Your Wednesday Briefing

A local resident in front of a destroyed apartment building in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on Tuesday.Credit…Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

‘They’re bombing us with everything’

Russia plunged into a new, more methodical chapter of the war in Ukraine yesterday, intent on crushing Ukrainian defenses while avoiding the same blunders that badly damaged Russian forces in the conflict’s first weeks. Russian officials said missile and artillery forces had struck hundreds of Ukrainian military targets overnight. Follow the latest updates.

The strikes mainly hit the eastern region known as Donbas, Ukraine’s industrial heartland, where pro-Moscow separatists have battled Ukrainian forces since Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. The region has now become the stated territorial objective of Russia’s redeployed invasion force along a front that stretches roughly 300 miles.

Ukraine’s military said that its forces had repulsed seven different Russian thrusts along the front on Tuesday, destroying 10 tanks and 18 armored units in the battles. Ukraine’s Western supporters, led by the U.S., are now rushing to send longer-range weapons — arms that American officials said were designed to thwart the Russian offensive.

Calls for a cease-fire: Russia rejected a request to pause the fighting and allow for civilian evacuations in Ukraine, saying the demands were not sincere and would only provide time to arm Ukrainian fighters.

Mariupol: With Russian troops closing in, Ukrainian soldiers holed up in the besieged city issued a message of despair. “We’re surrounded; they’re bombing us with everything they can,” one Ukrainian soldier said. “Our only plan is for the blockade to be broken by our forces so that we can get out of here.”

In other news from the war:

  • The Pentagon estimates that Russia has sent 11 more battalion tactical groups into Ukraine, with tens of thousands more troops in reserve.

  • At least three more people were killed in Kharkiv, this time in a Russian artillery strike.

  • Dozens of Ukrainian children have been separated from family members at the U.S.-Mexico border.

  • The E.U.’s leader said the bloc is working on the details of an embargo on Russian oil imports.

A cluster of houses in Inanda, north of Durban, that were destroyed during last week’s flooding in Kwazulu-Natal Province.Credit…Joao Silva/The New York Times

Nearly 4,000 homes destroyed in South Africa floods

A week after pounding rain caused one of the deadliest natural disasters in South Africa’s history, the government yesterday was plotting an arduous road ahead of cleanup and rebuilding, while still trying to recover dozens of bodies believed to have been buried under mud or swept out to sea.

The Durban area was overwhelmed last week by flooding and mudslides that killed at least 448 people, left around 50 missing, and displaced more than 40,000. Nearly 4,000 homes have been destroyed and more than 8,300 are damaged, said Cyril Ramaphosa, the president.

The latest consequence of a string of deadly, devastating storms across southern and eastern Africa, the flooding has underscored the increasing toll of climate change, especially for the most socioeconomically vulnerable, and amplified the need for a more aggressive government response to stem the rising number of weather-related fatalities.

Context: Much of the death and destruction occurred in settlements of flimsy shacks constructed by people who could not otherwise afford stable housing. Some took place in communities of small, cube-like homes that sit in valleys near rivers or cling to hillsides.

Quotable: “Very often, not just in South Africa, but in many other developing countries as well, there simply isn’t the money, there’s not the expertise and there isn’t the government will to invest properly in protecting the poorest in society,” said Jasper Knight, a professor of physical geography at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Boris Johnson departing 10 Downing Street in London yesterday.Credit…Neil Hall/EPA, via Shutterstock

Johnson adopts a tone of contrition

Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, faced Parliament yesterday, attempting to move on from a scandal over illicit parties at Downing Street that has threatened his hold on power and made him the first confirmed lawbreaker in living memory to hold his nation’s highest elected office.

Though the war in Ukraine and a lack of obvious successors have conspired to keep Johnson in his job, there are weighty legal and constitutional issues at stake. Opposition lawmakers hammered the prime minister for flouting his own rules and accused him of misleading Parliament when he claimed that the gatherings held in his office had not been improper.

Only a single Conservative lawmaker, Mark Harper, called on Johnson to resign. Several echoed the arguments of his cabinet ministers that the scandal was a distraction at a time when Europe is facing its gravest security crisis since World War II. Forcing out the prime minister now, they said, would be a mistake.

