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Your Thursday Briefing: Ukrainians Flee the East

Good morning. We’re covering violence and sanctions in the war in Ukraine, a possible choice for Hong Kong’s next leader and the struggle for rare pharmaceutical treatments in India.

Ukrainians fled the contested regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, as Russia refocused to the east and military analysts warned of escalating violence. And Russian shelling against the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv is increasingly targeting civilian infrastructure and homes, local officials say.

Western pressure on Russia continues to mount. The U.S. imposed new sanctions against Russia’s largest banks, with an eye toward “maximum pain,” the U.S. treasury secretary said. Today, the U.N. General Assembly will vote on whether to suspend Russia from the human rights council. Follow live updates here.

E.U. leaders are weighing a ban on buying Russian coal and a ban on Russian vessels in European ports. Those would be the bloc’s harshest measures yet, but talks between E.U. officials suggest banning Russian oil and gas will be difficult.

Asia: The war has revived nuclear questions in South Korea, which, like Ukraine, gave up such weapons decades ago. India condemned the killing of civilians, but maintained its delicate middle-of-the-road stance.

Civilians: A Russian strike killed two older people, who had been sharing bread on a bench. The randomness of their deaths underscored ordinary Ukrainians’ suffering.

State of the war:

Other developments:

John Lee, a hard-liner who led the crackdown on the 2019 protests, is widely expected to be Beijing’s choice as the next leader of Hong Kong, now that Carrie Lam will not seek another term as chief executive.

Their differences reflect China’s shifting priorities. Lam rose through the Hong Kong Civil Service. Lee spent his career in the security services and oversaw the police, prisons, immigration and fire departments before becoming the territory’s security secretary. He also has fewer business contacts than his predecessors.

Lee said Wednesday that he had submitted his resignation as Hong Kong’s chief secretary and that he planned to run for chief executive if Beijing accepted his notice. His appointment would show that China still has deep concerns about Hong Kong’s political stability, despite years of sweeping crackdowns.

Quotable: “Beijing’s priority is to put political regime security above financial security in Hong Kong,” an analyst said.

In India, which makes many of the world’s pharmaceuticals, domestic drugs are often substantially cheaper than imported ones, thanks in part to government price caps.

But therapies for many rare diseases are often imported and prohibitively expensive, forcing patients to confront an excruciating truth: India’s status as a rising pharmaceutical superpower is of no help to them.

In desperation, parents of sick children are raising funds on social media, inspired by a few success stories.

One couple seeking the gene therapy Zolgensma is struggling to raise $2.1 million, believed to be the highest price ever set for a one-time treatment. Their toddler has spinal muscular atrophy, a rare condition that is often fatal by age 2, and time is running out. “I will fight to her last breath,” her father said.

Details: Spinal muscular atrophy is an inherited neuromuscular disease that kills more infants worldwide than any other genetic disorder. The cheapest treatment costs $53,000 to $80,000 a year in India and is not covered by insurance.

  • Israel’s government is in crisis after Idit Silman, the de facto whip, quit the coalition government on Wednesday.

  • Amid a spike in violence, El Salvador passed an emergency decree to punish anyone who shares information about gangs. Observers say the vague measure could lead to censorship.

  • A military tribunal convicted a former president of Burkina Faso for his role in the 1987 assassination of his predecessor, President Thomas Sankara.

  • France has moved decisively to the right, even though President Emmanuel Macron, a centrist, is favored to win re-election.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

  • A fire and smoke at a Covid ward in Greece killed one person and injured two others.

  • The director of the C.D.C. said she “really would encourage” older Americans and those with chronic conditions to get a second booster shot.

  • A second booster shot helped protect older people from getting infected with the Omicron variant, but its protection waned quickly, an Israeli study found.

Ke Huy Quan, a child star in the 1980s, turned to stunt work because of the dearth of roles for Asian American actors. At 51, he spoke to The Times about his return to starring roles in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which blends his action and drama chops.

Can a social media platform be “authentic”? On Instagram and TikTok, meticulously staged content is commonplace. BeReal, an app that’s popular among American college students, promises the opposite, Bloomberg reports.

The app, which originated in France, sends a notification every day at a different time. Users have two minutes to simultaneously snap photos on their phones’ front and back-facing phone cameras. The time limit means the images are often candid and mundane: lecture halls, unfiltered selfies, a takeout lunch. Users have to submit their photos before they can see friends’ posts.

“You’re not putting anything on display for people you only sort of know,” one student told The Daily Northwestern. “You’re really just sharing a moment of your day with the people who matter most.”

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

P.S. Zachary Woolfe will become our classical music critic. Check out his latest piece: A five-minute introduction to Renaissance music.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the history of war crimes.

You can reach Amelia and the team at

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