Your Thursday Briefing: Russia Pushes to Seize Key Eastern City


We’re covering Russia’s assault in the Donbas region and a trade deal between Israel and the U.A.E.

Russian troops edged closer to seizing control of Sievierodonetsk, the last major city in the Luhansk province still in Ukrainian hands, as Russia approaches its goal of seizing Ukraine’s east.

The continuing Russian assault, during which the city’s buildings have been pulverized and a majority of its prewar population of 100,000 people have fled, comes as the U.S. and Germany have pledged to transfer more advanced weapons to Ukraine.

The U.S. said it would send advanced rocket systems, greatly extending the range of Ukraine’s artillery, while Germany promised both an air-defense system and a tracking radar to help the Ukrainian army locate sources of Russian heavy artillery.

American view: In a guest essay for The Times, President Biden dismissed concerns that Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, could view American military support for Ukraine as a provocation.

“We do not seek a war between NATO and Russia,” Biden wrote. “As much as I disagree with Mr. Putin, and find his actions an outrage, the United States will not try to bring about his ouster in Moscow.”

Nuclear threat: After generations of stability in nuclear arms control, a warning to Russia from Biden shows how old norms are eroding.

The front: Times photographers are bearing witness.

During the day, people — all wearing masks — basked in the novelty of previously mundane pleasures like meeting friends and relatives, strolling in parks, and driving through streets that had been largely empty since early April. Hairdressers were busy. Subway lines were open but quiet.

But a simmering anxiety about the future could impede a full recovery, and some major restrictions on movement persist. China’s leaders have insisted on sticking with their strategy of eliminating virtually all Covid-19 cases, leaving many residents and business owners in Shanghai wondering: What does going back to normal mean? How long will it last?

Quotable: “I feel like that harm from the pandemic measures is worse than the harm of the virus itself,” Summer Wang, a graduate student in Shanghai, said. “Everyone’s really stir crazy after two months locked up.”

Data: Coronavirus infections in Shanghai climbed to more than 20,000 each day in early April, and are now in the low double digits.

In other virus news, Elon Musk demanded that his employees at SpaceX, the rocket company, and Tesla, the electric carmaker, return to their offices.

The speed at which the deal took shape — it was sealed less than two years after Israel and the Emirates established formal ties — highlights the readiness of some Arab leaders to now accept Israel after years of diplomatic isolation.

The deal would remove tariffs on 96 percent of goods traded between the two countries within five years. Bilateral trade was worth $885 million in 2021, Israel’s economy ministry said. The free-trade agreement may allow the annual value of trade to rise to $10 billion within five years, according to the Emirati economy ministry.

Related: Whenever Israel comes under rocket attack, the national blood reserves and all the equipment for them have to be moved into a bomb shelter. Now, the blood bank is moving underground permanently.

For two years, an Indian climber named Narender Singh Yadav was barred from mountaineering in Nepal after he was accused of faking a summit of Mount Everest by doctoring photos. Last week, he returned to the mountain seeking redemption. Documenting his ascent with dozens of photos and videos, as well as testimony from Sherpas, Yadav reached the summit and found vindication.

Typing those words into Google Translate will now result in an accurate translation from Quechua to English: “Hello, world.”

The translation service’s abilities were significantly improved last month when 24 new, many mostly oral languages — including Quechua, which is spoken by as many as seven million people mainly in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador — were added as options. Most of them are used almost exclusively in Indigenous and other minority groups.

Several native speakers said they viewed Google’s integration of the language as vindication that they deserved greater voice and visibility. “It’s like saying to the world, Look, here we are!” said Irma Alvarez Ccoscco, a poet, teacher and Quechua activist.

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