Ukraine strikes again in Crimea
Massive explosions yesterday shook a temporary Russian ammunition depot in Crimea, the latest in a series of clandestine Ukrainian attacks on the Black Sea peninsula that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, illegally annexed in 2014 and is now used as an essential rallying point for Russian invasion.
An elite Ukrainian unit operating behind enemy lines was responsible for the blast, a Ukrainian official said. Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement that the episode was an “act of sabotage,” a major acknowledgment that the war is expanding into what the Kremlin considers Russian territory.
As the Ukrainian government relies on Western long-range weapons and special forces to strike deep behind the front, the country’s military tactics are becoming increasingly aggressive, potentially disrupting Russia’s supply lines. Crimea’s security is key to Russia’s military efforts, as is Putin’s political position among the Russians.
Answer: The attacks come in defiance of Moscow’s dire warnings of retaliation. Last month, a senior Russian official vowed that if Ukraine attacked Crimea, it would immediately experience “Judgment Day.” But Putin made no mention of the attacks, instead reiterating his frequent argument that a Western-allied Ukraine would pose an existential threat to Russia.
In other news from the war:
Britain’s power vacuum
Britain faces a whole host of problems: rising energy costs, rising inflation, a looming recession and the prospect of more rail strikes and further droughts. These problems are exacerbated by a growing sense that the country’s politicians have left the public in the dark at a time of mounting crisis.
Boris Johnson, the prime minister, will leave office on September 5 to be replaced by the Secretary of State, Liz Truss, or the former Secretary of the Treasury, Rishi Sunak. Johnson has turned down a call to recall parliament or sit down with his potential successors to find out how to help Britain with huge increases in energy bills and is currently on honeymoon.
Analysts say that work is being done behind the scenes and that there is time for the new prime minister to prepare for rising prices in the autumn. Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labor party, has said that if he were in power he would freeze energy bills. In October, more than 100,000 people pledged to refuse to pay those bills.
Analysis: “It’s basically like waiting for a typhoon to hit,” said Steven Fielding, a professor of political history at the University of Nottingham. “We’re all convinced bad things are going to happen, but right now there’s no one in charge — no idea anyone has a handle on those things.”
An age-old vaccine offers new hope
Developed in the early 1900s, the Bacillus-Calmette-Guerin vaccine for tuberculosis appears to train the immune system to respond to infectious diseases, including viruses, bacteria and parasites. As new threats such as monkey pox and polio resurface and the coronavirus continues to evolve, it has received renewed interest from scientists.
The results of clinical trials of the vaccine conducted during the pandemic are coming in and the findings, while mixed, are encouraging. One such trial with 144 participants found that people with type 1 diabetes who had received several BCG injections were much less likely to develop Covid-19 compared to those who had received dummy injections.
Although the trial was relatively small, “the results are just as dramatic as for the Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines,” said Dr. Denise Faustman, the study’s lead author. Participants generally experienced fewer bouts of illness, she added. The vaccine “seems to reset the host’s immune response to be more alert, more prepared, not so slow.”
Caution: Other trials had more disappointing results. A Dutch study of 1,500 health professionals vaccinated with BCG found no reduction in Covid infections, and a South African study of 1,000 health professionals found no effect of BCG on the incidence or severity of Covid.
The saltwater crocodile has been living in Australia for millions of years. The wild pig, an invasive species, arrived with the first European settlers in the late 18th century.
Scientists blame feral pigs and other invasive species for widespread habitat loss and for Australia’s high rate of mammal extinction. Still, these unsuspecting pigs appear to be helping to restore the country’s crocodile population — by preparing hearty meals for hungry reptiles.
ART AND IDEAS
A fight for freedom of expression
Salman Rushdie had wondered in recent years whether the public was losing its appetite for free speech, a principle on which he risked his life when Iran wanted him killed for his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses.” Such as Rushdie told The Guardian last year: “The kind of people who stood up for me in the bad years may not do so now.”
After Rushdie was stabbed on stage on Friday, the initial conviction gave way to a renewed discussion about free speech, writes Jennifer Schuessler in The Times. Some Rushdie supporters lamented the growing acceptance, among sections of the political right and left, of the idea that abusive speech is grounds for censorship.
That was it for today’s briefing. Thank you for participating. — Natasha
PS Jonathan Bang joins The Times as a video journalist for NYT Cooking.
The last episode of “The Daily” is about the Taliban takeover, a year later.
Tom Wright-Piersanti wrote Contemporary Arts and Ideas. You can reach Natasha and the team at briefing..