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Russian forces destroyed a theater in the coastal Ukrainian city of Mariupol where about 1,000 people had been sheltering yesterday, in a day of intensifying brutality. At least 10 people were killed by shelling in Chernihiv, north of Kyiv, as they waited in line for bread. Russia’s Defense Ministry denied carrying out the attack on Mariupol. Follow the latest updates.
Three weeks into the war in Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, made an impassioned appeal to the U.S. Congress, casting the defense of his nation as a battle for democracy. As he spoke, his country’s forces staged counterattacks near Kyiv and the Russian-occupied city of Kherson as battle-depleted Russian troops continued their attempt to encircle major cities.
President Biden, responding to Zelensky, said the U.S. would send Ukraine an additional $800 million in security aid, including antiaircraft and antitank missiles. Biden has sharpened his rhetoric regarding Russia’s leader, describing Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, as “a war criminal.” But he did not agree to more direct military intervention, including the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
The Interpreter: As Russia digs in, what’s the risk of nuclear war? “It’s not zero,” one nuclear strategist said.
Other news from the war:
Putin referred to Russians who support the West as “scum and traitors” who needed to be removed from society.
NATO’s ministers will discuss enhancing defenses along the eastern front as Russia presses closer.
Olga Smirnova, a star ballerina of the Bolshoi, left Russia in protest and joined the Dutch National Ballet.
More than 7,000 Russian troops have been killed in less than three weeks of fighting, according to conservative U.S. estimates.
Two mass graves have been located near Damascus, Syria. They are believed to hold thousands of bodies of Syrians killed in detention centers run by Bashar al-Assad’s government during the civil war.
Interviews over the past several months with four Syrian men who worked at or near secret mass graves led to an examination of satellite images, which in turn revealed the locations of the two sites. The sites could also contain powerful evidence of war crimes committed by al-Assad’s forces, including the systematic torture and the killing of detainees.
Throughout Syria’s 11-year civil war, more than 144,000 people disappeared into government detention centers. Many of them are presumed dead. The U.S. Treasury Department said last year that at least 14,000 had been tortured to death, but the actual number is almost certainly much higher.
Quotable: “If the issue of the missing and the disappeared is not resolved, there can never be peace in Syria,” said Diab Serrih, a co-founder of an association of former detainees in Syria’s notorious Saydnaya prison who has worked to locate mass graves. Families call, he said, saying, “‘I just want to see a grave so that I can put a flower on it.’”
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian charity worker who was arrested in Tehran’s airport in 2016 while on her way home to London, will finally be reunited with her husband and daughter after six years of separation, first in prison and then under house arrest.
Her release, and that of another British-Iranian citizen, Anoosheh Ashoori, comes after the settlement of a longstanding British debt to Iran that had roiled relations between the two countries, according to Britain’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss. Ashoori and Zaghari-Ratcliffe arrived in Oxfordshire early this morning after a flight from Tehran.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case has drawn considerable media attention in part because of her family’s efforts to publicize it. Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, dedicated the past six years to public advocacy for his wife, staging multiple hunger strikes in front of the Iranian Embassy in London.
Allegations: Zaghari-Ratcliffe was charged with plotting to overthrow the Iranian government and was eventually sentenced to five years in prison. Though Boris Johnson, then the British foreign secretary, told lawmakers in 2017 that she was “teaching people journalism,” her employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said she was on vacation at the time of her detention.
Europe may be heading for another Omicron variant surge, but restrictions continue to loosen. Above, commuters in London.
Despite cases rising to record highs, Germany is considering abandoning its pandemic restrictions.
New Zealand plans to welcome foreign tourists months ahead of schedule.
The W.H.O. has postponed assessing the Russian Sputnik vaccine because of the war in Ukraine.
Two small tsunami waves hit the Japanese coast after a 7.4-magnitude earthquake offshore. Despite a tsunami alert in the Fukushima region, there were no immediate reports of casualties. Above, a bullet train derailed by the quake.
A European monitoring service projected that dust from the Sahara, which has cast an eerie orange pall over much of the continent, could reach as far as Denmark.
Netflix, Amazon Prime and other studios are investing in soundstages in Britain, drawn by an experienced labor pool and alluring tax incentives.
North Korea launched an unidentified projectile on Wednesday, but the South Korean military said it failed “immediately after liftoff.”
For decades, scientists have witnessed cane toad tadpoles in Australia devouring their younger kin. The cause of that cannibalistic behavior has been a mystery — until now.
Marriages between humans slowed because of the pandemic, but pet weddings became only more popular.
Which cereal played a major role in the alien soundscape of the movie “Dune”?
More than a century after sinking in Antarctic waters, Ernest Shackleton’s legendary ship, Endurance, was found with just four days to spare before the icebreaker would have to return to port in Cape Town.
Even as the deadline for leaving the search site approached, Chad Bonin, one of the members of the search team, remained optimistic. “Every day I would walk on deck and say, ‘Today’s the day,’” he said.
This selection of literature and nonfiction, compiled by writers and editors on The Times’s Books desk, can help you better understand Ukraine.
“Your Ad Could Go Here,” by Oksana Zabuzhko. Short stories about Ukrainians facing personal and political inflection points, written by a famed public intellectual, veer into the surreal and supernatural.
“Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine,” edited by Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinsky. The anthology, which centers on fighting in Crimea and the Donbas, includes work from several Ukrainian poets.
“Absolute Zero,” by Artem Chekh. A memoir from a Ukrainian novelist who fought in the Donbas region starting in 2015, the book incorporates perspectives of civilians and his fellow soldiers.
“The Gates of Europe,” by Serhii Plokhy. This comprehensive overview of Ukraine, written by the director of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, goes back centuries to explore the country’s history under different empires and its fight for independence.
For more, see our lists of nonfiction on Ukraine’s history and contemporary fiction and memoir.
For a St. Patrick’s Day treat, consider this simple but deeply pleasurable chocolate Guinness cake.
Vagabonds!” is a supernatural exploration of queerness and corruption in Lagos, Nigeria.
“I feel like I’m a protector of the Midwest and of small towns,” said Paul Feig, the director of the new small-town comedy “Welcome to Flatch.”
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: It’s worth $0.01 (five letters).
Here’s today’s Wordle and the Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha
P.S. The New York Times Book Review was a category on “Jeopardy!” this week.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is on U.S. inflation.
You can reach Natasha and the team at briefing@nytimes.com.
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