Your Monday briefing: Russia’s assault on Mariupol

We cover Russia’s bombing of Mariupol and China’s new strategy to combat its recent surge in coronavirus cases.

With Russia failing to capture major Ukrainian cities, appearing to be losing ground around kyiv and beset by heavy casualties, a consensus is emerging in the West that the war is at an impasse. However, fierce fighting in Mariupol continued on Sunday from land, air and sea.

Russian forces shelled the coastal city, including a theater school where 400 people were hiding, and forcibly deported thousands of residents to Russia against their will, according to city officials and witnesses.

Satellite images of Mariupol found evidence of widespread damage in residential neighborhoods. At least 391 buildings were reportedly damaged or destroyed in a part of the city dotted with schools and health facilities.

Diplomacy: Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, has repeatedly called for direct negotiations with Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader. But Putin doesn’t think the time is right, according to a senior Turkish official who was recently on a call between Putin and the Turkish president.

Since early 2020, China has taken a zero-tolerance approach to coronavirus prevention. But now, hoping to avoid further economic damage, the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, is changing his tune.

In an effort to slow the country’s biggest Covid surge since its initial peak of cases more than two years ago, Xi is still ordering major lockdowns. But he also urges authorities to seek more lenient interventions, such as allowing the use of home testing kits and sending people to centralized isolated facilities instead of hospitals, even as they remain strict with most. countries.

In some ways, it’s a necessity. While only two deaths were reported in the last wave, many of the more than 32,000 cases in recent weeks were of the highly transmissible BA.2 subvariant of Omicron. If the trend were to continue, sending every person to the hospital would quickly overwhelm the system, and the shutdowns could wipe out the meager profits of many factories or lead to layoffs of service workers.

In other pandemic developments:

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has trapped a critical share of the world’s food and fertilizer, sending prices skyrocketing and foreshadowing an increase in world hunger.

Since last month, wheat prices have risen 21%, barley 33% and some fertilizers 40%. In addition to the pandemic and China’s worst wheat harvest in decades, officials are warning that conditions could deteriorate. Earlier this month, the UN said the impact of war on the global food market could lead to between 7.6 and 13.1 million more people going hungry.

Over the past five years, Russia and Ukraine have accounted for almost a third of world exports of wheat and barley, 17% of its corn and 75% of its sunflower oil, an important cooking oil in some parts of the world. Of particular concern is the possibility of not planting next year’s crop in Ukraine.

Global impact: In February, food prices in the United States had already increased by 8.6% compared to the previous year, the largest increase in 40 years. Farmers from Brazil to Texas are cutting fertilizers, threatening crop sizes as high energy prices have pushed factories to cut production.

Few things are as glorious as gliding on ice through miles of pristine forest, with birds in the trees, wild animal paw prints imprinted in the snow, and a new discovery at every turn. This is now a reality in Ottawa, where skating rinks are springing up in and around the city. But some worry that climate change threatens the good times.

Here is a selection of literature and non-fiction that can help you better understand Ukraine, compiled by writers and editors from Times’s Book Review.

“Your Ad Could Go Here”, by Oksana Zabuzhko. Short stories about Ukrainians facing personal and political inflection points, written by a famous public intellectual, “veer into the surreal and supernatural”, writes Alexandra Alter.

“Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine”, edited by Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinsky. The anthology, which focuses on the fighting in Crimea and the Donbass region, includes works by several Ukrainian poets. “Some fought on the front line, while others helped family members evacuate,” Alexandra writes.

“Absolute Zero”, by Artem Chekh. Memoirs of a Ukrainian novelist who fought in the Donbass from 2015, the book “integrates the perspectives of civilians and fellow soldiers”, writes Joumana Khatib.

“The Gates of Europe”, by Serhii Plokhy. This comprehensive overview of Ukraine, authored by the director of Harvard’s Ukrainian Research Institute, goes back centuries to explore the country’s history under different empires and its struggle for independence.

To find out more, our colleagues have put together two lists: one mostly non-fiction about Ukrainian history and the other about contemporary fiction and memoir.

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