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Your Friday Briefing

Western nations and the international community escalated their pressure on Russia yesterday over its invasion of Ukraine. The E.U. approved a ban on Russian coal, the U.N. voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council, and the U.S. moved to strip Russia’s trading privileges and prohibit its energy sales in the American market. Follow the latest updates.

The moves came as evidence grew of atrocities committed by Russian forces, including intercepted radio transmissions in which members of the Russian forces discussed carrying out indiscriminate killings north of Kyiv, the capital, according to two officials briefed on an intelligence report. Russia has denied any responsibility for atrocities.

The penalties were unlikely to persuade Russia to stop the war. They revealed how other countries were trying to minimize their own economic pain and prevent themselves from becoming entangled in a direct armed conflict with Moscow. The war has created the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

Yemen’s exiled president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, stepped down yesterday and passed power to a presidential council, a sweeping reshuffle supported by his backers in Saudi Arabia and aimed at jump-starting efforts to end the seven-year war that has roiled the Arabian Peninsula.

The president announced his abdication days after a two-month cease-fire took effect, another sign that Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf allies might be looking for a path out of the years of bloodshed. Hadi delegated the new presidential council to run the government and lead peace talks with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels who control Sana, Yemen’s capital, and the country’s northwest.

The new push to end the war follows seven years of grinding combat that have shattered the Yemeni state, spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and undermined the security of oil-producing Gulf monarchies allied with the U.S.

Analysis: Experts raised questions about how effective the presidential council would be at managing the peace process given the divergent positions of its eight members. “It is expensive for the Saudis, and it is certainly more expensive for them than it is for their enemy,” said Katherine Zimmerman, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

As the coronavirus races through Shanghai, the city’s worst outbreak since the pandemic began, the authorities have deployed their usual hard-nosed playbook to try to stamp out transmission, no matter the cost. Residents have responded with an unusual outpouring of dissatisfaction rarely seen in China since the early days of the pandemic, in Wuhan.

The crisis, which has recorded more than 70,000 cases since March 1, is shaping up to be more than just a public health challenge. It is also a political test of the zero tolerance approach at large, on which the Communist Party has staked its legitimacy.

For now, the government appears largely unmoved. A Chinese vice premier visited Shanghai and demanded that officials focus on eliminating cases “without hesitation.” Public health experts have warned that China is unprepared to live with the coronavirus, with just over half of people ages 80 and over having been fully vaccinated as of late March.

Analysis: The city is home to a vibrant middle class and also many elites, who are accustomed to a relatively high level of political autonomy.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other news:

In the annals of public pregnancy, there’s never been anything quite like Rihanna’s maternity wardrobe, our fashion critic Vanessa Friedman writes.

This robot wants to make you better at Wordle. WordleBot — a new project from The Upshot — can analyze your entries after you’ve played and explain how you could have done better. The tips are meant to help you solve future Wordle puzzles more quickly.

The bot works best if you use the same browser that you used to play Wordle. Just play the game first and then visit the WordleBot page.

The Upshot’s program recommends two optimal opening words: CRANE in regular mode, and DEALT in hard mode. But it will not penalize anyone who chooses to start each day with a random pick — variety is the spice of life.

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