Your Thursday Briefing: Ukraine’s Fight for Bakhmut


Andrew Kramer, our Kyiv bureau chief, and Mauricio Lima, a photographer, recently traveled to Bakhmut, the site of one of the longest and bloodiest battles in Russia’s war in Ukraine. Ukraine’s military is determined to defend the devastated city, even though allies question the cost.

After 10 months of fighting, Ukraine has lost ground inside the city. Its soldiers have been pushed into a shrinking half-circle of ruins that is only about 20 blocks wide. It continually deploys small units in close-range urban combat, sustaining significant casualties. Ukrainian soldiers said they were often close enough to hear Russians talking in nearby buildings.

One commander, who was interviewed in a basement bunker, said his soldiers were engaging in about 15 firefights at close range every day. He said his units were short on artillery shells, tank rounds and rocket-propelled grenades: “We pay with our lives for the lack of ammunition.”

Thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are also defending an access road that is still passable. The route allows Ukraine to resupply and to evacuate the wounded from Bakhmut. But it’s an eerie trip: Travelers pass the hulks of blown-up and burned trucks that didn’t make it.

Wearing down the enemy: Both Russia and Ukraine claim that the battle for Bakhmut, which has resulted in tens of thousands of casualties, has been vital in weakening the other side. Ukraine is trying to erode Russia’s strength before an anticipated counteroffensive.

In other news from the war:

The Biden administration unveiled plans to ensure that a majority of new cars sold in the U.S. are all-electric by 2032. The proposals would lead to the country’s most ambitious climate regulations to date.

The rules would require nothing short of a revolution in the auto industry. The U.S. government cannot mandate carmakers to sell a certain number of electric vehicles, but it can limit the pollution generated by the total number of cars each manufacturer sells. The proposed strict new pollution limits will force the auto industry to comply by selling a certain percentage of zero-emissions vehicles.

The proposed regulations would require two-thirds of new passenger cars and a quarter of new heavy trucks to be all-electric in less than a decade. That would be a huge lift. Last year, all-electric vehicles made up just 5.8 percent of new cars. All-electric trucks were even rarer, making up fewer than 2 percent of new heavy trucks.

Climate boost: If the new rules are enacted, the U.S. could eliminate the equivalent of carbon dioxide emissions generated over two years by all sectors of its economy. That would put the U.S. on track to slash its emissions at the pace that scientists say is required of all nations in order to avert the worst impacts of climate change.

Challenges: Some see the rules as government overreach and will most likely ask the courts to weigh in. Others fear job losses and lower profits.

In related news: China is leading the race in the next big innovation in rechargeable batteries: replacing lithium with sodium, a far cheaper and more abundant material.

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, returned from a meeting in Beijing with Xi Jinping, China’s leader, and faced scathing criticism from some allies. Many saw him as cozying up to Beijing.

Macron drew fire for adopting the Chinese lexicon of a “multipolar” world and suggesting that Taiwan is not Europe’s problem. By Tuesday, the president’s office felt it necessary to clarify France’s allegiances, which suggested that Macron had unsettled his allies.

Also traveling to Beijing: President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil plans to meet with Xi tomorrow. He will share his own plan for a peace deal to end the war.

Elsewhere in Europe: Even as the U.S. seeks to weaken Western economic ties with Beijing, German companies are expanding in China.

In Indonesia, a new conservative Islamic movement known as Hijrah is attracting millions of believers. Many are young, drawn by celebrity preachers on Instagram.

Its popularity is worrying government and religious officials, who fear that Hijrah could erode a more moderate brand of Islam. The government wants to curb its influence.

After a pandemic lull, tourism to Africa is on the rebound. Last year, 45 million visitors traveled to the continent, more than double the roughly 20 million who arrived during 2020 and 2021 (although short of the nearly 69 million in 2019). But the nature of travel has changed.

In Africa, more visitors are looking at sustainable options that benefit the continent’s natural wildlife, as well as the communities living on the edges of parks. The shift has been slow, but progressive parks are no longer isolated from the often impoverished nearby communities. In some cases, like South Africa and Botswana, local communities or governments are co-owners of luxury resorts.

Tourism is expanding on islands like Sao Tome and Principe and Cabo Verde as adventurous travelers look for hidden tropical adventures, allowing them to compete with other regional islands like the Seychelles and Mauritius.

The continent is also highlighting its cultural offerings to draw more visitors to urban Africa. Accra, Ghana’s capital, has attracted visitors through the Chale Wote Street Art festival. Dakar’s Biennale, an art gathering in Senegal, has become a barometer for contemporary art in Africa.

Looking for some suggestions on where to travel? The Times’s 52 Places to Go this year featured Accra and lesser known destinations like the Namib desert in southern Africa and Tassili n’Ajjer, Algeria’s vast, rust-colored Saharan landscape. Or try an urban safari, making your way through Johannesburg, the urban heartbeat of South Africa.— Lynsey Chutel, a Briefings writer in Johannesburg

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

P.S. The word “catfluencer” appeared for the first time in The Times recently, in an article that I wrote about cats that film their own stunts.

The Daily” is about the criminal case against Donald Trump.

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