Apologies: Johnson apologized more than a dozen times, though he never explicitly admitted to breaking the law. He was especially contrite about his previous statements to Parliament, which pose a particular danger to him since they have been exposed as misleading, either intentionally or unwittingly.

From Labour: “He knows he’s dishonest and incapable of changing, so he drags everybody else down with him,” said Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition. He urged backbench members of Johnson’s party not to follow “in the slipstream of an out-of-touch, out-of-control prime minister.”

In other virus news:

  • Character hugs resumed at Disneyland this week after a two-year break, bringing tears, squeals of joy and long lines.

  • Unvaccinated children from 5 to 11 years old in the U.S. were hospitalized with Covid at twice the rate of vaccinated children during the Omicron surge, health officials said.

  • Moderna said it may be able to introduce promising new versions of its vaccines by fall to handle virus variants.

  • The sudden abandonment of mask mandates in the U.S. has alarmed some health experts, elated many travelers and stirred bewilderment among regular Americans and policymakers.


Around the World

Credit…Anthony Kwan for The New York Times
  • The Star Ferry, a 142-year-old emblem of Hong Kong, is struggling to survive, dimming the life of the harbor and the city itself.

  • Myanmar is now one of the most dangerous places in the world to do medical work. At least 30 doctors have been killed there since the 2021 coup.

  • At least six people died in Afghanistan after explosions rocked a high school and a learning center.

Other Big Stories

Credit…Mark Brake/Getty Images
  • Elon Musk is racing to shore up debt financing, including potentially taking out a loan against his shares of Tesla, so he can buy Twitter for $43 billion.

  • Nearly half of all deaths around the world are not reported. A new health effort is using “electronic autopsies” to count and record them.

  • President Biden restored key parts of a bedrock environmental law that was dismantled by the Trump administration.

What Else Is Happening

  • Global economic forecasts are falling: The International Monetary Fund expects growth to slow to 3.6 percent this year, down from 6.1 percent in 2021.

  • For the first time in the last decade, Netflix lost subscribers — 200,000 in the past quarter — and its stock fell.

  • NASA is making repairs to its moon rocket, which may delay its maiden launch.

A Morning Read

Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times

Working from home has given Japan’s corporate employees a chance to rethink their priorities, both personal and professional. Many want more flexibility, autonomy and control, putting new pressure on the country’s traditional job-for-life model.

R.T.O.: Finding your workplace more annoying than you remembered? Here’s how to handle it.



Drawn and caricatured

Days before French voters go to the polls to choose their next president, the nation’s political cartoonists are out in force, ready to accentuate even the smallest slip, Saskia Solomon reports for The Times.

Political cartoons have deep roots in France, thriving as expressions of unhappiness during the French Revolution and continuing to play an outsize role in modern-day politics. Comic books regularly top the French best seller lists, and weekly satirical newspapers — most notably Charlie Hebdo and Le Canard Enchaîné — are considered national institutions.

“The world of politics is very artificial,” said Mathieu Sapin, the subject of the self-portrait above and a cartoonist behind several comic books featuring Emmanuel Macron, the current president, and his predecessor, François Hollande. “It’s very codified, which makes it deeply fascinating from a drawing perspective.”

Sapin is working with five other veteran cartoonists on the 240-page comic book “Campaign Notebooks,” about the 2022 presidential election. Each artist was assigned one or two candidates to follow for the course of the campaign — most of whom were eliminated in the first round on April 10.

Most of the book is already written. But the last 12 pages of the book are still blank, awaiting a final result that is likely to be close. “Anything can happen,” said Sapin. “That’s what makes it so thrilling.”


What to Cook

Credit…Johnny Miller for The New York Times

Adding an orange, rind and all, to this cake imparts a wonderful flavor.

What to Watch

Enter another dimension with our pick of the best sci-fi movies to stream now.

What to Read

In her new memoir, “Out of the Corner,” Jennifer Grey opens up about her life and career.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Degree after an M.A. (three letters).

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

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha

P.S. Joe Kahn, a Pulitzer Prize-winning China correspondent who is currently The Times’s managing editor, will be our next executive editor.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on dissidence in Russia.

You can reach Natasha and the team at

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