Your Wednesday Briefing: Russia Bombards the East

Good morning. We’re covering Russia’s aggressive turn east, South Africa’s catastrophic floods and Myanmar’s collapsing health system.

A strike in Kharkiv on Tuesday killed at least three people.Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Russia scales up its eastern attack

Moscow declared that its offensive for control over Ukraine’s east was underway as it bombarded hundreds of targets overnight across the country’s industrial heartland.

Ukraine said it was resisting Russia’s initial thrust, but its contested region is bracing for a full-force attack. Hundreds of thousands of civilians remain trapped there. Here’s the latest.

The Pentagon estimated that Russia had already moved 8,000 to 11,000 more soldiers into the east and had tens of thousands more in reserve. The sprawling offensive could reshape the conflict.

Analysis: Russia’s military campaign appears much more methodical than those it pursued in the war’s first days. Ukrainian and Pentagon officials said Russian forces appeared to be engaged in “shaping operations,” which are smaller attacks that are often precursors to larger troop movements or distractions from other fronts.

Tactics: Ukrainians are using internet memes and selling merchandise to rally international public support. It’s working.

State of the war:

  • At least 1,000 civilians were trapped at a large steel factory in Mariupol along with Ukrainian forces that were waging what appeared to be the last defense of the city.

  • At least three more people were killed in Kharkiv by a Russian artillery strike.

Other updates:

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

  • The E.U. is working on the details of an embargo on Russian oil imports.

  • Vladimir Putin honored the Russian military brigade that Ukraine has accused of massacring civilians in Bucha.

Destroyed houses north of Durban. Residents who lived there are missing.Credit…Joao Silva/The New York Times

A state of disaster in South Africa

More than 440 people have died and nearly 4,000 homes have been destroyed after catastrophic floods swept through the Durban area last week. About four dozen people remain unaccounted for, and survivors are struggling to reassemble their lives.

“This is probably one of the worst things I’ve seen,” one rescue worker said. “Just the large scale of the devastation.”

On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of disaster. “We are a nation united in our grief,” he said.

The government is making plans to clean and repair the area while also trying to recover dozens of bodies believed to have been buried under mud or washed out to sea. Much of the death and destruction occurred in settlements of flimsy shacks constructed by people who could not otherwise afford stable housing.

Analysis: A string of powerful storms has recently devastated southern and eastern Africa, killing hundreds and destroying communities already struggling with poverty. For many, the floods have underscored the increasing toll of climate change, especially on the most socioeconomically vulnerable communities.

After doctors closed hospitals to protest the coup, many still treated injured protestors.Credit…The New York Times

Myanmar’s health care collapse

In recent weeks, security forces in Myanmar intensified their crackdown on doctors who oppose the military junta, arresting them at their homes and hospitals. The soldiers have revoked the licenses of prominent physicians and searched hospitals for wounded resistance fighters.

As a result, Myanmar is now one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a medical worker. At least 140 doctors have been arrested since the coup; 89 of them remain behind bars, a rights group said. At least 30 doctors have been killed, another rights group said.

Analysis: Myanmar faces a continuing health emergency, with a severe shortage of medical professionals and a chronic lack of resources. Many hospitals and clinics have closed. Anti-regime doctors estimate that hundreds of people are dying each week because emergency surgeries are not being carried out.

Quotable: Dr. Kyaw Swar was performing surgery when soldiers came looking for him. He hid in the operating room and kept going. “If they had found us, they would have arrested us,” he said. “But I will not run away while I am operating on a patient. It is not a crime for a doctor to treat patients.”


World News

Credit…Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press
  • At least six people died in Afghanistan after explosions rocked a high school and a learning center, just as students were leaving.

  • Global economic forecasts are falling: The I.M.F.’ expects growth to slow to 3.6 percent this year, down from 6.1 percent in 2021.

  • After clashes at the Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, Gaza sent rockets into Israel for the first time in several months.


  • Shanghai is far from the only Chinese city in lockdown.

  • Moderna released trial results that suggest a version of its vaccine designed to target variants offers better, longer-lasting protection.

  • For some travelers, the U.S. mass-transit mask mandate ended midflight. Many airlines quickly complied with the new rules.

What Else Is Happening

Donald Trump has persisted with the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him.Credit…Veasey Conway for The New York Times
  • Donald Trump’s allies are still trying to “decertify” the 2020 election.

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

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

A Morning Read

Takahiro Harada took early retirement and started his own personal coaching business in Tokyo. 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 — a far cry from the country’s traditional nonstop, job-for-life model.


In northern Sierra Leone, Isata Kaitongi, top right, interviewed people to gather cause-of-death statistics.Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Door-to-door digital autopsies

Developing countries do not always keep official death records. Nine out of 10 deaths in Africa, and six out of 10 globally, are not registered.

That can have profound implications: The W.H.O. estimates that 15 million people around the world had died as a result of the coronavirus pandemic by the end of 2021 — more than double the existing official toll of six million.

Russia-Ukraine War: Key Developments

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A new phase of the war. Russia declared that its offensive for control over Ukraine’s industrial heartland was underway as it bombarded targets across the sprawling eastern front. Ukrainian officials said they were mounting a spirited defense.

In Mariupol. About 2,000 people were trapped at a large steel factory in Mariupol along with Ukrainian forces that are waging what appears to be the last defense of the city. Russia is seeking to take the city as part of a strategically important “land bridge” to occupied Crimea.

Possible banned weapons. Based on evidence reviewed by The Times, it is likely that Ukrainian troops used cluster munitions in an eastern village that they were attempting to retake from Russian forces. The weapons are banned by many countries for the harm they can cause to civilians.

Russia’s economy. While President Vladimir V. Putin boasted that the Russian economy is holding up under Western sanctions, his central bank chief warned that the consequences were only beginning to be felt, and Moscow’s mayor said that 200,000 jobs are at risk in the capital alone.

In a novel effort, researchers are going door-to-door to try to create an electronic record of loss: an “electronic verbal autopsy.”

In countries like Sierra Leone, they canvass an entire village, interviewing people about those who died in the past two years. The information goes into a nationwide survey, which doctors review to classify each death.

It is an extraordinarily labor-intensive approach. But in Sierra Leone, where a vast majority of people die from preventable or treatable causes, it’s necessary.

The country began its digital autopsies in 2018. The first big surprise was learning that malaria was the biggest killer of adults in Sierra Leone. The second was better news: Its maternal mortality rate was half of what the U.N. estimated, suggesting that government efforts were paying off.


What to Cook

Credit…Chris Simpson for The New York Times

Eric Kim calls his buttery, chamomile tea-scented loaf “a sweet pop symphony, the Abba of cakes.”

What to Read

The journalist Louisa Lim’s “Indelible City” is a deeply personal look at the past, present and future of Hong Kong.


Is your office more annoying than you remembered? Here are tips to cope.

Now Time to Play

Play today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Snapshot, snappily (three letters).

Here are today’s Wordle and today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Tell us about your experience with the newsletter in this short survey here. Thank you! — Amelia

P.S. Joe Kahn, a Pulitzer Prize-winning China correspondent who rose to lead the international desk of The Times and serve as its managing editor, will be our next executive editor.

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

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

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