Your Monday Briefing

A satellite image showing the damage to the Drama Theater in Mariupol.Credit…Maxar Technologies., via Associated Press

Russia pummels the city of Mariupol

Firing rockets and dropping bombs from land and air, as well as from warships in the Sea of Azov, Russian forces broadened their bombardment of the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol yesterday. Thousands of residents have been forcibly deported from the city, which has been without food, water, electricity and gas since the early days of the invasion. Follow the latest updates.

The coastal city — a strategic port that would give Russia control over much of Ukraine’s southern coast — has become a grim symbol of Russian frustration that its superior manpower and weaponry have not forced Ukraine’s quick capitulation. Russian forces are increasingly targeting civilian sites with long-range missiles to crush the public’s spirit and break the Ukrainian military resistance.

Satellite images of Mariupol show evidence of widespread damage across residential neighborhoods. An analysis found at least 391 buildings had been damaged or destroyed in a part of the city that is dotted with schools and health facilities. The number of casualties is not known.

Quotable: “The besieged Mariupol will go down in the history of responsibility for war crimes,” Volodymyr Zelensky, the leader of Ukraine, said in a speech to the nation late Saturday night. “The terror the occupiers perpetrated on this peaceful city will be remembered for centuries to come.”

In other news from the war:

  • Drug-addled neo-Nazis, genocide and American biological weapons factories. The Kremlin has used a barrage of falsehoods to justify its invasion of Ukraine.

  • About two million people have stayed in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, where the population has been galvanized by a newfound unity and its refusal to be cowed by Russian invaders.

  • “I don’t have the right to cry”: Ukrainian women share their stories of escape.

Farmers unloading a harvest of barley in February in Preobrazhenka, Ukraine.Credit…Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

War threatens to cause a global food crisis

A crucial portion of the world’s wheat, corn and barley is trapped in Russia and Ukraine because of the war, while an even larger portion of the world’s fertilizers is stuck in Russia and Belarus. The result is that global food and fertilizer prices are soaring, foreshadowing a rise in world hunger.

Since the invasion of Ukraine last month, wheat prices have increased by 21 percent, barley by 33 percent and some fertilizers by 40 percent. Compounded with the coronavirus pandemic and China’s worst wheat crop in decades, conditions could further deteriorate, officials warn. Of particular concern is that Ukrainian farms are about to miss critical planting and harvesting seasons.

This month, the U.N. said that the war’s impact on the global food market could cause an additional 7.6 million to 13.1 million people to go hungry. In February, U.S. grocery prices were already up 8.6 percent over the previous year, the largest increase in 40 years.

By the numbers: Over the past five years, Russia and Ukraine have accounted for nearly a third of exports of the world’s wheat and barley, 17 percent of its corn and 75 percent of its sunflower seed oil, an important cooking oil in some parts of the world.

Quarantine workers in Shanghai last week, near a neighborhood that was just put on lockdown.Credit…Qilai Shen for The New York Times

China tweaks its Covid strategy

When the coronavirus first swept across China in early 2020, the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, declared a “people’s war” against the epidemic, establishing what would become a no-holds-barred strategy to eliminate infections.

Now, in the third year of the pandemic and faced with a rapidly spreading variant, Xi is trying to fine-tune the playbook, ordering officials to quash outbreaks — but also to limit the impact on people’s livelihoods.

Officials are now promoting policies such as allowing the use of at-home test kits or sending people to centralized isolation facilities instead of hospitals. The adjustments are largely out of necessity, as more than 32,000 cases of the highly transmissible BA.2 subvariant of Omicron have been reported across two dozen provinces in recent weeks.

Remarks: Xi said officials should strive for “maximum effect” with “minimum cost” in controlling the virus, reflecting concerns about the economy’s slowing growth.


News From the U.S.

Credit…Rory Doyle for The New York Times
  • Two people engaged in a gunfight at a community event in Arkansas and sprayed the crowd with bullets, killing one bystander and injuring 27 other people, including six children. Above, the scene of the shooting.

  • Donors to Donald Trump passed around a diary belonging to Ashley Biden, President Biden’s daughter, at a fund-raiser in 2020. Weeks later, Project Veritas called her.

  • The Senate begins hearings today for Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee. Republicans are ramping up attacks.

Around the World

Credit…Aflo Co. Ltd./Alamy Stock Photo
  • A “killing stone,” which appears in a famous Japanese legend, split in two. The question now is whether it’s a good or bad omen.

  • Spain endorsed Morocco’s plan for limited autonomy for Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that has been torn by a separatist conflict for five decades.

  • Ethnically motivated attacks have resurged in the Darfur region of Sudan, leading to enormous displacement and a growing humanitarian crisis.

Religion News

  • Hillsong, the global megachurch that got its start in Australia, apologized “unreservedly” to two women who accused its founder of inappropriate behavior.

  • In one of the largest gatherings in Israeli history, up to 750,000 people gathered at the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, an ultra-Orthodox spiritual leader.

  • Pope Francis issued a new constitution to govern the Roman Catholic Church. Among the changes: Baptized lay Catholics, including women, can lead departments traditionally headed by cardinals.

  • The recent lynching of a man accused of burning pages from a Quran has underscored Pakistan’s status as a site of religious violence.

A Morning Read

Credit…Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

How long should it take to grieve? Psychiatry has come up with an answer.


A latecomers’ guide to cryptocurrency

Crypto is a lot of things — including terribly explained. This guide aims to clear things up. Here’s a lightly edited excerpt from it.

Let’s start from the beginning: What is crypto?

These days, “crypto” usually refers to the entire universe of technologies that involve blockchains — the distributed ledger systems that power digital currencies like Bitcoin, but also serve as the base layer of technology for things like NFTs, web3 applications and DeFi trading protocols.

Weren’t tech people telling us, years ago, that crypto was a new and exciting form of money? But nobody I know buys groceries in Bitcoin. So were those people wrong?

In part, that’s because most merchants still don’t accept crypto payments, and hefty transaction fees can make it impractical to spend small amounts of cryptocurrency on daily living expenses. It’s also because the value of popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether has historically gone up, making it somewhat risky to use them for offline purchases.

What are the actual uses of crypto, beyond financial speculation?

Right now, many applications for crypto technology are in finance or finance-adjacent fields. For example, people are using crypto to send cross-border remittances to family members abroad and to Wall Street banks using blockchains to settle foreign transactions.

The crypto boom has also led to an explosion of experiments outside financial services. There are crypto social clubs, crypto video games, crypto restaurants and even crypto-powered wireless networks.


What to Cook

Credit…Johnny Miller for The New York Times

Sabzi, a spinach and lamb stew, is a traditional dish served during Afghan Nowruz, the celebration of the new year and the vernal equinox.

What to Watch

The slasher film “X,” a 1970s throwback that’s both dirty and bloody, is “an unexpected gift,” our critic writes.

What to Read

Find your next great read among the winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards.

Now Time to Play

Play today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Opposite of a tourist (five letters).

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. — Natasha

P.S. Stephen Merelman is joining The Times as the Metro desk’s criminal justice editor.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the global race to mine cobalt.

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

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