Your Wednesday Briefing

Russia increases pressure on civilians in occupied Ukraine

The Russian authorities in occupied territory of Ukraine have imposed strict new measures on civilians. Most recently, they have “reinforced” counterintelligence units and are restricting travel between towns and villages, Ukraine’s military high command said.

Last week, the Kremlin decreed that those in occupied territory who did not accept Russian passports could be relocated from their homes, according to the Ukrainian military and local officials. Undercover Russian security officers have also started working in crowded public spaces to track down members of the Ukrainian resistance, according to a Ukrainian government agency.

The measures come as Ukrainian forces have stepped up their assaults behind enemy lines ahead of a widely expected counteroffensive. Anticipating the campaign, and still recovering from the costs of their winter offensive, many elements of the Russian forces have shifted into defensive positions. Yesterday, the Russian authorities reported more shelling and an explosion that derailed a freight train in the Russian border region.

Context: It is virtually impossible to independently verify much of what happens in Russian-occupied territory, because independent journalists, humanitarian groups and international observers are rarely granted access by the Russian authorities. But the Kremlin has made no secret of its efforts to absorb the regions into Russia.

In other news from the war:

Russia’s defense minister called for quickly doubling Russian production of guided missiles and speeding up the replenishment of other weapons and military equipment.

A Polish diplomat in Moscow was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry over Poland’s seizure of a Russian embassy school in Warsaw, a dispute that has worsened relations between the two nations.

U.S. manufacturing droops

During the pandemic, some U.S. manufacturers — and their workers — enjoyed record profits as unemployment rates in key manufacturing areas fell and average weekly wages jumped. But that frenzy has turned to a chill, with thousands of corresponding job losses and rising unemployment.

Factory construction is proceeding at a rapid pace, heralding a potential surge in domestic production powered by a move away from long, fragile supply chains and by the infusion of billions of dollars in public investment. At the same time, manufacturing is suffering something of a hangover as retailers burn through inventories bloated by pandemic orders.

Inflation-fighting efforts by the Federal Reserve, which is expected to announce another interest-rate increase today, have squelched big-ticket purchases. New orders have been declining since last summer, and a widely followed index of purchasing activity has been downbeat for six months.

Quotable: “It’s not one of these really concerning plunges, where we’re shedding a bunch of manufacturing jobs, but it seems kind of stalled,” said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing. “And I think the longer that lasts, the harder it’s going to be to rev things up.”

China’s big splurge: Luxury spending in China is bouncing back even faster than the country’s overall economy now that pandemic lockdowns have ended.

Germany confronts Russian espionage

In Berlin, parliamentary buildings sit next to Russia’s diplomatic mission. For years, a silent espionage struggle played out here, as German lawmakers were warned by intelligence offices to protect themselves by turning computer screens away from the window, stop using wireless devices that were easier to tap, and close the window blinds for meetings.

Tensions over Russian espionage were something Germany’s government long seemed willing to ignore. That has become increasingly difficult since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as a Cold War-style chill settles across the continent and recasts relations with Russia.

Late last month, Russia exposed what it described as a “mass expulsion” of its diplomats in Germany when it announced a tit-for-tat expulsion of more than 20 German diplomats from Moscow. It was a rare sign, security analysts say, of Berlin’s counterintelligence effort after years of increasingly brazen Russian intelligence operations on German soil.

Background: At least twice, Russian groups suspected of having Kremlin links have hacked German politicians and Parliament. In 2021, police arrested a security guard at the British Embassy who had been spying for Russia. And late last year, a German intelligence officer was unmasked as a mole passing information on surveillance of the war in Ukraine to Moscow.


Around the World

The two rival generals fighting in Sudan agreed to a seven-day truce starting tomorrow and will name representatives for peace talks.

President Biden is deploying 1,500 active-duty troops to the border between the U.S. and Mexico to guard against a potential influx of migrants as Covid-era asylum restrictions expire.

South Korea once facilitated prostitution by “comfort women” for the U.S. military. Now, the victims aim to take their case to the U.S.

After a manhunt that stretched to the Mexican border, Texas law enforcement officials arrested the man who they believe shot and killed five people in a neighborhood dispute.

Other Big Stories

Shares of some regional banks in the U.S. fell sharply, shattering the brief spell of calm that had prevailed after First Republic was sold to JPMorgan.

With the U.S. now projected to run out of money to pay its bills by June 1, Democrats in Washington are considering unconventional tactics to avert a devastating federal default.

Donald Trump is likely to skip at least one of the first two debates of the 2024 Republican presidential race.

A former Minneapolis police officer was found guilty of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

Science Times

If what we think we know about the universe is true, life and intelligence are ultimately doomed. That means that, at some point in the distant future, one last sentient being will have one last thought.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University developed an A.I.-powered arm that can paint an abstract acrylic. But is it art?

A single dose of the HPV vaccine is highly effective at preventing infections over three years, a study has found.

The genomes of mammals like monkeys and whales are helping scientists tackle big questions about physiology and evolution.

A Morning Read

The airport in Denver, with its towering blue horse sculpture, above, is a magnet for conspiracy theories — and a case study in the line between mass delusion and fun.


Two Premier League greats have an evocative conversation: Alan Shearer and Ian Wright talk all things Arsenal on a walk from the club’s former home to its current one.

ACL injuries in women’s soccer: Women’s World Cup stars suffer ACL injuries far more frequently than men, but why is this, and how do we prevent these injuries?

The soccer player raising awareness about alopecia: Will Smallbone has had to deal with a lot in recent years, from an ACL injury to alopecia, but has gotten his career back on track while on loan at Stoke.

From The Times: FIFA’s president said the Woman’s World Cup would not be televised in Europe unless broadcasters met its demands for higher fees.


The writers’ strike

The world of late-night television went dark last night, as thousands of television and movie writers went on strike, shattering 15 years of labor peace in the entertainment industry and bringing much of Hollywood’s production assembly line to a halt.

“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers” aired reruns, and new episodes from late-night shows hosted by Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel have also been suspended. “Saturday Night Live” will “air repeats until further notice,” according to NBC, raising the possibility that the show will not end its 48th season with a finale.

The strike would have to stretch for a significantly longer time before viewers began to see the effects on scripted TV shows and movies, because the production process for them can take months or more than a year.

During the last strike, in 2007, late-night shows gradually came back after about two months, even with their writers still on picket lines. (That strike lasted 100 days.) The biggest issue for the writers this time around is pay. They have said that their compensation has stagnated even as television production has rapidly grown over the past decade.


What to Cook

For a pretty, light lunch, try this zesty egg salad.

What to Read

Take your pick from 13 new books released this month.

Ask Well

How to feel less lonely.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Actress Hathaway (four 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. Until next time. — Natasha

P.S. Ahead of King Charles’s coronation on Saturday, we’d love to hear from you: Is there a moment in British royal history that resonates with you? Tell us about it here.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on banking turmoil in the U.S.

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

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