Your Friday Briefing

The war in Ukraine, one year on

One year after Russia’s invasion, virtually no one in Ukraine has avoided the violence, destruction and bloodshed of the war, which has killed tens of thousands, left millions homeless and turned entire cities into ruins.

As the foreboding that gripped Ukraine in the days before the invasion has faded, air-raid sirens and warnings have become part of everyday life. Now, many people in Ukraine say that they have found strength in the shared sacrifice and the collective struggle for survival.

Today, Ukraine is bracing for potential Russian attacks timed to the anniversary of the war, including a symbolic “revenge” assault, as President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine put it, from Russia. Schools across Ukraine are holding classes remotely, people have been advised to avoid large gatherings, and additional security measures are being put in place.

The West: The U.S. and Europe have kept Ukraine afloat with funding, weapons and other military aid. The alliance has held up far better than many, including top officials in Russia, expected.

The latest on weapons: Poland said that it was close to completing a deal worth $10 billion to buy additional U.S.-made HIMARS rocket launchers and related equipment, as part of its own rapid military buildup. As the West struggles to find ammunition for Ukraine’s Soviet-era weapons, it is turning to arms factories across Eastern Europe.

China: At a meeting of G20 finance ministers in India, Janet Yellen, the U.S. Treasury secretary, warned Beijing against helping Russia evade sanctions. She also said that the U.S. planned to roll out additional sanctions on Russia.

The West tried to isolate Russia. It didn’t work

After Russia invaded Ukraine, the West formed what looked like an overwhelming global coalition: 141 countries supported a U.N. measure demanding that Russia unconditionally withdraw, and only four backed Russia and rejected the measure. But in the wings, 47 other countries abstained or missed the vote.

Many of those “neutral” nations have since provided crucial economic or diplomatic support for Russia. Even some of the nations that initially agreed to denounce Russia, such as Brazil, have since started moving toward a more neutral position.

Instead of cleaving in two, the world has fragmented. A vast middle sees Russia’s invasion as, primarily, a European and American problem. These countries are largely focused on protecting their own interests amid the economic and geopolitical upheaval caused by the invasion.

Russia has used the split to its own advantage, to manage the effects of Western sanctions. While many U.S. companies have left the country, exports to Russia from other countries are now well above prewar levels. Some countries are simply straddling the divide: Turkey is at once selling weapons to Ukraine and opening up an increased flow of goods to Russia.

Latest: Yesterday the U.N. General Assembly endorsed another resolution demanding that Russia withdraw from Ukraine’s territory — but China, South Africa, India and many countries continued to abstain. As the war passes the one-year mark, Russia’s strategy is clear: to wait until Western unity disintegrates.

A hotly contested election in Nigeria

Nigerians will head to the polls tomorrow to choose a new president in the most wide-open race in years. The presidential candidates for the two major parties, which have alternated power for over two decades, are facing a surprise, third-party challenger.

As voting day approached, a decision by Nigeria’s government to replace its currency caused chaos. Voters are furious at the governing party over a shortage of new bank notes, and protests could disrupt voting in parts of the country.

Our West Africa bureau chief, Ruth Maclean, is in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to cover the election. “When I interviewed Peter Obi, one of the three main candidates, the other day, he described this as an ‘existential election,’” she said. “I think that’s how many Nigerians feel, particularly young Nigerians who were involved in the EndSARS movement a couple of years ago, protesting against police violence, but also against everything they saw going wrong in Nigeria.”

She added: “Many of them have left or are trying to leave the country. If their chosen candidate wins, maybe some will stay, or come back.”

As populations in wealthy countries grow older, Africa’s median age is moving downward. In Nigeria, half of the population of more than 200 million is 18 and under. “If Nigeria is safe and prosperous, it brightens life for a whole generation of Africans,” Ruth said.


Around the World

Rescuers are working to save 53 coal miners who are missing after a mine collapsed in northern China.

A teenager in France who is accused of having stabbed his teacher will be charged with premeditated murder, prosecutors say.

Thousands of seniors in China are protesting abrupt cuts to their health insurance.

Turkey is scrutinizing builders after the recent earthquake that killed more than 43,000 people in the country.

Other Big Stories

President Biden nominated Ajay Banga, who focused on the threat of climate change as Mastercard’s chief executive, to lead the World Bank.

The European Commission banned TikTok from most of its employees’ phones, citing security concerns.

In a pilot study of 61 British companies, employers offered workers a four-day workweek to see if it improved morale and productivity. Nearly every company decided to continue.

The founder of the troubled digital-media start-up Ozy was arrested on fraud charges.

The Week in Culture

R. Kelly and Harvey Weinstein were each given long additional sentences for sex crimes. The new sentences may not significantly alter how long they spend behind bars.

Alec Baldwin pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter for the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on a film set.

The Victoria and Albert Museum will open a David Bowie archive.

In David Hockney’s newest show in London, paintings are beamed onto the walls of the venue, surrounding and engulfing the viewer.

A Morning Read

About 54 percent of Israel’s exports are high-tech products and services, and Israelis have created more than 90 so-called unicorns — privately held companies valued at more than $1 billion.

But ahead of a judicial overhaul that could transform the country and frighten away investors, tech leaders in Israel like Yanki Margolit, above, are contemplating an exodus.


The most coveted soccer player in Europe: The future of Jude Bellingham will likely to come to a head in the coming months.

Ahead of her sixth World Cup, Marta is still dancing: For two decades, the Brazilian soccer legend has been defined by her will to win: “I still have the passion.”

Welcome to The Athletic F1: From each racetrack around the world, we’ll dive deep into the personalities, technology, strategy, business, politics, culture and miscellanea of F1. Come along for the ride.

From The Times: Korfball is not new, but its proponents say it has new relevance amid questions about the gender divide in sports. Now it just needs to catch on outside the Netherlands.


The dull edge of science fiction

Science fiction magazines have been flooded by submissions of works of fiction generated by A.I. chatbots. One editor, Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld, said that he had stopped accepting submissions altogether until he could get a better handle on the problem.

At least for now, the machine-written stories are easily distinguishable from those written by human beings. The writing is “bad in spectacular ways,” Clarke said. Often, the bots simply aren’t very imaginative: Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine received several A.I.-generated stories with the same title: “The Last Hope.”

To test the bots’ sci-fi chops, I asked one to write a story according to the criteria for submissions laid out by Asimov’s Science Fiction. The response was alarmingly mediocre: a tale entitled “The Final Journey” about “the most advanced spaceship ever built,” setting out “on a mission to explore a distant planet that was believed to harbor life.”

For more: When the movies imagined A.I., they pictured the wrong disaster, our critic A.O. Scott writes. Instead of the chilling rationality of HAL in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” we got the drearier, very human awfulness of Microsoft’s Sydney — deceitful, irrational and sometimes plain old mean.


What to Cook

Juicy chargrilled burgers are perfect Friday fare.

What to Read

Joseph Earl Thomas’s debut, “Sink,” is an extraordinary memoir of a Black American boyhood.


There’s a wild world inside your gut.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Quick haircuts (four letters).

And here are today’s Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. And a special thanks to Lynsey Chutel, our briefing writer in Johannesburg, for her item on Nigeria’s elections.

See you on Monday. — Natasha

P.S. In the final issue of our newsletter Debatable, which offered sharp arguments on pressing issues, we look back on some standout editions.

“The Daily” is on a U.S. Supreme Court case about social media. We have a new show out this week, from Serial Productions: The Coldest Case in Laramie.

Send thoughts, feedback and well wishes for the weekend to Natasha and the team at [email protected].

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