Your Friday Briefing: A Major Ukrainian Offensive

Fighting in the Donetsk region this week prompted U.S. authorities to say that the counteroffensive may have begun.Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Ukraine mounts a major attack in the south

A senior U.S. official said that the Ukrainian assault in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia appeared to be a main thrust of its long-anticipated counteroffensive to retake territory from Russia. The stakes are high for Kyiv and its Western allies.

The Ukrainian forces in Zaporizhzhia included German Leopard 2 tanks and U.S. Bradley fighting vehicles, the official said. The attack involved some of the troops the U.S. and other allies of Ukraine had trained and equipped especially for the counteroffensive.

Russian military officials said that their forces had withstood the assault and inflicted heavy casualties. The U.S. official confirmed that Ukraine’s Army had suffered casualties in the early fighting. There was no immediate comment from Ukraine, which has said it would remain silent on details.

Stakes: If Ukraine fails to break through Russia’s lines, support could shrink — and Kyiv could come under pressure from allies to enter serious negotiations to end or freeze the conflict.

Flooding: Russian forces shelled Kherson yesterday, striking near an evacuation point, hours after Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, visited the flood-stricken city. Rescue efforts are continuing after a dam was destroyed.

The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington. Credit…Kenny Holston/The New York Times

A victory for U.S. voting rights

In a surprise move, the Supreme Court ruled that Alabama had diluted the power of Black voters by drawing a congressional voting map with a single district in which they made up a majority.

The 5-to-4 decision was a surprise: The Supreme Court’s conservative majority has worked to erode the Voting Rights Act, a federal law that was enacted in 1965 to protect minority voters from racial discrimination.

The case started when Alabama’s Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, redrew the congressional map to take account of the 2020 census. The state has seven districts, and its voting-age population is about 27 percent Black.

The decision means that Alabama’s State Legislature will have to draw a second district with a Black majority.

Context: The Supreme Court’s recent rightward lurch — seen in decisions on abortion, guns, religion and climate change — has shaken public confidence in its moral authority.

For decades, the Najiaying Mosque has been the pride of the Muslim Hui ethnic minority in Nagu.Credit…Vivian Wang/The New York Times

China’s plan to remake mosques

The mosques in Nagu and Shadian in Yunnan Province in China hold particular importance in the story of Beijing’s relationship with Islam, which has fluctuated between conflict and coexistence.

They are among the last major mosques with Arab-style architecture still standing in China after a campaign by the ruling Communist Party to close, demolish or forcibly redesign mosques that has so far been met with limited resistance.

But late last month, members of the Muslim Hui ethnic minority in Nagu clashed with the police after the authorities drove construction cranes into that mosque’s courtyard. Officials had said they planned to remove its domes and remake its minarets in a more “Chinese” style. The demolition was paused, but residents think that it’s inevitable.

To Hui residents in Nagu, which our correspondent Vivian Wang visited shortly after the protest, the remodeling plan was a precursor to a more sweeping repression of their way of life.


Asia Pacific

  • China has agreed to pay several billion dollars to Cuba to build an electronic eavesdropping center, which could be used to spy on the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reports.

  • A poll has found that Europeans still mostly see China as “a necessary partner,” even as Beijing moves closer to Russia.

Around the World

A haze over the U.S. Capitol yesterday.Credit…Kenny Holston/The New York Times
  • Smoke from raging wildfires in Canada that has plagued the northeastern U.S. is spreading south and west.

  • President Biden and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain met at the White House and pledged to work together to confront challenges posed by A.I., the economy and Ukraine.

  • Prosecutors have told Donald Trump’s lawyers that the former president is the target of an investigation into his handling of classified documents, a sign that he is likely to face charges.

Other Big Stories

  • A Syrian asylum seeker was arrested in France after an attack in a park in which four children and two adults were stabbed.

  • The eurozone fell into a mild recession early this year.

  • The U.S. suspended all food aid to Ethiopia, citing theft of the contributions.

The Week in Culture

“I’m good at a lot of things, but I’m best at performing.” — Alex Newell of “Shucked”Credit…Thea Traff for The New York Times
  • Ahead of the Tony Awards on Sunday, our theater and culture reporters spoke to Jessica Chastain, Wendell Pierce, Ben Platt and other nominees about their craft. Here’s the full list of nominees.

  • Satoshi Kuwata, the Japanese designer and founder of Setchu, won fashion’s most prestigious award for young designers.

  • The job of a museum director is expanding beyond the art: Directors need to confront controversies ranging from looted art to issues of social justice.

  • The fabled Cinecittà Studios in Rome are buzzing with activity again, thanks to modernized facilities and generous tax incentives.

A Morning Read

Dr. Sandra Hazelip, left, and Eleanor Hamby.Credit…Christopher Lee for The New York Times

It’s never too late to travel with your best friend.

Just ask Eleanor Hamby, 81, and Dr. Sandra Hazelip, 82, known by some as “the TikTok traveling grannies.” They went from Antarctica to the Grand Canyon in just 80 days, visiting 18 countries on a budget.

Lives lived: Pat Robertson, a Baptist minister and broadcaster who gave Christian conservatives clout in U.S. politics, died at 93.


A gay bar in Singapore.Credit…Ore Huiying for The New York Times

L.G.B.T.Q. life in Asia

For Pride month, we asked our L.G.B.T.Q. readers to share their experiences. Thank you to those who told us about your joys and worries. I’ve lightly edited some responses.

A reversal in China

Jack, 38, moved to Beijing in 2008. At the time, “it felt like things were on the up for queer people.” The nightlife was thriving and activism was moving. “Everyone expected things would continue to get better,” he said. That all changed once Xi Jinping came to power, Jack said. Venues closed. Activists disappeared. Representation dwindled. “People withdrew into apps and the underground,” he wrote.

Uncertainty in South Korea

A 16-year-old in Seoul, who didn’t want to share his name, said that there was little representation in the media or arts, and he knows only one other L.G.B.T.Q. person. “I’m a gay student,” he wrote. “I have come out to just a few friends whom I trust; it would be social suicide to come out publicly to everyone.”

Muted relief in Singapore

Since Singapore repealed a ban on gay sex, some readers said life felt easier. Tan Jun Lin, 25, said that being gay felt less scary now, both because of the change in the law and because of growing visibility on social media. But he has still had to cut off homophobic friends and hide his sexuality from colleagues.

“Pride doesn’t simply mean acceptance,” he wrote. At work, he told some colleagues about his sexuality, but they responded with a “stunned silence that clearly conveyed a concealed homophobia.”

Frustration in Japan

Gaku Hiroshima, 33, lives in Kyoto. He is still aware of prejudice, he said, but in just a few years, he has seen attitudes change.

“I feel the arrival of the zeitgeist of ‘making fun of sexuality is not cool,’” Gaku wrote. Kyoto’s City Hall is decorated for Pride, which he said “was clearly impossible a few years ago.”


What to Cook

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times.

Fold grated cheese into ground beef, instead of layering it on top, to make these moist burgers.

What to Watch

These 10 movies celebrate New York City.

What to Listen to

Discover the beauty of New Orleans jazz.

Advice from Wirecutter

A guide to picking the best camping tent.

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Night hallucination (five letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. I hope you have a lovely weekend! — Amelia

P.S. Gilbert Cruz, our Books editor, spoke with NBC about exciting new titles. He recommends “The Wager,” by David Grann, about an 18th-century shipwreck.

“The Daily” is about the race to become the Republican Party’s presidential candidate.

We’d like your feedback. You can email us at [email protected].

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