Your Monday Briefing: Reports of Russian Atrocities

Good morning. We’re covering reports of Russian atrocities, a bubbling political crisis in Pakistan and a Taliban ban on growing poppies for opium.

Widespread destruction across Bucha, a town near Kyiv. Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

Reports of Russian atrocities

As Russian forces retreat from Kyiv, they are leaving horror in their wake: Videos and images show the bodies of civilians lying in the streets. Ukrainian officials accused Russian forces of executing civilians.

Western officials condemned the reports of atrocities on Sunday, redoubling calls for war crimes investigations. A leading rights group said it had documented “apparent war crimes.” Here are live updates.

The outrage could move the needle on the E.U.’s refusal to impose sanctions on Russian oil and gas: Germany’s defense minister said that in light of the Bucha atrocities, the bloc should consider banning Russian gas imports, as Lithuania did on Saturday. Europe’s ongoing energy purchases send as much as $850 million each day into Russia’s coffers.

Details: The images from Bucha, a suburb northwest of Kyiv, showed corpses with hands bound behind their backs. (Russia’s Defense Ministry dismissed the photos as “fake” but acknowledged the pullback.) Residents of another formerly occupied town, Trostyanets, also described weeks of hunger and horror.

Resistance: Here’s how Kyiv has withstood Russian attacks and how already legendary fighters repelled Russians from the small garrison city of Vasylkiv.

Background: Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has repeatedly tried — and failed — to subjugate Ukraine.

Ripple effects: The war has driven up the cost of food in East Africa, which is facing what could be its worst drought in four decades.

State of the War:

  • Russian forces continued to batter Ukraine’s southern coastline.

  • The U.S. said that Russia is running its military campaign out of Moscow because it has no battlefield commander.

  • Ukraine said it was back in control of dozens of towns near Kyiv.

Other developments:

  • The war cast a shadow over the weekend’s presidential elections in Serbia and Hungary, where Europe’s two most Kremlin-friendly leaders appeared ready to win re-election.

  • The U.S. will help transfer Soviet-made tanks to Ukraine.

  • Pope Francis has still not blamed Putin for the war, but he’s getting closer.

Imran Khan, center, at a rally last month in Islamabad, Pakistan.Credit…Aamir Qureshi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Pakistan’s Parliament dissolved

Prime Minister Imran Khan dissolved Pakistan’s National Assembly and called for new elections on Sunday, blocking a no-confidence vote that was widely expected to remove him from office.

The move — a defiant bid by Khan to remain in power, despite losing the backing of the military — threatens to plunge the country into a constitutional crisis. On Saturday, Khan said he would not accept the result of the vote, dismissing it as part of an American conspiracy against him.

Reporting From Afghanistan

  • Inside the Fall of Kabul: ​The Taliban took the Afghan capital with a speed that shocked the world. Our reporter and photographer witnessed it.
  • On Patrol: A group of Times journalists spent 12 days with a Taliban police unit in Kabul. Here is what they saw.
  • Face to Face: ​​A Times reporter who served as a Marine in Afghanistan returned to interview a Taliban commander he once fought.
  • A Photographer’s Journal: A look at 20 years of war in Afghanistan, chronicled through one Times photographer’s lens.

Opposition leaders accused Khan of high treason and asked the country’s Supreme Court to intervene, calling it “unprecedented” and a “blatant violation” of Pakistan’s Constitution. A hearing was scheduled for Monday.

Analysis: The maneuver risked destabilizing the fragile democracy in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation that supports the Taliban. Since Pakistan became an independent country in 1947, not one of its prime ministers has completed a full term.

Profile: Khan, a former cricket star, was elected in 2018 on a nationalist promise to fight corruption and distance Pakistan from the U.S., with which it has had a troubled history. If Khan is ousted, many experts say that Pakistan could grow closer to the U.S. and the West.

Afghan farmers harvested poppies for opium last year.Credit…Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

Taliban outlaws poppy growing

The insurgents turned rulers of Afghanistan outlawed the cultivation of opium flowers on Sunday. The decree also banned the use, sale, transfer, purchase, import and export of wine as well as heroin and other drugs.

