Your Thursday Briefing
Good morning. We’re covering China’s live-fire drills near Taiwan and a looming Russian offensive in southern Ukraine.
A news broadcast in Beijing showed where China will hold military drills off Taiwan.Credit…Thomas Peter/Reuters
Taiwan prepares for Chinese drills
Taiwan is bracing for China to begin three days of live-fire military drills today after a high-profile visit to the island by Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. House speaker.
China, which claims Taiwan as its own, called the drills a warning. It framed them as punishment for Pelosi’s visit, and as a shock-and-awe deterrent against opponents of Beijing’s claims to the self-ruled island.
But they may also serve as a trial run. China’s military buildup has reached a point where some military commanders and analysts think an invasion is an increasingly plausible, though still highly risky, scenario.
The six exercise zones that the People’s Liberation Army has marked out in seas off Taiwan — one nudging less than 10 miles (about 16 kilometers) off its southern coast — could give its forces valuable practice, should they one day be ordered to encircle and attack the island.
U.S.: The Biden administration is now pondering how it would respond to a slow squeeze of the island by China.
Trade: China also used its status as Taiwan’s largest trading partner to lash out, announcing new trade curbs yesterday, including suspensions on some fruit and fish imports and a ban on exports of sand, a key building material.
Geopolitics: Europe is increasingly wary about China’s human rights abuses. But its countries have mostly sought to avoid the conflict over Pelosi’s trip and do not officially support independence for Taiwan. Even Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, took a nuanced view of China’s neutrality toward the war in his country.
Russian attack looms in the south
Ukraine’s military warned that Russia appears to be preparing to make an attack along the southern battlefront — the same area where the Ukrainians are pushing a counteroffensive.
Ukraine has been pushing to retake Kherson and has been recapturing territory in the occupied territory around the city. Long-range rockets, provided by the U.S., have helped it strike targets deep behind Russian lines.
A new Russian assault could lead to a pitched, seesaw battle. Moscow’s troops staged probing attacks with tanks, Ukraine said, but did not break through Ukrainian lines. Ukraine also said that Russian forces had attacked with helicopters and rocket artillery around Kherson.
Diplomacy: The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly voted to add Finland and Sweden to NATO yesterday.
Investigation: Five days after an explosion at a Russian prison camp killed at least 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war, Ukrainian officials said they were compiling proof that the mass slaughter was a war crime committed by Russian forces.
Our Coverage of the Russia-Ukraine War
- Grain Blockade: For the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine, a ship loaded with corn sailed out of Odesa, part of a deal officials hope will help ease food shortages around the world.
- A Hard Winter: As Russia tightens its chokehold on energy supplies across Europe, Ukraine, whose access to natural gas is also threatened, is bracing itself for the hardship ahead.
- Gay Rights: The lack of legal rights for partners of gay soldiers as well as the threat of Russia imposing anti-L.G.B.T. policies have turned the war into a catalyst for societal change in Ukraine.
- On the Ground: Russian troops are regrouping for an expected push to gain full control of the Donetsk region. But they also appear to be preparing forces for an attack in the south and are still pounding targets around the country.
Energy: Olaf Scholz, Germany’s leader, showed off a refurbished turbine for the Nord Stream I pipeline from Russia. He rejected Moscow’s claim that technical problems were behind its curtailment in gas flows.
Sri Lanka targets protesters
Sri Lanka’s government is cracking down on some protest leaders who organized the movement that ousted the country’s president last month.
Leading activists have been arrested, including Joseph Stalin, a teacher’s union leader, and Mahanama Thero, a Buddhist monk. Others have been slapped with travel bans. The government also ordered the clearing of the last remaining protest tents.
“It appears to be a witch hunt,” said Ambika Satkunanathan, an activist and a former human rights commissioner in Sri Lanka, who said the government was “hunting people for minor infractions to crush dissent.”
Those arrested include a protester accused of stealing the president’s official flag, another charged with stealing his beer mug, and a third said to have sat in his chair.
Background: The new president, Ranil Wickremesinghe, called some protesters a “fascist” threat when he took office and said the authorities would take action against those who had occupied government buildings.
Context: Soon after taking office, Wickremesinghe sent the police on a violent predawn raid on the protest site. Activists said that timing of the raid — just hours ahead of the protesters’ publicly declared time for vacating the area — made it clear that the president was flexing his muscles and trying to punish dissent.
THE LATEST NEWS
OPEC Plus members approved a small increase in oil production yesterday: Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of global oil demand.
Mexico is running out of water: Nearly two-thirds of its municipalities are facing a severe shortage.
Premier League soccer players in England will continue to kneel to protest racism, but no longer before every game.
The Senate passed a bill to expand medical care for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.
President Biden signed an executive order aimed at helping Americans cross state lines for abortions.
A lawyer for Sandy Hook parents produced text messages from Alex Jones’s cellphone yesterday, showing that the Infowars conspiracy theorist had withheld key evidence in defamation lawsuits.
A Morning Read
The Spanish soccer giant F.C. Barcelona spent its way into a crisis. Last year, its own chief executive described the club, which lost 487 million euros ($496 million), as “technically bankrupt.”
Now, with the club saddled with a debt of more than $1.3 billion, its president wants to spend his way out.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Will science change death?
A group of Yale scientists pumped a custom chemical into dead pigs to revive their cells.
It worked. The pigs’ hearts began to beat as the solution circulated in veins and arteries. Cells in their hearts, livers, kidneys and brains functioned again. The animals never got stiff, as would be expected. The researchers’ findings follow a similar experiment, from four years ago, when they found that brain cells from dead pigs could be revived.
One practical implication: Doctors hope that the solution, which the scientists called OrganEx, could eventually help increase the number of human organs available for transplant. The technology might also be used to prevent severe damage to hearts after devastating heart attacks or brains after major strokes.
But that’s all way down the line. For now, the researchers are wondering about the scientific definition of death. The pigs were not considered conscious in any way, but their seemingly dead cells revived.
“We presume death is a thing, it is a state of being,” said an expert who was not associated with the research. “Are there forms of death that are reversible? Or not?”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT, READ
What to Cook
Make a big batch of this chicken and celery salad and douse it in wasabi-tahini dressing.
What to Read
Read your way through Cairo.
What to Watch
Five international movies to stream now.
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: “Jet black” (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 me. — Amelia
P.S. Times journalists won awards from the Asian American Journalists Association.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the U.S. primaries.
You can reach Amelia and the team at [email protected].