Your Friday Briefing: Russia Has Seized One-Fifth of Ukraine


We’re covering Russia’s growing control over land in Ukraine and Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.

Nearly 100 days into Russia’s war in Ukraine, during which Ukraine’s army has surpassed expectations and repelled its much larger foe out of major cities, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday that Russia now occupied one-fifth of the country — roughly the size of the Netherlands. Zelensky also accused Russia of forcibly deporting more than 200,000 Ukrainian children.

Ukrainian forces have struggled to hold on to territory along the war’s eastern front. Western officials are hoping that sophisticated and powerful weapons from the U.S. and Germany could soon offer the Ukrainians a boost.

For now, Russia’s main military effort is to capture Sievierodonetsk, the last major city in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine that is not in Russian hands. A Ukraininan regional official said troops had pushed Russian soldiers back several blocks in street battles but the majority of the city remained under Russian control.

American predicament: The U.S. has long supplied technology and munitions to the rest of the world, leading to an unfortunate contradiction: The tools that Russian forces are using to wage war are often powered by American innovation. But under sanctions, Russia is struggling to replace its weapons.

Collateral damage: The sudden and mysterious death of thousands of dolphins is raising alarm among some scientists that the war may be harming life in the Black Sea.

In a rare public appearance on Thursday, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain stepped out onto the balcony of Buckingham Palace to greet a sea of Union Jack-clad well-wishers as waves of aircraft flew overhead.

The celebrations, a four-day affair of extravagant military parades, musical performances and ceremonial events, mark Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee — a recognition of her 70 years on the throne. President Emmanuel Macron of France and Barack Obama, the former U.S. president, were among the world leaders who gave video tributes.

While Elizabeth’s appearance by itself was a major story after the 96-year-old contracted the coronavirus and missed several public events because of a stretch of poor health, so were the family members she stood with. The three heirs to the throne stood alongside her: her eldest son, Prince Charles; his eldest son, Prince William; and William’s eldest son, Prince George. But William’s younger brother, Prince Harry, and the queen’s second son, Prince Andrew, were not present.

Background: The thinner ranks at Buckingham Palace fulfill a longtime strategy by Prince Charles to reduce the number of working royals — a concession to changing times and growing public resistance to the cost of supporting the royals.

Rare company: Only three monarchs — none of them women — have ever been documented to have reigned more than 70 years: Louis XIV of France, Johann II of Liechtenstein and Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.

South Korea’s conservative governing party saw its big-city mayors and provincial governors win 12 of 17 races on Wednesday, further expanding the influence of Yoon Suk-yeol, the conservative president, less than a month after he was sworn into office.

The results, while held only at the local level, were seen as an early referendum on Yoon, who was elected on razor-thin margins and without a majority in the National Assembly. His party, the People Power Party, campaigned in local elections on supporting the government as it seeks to push back against North Korea, whose recent weapons tests have highlighted the growing nuclear threat on the peninsula.

The election​ results were also a stunning setback for the Democratic Party, which won just five races, mostly in stronghold areas, compared with 14 of the same 17 races four years ago. Signs of the political winds turning against the Democratic Party were apparent last year, as voters grew angry with then-President Moon Jae-in and his party’s failure to curb skyrocketing housing prices and corruption scandals.

Policies: Yoon’s policy moves include passing a budget bill to support small-business owners hit hard by the pandemic and relocating the presidential office in Seoul. He turned the historical Blue House, which had been off-limits to ordinary citizens for seven decades, into a public park. But he has also stumbled: Two of his first Cabinet appointees have resigned amid allegations of misconduct.

Patrice Nganang traveled for weeks in the countryside of western Cameroon in 2017, doing research for the final novel of his monumental trilogy about his country’s fraught history. What he learned, he said, was that deep divisions sown in the colonial era persisted in the region and threatened to erupt into conflict.

The monkeypox outbreak in Europe and the U.S. has focused attention on a virus that, while endemic in parts of Africa, has been managed and largely contained on the continent for years.

Seven African countries — Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone — reported 1,392 cases so far this year, according to the World Health Organization. Those cases were quickly controlled and attracted little attention.

“Africa has successfully contained past monkeypox outbreaks and from what we know about the virus and modes of transmission, the rise in cases can be stopped,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, head of the World Health Organization in Africa.

Monkeypox was first discovered in Africa in 1970. It appears sporadically, mostly in rural areas, and has been largely confined to West and Central Africa. It grabbed wide public attention last month when 260 cases were reported in 21 countries outside Africa.

A new vaccine against the virus has been approved, but it is not yet widely used. Dr. Moeti emphasized the importance of making it available to everyone. “We must avoid having two different responses to monkeypox: one for Western countries which are only now experiencing significant transmission, and another for Africa,” she said.

Public health officials also worry that recent attention on the virus could result in a backlash against gay people. A number of cases have been reported in the queer community, and the United Nations has raised concerns that some reporting could reinforce homophobia. — Lynsey Chutel, our newsletter writer based in Johannesburg.

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