The obliteration of Bakhmut
As fighting around Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine rages on, drone footage taken by The Times on Friday captured the scorched buildings, destroyed schools and cratered parks that now define the city. Acrid smoke hangs heavy over the skyline after relentless shelling.
The Russians are declaring victory in this long and bloody battle. Even so, the Ukrainians, making gains on the outskirts, say the city’s obliteration is not the end of the campaign to drive the Russians from the ruins of a once peaceful town known for its salt mines and sparkling wine and now largely reduced to ashes.
In a place filled with death and destruction, signs of life are the exception. An estimated 100,000 Russian soldiers were killed and wounded in the battle for Bakhmut. Ukraine also suffered grievous losses in a fight described by both sides as a “meat grinder.”
Context: The fight for Bakhmut was the war’s longest and bloodiest battle. Here are maps showing Russia’s grinding advance.
Infamy: Bakhmut’s name now stands alongside Gettysburg, Iwo Jima and Falluja — places that few people had heard of until they became of strategic importance in a war, my colleague Thomas Gibbons-Neff writes.
On the ground: “By the time Russia declared victory over the ruins, it was clear the city was all but lost,” said Marc Santora, who reported from the region last week. The fight for the land around the city continues, he said. “The city itself is gone — destroyed and under the control of the Russians — but the battle for Bakhmut is not yet over.”
E.U. orders investigation into migrants video
The European Commission has formally asked Greece to begin an investigation into a Times report based on exclusive footage showing the country’s Coast Guard abandoning migrants in the Aegean Sea last month, a top official said.
The Times’s findings point to a slew of Greek, European Union and international law violations, but the Greek authorities have so far declined to comment on the incident in the video. The Coast Guard vessel shown in the footage was paid mostly by E.U. funds, a fact that could also open up the country to investigations by E.U. authorities.
Greece’s conservative prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, recently defended his migration policies as “tough but fair.” His approach had won his government “reasonable good will” with the E.U., he said. The bloc, wary of taking in more asylum seekers, relies on Greece and a handful of other coastal nations to strictly guard its external borders.
How we did it: The Times verified the footage, taken on the Greek island of Lesbos on April 11, using a range of tools, including metadata analysis and geolocation. Times reporters also tracked down the migrants who were involved in the incident and interviewed them at a detention facility in coastal Turkey last month.
Talks on U.S. debt ceiling to continue
President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy expressed optimism yesterday that they could break the partisan stalemate and avert a default on the U.S.’s debt, even as they remained far apart on a deal to raise the debt limit. In remarks, both described the talks as “productive.”
Still, the two sides remained at loggerheads. The White House has called Republicans’ demands for spending cuts extreme, while McCarthy and his aides have accused White House officials of being unreasonable. The number of legislative days for Congress to vote to raise the debt ceiling before the projected deadline is rapidly dwindling.
The Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, yesterday reiterated her warning to Congress that the U.S. could exceed its authority to borrow to pay its bills as soon as June 1. Republicans hinted that no deal was likely to materialize until a default was truly imminent. When asked yesterday evening what it would take to break the deadlock, McCarthy replied simply: “June 1.”
Issues: Chief among the outstanding issues is how much to spend overall next fiscal year on discretionary programs and how long any spending caps should be in place. Republicans want to allow military spending to increase while cutting other programs. But they have shown some flexibility around how long they would seek to cap spending overall.
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Andrew Tate, left, the self-crowned “king of toxic masculinity,” never made any secret of why he had chosen Romania as his home. “I like living in a society where my money, my influence and my power mean that I’m not below or beholden” to any laws, he told his fans.
But the influencer’s proclamation of faith in Romania as a risk-free haven for antisocial behavior has reflected more fantasy than reality. Tate now faces charges of human trafficking and rape, after seeking out a place where “corruption is accessible to everybody.”
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ARTS AND IDEAS
A symphony of saucepans
For weeks, opponents of the pension changes introduced by President Emmanuel Macron in France have made their opprobrium known with the banging of pots and pans. Known as “casserolades,” after the French word for saucepan, the protests have disrupted or stopped dozens of visits by ministers to schools and factories.
Like the “yellow vest” protest movement that began over fuel prices and then expanded, the pan beating has also become a symbol of a broader discontent after months of large street demonstrations failed to persuade the government to back down on the pension overhaul.
“The desire to deafen and respond with noise reflects a kind of discredit of the political discourse,” said Christian Salmon, a French essayist. “We are not being listened to, we are not being heard after weeks of protests. So now we are left with a single option, which is to not listen to you either.”