Your Wednesday Briefing: E.U. Leaders Visit Kyiv

Good morning. We’re covering a visit by three European leaders to Ukraine, the ripple effects of China’s surge of Covid cases and a once-perilous road in Afghanistan.

Emergency crews evacuated civilians from a damaged residential building in Kyiv on Wednesday.Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Three European leaders head to Ukraine

The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia traveled by train to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, on Tuesday to express the European Union’s support for Ukraine. Next week, President Biden will travel to Brussels to attend a special NATO meeting about the war.

The Tuesday visit comes as fighting raged around the city. Blasts shook Kyiv at dawn, killing at least four people, the mayor said. Follow live updates here.

Russia’s advance remains stalled on several fronts as Ukrainian forces repel attacks in parts of the east and the south. But the Russian Defense Ministry claimed to have captured the entire Kherson region, after seizing the main city two weeks ago.

Ukrainian resistance: The move possibly strengthens Russia’s ability to push west toward Mykolaiv, a strategic port city where the morgue is already overflowing. Our correspondent and photographer reported from Mykolaiv on a “refusal to succumb” by Ukrainian fighters and residents.

The regional governor, Vitaliy Kim, predicted that any Russian effort to take Mykolaiv would lead to a bloody firefight. Residents have piled tires and incendiary bombs on every street corner. It would be apocalyptic, Kim said.

More updates:

  • Talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators resumed on Tuesday, presenting a narrow path to a diplomatic resolution. China’s top diplomat urged international support for the talks.

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine will address the U.S. Congress in a virtual speech today.

  • India said it is in talks with Russia about increasing oil imports.

  • As evacuations from Mariupol continue, officials there are struggling to count the dead, which officially number close to 2,400.

  • The Russian government might pay foreign debt obligations in rubles because of sanctions. Credit rating agencies say a default is imminent.

Crude prices tumbled as China cracked down on Covid outbreaks.

China’s Covid surge hits oil prices

Oil prices dropped below $100 a barrel on Tuesday, the lowest prices in weeks, as a coronavirus outbreak in China threatened to slow the country’s economy and decrease global demand. Over the past week, crude oil prices have plunged by more than 20 percent, reversing much of the surge that came after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The global economic harm caused by China’s rise in Covid cases — and the government’s tough response — could soon get worse. Numerous lockdowns and mitigation tactics have disrupted the production of goods like cars, iPhone circuit boards and computer cables.

Context: China’s strict measures come as some other nations in the Asia-Pacific region are easing pandemic rules, despite seeing some of the world’s steepest spikes in Covid cases.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • In Africa, Covid vaccines are now plentiful, but in the poorest countries, they arrive in a hodgepodge that makes planning difficult.

  • The Johnson & Johnson vaccine appears more effective than previously believed.

  • Britain will lift its remaining international travel restrictions this week, one of the first major economies to do so.

  • Australia said it would lift its ban on cruise ships next month.

A woman waited with her family for a ride along the Afghan highway.Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

A once-deadly road now bustles

Before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, a trip along the road from Kabul to Kandahar was dangerous. Gunfire, roadside bombs, extortion and death were once rampant.

Not anymore. The highway between the country’s two largest cities, still dotted with destroyed vehicles and bullet-ridden homes, has come back to life. Grape farmers dig their fields in what was one of the most violent provinces in the war. Young men laugh and play volleyball near the road.

But the cost of U.S. sanctions is evident along the highway, which is half-paved and half-gnarled still. In Ghazni, a city along the road, prices for items like cooking oil have skyrocketed. People are traveling to Pakistan, seeking medical care. And outside Kabul, a 12-year-old boy pried apart old barriers to make a chicken coop. “We are hungry,” he said.



Women in hijabs arrive to attend classes in Karnataka, India. Credit…Sunil Kataria/Reuters
  • A top court in India upheld a government order barring Muslim girls from wearing head scarves inside schools, a ruling that is likely to heighten tensions between Muslims and Hindus.

  • The son of Turkmenistan’s leader won the country’s presidential election after an unusual vote-counting delay.

  • Taiwan scheduled exercises to test new military capabilities in the coming weeks, Deutsche Welle reported.