The move will have far-reaching consequences for the many farmers who turned to the illicit crop amid the nation’s brutal drought and economic crisis.

Many farmers had planted the crop — which can be stored for some time after harvesting — as an investment. They anticipated dwindling supply and rising prices, though they knew the Taliban could move to restrict cultivation. The Taliban’s announcement on Sunday came during the poppy harvest.

Context: Afghanistan accounts for about 80 percent of the world’s supply of opium.

Background: In the 1990s, the Taliban made several halfhearted attempts to restrict opium before enacting a ban on the cultivation of opium poppies shortly before the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, after which the Taliban turned to the crop to fuel their war machine for two decades.


Asia and the Pacific

Protesters are frustrated over Sri Lanka’s dwindling standard of living.Credit…Rebecca Conway for The New York Times
  • Sri Lanka’s cabinet resigned en masse on Sunday amid street protests and a dire economic crisis.

  • Shanghai is grappling with rising Covid cases: the virus ravaged a nursing home, and residents are outraged at images of crying children isolated from their parents.

  • New Zealand officials say anti-vaccination protesters outside Parliament seeded cannabis plants during a three-week occupation.

World News

The truce offers hope for a reduction of violence in the brutal seven-year-long war.Credit…Mohammed Huwais/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • A two-month truce between warring parties in Yemen, brokered by the U.N., went into effect on Saturday.

  • Israeli security forces killed three Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank this weekend, in the wake of terrorist attacks that have spawned widespread criticism of Israel’s government.

  • Turkey is preparing to move the trial for the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, effectively ending the case.

  • After a five-year delay, the U.S. sent an Algerian man home from Guantánamo Bay.

What Else Is Happening

  • Workers in New York City voted to form Amazon’s first union.

  • A small avalanche gave researchers another clue into the fate of nine hikers who died in Russia’s Dyatlov Pass more than 60 years ago.

  • The U.S. will allow hunters to import some elephant trophies from Africa.

  • For wealthy Latin Americans, Madrid is rivaling Miami as a haven from corruption and political turmoil.

A Morning Read

The formal name of the Thai capital runs a whopping 168 letters.Credit…Adam Dean for The New York Times

The Thai government is mounting a campaign to get the world to call Thailand’s capital Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (Bangkok). Thai citizens would prefer that their leaders focus on fixing the country’s battered economy.


A microplastics storm

As long as there has been marine life, there has been marine snow — a ceaseless drizzle of death and waste sinking from the surface of the sea into its depths.

Now, tiny bits of plastic have infiltrated the slow-descending flakes, which are the deep sea’s main food source and a pipeline that carries the ocean’s carbon to the seafloor. The microplastics, normally buoyant, sink with the flakes.

That’s new information: Scientists had originally assumed that plastic mostly floated on the surface. But a recent model found that 99.8 percent of the plastic that entered the ocean after 1950 sank below the first few hundred feet. Scientists have found 10,000 times more microplastics on the seafloor than in contaminated surface waters.

They are just beginning to understand the consequences. Because microplastics add to the surface area of marine snow, the mixture could carry more carbon to the seafloor and alter our planet’s ancient cooling process.

Sinking microplastics may also damage deep-sea food webs. “The plastics are a diet pill for these animals,” a carbon cycle scientist told The Times.


What to Cook

Credit…Chris Simpson for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Sophia Pappas.

About eight years ago, Bryan Washington got lost in Tokyo Station and ate kakuni at an izakaya. Here’s his wildly simple recipe for the braised pork belly dish, whose name means “square simmered” in Japanese.

What to Read

In Aamina Ahmad’s stunning debut novel, “The Return of Faraz Ali,” a police officer is asked to cover up a young girl’s death in Lahore’s red-light district.

What to Watch

The Grammys begin at 8 a.m. Hong Kong time. Here’s a preview, a list of nominees and tips for how to stream the music awards.

Now Time to Play

Play today’s Mini Crossword; here’s a clue: Mischievous (three letters).

Here’s today’s Wordle and today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

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

P.S. Manuela Andreoni will join our Climate Forward newsletter as a writer.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the fight for Mariupol.

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

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