Your Thursday Briefing: Russia Blames its Dead Soldiers

Workers removed debris yesterday from the destroyed building where Russian soldiers had been staying.Credit…Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Russia blames its dead soldiers

Russia said yesterday that their soldiers’ unauthorized use of cellphones in the Donetsk region was the “main reason” that Ukraine was able to launch a deadly attack on New Year’s Day. The Ministry of Defense said Ukraine used cellphone data to home in on their locations.

Some Russian lawmakers and military bloggers pushed back against the swift assignment of blame. They said the statement from the Defense Ministry was an attempt to fault the rank and file rather than their commanders.

They argued that leaders did not take precautions to protect troops, such as dispersing the newly arrived soldiers to safer locations and housing them away from munitions.

Context: Russian soldiers’ use of open cellphone lines has been a known vulnerability, often revealing forces’ positions. Ukraine killed at least one general and his staff after he spoke over an unsecure phone, U.S. officials say.

Death toll: Russianow says that 89 soldiers died in the strike, including a deputy commander. The adjustment from its initial figure of 63 is a rare acknowledgment of casualties.

Other updates:

  • Russia is struggling to replenish its stockpile of missiles, Ukraine said. But it still has enough for large strikes.

  • President Vladimir Putin is trying to prepare Russians for a long war, our correspondents write in an analysis.

  • It costs a lot less for Russia to launch a drone than for Ukraine to shoot it down. That is an equation that the Kremlin may be banking on.

A photograph provided by North Korean state media showed Kim Jong-un and his daughter after a test missile launch in November.Credit…Korean Central News Agency, via Associated Press

Kim Jong-un’s ‘beloved daughter’ makes an appearance

On New Year’s Day, North Korean state media carried undated photos of a young girl and Kim Jong-un visiting a nuclear missile facility.

Her name and age were not reported, and she was simply referred to as Kim’s “most beloved daughter.” That was enough to suggest that she might be being groomed as ​his eventual successor to inherit ​the regime and its fast-growing nuclear arsenal. He also brought a daughter, identified as Kim Ju-ae by South Korean intelligence, to a major weapons test in November.

A change is hardly imminent: Kim Ju-ae is believed to be 9 or 10, and Kim Jong-un turns 39 on Monday. But slowly introducing her to the public may be Kim’s effort to avoid his father’s mistakes with succession.

The State of the War

  • A Long Fight Ahead: As the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine looms, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is doubling down on efforts to draw the nation further into the war effort.
  • A Major Ukrainian Attack: In one of their deadliest strikes on Russian forces, Ukrainians used U.S.-made rockets to hit a building housing Russian soldiers in the eastern Donetsk region.
  • U.S. Troops in Romania: The deployment of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division to the country, a NATO member, is widely seen as a deterrence tactic and a warning to Moscow.
  • Russian Airstrikes: Ten months into the war, Ukraine has turned the tide on the ground, but it can do little to stop Russia’s aerial attacks. For Ukrainians, there are few options but to endure.

Kim, the youngest son, was his father’s choice for leader. But ordinary people had never seen him until he appeared in state media in 2010​, a year before his father died. It took years before he established his unchallenged authority through bloody purges.

Analysis: Most analysts agreed that by taking his child to events related to his arsenal, Kim was reminding North Korea’s people, especially its youth, that his family’s dynastic rule and nuclear weapons development would continue into the next generation.

Details: South Korean intelligence officials have said that Kim has three children, with the eldest most likely being a son. Ju-ae is his second child, they said.

The cathedral of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising in Germany.Credit…Lena Mucha for The New York Times

Benedict’s complex legacy

Benedict XVI, the pope emeritus, will be buried today. The Church remains divided on his handling of sexual abuse cases.

To supporters, he is the pope who first met with victims. He forced the church to defrock hundreds of abusive priests. He raised the age of consent and expanded laws that protected minors to include vulnerable adults. He also allowed the statutes of limitations on sexual abuse to be waived.

But a report last year commissioned by the Catholic Church in Munich accused Benedict of mishandling cases of sexual abuse by priests when he was the city’s archbishop. And as a Cardinal, his office also failed to act in egregious cases. In the 1990s, it halted a secret trial of a U.S. priest who had molested as many as 200 deaf boys. The priest was never defrocked.

Context: After the commissioned report came out last year, Benedict apologized for any “grievous faults” but denied any wrongdoing.


Asia Pacific

  • Pakistan ordered its malls to close early in an effort to conserve energy and ease the country’s economic crisis, The Associated Press reports.

  • From Opinion: BTS has ruined Euny Hong’s life for years. (She may have accidentally started a rumor that they are funded by the Korean state.)

Around the World

  • The chaos in the U.S. House of Representatives continued yesterday. Kevin McCarthy appeared to have lost a sixth consecutive vote for House Speaker right before we sent this newsletter.

  • U.S. retail pharmacies will soon be allowed to sell abortion pills with a prescription.

  • The E.U. fined Meta 390 million euros (about $414 million) yesterday after finding that it had illegally forced users to accept personalized ads.

  • Denmark reported zero bank robberies last year — a first — as the nation goes cashless, Bloomberg reports.

Science Times

This dam, which is under construction, is part of a giant pumped storage hydroelectric project in Portugal.Credit…Matilde Viegas for The New York Times
  • A vast hydroelectric project in Portugal could offer an answer to a vexing renewable energy problem: How to store energy to keep the lights on when the weather doesn’t comply.

  • Countries across Europe saw their warmest start to the year on record.

  • Oregon is the first U.S. state to allow adult use of psilocybin mushrooms.

  • Asian researchers encountered the highest rate of rejections from a key U.S. science funding source, a study found. White scientists fared best in winning grants.

A Morning Read

Any delay could mean a reduction in assignments or even a suspension, drivers say.Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

Several Indian delivery apps are pushing the bounds of logistics and endurance to cut prices and wait times. Fueled by billions of dollars in investments, they rely on harried drivers who are willing to work unforgiving hours for just a few dollars a day.


Credit…Raphaelle Macaron

Read your way through Tokyo

Hiromi Kawakami, one of Japan’s most popular contemporary novelists, travels with books that help her immerse herself in her destination. Now, Kawakami has suggestions for visitors to Tokyo, her own hometown.

She suggests a 17th-century travelogue, “the record of a five-month, 1,500-mile journey on foot.” Historical detective fiction takes readers through the city’s 19th-century isolationist past. Works of psychological complexity probe the oppression women have faced, or the tensions between traditional Confucianism and European spirituality. And there’s even some short fiction in case of stubborn jet lag.

“I start reading as soon as I know my departure date,” she writes, “and keep reading throughout my stay, remaining immersed in those novels even after I’ve returned home.”

Here’s her book list for a visitor to Tokyo.


What to Cook

Credit…Chris Simpson for The New York Times

Candied orange peel and saffron liven up Afghan lamb with rice. Here’s a recipe for the dish, norinj pilau.

What to Listen to

Five minutes to make you love Sun Ra, the experimental jazz musician.

The Ethicist

Should a cancer survivor have told a matchmaking service about her medical history and ongoing challenges?

The Happiness Challenge

Day 3: Make small talk with a stranger.

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Mojito liquor (three letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

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

P.S. “Tryna,” “doomscrolls” and more than 1,900 other words appeared for the first time in Times Crossword puzzles last year.

“The Daily” is on Russia’s military failures.

Questions? Reactions? You can always reach us at [email protected].

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