Ukraine strikes again in Crimea
Huge explosions rocked a temporary Russian ammunition depot in Crimea yesterday, the latest in a series of clandestine Ukrainian assaults against the Black Sea peninsula that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, illegally annexed in 2014 and that is now being used as a vital staging ground for Russia’s invasion.
An elite Ukrainian military unit operating behind enemy lines was responsible for the blasts, a Ukrainian official said. Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the episode was an “act of sabotage,” a significant acknowledgment that the war is spreading to what the Kremlin considers Russian territory.
As the Ukrainian government leans on long-range Western weapons and special forces to strike deep behind the front, the country’s military tactics are growing increasingly aggressive, allowing it to disrupt Russian supply lines. Crimea’s security is key to Russia’s military effort, as well as Putin’s political standing among Russians.
Response: The attacks come in defiance of dire warnings of retaliation from Moscow. Last month, a senior Russian official vowed that if Ukraine attacked Crimea, it would immediately face “Judgment Day.” But Putin has made no mention of the attacks, instead repeating his frequent argument that a Western-allied Ukraine would be an existential threat to Russia.
In other news from the war:
Britain’s power vacuum
Britain faces a slew of problems — surging energy costs, soaring inflation, a looming recession and the prospect of more rail strikes and further drought. Compounding these issues is a growing sense that the country’s politicians have left the public in limbo at a moment of gathering crisis.
Boris Johnson, the prime minister, will leave office on Sept. 5, to be replaced by the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, or the former chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak. Johnson has rejected appeals to recall Parliament or to sit down with his potential successors to work out how to help Britons facing huge increases in energy bills and is currently on his honeymoon.
Analysts argue that, behind the scenes, work is being done and that there is time for the new prime minister to prepare for rising prices in the fall. Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, has said that were he in power, he would freeze energy bills. More than 100,000 people have pledged to refuse to pay those bills in October.
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 confident that bad things are going to happen, but at the moment, there’s nobody in charge — no sense that anybody has got a grip of those things.”
A century-old vaccine offers new hope
The Bacillus-Calmette-Guerin vaccine against tuberculosis, developed in the early 1900s, seems to train the immune system to respond to infectious diseases, including viruses, bacteria and parasites. As new threats like monkeypox and polio re-emerge and the coronavirus continues to evolve, it has gained renewed interest among scientists.
The results of clinical trials on the vaccine conducted during the pandemic are coming in, and the findings, while mixed, are encouraging. One such trial of 144 participants found that people with Type 1 diabetes who had received several B.C.G. injections were far less likely to develop Covid-19 compared with those who had received dummy shots.
Although the trial was relatively small, “the results are 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 be resetting the immune response of the host to be more alert, to be more primed, not as sluggish.”
Caution: Other trials have had more disappointing results. A Dutch study of 1,500 health care workers who were vaccinated with B.C.G. found no reduction in Covid infections, and a South African study of 1,000 health care workers found no effect from B.C.G. on Covid incidence or severity.
The saltwater crocodile has lived for millions of years in Australia. The feral 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 extinctions. Yet these unsuspecting pigs seem to be helping restore the country’s crocodile population — by making for hearty meals for hungry reptiles.
ARTS AND IDEAS
A fight over free speech
Salman Rushdie had wondered in recent years whether the public was losing its appetite for free speech, a principle on which he staked his life when Iran sought to have him killed for his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses.” As Rushdie told The Guardian last year, “The kinds of people who stood up for me in the bad years might not do so now.”
After Rushdie was stabbed onstage on Friday, the initial denunciation gave way to a renewal of the debate over free speech, Jennifer Schuessler writes in The Times. Some of Rushdie’s supporters lamented growing acceptance, on parts of the political right and left, of the notion that speech that offends is grounds for censorship.
That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha
P.S. Jonathan Bang is joining The Times as a video journalist for NYT Cooking.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the Taliban takeover, one year later.
Tom Wright-Piersanti wrote today’s Arts and Ideas. You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].