fuel exports have been left off the country’s list of sanctions against Russia — and not by accident.)
“My administration is using every tool at its disposal to protect American families and businesses from rising prices at the gas pump, taking active steps to bring down the costs,” Biden said.
For more on the Ukraine conflict:
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Cynthia Chambers, who recommends a getaway in Orange County:
“Our favorite place is San Clemente because it’s a good place to cycle near the beach and has good restaurants and resorts that take a pet. We love that San Clemente is small but within a short driving distance to San Diego. There are lots of outdoor restaurants and places to enjoy during this pandemic.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
What we’re recommending
The artist Takesada Matsutani’s latest experiments, at Hauser & Wirth in Los Angeles.
And before you go, some good news
The fifth annual Black Joy Parade, a promenade through the streets of downtown Oakland in celebration of Black businesses and artists, returns on Sunday.
The last time the parade was held in person was February 2020. That year’s event drew more than 25,000 attendees, Oaklandside reports.
“We are so excited to host the Black Joy Parade in person again,” the event’s founder, Elisha Greenwell, said. “We can’t wait for the community to see what we have created to celebrate us. It’s going to feel like the largest family reunion ever.”
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back on Monday. — Soumya
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: “It was so funny,” using a non-literal expression (5 letters).
Briana Scalia, Mariel Wamsley and Geordon Wollner contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.