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Your Thursday Briefing: Zelensky Speaks to Congress

Good morning. We’re covering Zelensky’s speech to U.S. lawmakers, an offshore earthquake in Japan and mass graves in Syria. President Volodymyr …

Your Thursday Briefing: Zelensky Speaks to Congress
17.03.2022 00:25

Good morning. We’re covering Zelensky’s speech to U.S. lawmakers, an offshore earthquake in Japan and mass graves in Syria.

Your Thursday Briefing: Zelensky Speaks To Congress

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed Congress on Wednesday.Credit…Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

Zelensky addresses Congress

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine pleaded on Wednesday for more weapons and sanctions, showing searing footage of civilian casualties during a virtual address to U.S. lawmakers. In a remarkably direct appeal, he invoked the memories of Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11 attacks. “We need you right now,” he said. “I call on you to do more.”

Zelensky pressed for a NATO no-fly zone over Ukraine, which the U.S. and alliance leaders have rejected because it would draw NATO pilots into direct confrontation with the Russians. Follow live updates here.

He also asked for more weapons and antiaircraft batteries, a request to which Republicans and Democrats have been far more receptive, and for sanctions to be ratcheted up “every week” against Russia. Members of Congress were visibly emotional.

What’s next: The U.S. warned Russia against using chemical or biological weapons, as President Biden announced $800 million more in military aid for Ukraine. NATO’s ministers will discuss enhancing defenses along the eastern front as Russia presses closer.

Diplomacy: After military setbacks, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said that there was “hope that a certain compromise can be reached.”

Analysis: For President Vladimir Putin, the war is about ethnicity and empire, which have deep roots in Russian thought. In a video, he described the war in Ukraine as part of an existential clash with the U.S. and denigrated pro-Western Russians as “scum and traitors.”

Other updates:

  • Ukraine launched counterattacks outside Kyiv and Kherson, aiming to inflict severe losses on Russian forces.

  • At least 500 civilians have been killed in the Russian shelling of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, since the start of the war, officials said. More than 10 people waiting in a line for bread died in a shelling attack in the northern city of Chernihiv on Wednesday, the regional governor said.

  • Past sanctions have made little dent into the vast wealth of Russian oligarchs. Governments are trying to give them more bite.

  • Videos show that a theater in Mariupol where hundreds of civilians were seen sheltering in recent days had been largely destroyed.

About two million people were without power after the offshore quake.Credit…Philip Fong/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

An offshore quake in Japan

Two small tsunami waves hit the Japanese coast after a magnitude-7.3 earthquake offshore. Despite a tsunami alert in the Fukushima region, which was battered by a devastating quake and tsunami just over 11 years ago, there were no immediate reports of casualties. Follow live updates here.

U.S. scientists said the temblor was unlikely to generate a destructive tsunami or to cause mass casualties. Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said that so far it had detected no abnormalities at nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Onagawa and Tokai.

Details: About two million people were without power, but the extent of the damage was unclear. Close to 39,000 people were advised to evacuate the area of the Miyagi prefecture. The quake also derailed a bullet train, but no injuries have been reported.

Satellite images show the addition of trenches at a suspected mass grave site near Damascus between 2014 and 2016.

Mass graves identified in Syria

Two mass graves have been located near Damascus. They are believed to hold thousands of bodies of Syrians who were killed in detention centers run by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

Interviews The Times conducted with four Syrian men who worked at or near secret mass graves led to an examination of satellite images. Those clues revealed the locations of two sites. Each one holds thousands of bodies, according to the men who worked there.

The graves could contain powerful evidence of war crimes committed by al-Assad’s forces, including systematic torture.

Background: Throughout Syria’s 11-year civil war, more than 144,000 people disappeared into government detention centers. Many of them are presumed dead. The U.S. Treasury Department said last year that at least 14,000 had been tortured to death, but the actual number is almost certainly much higher.

What’s next: Counting and identifying the bodies is unlikely to happen with al-Assad in power. Russia continues to support him, and he and his senior officials have never been held accountable for wartime atrocities.


Asia and the Middle East

Credit…Andrew Boyers/Reuters
  • Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian charity worker, was released after six years in detention in Iran. A second British-Iranian detainee was also released.

  • North Korea launched an unidentified projectile on Wednesday, but the South Korean military said it failed “immediately after liftoff.”


