Your Wednesday Briefing: Ukraine Says It Shot Down Hypersonic Missiles

Ukraine thwarts a major missile attack

Ukrainian officials said their country’s air defense system had intercepted six hypersonic Kinzhal missiles that had been aimed at Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. If confirmed, it would be further evidence of Ukraine’s ability to shoot down one of Russia’s most sophisticated weapons.

The attack was one of Russia’s largest aerial assaults since March: Ukraine said Russia had fired an “exceptional” blitz of missiles and drones at Kyiv, but that it had shot all the Kinzhals down. Russia said one missile had hit an American-made Patriot system.

The problems that have plagued Russia’s 15-month war since its beginnings are only worsening: stretched resources, disorganized defenses and disunity in the ranks. These would seem to be bad weeks for President Vladimir Putin.

Already, the Russian military has been forced into multiple retreats, and since last year has been mostly stalled along the 600-mile front line. Russian forces have recently been pushed back from positions on the edges of Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine, where, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, two colonels were lost to combat. And Ukraine’s long-anticipated counteroffensive hasn’t even started.

Still, Putin’s resolve indicates that he is preparing for a war that could well last for years.

Analysis: In Russia’s authoritarian system, the leadership’s policies don’t need to pass muster with the population. “They have plenty of running room to continue the criminal war,” an expert said.

Other updates:

Olena Zelenska, Ukraine’s first lady, met with President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea in Seoul to request nonlethal aid.

Leaders from six African countries plan to visit Moscow and Kyiv for talks on ending the war.

Another setback for Cambodia’s opposition

Cambodia has disqualified the main opposition party, the only credible challenger to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party. After 38 years in power, Hun Sen is laying the groundwork for his eldest son to succeed him after the general elections in July.

Hun Sen has held onto power through the courts, electoral manipulation, intimidation — and a coup. This latest move comes after the government moved to protect itself earlier this year. In February, it shut down Voice of Democracy, one of the few remaining outlets to provide critical coverage in Cambodia. In March, Kem Sokha, the top opposition politician in the country, was sentenced to 27 years of house arrest.

The election outlook: Hun Sen’s party currently holds all 125 seats in Parliament after government-controlled courts dissolved its main challenger before the 2018 election. This time, the National Election Commission only approved parties that were either aligned with Hun Sen or too obscure to pose a serious threat in the elections on July 23.

China’s edge on E.V. car batteries

Despite billions in Western investment, China is so far ahead in making batteries for electric cars that the rest of the world may take decades to catch up.

Here’s how China controls each step of lithium-ion battery production, from getting the raw materials to making the cars.

Mining: China has bought its way into a cheap and steady supply of essential rare minerals needed to make the batteries. It controls 41 percent of the world’s cobalt, mostly by owning mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Investments in Indonesia will help China become the largest controller of nickel by 2027, according to a consulting firm.

Refining: Regardless of who mines the minerals, nearly everything is shipped to China to be refined. Chinese companies are supported by the government with cheap land and energy, and can refine minerals at a larger volume and a lower cost.

Components: China makes most of the parts that go into a battery. It has recently invested in a cheaper alternative to the cathode, which is the positive terminal of the battery. These cathodes now account for half the market.

Assembly: China makes the most batteries — and the most cars. Labor costs are lower, and there are more equipment manufacturers, so the country can build battery factories at nearly half the cost of others in North America or Europe, an expert said.


Around the World

A fire at a hostel killed at least six people in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand.

Tens of thousands of people have fled growing violence in Darfur since the conflict in Sudan began. Many are now in Chad, where camps are growing.

President Biden may cancel a trip to Papua New Guinea and Australia as negotiations over the looming debt default continue.

The political opposition in Turkey faces an uphill battle to defeat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a runoff on May 28.

A Morning Read

Many Japanese people who are unmasking after three years find that their facial expressions are a bit rusty. So some have recruited a smile coach. A one-hour session draws on yoga and emphasizes strengthening the zygomatic muscles, which pull the corners of the mouth.


South Korea’s ‘no-kids zones’

South Korea has the lowest birthrate in the world. But parents say the government isn’t making having children any easier: Hundreds of restaurants, museums and other public facilities are designated “no-kids zones.”

The child-free zones have popular support. A 2022 survey showed that 73 percent of respondents were in favor of them. “I usually go to cafes to study. I don’t want to be interrupted by crying kids,” a student said.

But one lawmaker is calling on the government to outlaw the policy. “Life with a child isn’t easy,” she said, holding her toddler at the National Assembly, which is also a no-kids zone. “But still, we have to recreate a society in which we can coexist with our children.”


What to Cook

Add ricotta to penne alla vodka.

What to Read

“Fortune’s Bazaar: The Making of Hong Kong” examines the intersecting lives of the people who built the colonial port city.

What to Watch

“Crater,” a sci-fi film about life on a lunar mining colony, also manages to maintain some lighthearted fun.


Here’s what the experts have to say about eye health. (Good news: We’re right about carrots.)

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Action words (five letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

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

P.S. Christopher Clarey, who has covered tennis for over 30 years at The Times and The International Herald Tribune, is leaving to write a biography of Rafael Nadal.

“The Daily” is about migration to the U.S.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I can be reached at [email protected].

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