Your Wednesday Briefing: Zelensky Visits Bakhmut

President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking with Ukrainian soldiers in Bakhmut, Ukraine.Credit…Ukrainian Presidential Press Service, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Zelensky visits the front line

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine visited Bakhmut, a city in the eastern Donbas region that has come under vicious attack by Russia for months. It was perhaps his most dangerous trip to the front line since the war began.

“The east is holding out because Bakhmut is fighting,” Zelensky told troops there yesterday. “This is the fortress of our morale. In fierce battles and at the cost of many lives, freedom is being defended here for all of us.”

Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, also signaled that he would not stop his military campaign, now in its 10th month, as he presided over an awards ceremony in the Kremlin to honor Russian occupation figures and propaganda leaders. He said these were “difficult, unusual times,” and praised Russian soldiers as “heroes.”

Context: Russia’s assaults on Bakhmut have been relentless. The besieged city is central to the fight to control all of the Donbas. Zelensky’s visit came as Ukrainian troops said they had pushed the Russians out of some positions on the edge of the city, although the situation there is far from stable.

A new offensive? Ukraine’s military leaders have warned recently that Russia is preparing to escalate the war over the coming months. But a senior U.S. official said that Russian leaders were torn over whether to undertake a new offensive this winter, and that it was unclear where “their actual actions will go.”

Japan’s central bank plans to increase its monthly bond purchases and allow 10-year bond yields to fluctuate more.Credit…Kimimasa Mayama/EPA, via Shutterstock

Japan’s central bank surprises markets

This summer, as central banks increased interest rates in an effort to fight inflation, the Bank of Japan alone stood firm and kept rates ultralow. Yesterday, it seemed to have a change of heart.

The bank suddenly eased its bond-yield policy, which could open the door for future interest rate increases. The change surprised investors in Asia, who had not expected such a move until next year.

After the announcement, the yen rose by 3 percent. Earlier this year, the currency traded at a decades-long low against the dollar. Japan intervened to prop up the currency.

The State of the War

  • A Botched Invasion: Secret battle plans, intercepts and interviews with soldiers and Kremlin confidants offer new insight into the stunning failures of Russia’s military in Ukraine.
  • A New Russian Offensive? A top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine is bracing for the possibility that Russia will sharply escalate the war in a winter offensive that could include mass infantry attacks.
  • Putin in Belarus: President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia made a rare visit to Belarus, raising concerns in Ukraine that Russian forces could aim again at Kyiv, which is near the Belarusian border.
  • The War in the Skies: As Ukrainian officials warn of a new Russian ground offensive, waves of Russian missiles continue to batter Ukraine’s infrastructure. The attacks are leaving a trail of destruction and grief.

A stronger yen could reduce inflationary pressure on Japan’s shrinking economy. In October, inflation was at 3.6 percent. That’s much lower than in other parts of the world. But households and businesses are still straining under higher food and energy prices.

Interest rates: The bank’s insistence on keeping rates ultralow has given families and businesses a steady flow of cheap money — but has also exacerbated the yen’s weakness. The bank said that policy would not change.

Sitiveni Rabuka is set to lead a coalition government.Credit…Saeed Khan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A new chapter for Fiji

After six days of turmoil over the island’s general election, Sitiveni Rabuka, the opposition leader, is poised to become the next prime minister. The shift could lead Fiji to pull away from China and align more closely with the West.

Rabuka would replace Frank Bainimarama, who embraced Beijing during his 16-year tenure. Rabuka favors close ties with Australia and New Zealand, the region’s allies to the U.S. His party has ruled out a proposed security deal with Beijing, like the one signed by the Solomon Islands this year.

The island nation has recently become an important player in the battle for Pacific influence between the U.S. and China. The vote this month was Fiji’s third general election since democratic voting was reintroduced in 2013.

A history of coups: The country experienced four coups between 1987 and 2006. Rabuka originally seized power in Fiji’s first coup, and Bainimarama in the last one.


Asia Pacific

Many Chinese pharmacies have sold out of the most common medicines.Credit…Qilai Shen for The New York Times
  • Many Chinese people are struggling to find medicines, like fever-reducing drugs and Paxlovid, as Covid infections outpace supplies.

  • The U.N. appealed to countries in South Asia to help rescue 160 Rohingya refugees who are stranded on a boat in the Andaman Sea.

  • From Opinion: The U.S. and India are becoming closer. So why is there still no American ambassador in New Delhi?


  • A 97-year-old woman in Germany, who worked as a secretary in a World War II concentration camp, was given a two-year suspended sentence for abetting over 10,000 murders.

  • Britain is facing disruptions from strikes over pay and economic conditions. Ambulance workers will stage the first of two walkouts today.

  • The Dutch prime minister apologized for his country’s role in the slave trade.

  • King Charles III’s portrait will start appearing on British bank notes in 2024.

Around the World

The legislation would fund the government through September.Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times
  • U.S. lawmakers announced a spending bill that increased government funding and allocated over $40 billion for Ukraine.

  • A U.S. House committee is meeting to decide on whether to make Donald Trump’s tax returns public. Here are live updates.

  • Turnout in Tunisia’s parliamentary elections was low, around 11 percent, prompting calls from the opposition for Kais Saied, the strongman president, to step down.

  • The U.S. military captured six Islamic State operatives during helicopter raids in Syria.

A Morning Read

Credit…Photo illustration by Pablo Delcan

TikTok is as much a product of the West as it is of China. In the U.S., where distrust of China is running high, the Chinese video app is considered a Trojan horse — for Chinese influence, spying or possibly both.

Now, with walls going up on both sides of the Pacific, TikTok seems likely to be the first and last of its kind. The company is caught between the old era and the new: too Chinese for America, too American for China.

Lives lived: Jose Maria Sison was the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines — and its guerrilla insurgency. He died in exile in the Netherlands at 83.


The toll on Ukrainian culture

Beyond the tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of millions, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has dealt a grievous blow to Ukrainian culture. The Times’s Visual Investigations team has been tracking the war’s toll on museums and monuments, theaters and libraries, historic churches and more. The team verified the damage of nearly 340 cultural sites.

Times reporters found that pro-Russian forces had intentionally targeted some of the sites. Long before the invasion began, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, claimed that Ukraine had no culture of its own and called Ukrainian nationhood a fiction.

The investigation explores several damaged or destroyed cultural sites in depth, including a monastery that predates Catherine the Great and a library that bridged Ukraine’s linguistic communities, its books now burned. See the evidence of the destruction.


What to Cook

Credit…Armando Rafael for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Cyd Raftus McDowell.

Miso-flavored crème fraîche keeps this salmon moist as it roasts.

What to Read

“The Tudors in Love” chronicles sex and danger at the English court.

What to Watch

The “Puss in Boots” sequel is a charming animated adventure.


Some advice if you’re flying for the holidays: Wear a mask.

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Prepared, as a pear (five letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia

P.S. Alex Kingsbury will oversee our international Opinion coverage.

“The Daily” is about the call from Congress to prosecute Trump.

You can always email us at [email protected]. I read every note.

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