Your Wednesday Briefing: Zelensky Visits Bakhmut

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President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine visited Bakhmut, a city in the eastern Donbas region that has come under vicious attack by Russia for months. It was perhaps his most dangerous trip to the front line since the war began.

“The east is holding out because Bakhmut is fighting,” Zelensky told troops there yesterday. “This is the fortress of our morale. In fierce battles and at the cost of many lives, freedom is being defended here for all of us.”

Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, also signaled that he would not stop his military campaign, now in its 10th month, as he presided over an awards ceremony in the Kremlin to honor Russian occupation figures and propaganda leaders. He said these were “difficult, unusual times,” and praised Russian soldiers as “heroes.”

Context: Russia’s assaults on Bakhmut have been relentless. The besieged city is central to the fight to control all of the Donbas. Zelensky’s visit came as Ukrainian troops said they had pushed the Russians out of some positions on the edge of the city, although the situation there is far from stable.

This summer, as central banks increased interest rates in an effort to fight inflation, the Bank of Japan alone stood firm and kept rates ultralow. Yesterday, it seemed to have a change of heart.

The bank suddenly eased its bond-yield policy, which could open the door for future interest rate increases. The change surprised investors in Asia, who had not expected such a move until next year.

After the announcement, the yen rose by 3 percent. Earlier this year, the currency traded at a decades-long low against the dollar. Japan intervened to prop up the currency.

A stronger yen could reduce inflationary pressure on Japan’s shrinking economy. In October, inflation was at 3.6 percent. That’s much lower than in other parts of the world. But households and businesses are still straining under higher food and energy prices.

Interest rates: The bank’s insistence on keeping rates ultralow has given families and businesses a steady flow of cheap money — but has also exacerbated the yen’s weakness. The bank said that policy would not change.

After six days of turmoil over the island’s general election, Sitiveni Rabuka, the opposition leader, is poised to become the next prime minister. The shift could lead Fiji to pull away from China and align more closely with the West.

Rabuka would replace Frank Bainimarama, who embraced Beijing during his 16-year tenure. Rabuka favors close ties with Australia and New Zealand, the region’s allies to the U.S. His party has ruled out a proposed security deal with Beijing, like the one signed by the Solomon Islands this year.

The island nation has recently become an important player in the battle for Pacific influence between the U.S. and China. The vote this month was Fiji’s third general election since democratic voting was reintroduced in 2013.

A history of coups: The country experienced four coups between 1987 and 2006. Rabuka originally seized power in Fiji’s first coup, and Bainimarama in the last one.

Beyond the tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of millions, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has dealt a grievous blow to Ukrainian culture. The Times’s Visual Investigations team has been tracking the war’s toll on museums and monuments, theaters and libraries, historic churches and more. The team verified the damage of nearly 340 cultural sites.

Times reporters found that pro-Russian forces had intentionally targeted some of the sites. Long before the invasion began, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, claimed that Ukraine had no culture of its own and called Ukrainian nationhood a fiction.

The investigation explores several damaged or destroyed cultural sites in depth, including a monastery that predates Catherine the Great and a library that bridged Ukraine’s linguistic communities, its books now burned. See the evidence of the destruction.

Miso-flavored crème fraîche keeps this salmon moist as it roasts.

“The Tudors in Love” chronicles sex and danger at the English court.


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