Your Thursday Briefing
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, spoke on Wednesday.Credit…Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times
Russia attacks Ukraine
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, early this morning declared the start of a “special military operation” in Ukraine. Minutes later, large explosions were visible near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Blasts were reported in Kyiv, the capital, and other parts of the country. Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said that Russian troops had landed in Odessa and were crossing the border. Follow the latest updates.
Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. said the country was not targeting the Ukrainian people but the “junta” in power. Russia’s defense ministry said it was using “high-precision weapons” to disable Ukrainian military infrastructure, air defense facilities, military airfields and planes, according to reports in RIA Novosti, the news agency operated by the Russian state.
Hours earlier, Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, called for Russia to avoid war, appealing directly to the Russian people and their nations’ shared history and culture. “Listen to the voice of reason,” he said early this morning in Kyiv. “The Ukrainian people want peace.” He said he had tried to contact the Russian president Vladimir Putin but was met with silence.
From the White House: President Biden described Putin’s actions as a “chosen premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering.” He vowed to “hold Russia accountable.”
Sanctions: E.U. sanctions will target Putin’s inner circle, and President Biden announced new sanctions against a subsidiary of the Kremlin-controlled company Gazprom that is building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The Biden administration is also preparing a ban on American technology exports to Russia. More sanctions will likely follow.
From Opinion: Putin is making a historic mistake, writes Madeleine Albright, the U.S. secretary of state from 1997 to 2001.
A new coronavirus vaccine from Sanofi and GSK
Two doses of a new Covid-19 vaccine made by the European drugmakers Sanofi and GSK achieved 100 percent efficacy against severe disease and hospitalization, 75 percent efficacy against moderate-to-severe disease and 58 percent efficacy against symptomatic illness, according to the results from its Phase 3 trial.
Rather than using the mRNA approach used by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the Sanofi-GSK vaccine takes a more conventional tack, using a modified version of the virus’s own spike protein to stimulate an immune response. Protein-based vaccines are also relatively inexpensive to manufacture and may not require ultracold storage, making them promising options for poorer countries.
Used as a booster, the Sanofi-GSK shot increased antibody levels by 18- to 30-fold. The companies said Wednesday they intend to submit the vaccine for authorization to regulatory authorities in the U.S. and Europe. The pharmaceutical company Novavax applied last month for authorization in the U.S. of a similar protein-based vaccine.
Funding: Sanofi and GSK received billions of dollars for development from Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccine accelerator.
Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.
In other developments:
The E.U. wants to relax pandemic rules for vaccinated travelers from abroad.
For some in England, an end to coronavirus restrictions threatens more isolation.
South Korea approved Pfizer’s Covid vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds on Wednesday, as cases soar.
Anti-vaccine protests with ties to the far-right in Wellington, the New Zealand capital, have taken a violent turn in recent days.
Under Xi Jinping, China turns inward
Modern China was built on the belief that connecting to the outside world was the route from impoverishment to power. Now, emboldened by its transformation and guided by Xi Jinping, its most dominant leader in decades, the country is shunning the influences and ideas that nourished its rise.
China, citing the coronavirus pandemic, is no longer freely issuing most passports, and the borders are almost entirely shut. Restrictions have been placed on education, foreign investment and even the arts: Xi has exhorted artists to embrace “cultural confidence” by promoting traditional Chinese literature and art. He has warned against imitating Hollywood.
There is little chance of returning to the financial isolationism of the Mao Zedong era. But if the government values the economic benefits of globalization, the same does not seem true of less tangible ones — artistic, intellectual, interpersonal — that have made China a member of the global community.
Case in point: Even the Winter Olympics this month in Beijing, by definition one of the most globally minded events in the world, was conducted on China’s terms: without foreign spectators and in defiance of diplomatic boycotts by countries, including the U.S.
THE LATEST NEWS
Stories From the U.S.
The lawyers leading the Manhattan district attorney’s inquiry into Donald Trump abruptly resigned, throwing the future of the case into doubt. Separately, Ivanka Trump, the former president’s daughter, is in talks with the Jan. 6 House committee about being interviewed.
The U.S. will end a contentious Trump-era effort to fight Chinese national security threats that critics said unfairly targeted Asian professors.
The White House said Biden was on track to decide on a Supreme Court nominee by next week. He has interviewed at least three candidates to fill the seat vacated by Justice Stephen Breyer.
Around the World
Worsening heat and dryness could lead to a 50 percent rise in off-the-charts wildfires by the end of the century, climate scientists warn in a U.N. report.
Fed up with Google, some conservative influencers and conspiracy theorists are turning to the search engine DuckDuckGo, in part of a broader effort to shift people away from Big Tech.
Sea ice around Antarctica has reached a record low in four decades of observations, a new analysis of satellite images shows.
What Else Is Happening
A new study suggests that the massive meteor that ended the dinosaur age may have hit the Earth when it was spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
A 16-year-old chess prodigy, Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa of India, defeated Magnus Carlsen, the reigning world champion, during a rapid online tournament, stunning the chess world.
A Morning Read
Rejecting conventional ideals of good taste in favor of grit and grime, fashion’s new mood continues a long tradition of dirtbag glamour.
ARTS AND IDEAS
France leaves Mali, but not West Africa
After a nine-year counterterrorism mission that failed to bring the peace it promised, France announced plans to pull out of Mali after a military coup.
In Paris, the withdrawal may signal a loss of influence at the core of its former colonial empire. In Mali’s capital, Bamako, the withdrawal may be welcomed and may represent a shift toward countries like China, Turkey and Russia.
But France is not ending what some fear could be a forever war. Instead, the country and its allies will meet in June to discuss restructuring their missions in the Sahel region, which cuts across Africa just below the Sahara. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, has spoken emphatically about wanting to build ties outside its traditional sphere of influence, including to Niger or the Gulf of Guinea.
New priorities will be needed to avoid repeating the Mali quagmire, said Lori-Anne Théroux-Bénoni, who leads research on the region at the Institute for Security Studies. Instead of focusing on neutralizing the leaders of jihadist groups, France and its allies should work to end the conditions that encouraged recruitment, bolster local security and protect civilians, she said.
In the short run, though, this change may further crowd the theater of conflict, as France would need to engage with countries that have stayed out of the sprawling operation.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Though it may look dramatic, salmon en papillote couldn’t be easier to make.
What to Watch
After four seasons, Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer will say goodbye to “Killing Eve.”
What to Read
“Burning Questions,” Margaret Atwood’s new book, collects sundry pieces she has written (and sometimes spoken) since 2004.
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Spanish for “fire” (five letters).
Here’s today’s Wordle, and a look at some strategies for success.
And here is the Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha
P.S. David Gelles will join the Climate desk to cover the intersection of business and climate policy.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is about Putin’s logic for invading Ukraine.
Lynsey Chutel wrote today’s Arts and Ideas. You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].