Your Wednesday Briefing: New Blasts Shake Crimea

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Good morning. We’re covering a major explosion on a Russian target in Crimea and a political scandal in Australia.
An elite Ukrainian unit struck a Russian ammunition depot in the occupied Crimean Peninsula yesterday, a Ukrainian official said, in another embarrassing blow to Moscow’s forces.
The brazen attacks came a week after explosions at a Russian air base destroyed several fighter jets on the peninsula. A Ukrainian said Special Forces officers had worked on that attack with local partisan fighters.
Russia called the episode an “act of sabotage.” 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.”
And by repeatedly striking at the territory, which Russia has held for the better part of a decade, Ukraine has posed a fresh challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s standing at home. He has told his people that Crimea is a “sacred place” and Russia’s “holy land.”
Here are live updates from the war.
Fighting: In Kharkiv, Russian shells hit five of the city’s nine districts yesterday amid a barrage along the front line. And blasts in the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol knocked out pro-Kremlin television broadcasts yesterday.
Diamonds: Russia, a major diamond producer, is now fighting an effort to declare it an exporter of “conflict” or “blood” diamonds, as countries claim that their sale helps pay for the war.
Grain: The first U.N. ship transporting Ukrainian grain to Africa has set sail.
Australia is gripped by a growing political scandal over the conduct of its former prime minister, Scott Morrison.
While leading the country during the pandemic, he covertly put himself in charge of five ministries. And he kept his five new roles a secret from the public and most of his colleagues in Parliament. Several ministers who were sharing power with Morrison were never told.
“I cannot conceive of the mind-set that has created this,” Anthony Albanese, the current prime minister, said yesterday. (Australia chose to evict Morrison from office in May.) “It’s undermined our democracy,” he added, calling it a “government by deception.”
In Australia, ministers can decide how wide swaths of the government operate. Many Australians see Morrison’s moves as decidedly Trumpian, and critics say Morrison damaged the country’s democracy.
Details: In 2020, Morrison apparently realized that the country’s pandemic response would have essentially put the health minister above the prime minister. So he appointed himself second health minister — and then as finance minister, to make sure he could also have a say over emergency spending.
Reaction: Yesterday, amid rising calls for him to resign his parliamentary seat, Morrison said his power play had been the “right decision” for “very unconventional times.”
Dealings: Before the election in May, Morrison used his new ministerial powers to overrule the resources minister on a contentious gas project, killing it off over concerns that it could hurt his party’s chances. He apologized yesterday.
In India, millions of families look to education to break out of poverty. But public schools have long had a reputation for decrepit buildings, mismanagement, poor instruction and even tainted lunches.
In New Delhi, though, schools are changing. The Aam Aadmi Party, which leads the city, has committed billions of additional dollars to overhaul the capital’s schools — more than doubling previous investments.
Many of the fixes are basic maintenance: Until recently, some schools had no drinking water or clean toilets, or they were infested with snakes. The school system has also partnered with top experts and universities to design new curriculums.
Students who were enrolled in private schools are switching over, and the city’s students are doing well. In recent years, they have scored higher in key subjects than their peers countrywide.
Politics: The Aam Aadmi Party rose to power on the promise to improve basic services. The work on education has helped generate solid political wins for the party, which in March gained control of a second state in India, Punjab.
Quotable: “You would enter a school and you could smell the toilets from 50 meters away,” an official said, speaking about site visits in 2015.
A Chinese military ship docked in Sri Lanka yesterday, raising tensions with India.
Last year, after an American drone mistakenly killed 10 civilians in Kabul, the Biden administration pledged to help relocate their relatives. But 32 of them remain trapped in Afghanistan.
The U.S. said it would not yet release $3.5 billion in frozen Afghan funds, citing fears of terrorism.
The Marshall Islands is experiencing its first full-blown Covid outbreak, with more than 4,000 cases in a population of about 60,000.
Australia’s crocodiles almost went extinct. But the country’s invasive feral pigs, an unexpected food source, are helping bring the population back.
Kenya is in limbo: Raila Odinga, the losing candidate in its election, rejected the results. The dispute looks set to go to court.
Britain is facing a recession amid surging energy costs and rail strikes. Critics blame a leadership vacuum for making the crisis worse.
Iraq has struggled for 10 months to form a government. Now, a tent city outside Parliament could paralyze further progress.
Norway is mourning Freya, the walrus who basked in Oslo’s harbor. Critics called the decision to kill her too hasty.
Liz Cheney, one of the few Republicans to vote to impeach Donald Trump, faces a primary challenge. Here are live updates from her race and others.
Scotland is the first country to make period products free.
Austin Tice, a U.S. journalist, disappeared in Syria 10 years ago. A multinational effort to free him is showing signs of revival.
Germany subsidized cheap train passes this summer — all you can ride for 9 euros, or about $9.30, per month — to offset inflation.
The experiment went more smoothly than expected, and it’s now part of a larger discussion about how to make society more sustainable and less dependent on Russian oil.
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.
Jennifer’s article also notes some surprising history — including a Times opinion essay by Jimmy Carter denouncing Rushdie’s novel. — Tom Wright-Piersanti, a Morning editor
Add beans to this puttanesca-inspired salad for a quick and filling meal.
In the thriller “Emily the Criminal,” a young woman descends into lawlessness.
At 60 percent of the maximum volume, you can use earbuds “all day every day” without damaging your hearing.
Play today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: “Beer containers” (four letters).
Here are today’s Wordle and today’s Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia
P.S. The Times reporter Pam Belluck won the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting for her health and science coverage.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the Taliban.
You can reach Amelia and the team at briefing@nytimes.com.
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