Your Wednesday Briefing: Ukraine Talks Appear to Progress

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And new lockdowns frustrate Shanghai, plus Afghans toil in deadly mines.

Good morning. We’re covering major shifts in diplomacy between Russia and Ukraine, grueling lockdowns in Shanghai and deadly mines in Afghanistan.

Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

In the most significant sign of progress to date at talks in Turkey, Moscow promised to sharply “reduce military activity” near Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, and Chernihiv, a besieged northern city. Russia said a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine could occur once a draft peace agreement was ready, though analysts said such talk may be just a tactic.

The development comes as Russia is losing ground in the northeast and around the capital: A Ukrainian counteroffensive has pushed back Russian forces around Irpin, a strategic suburb, though Kyiv remains in play. Here’s the latest.

Ukraine also outlined for the first time potential concessions over territory that it is all but certain to have lost. It proposed a 15-year process of negotiations on the status of Crimea, opened the floor to negotiations over separatist regions and prepared to declare a permanent neutral status.

History: The Times’s Carlotta Gall covered the rebellion in Chechnya nearly 30 years ago. In Kyiv, she sees echoes in Russia’s brutal siege tactics and targeting of civilians.

Tactics: Russian forces are using hunger as a weapon in the siege of Mariupol.

State of the war:

Other developments:


Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Shanghai, China’s largest, wealthiest city, has put a staggered lockdown in place to curb an Omicron surge. Officials had tried isolating only specific buildings or neighborhoods, but decided that wasn’t enough.

The measures have closed nonessential businesses, stopped public transit and kept many people at home. A five-day quarantine in Shanghai’s eastern section will be followed by a similar shutdown in the western portion. Mass testing is planned during the lockdowns.

But patience is stretched thin, and if all of China goes into Covid-zero mode again, Shanghai could be the canary in the coal mine. Citizens have protested over inconsistencies in how restrictions are applied, and say the government has done little to help.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.


Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

Thousands have flocked to northern Afghanistan’s notoriously dangerous mines since the Taliban seized power last year. Faced with life-threatening hunger, they are desperate to scrape out a living amid a ruined economy.

But the mines are deadlier than ever: Unlike the previous government, the Taliban have not supplied engineers, toxic-gas monitors or timber to support tunnels. Last month, a collapse killed 10 miners. They suffocated after being trapped inside a shaft for days.

“That night, I wanted to leave this job, to never come back to the mines,” one former government soldier said. “But then I went home and saw there was nothing to eat.”

Details: In the Chinarak mines of Baghlan Province, operators say that three times as many men have come to work in recent months than before the Taliban takeover. Some are in their 60s. Others are children, some barely 10.

Economy: Some rural families have repaid debts by selling the children they cannot afford to feed. In Herat, men have sold their kidneys on the black market.

Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press
  • The leader of the Solomon Islands lashed out at Western concerns over his secret security pact with China, which he’s said was ready for signing.

  • A gunman killed five people in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood outside Tel Aviv, the fifth such attack in Israel in less than two weeks.

  • Prince Andrew, who was stripped of his military titles after he was engulfed in a sexual abuse lawsuit, escorted his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, at a memorial service for her late husband, Prince Philip.

  • Federal prosecutors and congressional investigators are documenting how a tweet from Donald Trump — “Be there, will be wild!” — became a catalyst for militants before the Capitol assault.

  • The trendy global megachurch Hillsong has lost more than half its American campuses since its founder, an Australian national, resigned in disgrace last week.

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, signed a law prohibiting class discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in some elementary grades.

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Isaac Herrera/Kelsi Singer
  • Signs of ice volcanoes on Pluto suggest that the dwarf planet may have a hidden ocean.

  • Will Smith apologized to Chris Rock after he hit the comedian at the Oscars: “I was out of line and I was wrong.” Our critic Wesley Morris saw deeper undertones: In the midst of a celebration of Black achievement, Smith’s victory became a defeat.

  • Hard times for the ultra-rich: A private-jet boom has crowded hangars, and the elevators barely work in one of New York City’s luxury high rises.

  • A large study in Britain suggests that teenagers may be most sensitive to social media in two stages: first around puberty, and then again around age 19.

  • Results from a new genetic study, plus research from Australia, suggest that contrary to earlier findings, moderate drinking doesn’t decrease heart disease risk.

Alana Holmberg for The New York Times

A forest management scheme in Melbourne, A meant to lower city temperatures and reduce carbon dioxide, has drawn worldwide notice for its success in engaging citizens. The decade-old program gives each tree an email address so residents can drop a line (“good luck with the photosynthesis,” one read).

Audrey Hepburn was a “flamboyant gamine.” Sophia Loren is a “soft dramatic.” If you’re a follower of the Kibbe method — like a growing number of people — you’ll recognize these as guidelines on how to dress.

The stylist David Kibbe, who devised the system in the 1980s, came up in an era “where every woman had a ‘season’ and knew her face shape,” Mariah Kreutter writes in The Times. His system involves 13 body types based on Old Hollywood archetypes and a balance between what Kibbe calls “yin” (softness, curve) and “yang” (sharp angles, edges).

There are critiques of the system, such as its frequent failure to “account for body diversity across gender and race,” Terry Nguyen writes in Vox. Still, Kibbe types have grown in popularity online. Like an astrology sign or Myers-Briggs personality type, a Kibbe body type can also be a social identifier.

“I think people are drawn to it because they no longer feel stuck in the loop of trend after trend,” a 19-year-old design student said. “They’re getting cemented in actually understanding themselves.”

Sang An for The New York Times. Food Stylist; Simon Andrews.

Peas add a pop of sweetness to this quick shrimp piccata spaghetti.

Jennifer Egan’s new book, “The Candy House,” makes you feel “a bit high, drugged, and fitted with VR goggles,” writes our critic.

Our critics recommend 12 new songs from Phife Dawg, Omar Apollo, Zola Jesus and others.

Play today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Like a fairytale duckling (four letters).

Here’s today’s Wordle and today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.


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

P.S. Our 2013 dialect quiz “How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk” has won a Peabody Legacy Award. Give it a try here.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

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