Your Thursday Briefing: Russia Expands Its Territorial Ambitions

We’re covering the official broadening of Russia’s territorial ambitions and a new leader in Sri Lanka.

Residents outside an aid center run by Russia in Melitopol in the Zaporizka region of Ukraine on Monday.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Russia is expanding its territorial aims

Russia’s top diplomat said Wednesday that his country’s territorial ambitions in Ukraine might broaden as European leaders warned their citizens to prepare for sacrifices in the face of a conflict that shows no sign of ending anytime soon.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the Russian state news agency that Moscow was now casting its gaze on a swath of Ukraine’s south, specifically naming the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions as well as “a number of other territories.”

Facing an escalating conflict, the European Commission proposed rationing natural gas to save the region from a major energy crisis as Russia slashes gas exports. The proposal calls for a 15 percent reduction in gas usage by next spring. If ratified by member nations, it would put Europe’s economy on a war footing.

News from the war in Ukraine:

  • Ukraine has discovered previously unknown Russian hacking techniques, the U.S. said.

  • Ukraine’s first lady addressed the U.S. Congress, asking for more weapons to defend against what she called the “Russian hunger games.”

  • A meeting of the leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey seemed to suggest a new anti-American alliance. But there are major fissures between the countries, too.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, in Colombo on Wednesday, comes to the presidency after decades of being a fixture on Sri Lanka’s political scene.Credit…Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

Sri Lanka names its next leader

Lawmakers in Sri Lanka elected Ranil Wickremesinghe as the country’s president, replacing Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was pushed out of office last week by protesters who blamed him for the country’s economic collapse.

The ascension of Wickremesinghe — handpicked by Rajapaksa, who fled the country in disgrace — represented a triumph of establishment politics over a social movement calling for wholesale change. He was able to rally support within the ruling party even though ordinary Sri Lankans made their dislike of him clear.

Supporters say that with four decades in the Parliament and half a dozen stints as prime minister, Wickremesinghe is best suited to stabilize the crumbling economy. His most immediate challenge, along with trying to ensure a steady supply of food and fuel for a suffering population, is to convince the protesters, who see him as a protector of the Rajapaksas, to give him a chance.

Policies: Wickremesinghe said his government would abandon some of the Rajapaksas’ economic policies, which revolved around low taxes, cheap credit and imported goods to support a single industry — tourism. Instead, he plans to promote exports, such as garments, agriculture and technology services, to bolster the country’s foreign reserves.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, left, and former chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi SunakCredit…Daniel Leal, Tolga Akmen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Britain’s prime minister choices

The Conservative Party in Britain whittled the race to become the country’s next prime minister down to two candidates.

Rishi Sunak, a former chancellor of the Exchequer — Britain’s equivalent of a finance minister — and Liz Truss, the current foreign secretary, emerged as the top two choices from a field of 11 after five rounds of voting by the party’s lawmakers. The two will campaign to secure the support of the Conservative rank and file in the lead-up to a vote, with the results announced in early September.

Sunak, a 42-year-old of South Asian ancestry, would be the first person of color to occupy 10 Downing Street. Truss, 46, began her political career as a Liberal Democrat and voted to remain in the E.U. in the 2016 referendum but has since became a zealous Brexit convert — and will be viewed as the candidate of hard-line Brexiteers.

Backdrop: The next prime minister will face a Conservative electorate that has grown frustrated with the seemingly endless parade of scandals under Boris Johnson, who announced this month that he planned to step down. Sunak’s resignation set in motion the events that brought down Johnson, but neither he nor Truss represents much of a break with the departing prime minister in terms of policy.

Context: Sunak might suffer from the role he played in helping to oust Johnson. Truss sat alongside Johnson in the House of Commons on Wednesday and has stayed in his cabinet even as several others quit.



Covid testing in Guangzhou in May. Community workers in the city broke into homes to look for infected residents.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • Chinese officials apologized for breaking into homes to search for people who had tested positive for Covid.

  • At least 10 endangered green sea turtles were found dead with stab wounds on their scaly necks, scattered across a beach in southern Japan.

  • Japan recorded more than 150,000 Covid cases in a single day for the first time, The Asahi Shinbum reports.

  • Droupadi Murmu is likely to become the first tribal woman to serve as India’s president, The Times of India reports.

Around the World

Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy spoke to the country’s Senate on Wednesday in Rome.Credit…Antonio Masiello/Getty Images
  • The unity government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy fell apart, leaving the country careening toward a new season of political chaos. Draghi is expected to offer his resignation Thursday for a second time this week.

  • The European Central Bank is set to raise interest rates for the first time in more than a decade. The change is being felt acutely in Italy, where past economic crises loom large.

  • The Biden administration is planning to challenge Mexico’s state control of its energy sector.

  • Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, banned gender-neutral language in schools, reigniting a debate that is reverberating across the world.

  • Magnus Carlsen, the world’s top chess player, said he would not play in the world championship next year because he lacked the motivation.

A Morning Read

Members of the People’s Defense Force in Myanmar with the War of Heroes game on their cellphones.Credit…War of Heroes – The PDF Game

Opponents of Myanmar’s military junta have flocked to a new online game that lets players shoot virtual troops while raising money for the real-life resistance. “One way or another, playing the game and clicking until I die will help the revolution,” U Sein Lin, a 72-year-old retired history teacher, said.


Desus and Mero split

The Showtime talk show “Desus & Mero” is coming to an end, capping a nine-year partnership that propelled its Bronx-bred hosts to stardom. Over web series, podcasts and TV shows, Desus Nice (Daniel Baker) and the Kid Mero (Joel Martinez) scrapped crafted monologues for a looser style. Along the way, they interviewed Barack Obama, Derek Jeter, Denzel Washington and Yo-Yo Ma.

The duo did it all with a Black perspective not often seen in late-night comedy. “I have fun on Jimmy Kimmel and James Corden,” the actress Lena Waithe said, but with Desus and Mero, “it felt like going to your favorite cousin’s crib and talking about the events of the day and what’s going on.”


What to Cook

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times

Vietnamese iced coffee has three ingredients: coffee, water and condensed milk.

What to Listen to

Lizzo’s new album, “Special,” gestures toward complexities but retreats to her comfort zone.

What to Read

In his new story collection, “The Haunting of Hajji Hotak,” Jamil Jan Kochai explores the intergenerational impact of conflict.

Now Time to Play

Play today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Tip off (four letters).

Here are today’s Wordle and Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

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

P.S. Max Bearak, a Washington Post reporter, is joining The Times to report on international climate policy.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about miscarriage care in the U.S.

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

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