Your Wednesday Briefing

The longest battle of the war in Ukraine

Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has been forced to use more of its professional recruits in Bakhmut to replace enlisted prisoners, who are perishing by the thousands as the battle for the city drags on, a Ukrainian official said. The claim suggested that Ukraine sees an opportunity in Bakhmut, despite the heavy casualties it has suffered.

Ukrainian officials have claimed that nearly 30,000 of Wagner’s 50,000 troops have deserted or been killed or wounded, many around Bakhmut. That number could not be independently verified, and Ukraine has not disclosed its own losses in the region. Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, said that Ukraine had lost more than 11,000 troops in February.

As the fight for Bakhmut appears to be entering a decisive phase, both sides are trying to justify their staggering losses in a minor city of limited strategic value by presenting them as benefiting their cause. Each makes essentially the same claim: that the fighting there is worth the horrific cost because it is wearing down the enemy.

Analysis: If Ukraine can eliminate Russia’s prisoner soldiers in Bakhmut, it will not have to face waves of attacks from those soldiers elsewhere, some experts said.

Intelligence report: Information reviewed by U.S. officials suggests that a pro-Ukrainian group carried out the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines last year, a step toward determining responsibility for an act of sabotage that has confounded investigators on both sides of the Atlantic for months.

France’s fight over pensions

Unions across France went on strike yesterday for the sixth time in the past two months, disrupting trains and flights and closing classrooms as a fight rages against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the legal retirement age to 64 from 62. Most French people oppose the proposal, according to public opinion polls.

Neither side has shown any sign of backing down. The unions want to start continuous, disruptive strikes, while Macron hopes to get the bill — a cornerstone of his re-election campaign that he says is necessary to balance the pension system’s finances as more baby boomers retire and live longer — passed by the end of this month.

In many respects, the fight is emblematic of a society that cherishes retirement and reveres a generous balance between work and leisure perhaps more than any other Western industrial country. France’s attachment to retirement is complex, touching on its history, identity and pride in social and labor rights that have been hard won and will not be easily forfeited.

Profile: Jean-Baptiste Reddé has hoisted his giant, colorful signs in nearly every street protest — including this one — for over a decade, embodying France’s enduring passion for demonstrations.

6 Palestinians killed in Israeli raid

A raid by the Israeli security forces in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, aimed at arresting a suspect in the fatal shooting of two Jewish brothers last month, spiraled into violence that left six Palestinians dead, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

The suspect, Abd al-Fattah Kharousha, was listed as among the dead by Palestinian officials. He was connected to the Islamist militant group Hamas, according to the group and an Israeli military spokesman. The Palestinian media reported that he had been released in December 2022 after nine years in Israeli prisons.

The Israeli military operation yesterday ended in a deadly firefight. The Israeli military said in a statement that its forces had used shoulder-fired missiles against a residence in the Jenin refugee camp, where Kharousha was barricaded. Gunmen fired toward the Israeli forces, who responded with live fire, the statement said.

Casualties: Hospitals in Jenin were treating at least 16 Palestinians for injuries, and two members of an Israeli special forces unit were injured in the fighting, officials said. At least 72 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since the start of 2023, and at least 15 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank.


Around the World

Britain unveiled a plan to remove most asylum seekers who have crossed the English Channel in small boats.

Documents show that Mexico’s military illegally spied on journalists and a rights advocate who were investigating allegations that soldiers had killed innocent people.

In London, a stage show based on “The Great British Bake Off” is sweet but underbaked, our critic writes.

Other Big Stories

Two Americans were found dead in Mexico after being kidnapped in the border state of Tamaulipas.

A trove of more than 100,000 WhatsApp messages exchanged among senior British government figures during the pandemic has revealed the scramble to coordinate the virus response.

The U.S. economy could quickly shed a million jobs and fall into recession if lawmakers fail to raise the nation’s borrowing cap, according to a new analysis.

Science Times

As different countries plan lunar missions, the European Space Agency says that creating a moon time zone may simplify things.

Male mice behave more erratically than female mice, challenging centuries-long assumptions, a new study has shown.

Japan’s newest rocket, intended to be the county’s flagship vehicle for sending satellites into orbit, failed minutes into its first test flight.

Momentum is building for alternatives to animal testing, which experts have said could improve patient outcomes.

We asked experts if cannabis actually improves sleep.

A Morning Read

The Chinese government has for decades been conducting a campaign to steal American trade secrets and intellectual property. While weapons and military equipment have always been a focus, China’s espionage expanded in the 1980s and beyond to target commercial technologies as diverse as pesticides, rice seeds, robotic cars and wind turbines.

In March 2017, a LinkedIn message to an engineer at G.E. Aviation set off a series of events that would end up giving the U.S. government a look inside Chinese economic espionage, culminating in the first conviction of a Chinese intelligence official on American soil.

Related: China’s leader, Xi Jinping, used unusually blunt language this week to criticize the U.S. and its allies for what he described as a campaign to block China’s rise.


The ‘embarrassing’ meltdown of Manchester United’s captain: In a crushing defeat to Liverpool, Bruno Fernandes flopped, yelled and shoved a referee.

With the threat of LIV Golf, the PGA Tour had to evolve: The PGA Tour has a winning strategy against LIV. The Arnold Palmer Invitational was proof.

A perfect season for Red Bull in Formula One? Max Verstappen’s domination in Bahrain, where he led for all but three laps, cemented his tag as the title favorite.


A cheeky app for South Africa’s power crisis

South Africa has declared a “state of disaster” over an electricity crisis that has caused nationwide power outages of up to 10 hours a day, and millions are turning to a smartphone app to help them navigate the blackouts.

The app, known as EskomSePush, plays on the name of South Africa’s state power utility, Eskom, and some vulgar Afrikaans slang. Recently rebranded as just ESP, it sends out alerts 55 minutes before the power is scheduled to go off.

The app was created by the software developers Dan Southwood-Wells and Herman Maritz in 2014, when scheduled power outages were becoming more widespread and disruptive. But it has really taken off in the past year, with nearly two million downloads.

Southwood-Wells and Maritz know they’re tapping into national frustration, and so they try to inject some humor into the app’s outage notices, such as by including an image of a braai, the South African equivalent of a barbecue, to let users know they won’t be using their stoves for several hours. “We try to make light of a dark situation,” Maritz said. — Lynsey Chutel, a Briefing writer in Johannesburg.


What to Cook

This tart is just the thing for spring.

What to Watch

“History of the World, Part II” is a screwball tour of civilization.

What to Read

Jenny Odell’s new book, “Saving Time,” looks at how our hours and minutes became codified and commodified.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: CBS logo (three letters).

And here are 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, and happy International Women’s Day. — Natasha

P.S. Iran cut diplomatic ties with Britain after Britain’s government refused to denounce Salman Rushdie and “The Satanic Verses,” The Times reported 34 years ago today.

“The Daily” is on Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a rising Republican star.

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

Source: Read Full Article