Intel’s new site is expected to employ about 3,000 permanent employees, along with 7,000 workers for construction.Credit…Intel Corporation
  • Intel will spend at least $19 billion to begin to manufacture chips in the German city of Magdeburg, continuing an expansion aimed at reducing its dependence on Asian factories.

  • Ticket sales for domestic U.S. flights in February exceeded those for the same month in 2019, the first such increase since the pandemic began.

  • California is building a $10 million online privacy agency to regulate Google, Facebook, Amazon and other tech giants.

U.S. News

  • The U.S. is negotiating a plea deal for the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks that could avoid a death penalty trial.

  • In Yonkers, N.Y, a city north of New York City, a man hit a 67-year-old woman more than 125 times in the head because she was of Asian descent, the authorities said. He has been charged with attempted murder as a hate crime.

  • Ginni Thomas, the wife of the Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, said she attended the Jan. 6 rally at the U.S. Capitol, an admission that is likely to raise new questions about her support of efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

What Else Is Happening

  • This year’s Pritzker Prize — the top honor in architecture — went to Francis Kéré, who was born in Burkina Faso and uses indigenous materials and local symbols in his structures.

  • Jane Campion, the director of “Power of the Dog,” apologized for comments she made about Venus and Serena Williams in an acceptance speech at the Critics Choice Awards.

  • Anna Sorokin, the fake heiress who swindled elites under the pseudonym Anna Delvey, will be deported from the U.S. to Germany.

A Morning Read

Some cartographers feel particularly anxious when removing the ice.Credit…Lucia Buricelli for The New York Times

As the world warms, Switzerland’s glaciers are melting. A team of cartographers are racing to correct the ever-changing mountain maps — a task they often have to do by hand.

Russia-Ukraine War: Key Things to Know

Card 1 of 4

A show of E.U. support. The leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia headed to Kyiv to express the European Union’s “unequivocal support” and offer financial help to Ukraine. The visit was kept secret until the last minute as fighting rages around the Ukrainian capital.

Looking for a way out. Talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators resumed, offering a glimmer of hope amid a worsening humanitarian catastrophe. But even the most basic progress towards diplomacy has proved elusive.

Zelensky’s appeals. President Volodymyr Zelensky sought to step up pressure on the Kremlin by appealing to Russians appalled by the war. Mr. Zelensky will virtually address Congress on Wednesday, which could increase pressure on the Biden administration to send fighter jets to Kyiv.

China’s strategy. China’s leadership, which dismissed U.S. allegations that Russia asked Beijing for military and economic aid, has calculated that they can benefit from the geopolitical shifts caused by the war by being seen as a pillar of stability in a turbulent world.


The video that changed the game

In March 2021, the college basketball player Sedona Prince posted a TikTok video.

“This is our weight room,” she said, pointing at a sorry stack of hand weights at the N.C.A.A. women’s basketball tournament. “Let me show y’all the men’s weight room,” she says, panning across a state-of-the art gym for the men’s tournament, crammed with machines and benches.

Prince’s video immediately went viral. It also led to a gender-equity review in college basketball and to changes in the women’s event, including branding the tournament with the moniker March Madness. The N.C.A.A. had previously resisted such a move.

“Every budget line is compared and contrasted,” said Dan Gavitt, the N.C.A.A.’s senior vice president for basketball. “Where there are differences, they are resolved in the name of equity.”

Prince accomplished last March what generations before her could not: She showed the disparity between the tournaments in a way that couldn’t be explained away.


What to Cook

Credit…Johnny Miller for The New York Times

Top these crispy potato tacos from Mexico with sour cream and lemony cabbage.

What to Read

“In the Margins,” a new book from Elena Ferrante, is both a philosophical and a practical meditation on writing and reading.


Here are five tips for spring cleaning your brain.

Now Time to Play

Play today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Greenish-blue color (four letters).

Here’s today’s Wordle.

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia

P.S. The Times will open more than a dozen new data roles in the newsroom over the course of the year.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on a defining war photo from Ukraine.

You can reach Amelia and the team at [email protected].

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