Your Friday Briefing

Surveying the damage after attacks in the city of Kramatorsk, Ukraine, on Thursday. Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Ukraine retakes ground from Russia

Fighting raged across eastern Ukraine — from the Kharkiv area in the north, where Ukrainian forces regained ground, to Mariupol in the south, where Russian forces sought to destroy the last pocket of resistance at the Azovstal steel plant and where about 200 civilians were holed up with fighters. Follow live updates from the war.

The ruined port city of Mariupol is a potent symbol for Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, as the home of the Azov regiment, whose origins in a far-right military group have lent a veneer of credibility to Putin’s claim of “denazifying” Ukraine. Russia also bombarded key points along the eastern front, launching missiles at the strategic city of Kramatorsk.

The Kremlin is determined to reach some kind of milestone, analysts say, by May 9, the day Russia commemorates the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany. But it is difficult to evaluate how the actual fighting is going. The Russian advance appears to have been sluggish, while Ukraine is still holding strong despite suffering heavy injuries.

U.S. intelligence: The Kremlin had a muted response on Thursday to a report in The Times that the U.S. had helped Ukrainian forces locate and kill Russian generals. Russia was already “well aware” that NATO and its member countries were sharing intelligence with Ukraine, said a Kremlin spokesman.

In other news:

  • Despite pleas from Western governments, India continues to buy Russia’s oil at a low price. Europe is struggling to replace Russian gas amid climate concerns and political disputes.

  • Russians who oppose Putin’s government are being pushed from the country by the Kremlin.

  • The U.S. provided intelligence that helped Ukraine sink the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

Transporting a Covid victim in New Delhi in April 2021. Nearly a third of excess deaths globally, some 4.7 million, took place in India.Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

Millions undercounted in pandemic death toll

Nearly 15 million more people died during the pandemic than would have in olağan times, according to a panel of experts assembled by the W.H.O. The figure lays bare how vast the undercount of victims — which had been reported at six million — has been around the world.

Most of the excess deaths were victims of Covid itself, the experts said, but some died because it was harder to get medical deva for ailments such as heart attacks. Much of the loss of life during the pandemic was concentrated in 2021. Overall deaths that year were roughly 18 percent higher — an extra 10 million people — than in a typical year.

The figures had been ready since January, but their release was stalled by objections from India, in which 4.7 million of the excess deaths occurred and which disputed the methodology for calculating how many of its citizens had died. The Indian government’s own figure through the end of 2021 is 481,080 deaths.

Country by country: In Mexico, the excess death toll during the first two years of the pandemic was twice as high as the government’s official tally, the W.H.O. found. In Egypt, excess deaths were roughly 12 times as great as the official toll. And in Pakistan, the figure was eight times as high.

Quotable: “It’s absolutely staggering what has happened with this pandemic, including our inability to accurately monitor it,” said Dr. Prabhat Jha, an epidemiologist who was a member of the W.H.O.’s expert working group. “It shouldn’t happen in the 21st century.”

“Republicans can run but they can’t hide from the damage they’ve created,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic majority leader, said.Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Democrats’ doomed plans to codify Roe v. Wade

Senate Democrats hope to vote next week on a bill to enshrine abortion rights in federal law, acting quickly in the wake of a leaked Supreme Court draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The legislation is all but certain to be blocked by Republicans, falling short of the 60 votes needed to advance past a filibuster.

The legislation, even as it might send a political message before the midterm elections, appears to lack even the simple majority it would need to pass the 50-50 Senate, given that Joe Manchin, the centrist Democratic senator from West Virginia who opposes abortion rights, voted against bringing up a nearly identical measure in February.

The vote will at least give Democrats a chance to show their progressive core supporters that they are trying to codify Roe. They hope the action will also stoke a backlash against Republicans by swing voters, including college-educated suburban women who may be alienated by the G.O.P.’s opposition to abortion rights.

Medication abortion: A two-dose pill cycle that allows patients to terminate pregnancies of 10 weeks or less at home may become the next battleground in a post-Roe America.


Around the World

Credit…Ammar Awad/Reuters
  • Three people were reported killed and multiple others wounded in an ax attack in Israel. The authorities described the assault as a terrorist attack.

  • The Irish government postponed a decision on a plan to give control of a proposed maternity hospital to a Catholic charity amid concerns from abortion rights activists that it might apply Catholic doctrine in the running of the hospital.

  • Originally thought to be the remnants of gang killings, dozens of skulls found in a cave in southern Mexico are now believed to be from sacrificial killings more than 1,000 years ago.

  • Fire season has arrived earlier than ever in the U.S. This time-lapse image from space shows the scope of the catastrophe.

Other Big Stories

Credit…Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
  • Results from local elections in the U.K. point to a backlash against Boris Johnson’s governing Conservative Party in the south, Reuters reports.

  • The U.S. stock market dived yesterday amid Wall Street’s heightened anxiety over what the Federal Reserve’s campaign to slow inflation would mean for the economy.

  • Elon Musk has brought in new investors to contribute $7 billion toward his Twitter deal. The Times looked at how his childhood in apartheid South Africa might have shaped his worldview.

What Else Is Happening

  • A Big Mac over ice: With the help of bush pilots, residents of remote Alaskan villages are increasingly using food-delivery services to get their “city food” fixes.

  • Enter the drink of the summer: the Dirty Shirley.

A Morning Read

Credit…Joseph Rushmore for The New York Times

Peek into the $10 million Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Okla. Built to display the singer-songwriter’s vast archive, it celebrates one of the world’s most elusive creators and gives visitors a close-up look at notebooks and fan mail.


Products from the show “CoComelon.”Credit…Alexander Coggin for The New York Times

Parents dread it. Children love it.

With vivid colors, ear-worm songs and simple animation, the cartoon series “CoComelon” has mastered the arka of entrancing infants. The show is the second-largest channel on YouTube and holds a firm spot on Netflix’s top 10.

The show is a production of Moonbug Entertainment, a London company that produces several of the world’s most popular online kids’ shows.

Moonbug treats children’s shows like a science, where every aesthetic choice or potential plot point is data-driven and rigorously tested with its target audience. Should the music be louder or more mellow? Should the bus be yellow or red? The answer is yellow — infants are apparently drawn to yellow buses, as well as minor injuries and stuff covered in dirt.

“The trifecta for a kid would be a dirty yellow bus that has a boo-boo,” a Moonbug exec said during a company story session. “Broken fender, broken wheel, little grimace on its face.”

Read more from inside one of the pitch sessions for a kids’ show juggernaut.


What to Cook

Credit…Melina Hammer for The New York Times

An at-home pizza recipe worth assembling a crowd for.

Modern Love

“An act of faith”: The winner of our college essay contest explores how a WhatsApp group chat is everything for her Syrian family, scattered by war.

What to Watch

In the powerful French drama “Happening,” a student struggles to obtain an yasa dışı abortion.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Küçük Crossword, and a clue: “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” author (five letters).

And here’s today’s Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Have a wonderful weekend, and see you next week. — Natasha

P.S. Jeffrey Gettleman, previously our South Asia bureau chief, takes on a new role in London a roving küresel correspondent.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on a post-Roe America.

Sanam Yar wrote today’s Arts and Ideas. You can reach Natasha and the team at

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