The war in Ukraine, one year on
One year after Russia’s invasion, virtually no one in Ukraine has avoided the violence, destruction and bloodshed of the war, which has killed tens of thousands, left millions homeless and turned entire cities into ruins.
As the foreboding that gripped Ukraine in the days before the invasion has faded, air-raid sirens and warnings have become part of everyday life. Now, many people in Ukraine say that they have found strength in the shared sacrifice and the collective struggle for survival.
Today, Ukraine is bracing for potential Russian attacks timed to the anniversary of the war, including a symbolic “revenge” assault, as President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine put it, from Russia. Schools across Ukraine are holding classes remotely, people have been advised to avoid large gatherings, and additional security measures are being put in place.
The West: The U.S. and Europe have kept Ukraine afloat with funding, weapons and other military aid. The alliance has held up far better than many, including top officials in Russia, expected.
The latest on weapons: Poland said that it was close to completing a deal worth $10 billion to buy additional U.S.-made HIMARS rocket launchers and related equipment, as part of its own rapid military buildup. As the West struggles to find ammunition for Ukraine’s Soviet-era weapons, it is turning to arms factories across Eastern Europe.
China: At a meeting of G20 finance ministers in India, Janet Yellen, the U.S. Treasury secretary, warned Beijing against helping Russia evade sanctions. She also said that the U.S. planned to roll out additional sanctions on Russia.
The West tried to isolate Russia. It didn’t work
After Russia invaded Ukraine, the West formed what looked like an overwhelming global coalition: 141 countries supported a U.N. measure demanding that Russia unconditionally withdraw, and only four backed Russia and rejected the measure. But in the wings, 47 other countries abstained or missed the vote.
Many of those “neutral” nations have since provided crucial economic or diplomatic support for Russia. Even some of the nations that initially agreed to denounce Russia, such as Brazil, have since started moving toward a more neutral position.
Instead of cleaving in two, the world has fragmented. A vast middle sees Russia’s invasion as, primarily, a European and American problem. These countries are largely focused on protecting their own interests amid the economic and geopolitical upheaval caused by the invasion.
Russia has used the split to its own advantage, to manage the effects of Western sanctions. While many U.S. companies have left the country, exports to Russia from other countries are now well above prewar levels. Some countries are simply straddling the divide: Turkey is at once selling weapons to Ukraine and opening up an increased flow of goods to Russia.
Latest: Yesterday the U.N. General Assembly endorsed another resolution demanding that Russia withdraw from Ukraine’s territory — but China, South Africa, India and many countries continued to abstain. As the war passes the one-year mark, Russia’s strategy is clear: to wait until Western unity disintegrates.
As voting day approached, a decision by Nigeria’s government to replace its currency caused chaos. Voters are furious at the governing party over a shortage of new bank notes, and protests could disrupt voting in parts of the country.
Our West Africa bureau chief, Ruth Maclean, is in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to cover the election. “When I interviewed Peter Obi, one of the three main candidates, the other day, he described this as an ‘existential election,’” she said. “I think that’s how many Nigerians feel, particularly young Nigerians who were involved in the EndSARS movement a couple of years ago, protesting against police violence, but also against everything they saw going wrong in Nigeria.”
She added: “Many of them have left or are trying to leave the country. If their chosen candidate wins, maybe some will stay, or come back.”
As populations in wealthy countries grow older, Africa’s median age is moving downward. In Nigeria, half of the population of more than 200 million is 18 and under. “If Nigeria is safe and prosperous, it brightens life for a whole generation of Africans,” Ruth said.
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Welcome to The Athletic F1: From each racetrack around the world, we’ll dive deep into the personalities, technology, strategy, business, politics, culture and miscellanea of F1. Come along for the ride.
From The Times: Korfball is not new, but its proponents say it has new relevance amid questions about the gender divide in sports. Now it just needs to catch on outside the Netherlands.
ARTS AND IDEAS
The dull edge of science fiction
Science fiction magazines have been flooded by submissions of works of fiction generated by A.I. chatbots. One editor, Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld, said that he had stopped accepting submissions altogether until he could get a better handle on the problem.
At least for now, the machine-written stories are easily distinguishable from those written by human beings. The writing is “bad in spectacular ways,” Clarke said. Often, the bots simply aren’t very imaginative: Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine received several A.I.-generated stories with the same title: “The Last Hope.”
To test the bots’ sci-fi chops, I asked one to write a story according to the criteria for submissions laid out by Asimov’s Science Fiction. The response was alarmingly mediocre: a tale entitled “The Final Journey” about “the most advanced spaceship ever built,” setting out “on a mission to explore a distant planet that was believed to harbor life.”
For more: When the movies imagined A.I., they pictured the wrong disaster, our critic A.O. Scott writes. Instead of the chilling rationality of HAL in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” we got the drearier, very human awfulness of Microsoft’s Sydney — deceitful, irrational and sometimes plain old mean.