  • Europe may be heading for another Omicron variant surge, but restrictions continue to loosen.

  • India started vaccinating 12- to 14-year-olds on Wednesday, as schools reopened after two years of closures.

  • Amid an outbreak, China revised its guidelines to include the use of Paxlovid, the antiviral pill made by Pfizer.

  • ​​South Korean officials reported a record 400,741 cases on Wednesday. The country continues to ease restrictions.

  • Japan said Wednesday it was planning to end restrictions in Tokyo and 17 other prefectures next week, citing a drop in cases.

  • New Zealand, where cases remain near peak levels, plans to welcome foreign tourists months ahead of schedule.

U.S. News

Jerome Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, testified during a Senate Banking Committee. Credit…Pool photo by Tom Williams
  • The Fed lifted its key interest rate by a quarter point and projected six more increases this year as it tries to tame rapid inflation.

  • The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill that would end the practice of changing the clocks twice a year and put the country on permanent Daylight Saving Time.

  • Jim Li, a lawyer in New York City who had been a key participant in the pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989, died after an irate client stabbed him, the police said.

What Else Is Happening

  • In a surprise reversal, Guatemala shelved a bill that would have imposed up to 10 years of jail time for women who obtained abortions.

  • An Evergreen ship is stuck in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, a year after a container ship by the same company blocked the Suez Canal.

A Morning Read

The helm of Endurance, seen for the first time in more than 100 years.Credit…Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust

More than a century after sinking in Antarctic waters, Ernest Shackleton’s legendary ship, Endurance, was found with just four days to spare. The research team, traveling aboard an icebreaker, had been planning to return to port in Cape Town before an undersea drone captured the first images of the ship.

Russia-Ukraine War: Key Things to Know

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Zelensky’s appeals. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine is seeking to put pressure on the Kremlin with a series of video messages to democratic countries. On Wednesday, he addressed Congress; President Biden announced $800 million in new military aid later in the day.

On the ground. The Ukrainian armed forces launched counterattacks against Russian troops outside Kyiv and in the Russian-occupied city of Kherson. At least 500 civilians have been killed in the Russian shelling of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, since the start of the war.

A looming crisis. The International Energy Agency warned that the global economy could be troubled by disruptions to oil supplies and a sharp fall in demand resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, adding that the world could be heading into “the biggest supply crisis in decades.”

Looking for a way out. As Russia’s military progress in Ukraine slowed and its army suffered some apparent setbacks, Russian officials said that their negotiations with Kyiv have shown “progress on a number of positions” and that there is “hope that a certain compromise can be reached.”


Credit…Qilai Shen for The New York Times

China’s smash hit video game

Genshin Impact, one of the world’s hottest mobile video games, has all the characteristics of a Japanese fantasy role-playing game: giant robots; human-size swords; characters with huge eyes and spiky, rainbow-colored hair; and a puzzling fixation on women in maid outfits.

There’s just one catch: It’s Chinese.

China’s nearly picture-perfect reproduction has sent shock waves through Japan, the world’s aging video game superpower. In its first year on the market, it raked in $2 billion, a record for mobile games, according to a tracking firm.

But Genshin Impact’s success should come as no surprise: Chinese developers, flush with cash, are looking abroad for growth. They see Japan as a ripe target for growth and have begun hiring Japanese talent in earnest.

The game’s success points to a shifting balance of power in the $200 billion-a-year global video game industry, long dominated by Japan and the U.S. But despite Genshin Impact’s technical mastery, the game is a reminder of China’s significant creative shortcomings: It’s still imitating Japan.


What to Cook

Credit…Heami Lee for The New York Times

This peanut-butter wafer cake comes together quickly and easily, despite its impressive combination of flavors and textures.

What to Read

“Vagabonds!” is a supernatural exploration of queerness and corruption in Lagos.

What to Watch

These five international movies to stream include an otherworldly Mexican comedy and a mysterious Brazilian thriller.

Now Time to Play

Play today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Popular first guess word in Wordle, due to its four vowels (five letters).

Here’s today’s Wordle.

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

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

P.S. The New York Times Book Review was a category on “Jeopardy!” this week.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on U.S. inflation.

You can reach Amelia and the team at [email protected].


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