Wednesday Briefing: A Success and a Setback for Ukraine


In one of the most significant strikes against Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in months, Ukrainian missiles yesterday hit a warship moored in Crimea. But the success was tempered by a retreat from the eastern city of Marinka after a monthslong battle.

Ukraine’s top military commander compared the fight for the city to the scorched-earth battle for Bakhmut, which fell to Russia in May. Like Bakhmut, Marinka holds limited strategic value, but is now a trophy in ruins for Moscow.

Hours earlier, the Ukrainian Air Force said it had destroyed the Russian ship, the Novocherkassk. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the ship had been damaged.

The developments underscored the diverging fortunes of the two combatants. Ukraine has racked up naval successes in the Black Sea and Crimea. But its ground campaign is faltering, and Russia is attacking eastern battlefields after blunting Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

The big picture: Ukraine signaled that it was girding for a protracted war against Russia. On Monday, the government introduced a bill that would lower the age of people who could be drafted into the military to 25 from 27. Military officials have said that a large-scale mobilization of up to 500,000 soldiers may be necessary.

U.S. officials said that airstrikes the U.S. conducted yesterday in Iraq most likely killed militants and destroyed three facilities used by Iranian proxies to target U.S. and coalition troops.

The strikes were in retaliation for a series of assaults, including a drone attack hours earlier on Erbil air base in Iraq. That attack injured three American service members, one of them critically, a U.S. official said.

The U.S. blames Iran, and the militias aligned with it, for a near-daily barrage of rocket and drone attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. tries to use retaliatory airstrikes to deter such groups while avoiding a wider war.

Separately, Iran said Monday that Israel had killed one of its high-level military officials in a missile strike in Syria. Israel declined to comment directly on Iran’s accusation that it was behind the killing.

But Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said the country was already “in a multifront war” and “under attack” from Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Iran. He said that Israel had “already responded and taken action” in six of the seven.

In Washington: A member of Israel’s war cabinet, Ron Dermer, plans to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, amid divisions between the U.S. and Israel over the war in Gaza.

Other updates from the war:

If Donald Trump returns to the White House after next year’s election, he plans to wrench apart the economies of the U.S. and China and impose a new tax on most imported goods.

He has said that he wants to bar Americans from investing in China, restrict Chinese ownership of U.S. assets and phase in a complete ban on imports of key types of Chinese-made goods, like electronics, steel and pharmaceuticals.

Trump’s plans have drawn warnings from trade experts who say that the costs would be borne by U.S. consumers and producers, and that the plans would risk alienating allies.

How do veterinarians monitor the health of wild orcas? With breath-collection drones, infrared cameras and directional microphones: tools that they have developed to perform exams on wild, multi-ton marine mammals that might surface for only seconds at a time.

It was a big year for Africa’s cultural industry. Lynsey Chutel, our Briefings writer in Johannesburg, shared some highlights and what to watch in 2024.

Watch: Independent African films like “Goodbye Julia,” which explores the complexities of life in Sudan and South Sudan, were celebrated at global film festivals and broke some regional box-office records. Streaming services have brought new audiences to African telenovelas and miniseries, like the Nigerian legal drama “Agu” and a historical drama about the 18th-century Zulu king “Shaka iLembe.”

Read and then watch: An ever-evolving genre, African fantasy is set to reach even wider audiences thanks to upcoming screen adaptations. The director of “The Woman King,” Gina Prince-Bythewood, has agreed to develop a screen adaptation of “Children of Blood and Bone,” the first book in the best-selling “Legacy of Orisha” series by the Nigerian-American author Tomi Adeyemi.

Listen and dance: Amapiano, the synth-heavy South African dance music created by Gen Z producers, reverberated at Coachella 2023 and then on TikTok. “Water” went global and garnered a Grammy nomination for the performer Tyla. With Afrobeats artists incorporating the sound into this already popular genre, and a nod from Rihanna, amapiano is taking over global dance floors.


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