Your Friday Briefing: Ukraine Launches a Southern Counteroffensive

We’re covering a Ukrainian counteroffensive and an effort by Europe’s central bank to tamp down inflation.

Ukrainians firing at Russian-controlled territory in the Donetsk region on Tuesday.Credit…Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

Ukraine launches a counteroffensive in the south

Ukrainian officials said their forces used long-range missiles and artillery to attack more than 200 Russian targets in the south on Thursday. The strikes destroyed six ammunition depots, the military said.

The effort — boosted significantly by a flow of powerful Western weapons — has put pressure on Moscow’s military infrastructure and supply lines in and around Kherson Province, which Russian forces seized in March. The gathering scale of Ukraine’s attacks in the south is consistent with preparations for a ground offensive.

Ukraine’s military success comes as it is again trying to make its case to the world that it can defeat the Russians. Officials are pointing to successes such as a recent Ukrainian artillery attack on a bridge critical for Russian supplies.

But despite the Ukrainians’ renewed optimism, military analysts and Western officials said it was far too soon to forecast a reversal of fortunes, and that a long slog seems more likely.

Intelligence: Russian forces will most likely need to suspend their offensive in Ukraine in the weeks to come, Britain concluded. “I think they are about to run out of steam,” Richard Moore, the head of British foreign intelligence, said.

Grain: Turkish officials said a deal had been reached between Ukraine and Russia that would allow millions of tons of Ukrainian grain to be exported, alleviating a global food shortage.

Energy: Russia resumed the flow of natural gas to Germany through a key pipeline, bringing the country a moment of relief. But the Russians have indicated that they intend to continue using energy as leverage.

President Biden at Somerset, Mass., on Wednesday.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Biden tests positive for Covid

The White House announced that President Biden tested positive for the coronavirus, adding that he was “experiencing very mild symptoms.”

While he is fully vaccinated and twice boosted, the positive test raises health concerns for the 79-year-old president. He is receiving Paxlovid, an antiviral drug used to minimize the severity of Covid-19, and will isolate at the White House. Biden will “continue to carry out all of his duties fully during that time,” his press secretary said.

Biden’s positive test also underscores how Covid remains a persistent threat in the U.S., even as much of the country tries to move past the pandemic. Fueled by the BA.5 subvariant, cases and hospitalizations have surged.

More virus news:

  • Covid has spiked in much of Europe but governments aren’t cracking down, partly because they’re not seeing an uptick in severe cases. And Europeans seem to have concluded they have to live with the virus.

  • Australia’s hospitalizations from Covid have exceeded 5,000 and are nearing a high. But so far, authorities there are refraining from bringing back restrictions.

  • Japan’s Covid surge is straining the country’s health system, The Asahi Shimbun reports.

Source: European Central BankCredit…The New York Times

Europe raises rates as inflation fears worsen

The European Central Bank raised its key interest rate for the first time in more than a decade, making it more expensive to borrow money as inflation balloons across the continent.

The increase — by a bigger-than-expected half a percentage point — was an abrupt end to eight years of negative interest rates aimed at getting banks to lend generously, although the increase leaves the bank’s key rate at zero percent. European stocks ended the day roughly where they started, after investors reacted positively to the E.C.B.’s aggressive action to tame inflation.

In countries that use the euro, inflation is soaring at its fastest rate in generations, reaching 8.6 percent in June. The hike was driven largely by rising energy and food prices. The E.C.B. has a particularly tricky task: balancing the economic weaknesses and debt burdens of 19 different countries.

Recession concerns: Wall Street’s most talked about recession indicator, the yield curve, is sounding its loudest alarm in two decades. An inversion of it has preceded every U.S. recession for the past half century, and it’s happening now.

What’s next: The E.C.B. introduced a new tool — the Transmission Protection Instrument — to keep bond markets in check. It doesn’t want to use it.



Droupadi Murmu, a former governor of Jharkhand State and a member of the Santhal tribe, will be sworn in as India’s 15th president next week.Credit…Idrees Mohammed/EPA, via Shutterstock
  • India’s next president, Droupadi Murmu, who was elected to the largely ceremonial position this week, will be the first person in the post to come from one of India’s Indigenous tribes.

  • China fined the ride-hailing giant Didi $1.2 billion for data security violations, Beijing’s latest regulatory move against a once-rising sector.

  • An An, the world’s oldest giant male panda in captivity, died in Hong Kong at 35.

  • Sri Lanka’s tea industry, one of its most important export sectors, is another victim of the country’s economic crisis, Deutsche Welle reports.

  • Wild cheetahs will return to India for the first time in 70 years, The Guardian reports.

World News

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo of Belgium insists that the treaty with Iran is the only way to secure the release of Olivier Vandecasteele, a Belgian aid worker.Credit…Susana Vera/Reuters
  • Belgium’s Parliament approved a much-criticized treaty with Iran that would allow prisoner exchanges between the two countries.

  • Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy tendered his resignation, a day after a last-ditch effort to persuade the country’s fractious parties to stick together failed.

  • Turkish warplanes struck a vacation resort in northern Iraq on Wednesday, killing at least eight people and injuring more than 23.

  • The Taliban forced a longtime war correspondent to publicly retract some of her accurate articles, telling her that she would go to jail if she did not.

  • Nearly 150 stolen Italian artifacts seized by Manhattan investigators in the past year were handed over to Italian officials.

A Morning Read

A Chatham shag in New Zealand is risk of extinction.Credit…Nature Picture Library/Alamy

A biodiversity crisis means that the first birds to go extinct will be the most fascinating and distinctive ones. Get ready for a world that “is really simple and brown and boring.”


The difficulty of adapting Austen

The best Jane Austen adaptations are true to the novel’s plot and confident in their own worlds. A movie version of “Persuasion” on Netflix is neither, Sarah Lyall writes.

The problem isn’t that the film takes liberties, Sarah writes. Many Austen iterations do: “Fire Island” sets “Pride and Prejudice” in a present-day vacation home with a group of gay men looking for love. But the new “Persuasion” diverges from the novel’s careful pace, allowing characters to reveal their feelings early on. And it mixes its 19th-century setting with modern phrases (“If you’re a five in London, you’re a 10 in Bath,” one character says).

In an interview, the film’s director, Carrie Cracknell — a drama wunderkind who was the co-leader of a major London theater before she was 30 — defended her choices: “One of the big hopes I had for the film was to draw in a new audience to Austen, and to make them feel that they really recognize the people onscreen.”


What to Cook

Credit…Johnny Miller for The New York Times

Ranch is both sauce and marinade for this pan-seared chicken.

What to Watch

The film “A Dark, Dark Man” is an exceptionally grim police procedural set in Kazakhstan.

What to Read

Michael Crummey, an award-winning author, helps you explore Newfoundland through books.

Now Time to Play

Play today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Seeps out (five letters).

Here are today’s Wordle and Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

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

P.S. Enjoli Liston is joining The Times’s live coverage team in London.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the possibility of criminal charges against Donald Trump.

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

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