KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledges that what he calls his “special military operation” in Ukraine is taking longer than expected. When asked Wednesday about how long the war is taking, he responded: “Of course, it could be a lengthy process.” Russian troops invaded Ukraine more than nine months ago and unleashed fighting that has displaced millions from their homes, and killed and injured tens of thousands of people. Putin hailed his forces’ occupation of Ukrainian territories as a major achievement. He said his country’s nuclear weapons serve as a deterrent to escalation. Putin has periodically hinted at his potential use of nuclear weapons. Also, fresh signs emerged that Russian officials are strengthening border defenses.

China eases anti-COVID measures following protests

BEIJING (AP) — China has rolled back rules on isolating people with COVID-19 and dropped virus test requirements for some public places. That is a dramatic change to a strategy that confined millions of people to their homes and sparked protests and demands for President Xi Jinping to resign. The move adds to earlier easing that fueled hopes Beijing was scrapping its “zero COVID” strategy. Experts warn that restrictions can’t be lifted completely until at least mid-2023 because millions of elderly people still must be vaccinated and the health care system strengthened. China is the last major country still trying to stamp out transmission of the virus while many nations switch to trying to live with it.

Germany: 25 arrested on suspicion of planning armed coup

BERLIN (AP) — Officials say thousands of police officers have carried out raids across much of Germany against suspected far-right extremists who allegedly sought to overthrow the government in an armed coup. Federal prosecutors said some 3,000 officers conducted searches at 130 sites in 11 of Germany’s 16 states on Wednesday against adherents of the so-called Reich Citizens movement. They said 22 German citizens were detained on suspicion of “membership in a terrorist organization.” Three others, including a Russian citizen, were held on suspicion of supporting the organization. Officials have repeatedly warned that far-right extremists pose the biggest threat to Germany’s domestic security.

Donors race to get generators, other aid to hard-hit Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — When Russian forces launched a military campaign against infrastructure in Ukraine, they opened a front that carried the war along power lines and water mains to homes, schools, hospitals and Ukrainian livelihoods. The government in Kyiv and the Western countries that have backed it with billions in military aid now are scrambling along with the United Nations and aid groups to get blankets, insulation, generators, medical supplies, cash and more basics into the invaded country as winter looms. Despite a swift response, the needs are changing fast and swelling. A U.N. official said this week, “In Ukraine today, the ability of civilians to survive is under attack,” Griffiths said.

Ronaldo loses Portugal spot to sully World Cup journey

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The dream is still alive for Cristiano Ronaldo at the World Cup. Soccer’s most prolific modern-day scorer might yet claim the one major title to elude him in a career like no other. But it didn’t quite feel that way as he walked off the field alone at Lusail Stadium and left the rest of the Portugal team to celebrate getting through to the quarterfinals after a 6-1 rout of Switzerland. It was a rather sad sight as a veteran in decline departed the scene and his teammates continued to party. A bruising few weeks for Ronaldo have seen lose his contract at Manchester United and now lose his place in Portugal’s team.

Oldest DNA reveals life in Greenland 2 million years ago

NEW YORK (AP) — Scientists have discovered the oldest known DNA and used it to reveal what life was like 2 million years ago in the northern tip of Greenland. Today, it’s a barren Arctic desert. But back then it was a lush landscape of trees and vegetation with an array of animals, even the now extinct mastodon. The study published Wednesday looks at environmental DNA — bits of genetic material that organisms leave in their surroundings. By studying these tiny pieces, scientists found an unusual mix of species, with reindeer and geese perhaps living alongside mastodons.