Your Monday Briefing
A Ukrainian howitzer firing a shell toward Bakhmut.Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Russian troops close in on Bakhmut
Russian forces are attacking Bakhmut from three directions in a persistent attempt to encircle Ukrainian troops, the Ukrainian military said yesterday. The battered city has become the focal point of Moscow’s offensive in eastern Ukraine, and the Ukrainian military’s General Staff said that its forces had repelled 130 Russian attacks on Saturday.
The battle for Bakhmut, in the Donbas region, began over the summer, and Ukrainian soldiers have held out there even as Russian forces have gradually captured surrounding territory, nearly cutting off the city. In recent weeks, Moscow has ramped up an offensive to seize the whole of Donbas, sending troops that it mobilized in the fall into the fight and advancing on Bakhmut from territory it already holds to the east of the city. Both sides have sustained heavy casualties.
Before the war, Bakhmut had a population of about 70,000, but the Ukrainian authorities say that only a few thousand civilians remain. They have been working to evacuate those who have stayed, but the task has become harder as the roads out of the city have increasingly come under threat.
Go deeper: Military experts say that Russia’s offensive is being fought at five or six points along a front line that stretches about 100 miles, from the town of Kreminna in Luhansk to Vuhledar in Donetsk. While Russian forces have not made significant territorial gains in their renewed offensive, they have been tightening the claw around Bakhmut.
Trench warfare: In the mud and muck, with frozen patches of earth giving way to sloppy, thick clay, there are many ways to kill and be killed.
The consequences of easing sanctions on Syria
After a catastrophic earthquake struck Syria last month, the U.S. and Europe softened sanctions on the country, including easing banking restrictions for six months to allow earthquake relief to flow freely. Now, the easing of sanctions is raising concerns that Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s authoritarian president, and his inner circle could reap considerable financial gains.
Syrian dissidents and former U.S. officials said that no guardrails or oversight mechanisms had been put in place to prevent the government from taking advantage of the relaxed banking restrictions to funnel money into the country and into its own coffers. They also warned that the government would divert humanitarian aid being sent to quake victims for its own uses.
The U.S. State Department said that the Treasury Department had tools to prevent abuse of the sanctions relief, but did not explain what they were. Experts and former U.S. officials said that the easing of sanctions had not been necessary, given that Western penalties already included exemptions to allow humanitarian aid through.
Quotable: “The regime, which is already using the earthquake to make political gains, is going to use it for reconstruction and to solidify its position,” said Andrew Tabler, an expert on the region. “This allows transactions to the government of Syria, and as long as it says ‘earthquake relief’ you’re good to go, apparently,” he added.
Using A.I. to detect breast cancer
Advancements in A.I. are beginning to deliver breakthroughs in breast cancer screening by detecting the signs that doctors miss. So far, the technology is showing an impressive ability to spot cancer at least as well as human radiologists do, in what is one of the most tangible signs to date of how A.I. can improve public health.
Since 2021, Hungary, which has a robust breast cancer screening program, has been one of the largest testing grounds for the technology on patients. A.I. systems now help to check for signs of cancer that a radiologist may have overlooked. Similar projects are underway in the U.S., Britain and elsewhere in the E.U.
The technology still faces many hurdles, experts say, and additional clinical trials are needed before it can be adopted more widely. The tool must also show it can produce accurate results on women of all shapes, ages and ethnicities, as well as prove it can recognize more complex forms of breast cancer.
Humans vs. robots: The A.I. tools have prompted a debate about whether they will replace human radiologists (just as many other workers worry that robots are coming for them). For now, radiologists’ fears appear overblown, with many experts saying the technology will be effective and trusted by patients only if it is used in partnership with trained doctors.
Other health news: For the first time, patients with damaged tricuspid valves in their hearts might have a safe treatment that actually helps.
THE LATEST NEWS
Around the World
After a winter of discontent, China promised a post-pandemic recovery and said its economy would expand about 5 percent this year.
A couple in Singapore who shared risqué content with subscribers online were convicted of violating nudity and obscenity laws and fined $17,000.
Gunmen in military gear killed a provincial governor in the Philippines.
Nations agreed on language for a U.N. treaty to protect ocean biodiversity, a deal decades in the making.
When you use your credit card rewards, poor consumers foot the bill, Chenzi Xu and Jeffrey Reppucci explain.
A major war in the Indo-Pacific is probably more likely now than at any other time since World War II, Ross Babbage says.
Israel is teetering on constitutional crisis — and it all comes down to the aims of Benjamin Netanyahu, Thomas Friedman says.
There’s a fundamental mismatch between our bodies and the modern food system, Stephan Guyenet explains.
A 120-year-old company is leaving Tesla in the dust, writes Ezra Dyer.
A Morning Read
For centuries, visitors thrilled to Notre-Dame de Paris’s soaring Gothic architecture and its gorgeous stained glass. But just as electrifying was its sound. Now, a group of researchers is trying to bring this sonic landscape back to life. (Use headphones for the best experience of this multimedia article.)
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
FIFA’s clampdown to go global: Changes to how soccer is officiated will be adopted worldwide July 1. It’s part of an effort to cut down on time wasting.
A ludicrous — and illuminating — goal: Arsenal’s win over Bournemouth showed that while it may not have City’s depth, sometimes the backups produce enough magic anyway.
The Premier League’s path to European qualification: We look at the underlying numbers and predict how the fight for European qualification will go.
From The Times: Formula 1 opened its new season with the Bahrain Grand Prix yesterday. Max Verstappen, the defending champion, dominated. And at the speedskating world championships, Jordan Stolz won three gold medals.
ARTS AND IDEAS
What’s your workplace personality?
In the hybrid-work era, personality tests have taken on new relevance. But they aren’t always up-to-date, and critics warn that they are not reliable and that the corporate world can rely on them too much for hiring and promoting.
Times journalists created a new, nine-question personality test. It focuses on two key workplace qualities: extroversion, the degree to which social interaction energizes someone, and openness, which refers to someone’s creativity and appetite for novel experiences.
Find out your type by playing along here.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
This borscht recipe, like the beets it contains, is golden.
What to Listen to
Check out nine new songs on our weekly playlist.
What to Watch
Give yourself chills with our selection of five horror movies to stream now.
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: First digit of pi after the decimal point (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. Have a good Monday. — Natasha
P.S. Spelling Bee featured in an unusual marriage proposal. (She said yes.)
Make some time this week for “The Coldest Case in Laramie,” a new Times podcast from Serial Productions. Friday’s episode of “The Daily” is on the Ukrainian children adopted in Russia.
You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].