Your Tuesday Briefing: Russia Launches Assault in Eastern Ukraine

We’re covering Russia’s offensive in eastern Ukraine and the economic toll of China’s Covid lockdowns.

Residents cleaning up a destroyed compound in the Kyiv suburb of Horenka on Monday.Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Russia begins Eastern offensive

The much-dreaded Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine has begun, a top Ukrainian security official said on Monday. Russian forces had broken through the 300-mile front line, which runs along the Donbas and Kharkiv regions, at two separate points.

It comes after Russia pummeled Ukraine with one of the broadest barrages of missile attacks in weeks. Russia claimed that it struck more than 300 Ukrainian military targets, including fuel depots and warehouses.

The attacks included a strike on the western city of Lviv, where seven people were killed in the city’s first fatalities of the war. The attacks there upended the sense of relative security in a city that has been a haven for many fleeing the war in other parts of the country.

Russian forces also launched artillery strikes on major cities including Mykolaiv and Kharkiv, where six people were killed in residential areas. Those attacks have tied up Ukrainian forces, preventing them from joining the fight farther east as Russia prepared its offensive.

Banned weapons: It appears likely that Ukrainian troops used cluster munitions — which are internationally banned because of the harm they can cause to civilians — in an eastern village that they were trying to retake from Russian forces, based on evidence reviewed by The New York Times.

Economic stress: Russia’s central bank chief warned that the consequences of Western sanctions were only beginning to be felt, a stark acknowledgment that undermines President Vladimir Putin’s claims.

Religion: Around the world, the war is dividing national churches, parishes and even families as they reassess relations with the Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch Kirill, who has encouraged Russia’s aggression.

A woman trying to buy food from a vendor in a sealed-off area of Shanghai during the lockdown last week.Credit…Aly Song/Reuters

The economic cost of China’s Covid lockdowns

Using some of the world’s strictest methods such as mass quarantines and border controls, China is trying to stamp out Covid in its biggest cities. Cases have started to dip in recent days, but newly released data show that the measures are inflicting a grim toll on the world’s second-largest economy.

China’s economy expanded 4.8 percent in the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year, slower than the government’s target. But much of that growth was in January and February, before the country was hit by its worst outbreak yet and many of its largest cities essentially shut down. As of March, retail sales — a crucial sign of consumer spending — were down 3.5 percent from a year ago.

The shutdowns also could feed inflation around the world by further disrupting supply chains. A sluggish China would also import less from other nations, including natural resources, like oil, and consumer goods, like cherries or designer handbags.

Details: At the end of March, 14 large Chinese cities had severe lockdowns, and the share of China’s economic output represented by those cities shrank to 8 percent from 14 percent.

In other pandemic updates:

  • Officials in Shanghai said some residents may have to live at their places of work even after the city lifts a citywide lockdown.

  • When someone in your family tests positive for the coronavirus, here are some guidelines to follow.

  • Philadelphia, the sixth-largest city in the U.S., reinstated its indoor mask mandate in response to sharply rising numbers of new coronavirus cases.

  • A federal judge struck down the U.S. mask mandate on planes and public transportation.

President Emmanuel Macron made a campaign stop in Le Havre, France, last week.Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

Economic policies dominate the French election

Weaving through the country in the final days before France’s presidential election, President Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, his far-right challenger, have sought to recast major planks of their economic programs to appeal to those struggling to get by.

Perceptions of the economy could determine who wins, as worries about widening economic insecurity, along with the surging cost of living amid the fallout from Russia’s war on Ukraine, have become top issues in the race, ahead of security and immigration.

Just last week, Macron said he would consider softening his proposal to raise the retirement age to 65 from 62 to fund France’s national pension system — an idea that has received considerable disapproval. Macron has also vowed new tax cuts for both households and businesses.

Le Pen, who favors the current retirement age, has focused on economic issues close to blue-collar voters’ hearts. While Macron was trying to broker a cease-fire in Ukraine, Le Pen visited towns and rural areas across France, promising increased subsidies for vulnerable households and a 10 percent increase in France’s monthly minimum wage.

What’s next: French voters will head to the polls on Sunday, and Macron is currently expected to win in a tight race.



Protesters in Khost, Afghanistan, demonstrated against Pakistani airstrikes in the country on Saturday.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • The death toll from Pakistani military airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan rose to at least 45 people, according to local Afghan officials.

  • Sri Lanka’s president admitted that his own mistakes led to the country’s economic crisis and promised to correct them, The Associated Press reported.

Around the World

Credit…Ian Willms for The New York Times
  • Toronto’s marijuana shops have flourished during the pandemic, changing the character of an iconic neighborhood.

  • The World Bank lowered its forecast for global economic growth this year, citing the war in Ukraine, inflation and the lingering effects of the pandemic.

  • Two Kenyan runners took home first place finishes in the Boston Marathon. Peres Jepchirchir won the women’s race, while Evans Chebet won the men’s.

A Morning Read

Credit…Eric Guth for The New York Times

In the remote sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, a series of ecological initiatives, including the eradication of several invasive species, has revived the life and landscape. With a seal population now in the millions, the island has turned into a soundscape of squeaking, barking, belching, groaning and growling.


Books’ big-box embrace

Once upon a time, Barnes & Noble was the nemesis of independent booksellers. Now, it’s important to their survival, Elizabeth Harris reports.

Many readers and writers used to see the chain as “strong-arming publishers and gobbling up independent stores,” Elizabeth writes. But in an industry upended by online sales, Barnes & Noble helps readers discover new titles and publishers stay invested in distributing in physical stores.

The chain had been at risk of folding, but new management shored up sales by allowing it to act more like an independent seller. Nonbook inventory was reduced and purchasing was decentralized, leaving store managers free to choose whether to bring in more copies based on local sales.

“It would be a disaster if they went out of business,” a literary agent said. “There’s a real fear that without this book chain, the print business would be way off.”

What no one has been able to replicate online are accidental finds — books that readers come across in a store. Such discovery is crucial for writers who aren’t established names. “The more Amazon’s market share grows, the less discovery there is overall, and the less new voices are going to be heard,” the founder of an independent publisher said.


What to Cook

Credit…Bobbi Lin for The New York Times

Citrus-dressed salmon roasted over potatoes is a flavorful one-pan meal.

What to Listen to

Get to know Tokischa, a gleefully raunchy Dominican rapper who has collaborated with J Balvin and Rosalía.

What to Read

Jennifer Grey, the “Dirty Dancing” star, opens up about rhinoplasty gone wrong, the implosion of her career and more in a memoir.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Team (five letters).

Here’s today’s Wordle.

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Tell us about your experience with the newsletter in this short survey here. Thank you!— Matthew

P.S. The Times’s Spanish-language newsletter expanded distribution to three times a week.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about student loans.

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

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