Ukrainian soldiers after a missile strike in the town of Druzhkivka on Monday.Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Eastern town becomes flash point in Ukraine
As Russia has seized control of much of the Donbas region, a small town has become a focus point where Ukraine’s leaders say the fate of the country’s Donbas region could be decided.
The town, Toshkivka, was claimed by Russian forces over the weekend — a troubling development for Ukrainian forces defending a swath of territory roughly 30 miles wide that has come to be known as the Sievierodonetsk pocket. The pocket is about three-quarters encircled by Russian forces, leaving only a small gap where Ukrainian forces can shuttle supplies and troops into their remaining population areas of the Donbas.
Ukraine’s battle to hold the Sievierodonetsk pocket centers on a strategy of drawing Russian forces into close urban combat to reduce the impact of their overwhelming firepower. If Russia severs the supply lines into Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, it could claim complete control over the Luhansk region, which forms roughly half of the Donbas.
Elsewhere, Russia ramped up its bombings of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, weeks after Ukrainian fighters had pushed Russian forces back. Ten neighborhoods or villages around the city have been attacked in the past 24 hours, a city official said.
Video: Thousands of refugees from Ukraine have been sent to so-called filtration camps, where they have been interrogated and then forced to resettle to Russia. Some Ukrainians escaped to Estonia; they told us their stories.
Oil: Russia become China’s largest source of petroleum last month, as Chinese companies stepped in to buy oil that has fallen under widening sanctions in the West.
Fighters: The Kremlin says two captured American fighters are “soldiers of fortune” not protected by the rules of war.
Israel’s government collapses
Israel’s governing coalition will vote to dissolve Parliament before the end of the month, the prime minister’s office said, sending the country into its fifth election in three years.
The collapse follows weeks of paralysis caused by the defection of two right-wing lawmakers and frequent rebellions by three others, making Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition no longer the majority in Parliament. The fallout throws a political lifeline to Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister who left office last June and whose Likud party is currently leading in opinion polls.
The election, which is expected to be held in the fall, comes at a tense time after a rise in Palestinian attacks on Israelis and an escalation in a shadow war between Israel and Iran.
The current coalition agreement requires that Yair Lapid, the foreign minister and a centrist former broadcaster, would take over as interim prime minister in the event that right-wing defections prompt early elections. If that agreement is honored, Lapid will lead the government for at least several months.
Related: Israel confirmed that it is part of a regional military partnership to combat threats from Iran — the latest example of Israel’s growing engagement with some Arab governments.
Low Covid deaths in the U.S.
Typically, a few weeks after a surge of Covid cases in the U.S., the number of deaths would begin to climb. But with the latest wave, that pattern appears to have changed.
Nearly three months since an ultra-contagious set of new Omicron variants launched a springtime resurgence of cases, people are nonetheless dying from Covid at a rate close to the lowest of the pandemic.
Why? Experts say it’s because so many Americans have now been vaccinated or infected or both, so the number of people whose immune systems are entirely unprepared for the virus has significantly dwindled.
Looking ahead: With the country’s resources for fighting the virus drying up and many Americans forgoing booster shots, the decoupling of cases and deaths may not last. Immunity will wane and a more evasive variant could cut into people’s residual protection against severe disease.
Another angle: As the Covid death rate worldwide has fallen, it may be tempting to conclude that the virus is becoming irreversibly milder. But the myxoma virus — fatal to millions of Australian rabbits — is a textbook example of a virus that did not get milder over time.
THE LATEST NEWS
A New York Times investigation found that the bullet that killed a Palestinian-American journalist was fired from the approximate position of an Israeli military vehicle.
Chinese companies tied to coercive labor practices are assuming a larger role in the supply chain behind the batteries that power electric vehicles and store renewable energy — even as China’s draconian crackdown on minorities in Xinjiang fuels outrage around the world.
Heavy monsoon rains in India and Bangladesh have caused major flooding, killing at least 116 people.
News From Europe
France was left wondering whether President Emmanuel Macron would be able to change his top-down governing style after losing his absolute majority in the lower house of Parliament. “Ungovernable!” read the front page of the newspaper Le Parisien.
The Dutch government declared an “early warning” stage of a natural gas crisis, a move that will allow more electric power to be generated by burning coal.
Five years after a fast-moving blaze tore through London’s Grenfell Tower, leaving 72 people dead, there’s a debate about what to do with the building.
Paul Haggis, the Oscar-winning director and writer, was arrested on sexual violence charges in Southern Italy.
What Else Is Happening
The Afghan government released five British citizens from custody. British officials released a statement that included an apology on behalf of the men and an expression of regret from the U.K. government.
What happened to a story published in The Times of London that was critical of Prime Minister Boris Johnson? The disappearance has London’s media world guessing.
A giant four-meter-long, 300-kilogram stingray found in the Mekong River in Cambodia may be the world’s largest freshwater fish.
A Morning Read
Last October three African wild dogs went on an incredible journey across Africa. The three sisters — elite predators and among the most endangered mammals on Earth — braved lions, crocodiles, poachers, raging rivers and other dangers on a 1,300-mile transnational effort to forge a new dynasty. Their trip was the longest and most harrowing odyssey ever recorded for their species.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Rosé has become synonymous with fun summer drinking. But as Eric Asimov, The Times’s wine critic, says, you can open a bottle long after Labor Day. “I’m a firm believer in drinking rosé all year round,” he told us. “Being fun doesn’t equate to being low quality.”
If you think you don’t like rosé, explore different types, especially if you’ve only had the very pale rosés that are in vogue or tasted ones that seemed insipid or too sweet. “You might find that, actually, you’ve been missing something all these years that’s quite delicious,” Eric says.
Head to a serious, independently owned wine shop, and ask for help, he says. “What’s imperative is to actually talk to the people at the store, who tend to really care about what they sell and who want to make people happy.” — Natasha Frost, Briefings writer
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Try these frijoles de la olla — pinto beans blasted in an electric pressure cooker, then topped with cilantro, jalapeños and avocado — and serve them with warm tortillas.
What to Read
“Legends of Drag: Queens of a Certain Age,” puts a spotlight on drag elders.
What to Listen To
Hear a conversation about Bob Dylan and Lou Reed’s archives on our music podcast, Popcast.
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Accumulation on a neglected bookshelf (four letters).
And here’s today’s Wordle and the Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining us. — Jonathan and Matthew
P.S. Azmat Khan, the journalist behind a Times series on civilian casualties of U.S. airstrikes, shares how the investigation changed how she thinks about reporting.
You can reach Jonathan, Matthew and the team at email@example.com.