Your Monday Briefing

Walking amid the rubble in Mariupol, Ukraine, yesterday.Credit…Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Peril for civilians fleeing Ukraine

Russian forces attacked civilian areas in eastern Ukraine yesterday as terrified residents fleeing westward joined an exodus of thousands, heeding warnings by the authorities that Russian troops were preparing a major assault. Follow the latest updates.

Analysts predict Russian troops will carry out a major offensive stretching from Dnipro to Izium, a city almost 150 miles northeast where fighting has already been heavy, U.S. military officials said. Satellite images showed hundreds of military vehicles moving through the town of Velykyi Burluk toward Izium on Friday.

To shore up its offensive, Russia has appointed Gen. Aleksandr Dvornikov as the top battlefield commander in Ukraine. Dvornikov oversaw Russian forces in Syria’s civil war, during which he was accused of ordering strikes on civilian neighborhoods.

Leaders: Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Saturday and walked through the streets with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The Austrian chancellor, Karl Nehammer, who also visited Ukraine over the weekend, said he would meet with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, in Moscow today.

Quotable: The world bears responsibility for Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine, Zelensky said yesterday. Making a comparison to World War II, he asked: “Are those countries who did not participate in the war responsible? The countries who let German forces march throughout Europe? Does the world carry responsibility for the genocide? Yes. Yes, it does.”

In other news from the war:

  • The bodies of dozens of civilians were found on a highway to Kyiv, a local official said. It isn’t clear when they were killed.

  • Thousands of Ukrainian men of military age have left the country to avoid participating in the war. Many say they feel guilty and ashamed.

  • Russians who support the war are beginning to turn on the enemy within — their neighbors who oppose it.

  • More than half of Ukraine is farmland. The war is destroying this year’s harvest.

Ballots from the first round of the French presidential election in Lavault-Sainte-Anne, France, yesterday.Credit…Stephane Mahe/Reuters

A Macron-Le Pen runoff

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, will face Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader, in the runoff of France’s presidential elections.

With 97 percent of the ballots cast yesterday counted, Macron led with about 27.6 percent of the vote to Le Pen’s 23.4 percent. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leftist anti-NATO candidate, followed with about 22 percent.

With war raging in Ukraine and Western unity likely to be tested as the fighting continues, Le Pen’s strong performance demonstrated the enduring appeal of nationalist and xenophobic currents in Europe. But Macron is the slight favorite for the next and final round, having fared a little better than the latest opinion polls suggested.

On April 24, French voters will vote again. Over the next two weeks, the candidates will confront each other over the future of France, at a time when Britain’s exit from the E.U. and the end of Angela Merkel’s long chancellorship in Germany have placed a particular onus on French leadership in Europe.

Optimism: “I will restore France to order in five years,” Le Pen declared to cheering supporters, appealing to all French people to join her in what she called “a choice of civilization” in which the “legitimate preponderance of French language and culture” would be guaranteed and full “sovereignty re-established in all domains.”

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the Exchequer, has been thrown off balance by scrutiny over recent scandals.Credit…Uk Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Via Reuters

A tax scandal embroils a British politician

The political future of Rishi Sunak, a popular, fast-rising British politician who serves as chancellor of the Exchequer, is in doubt after a swirl of revelations about his wealthy wife’s tax status, as well as by the fact that he held a green card, allowing him to live and work in the U.S., for 19 months after he became chancellor.

Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty, is the daughter of one of India’s richest businessmen. She claims non-domiciled status in Britain, which saved her millions of pounds a year in taxes on dividends from shares in her father’s technology company, Infosys. On Friday, seeking to defuse the scandal, she announced she would begin paying taxes in Britain.

Even for a country accustomed to political turmoil, Sunak’s fall has been vertiginous. Once considered a good bet to replace Britain’s scandal-scarred prime minister, Boris Johnson, some political commentators say he may never make a successful bid for the leadership, and certainly not soon.

Extreme privilege: At a time when Sunak is raising taxes to cover a pandemic-related shortfall in the public finances, his extraordinary wealth has become a political liability, making him appear jarringly out of touch to ordinary Britons who are facing a brutal squeeze in living standards.


Stories From the U.S.

  • Six months after leaving the White House, Jared Kushner secured a $2 billion investment from a fund led by the Saudi crown prince. But advisers to the fund questioned the merits of the deal.

  • Cryptocurrency executives and lobbyists in the U.S. are writing the laws for their own industry, and state legislatures are eager to adopt them.

  • Officials in Texas reversed a decision to charge a woman with murder over a “self-induced abortion,” acknowledging that state law didn’t support the charge.

Around the World

Credit…Fareed Khan/Associated Press
  • Pakistan is headed for an early election after Imran Khan, the former cricket star, lost a no-confidence vote in Parliament yesterday. Here’s what you need to know.

  • The Palestinian village of Walaja serves as a pointed example of how decades of war have carved up the West Bank and whittled away at territory under Palestinian control.

  • Israel has expressed solidarity with Ukraine but avoided direct criticism of Russia, raising questions about Russian-Israeli oligarchs close to the Kremlin.

  • Saudi Arabia will allow one million Muslims to travel to the holy city of Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage in July.

What Else Is Happening

  • Cranes are known for being monogamous. But sometimes crane couples will bring in a third bird.

  • A revival of “Cabaret” won seven prizes at the Olivier Awards, Britain’s equivalent of the Tonys.

  • Scottie Scheffler, a 25-year-old American and the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer, won the Masters.

A Morning Read

Credit…Saumya Khandelwal for The New York Times

The Sundarbans are an immense network of rivers, tidal flats, small islands and vast mangrove forests straddling India and Bangladesh. In this ecological treasure, residents have found their lives and livelihoods at risk.

Absent much government support, women have devised their own solution: planting hundreds of thousands of additional mangrove trees to bolster their role as protective barriers.


Reckoning with Wagner

In Germany, the work of Richard Wagner is understood as a combination of cultural jewel and political embarrassment. A new exhibition, “Richard Wagner and the Nationalization of Feeling,” at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, examines the strong feelings stirred by the country’s most famous 19th-century composer.

The curators have organized the show according to a series of emotions through which they argue the composer’s legacy can be understood: the alienation Wagner felt as an 1840s revolutionary; the sense of belonging as he began to be institutionally accepted; the eros that characterizes the seductiveness of his work; and, finally, the disgust and loathing that animated the composer’s prejudices.

Along with his music dramas, Wagner’s legacy includes his antisemitic and nationalist political writings. The Nazi dictatorship celebrated his musical works as a symbol of the pure German culture they hoped to promote.

It’s all but impossible to separate Wagner’s music from his politics, said Michael P. Steinberg, a cultural historian and one of the show’s curators. “The ideas come out on the stage in subliminal ways,” he added, “through worlds of feeling that are transmitted through music and text.”

Read more about the exhibition.


What to Cook

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times

Try this piquant West African-inspired brisket for Passover, or just because.

What to Read

Michelle de Kretser’s two-part novel, “Scary Monsters,” follows a young teacher in 1980s France and a bureaucrat in a dystopian future Australia.

Travel Interlude

Train travel in Europe is on the upswing, thanks to a renaissance in sleeper trains and new investments in high-speed rail lines.

Now Time to Play

Play today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Bit of bridal attire (four 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. Matt Apuzzo will be The Times’s first international investigations editor, leading an overseas investigative team.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on Germany’s approach to Russia.

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

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