Your Thursday Briefing
Ukrainian soldiers digging a trench Wednesday near Bakhmut.Credit…Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP — Getty Images
A buildup of Russian troops
With hundreds of thousands of Russian troops now in Ukraine, officials are warning that a new Russian offensive that could rival the start of the war is underway, with the Kremlin seeking to reshape the battlefield and seize the momentum.
Russia is targeting dozens of places a day in a markedly increased barrage of artillery attacks. Ukrainian forces are struggling to hold their ground on a 140-mile stretch in the east, awaiting tanks and other weapons systems from the West. Fighting is concentrated around the forlorn eastern city of Bakhmut, where Russian forces have been slowly closing in on supply lines.
Ukraine and Russia have been locked in grueling combat for nearly a year. Since the fall, the fight in the east has congealed into muddy and frozen trenches, each army facing significant losses with only negligible gains. Both sides have been readying for heavier ground combat, with Moscow aiming to capture the entire Donbas region and Kyiv looking to drive Russian troops completely out of the country.
By the numbers: Ukrainian intelligence estimates that Russia now has more than 320,000 soldiers in the country — roughly twice the size of Moscow’s initial invasion force. Western officials and military analysts have said that Moscow also has 150,000 to 250,000 soldiers in reserve, either training or being positioned inside Russia to join the fight at any time.
Vaccine makers kept $1.4 billion for canceled Covid shots
As global demand for Covid-19 vaccines dries up, Gavi, a nongovernmental organization responsible for the program that aimed to vaccinate the world’s poor, is making urgent attempts to get out of deals for shots it no longer needs. Drug companies have so far declined to refund $1.4 billion in advance payments for now-canceled doses.
Early in the pandemic, Gavi was charged with buying Covid vaccinations for poorer nations and began negotiations with the vaccine makers. Those companies initially prioritized high-income countries that were able to pay more to lock up the first doses. Gavi eventually reached deals with nine manufacturers.
The shots did not begin to reach poorer countries in significant numbers until late 2021, as demand had begun to decline. Under the contracts, the companies are not obligated to return prepayments for vaccines that were ultimately canceled.
Response: In light of how many vaccine doses Gavi has had to cancel, some public health experts criticized the companies’ actions. Covid vaccine manufacturers “have a special responsibility” because their products are a societal good and most were developed with public funding, one nonprofit leader said. “That’s a lot of money that could do a lot of good.”
Anticorruption raids in Ukraine
The Ukrainian authorities carried out dozens of searches across the country in connection with corruption allegations, two days before Volodymyr Zelensky, the country’s president, is scheduled to host leaders of the E.U. The raids were described by security officials as “the first stage” in anticorruption efforts.
The Security Service of Ukraine said that the raids targeted individuals “whose actions harm the security of the state in various spheres.” Weeks earlier, a rash of government officials were forced from office.
The searches appeared at least partly timed to show E.U. officials that Zelensky’s government remained serious about getting chronic corruption under control. Ukraine first filed a request to join the E.U. after Russia invaded in February 2022, setting off a series of negotiations that will require legal, political and economic changes, as well as a crackdown on corruption.
Context: Zelensky rode a wave of public anger to win the presidential election in 2019, promising to clean up rampant corruption in Ukraine. Since then, the country’s score in Transparency International’s annual survey has risen to 33 from 30, a sign of improvement.
THE LATEST NEWS
Around the World
A faction of the Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed at least 101 people in Peshawar, raising fears that instability and militancy could return to the city.
The U.S. will increase its military presence in the Philippines, asserting the Asian nation’s role as a key strategic partner for Washington in the event of a conflict with China over Taiwan.
On his visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pope Francis appealed to warring groups in the country to put down their weapons and forgive one another.
A missing radioactive capsule was smaller than a penny; the search zone was an 870-mile highway across the Australian desert. The authorities found it in just six days.
Saudi Arabia has reached a deal with FIFA to be a sponsor of the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, blindsiding local officials, players and fans.
Other Big Stories
Tyre Nichols, who died after he was beaten by Memphis police officers, was laid to rest. His service brought an outpouring of grief and calls for justice.
Meta is taking a $4.2 billion restructuring charge for the fourth quarter. It expects another $1 billion in restructuring costs this year.
To assess how Twitter may evolve under Elon Musk’s watch, The Times reviewed nearly 20,000 of his tweets, as well as the 178 accounts that he follows.
What Else Is Happening
The Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 0.25 percentage points, its smallest increase in nearly a year.
The F.B.I. searched President Biden’s family vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and found no classified documents, according to the president’s personal lawyer.
OpenAI will soon offer a commercial version of its experimental chatbot, ChatGPT Plus, for $20 a month.
Two monkeys, which had been taken from the Dallas Zoo, were found at a home nearby in the latest incident involving breached enclosures at the zoo.
A Morning Read
Imagine that many men started waking in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. Those men stumbled to work, exhausted, their morale low, suddenly so warm they tore off their jackets. Their genitals became dry and irritable, even showing signs of what doctors called “atrophy.”
Imagine that many of their doctors had received little to no training on how to manage these symptoms — and when the subject arose, simply said that this process was natural and failed to tell them about established treatments. For many women undergoing menopause, this is reality.
“It suggests that we have a high cultural tolerance for women’s suffering,” one doctor said. “It’s not regarded as important.”
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
The madness of the Premier League transfer window: Best signing? Biggest surprise? Our writers give their verdicts after a busy January transfer window came to an end with a hectic deadline day.
How was Chelsea allowed to spend so much? Everything you need to know about the financials behind Chelsea’s extraordinary January transfer window.
From The Times: In a video addressed to fans, Tom Brady, the quarterback widely regarded as the greatest player in N.F.L. history, said, “I’m retiring. For good.”
ARTS AND IDEAS
Falling in love with 21st-century jazz
Where is jazz today? Just a dozen years ago, the music seemed to be having a crisis of self-worth. But over the past five or 10 years, you could say that jazz has gone through a kind of ego death and then a rebirth. Jazz as a general practice hasn’t been this alive in decades.
The Times asked writers and jazz musicians of various generations to recommend their favorite recordings from this millennium. These excerpts have been lightly edited and condensed. Sample their picks, listen to a playlist and leave your favorites in the comments.
Terri Lyne Carrington, drummer: “Kassa Overall is such an artist. I love his song “Who’s on the Playlist” because it invites the question, ‘Is this jazz or is this hip-hop?’ It powerfully exhibits the consistent innovation in the continuum of Black music and encourages us not to draw lines in the sand.”
Theo Croker, trumpeter: “Domi & JD Beck, they don’t sound jaded by jazz school; they sound like they’re doing their thing. It has a lot of integrity, but it’s also playful; it’s very technical, but it’s also fun.”
Melanie Charles, vocalist and flutist: “Renée Neufville’s voice fits perfectly with Roy Hargrove’s playing and singing. Compositionally, the tune appears to be very simple. However, if you try to sing along, you find it may require a bit more out of you. And that’s the fun of it.”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Cook chicken with red peppers, almonds and green olives.
Take a walking safari in Zambia.
What to Read
In “Reckoning,” the creator of “The Vagina Monologues” tackles racism, colonialism and sexual violence.
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Choose not to participate, with “out” (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. — Natasha
P.S. Today is Groundhog Day in the U.S. — where a woodchuck is tasked with a long-range weather forecast. (In 1910, The Times urged readers not to trust those predictions: “He has gone back on us for three years.”)
The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the U.S. economy.
Send feedback, thoughts and anything else to Natasha and the team at [email protected].