Your Thursday Briefing – The New York Times


Ukraine announced the largest prisoner exchange since Russia invaded, saying 144 soldiers were being returned to Ukraine, including dozens who had fought in the siege of Mariupol. The same number of Russian and pro-Russian personnel were returned.

The exchange came as NATO formally extended membership invitations to Finland and Sweden yesterday, clearing the way for what would be one of the alliance’s most significant expansions in decades. President Vladimir Putin of Russia, at a summit in Central Asia, played down the significance of the expansion.

At the summit in Madrid yesterday, NATO leaders also outlined a muscular new vision, positioning Moscow as its primary adversary. NATO’s secretary-general also announced plans for new deployments of thousands of troops to eight countries on the alliance’s eastern flank.

Details: The fate of Mariupol’s last fighters has long been one of the most sensitive issues of the war. When the Ukrainian government issued a surrender directive to more than 2,500 Ukrainian soldiers hiding under a steel plant last month, it vowed to do all it could to ensure that they would be returned home.

Fighting: Russia is methodically gaining ground in eastern Ukraine as it dispatches more troops in an effort to seize the last patch of sovereign Ukrainian territory — a stretch of about 20 miles — in Luhansk Province. The U.N. has documented at least 3,924 Ukrainian civilian deaths in the war.

Analysis: For the first time, NATO also declared China to be a strategic “challenge.” The plan signifies a fundamental shift from the post-Cold War era, when the alliance saw Russia as a potential ally.

Twenty men were convicted yesterday for their roles in a coordinated spree of shootings and bombings in November 2015 that killed 130 people in and near Paris.

The only living attacker, Salah Abdeslam, was sentenced to life in prison. Other defendants, who stood accused of intending to take part in the attacks or of providing various degrees of logistical help to the attackers, were found guilty of almost all charges against them.

Abdeslam was one of 10 Islamic State extremists who targeted the Bataclan concert hall, an area outside France’s national soccer stadium and the terraces of cafes and restaurants in central Paris. The massacre was the worst Islamist terrorist attack in French history.

Questions remain after the 10-month trial, but victims’ family members and survivors praised the justice system. “I have made peace with not having truth,” a teacher who escaped the Bataclan said.

Context: The trial served as a catharsis for some survivors and families of victims, many of whom testified during five emotion-filled weeks about the devastating physical and psychological aftermath and the difficult road to recovery.

Analysis: The massacre deeply traumatized France. It continues to shape national debates over French identity, the place of Muslims in a country that identifies itself as secular, and the balance between individual liberty and collective security.

Religious unrest is spreading in India after two Muslim men filmed themselves killing a Hindu, who they said had insulted the Prophet Muhammad. The men then filmed themselves gloating and threatening Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The video has spread quickly across India, heightening concerns of violence as the schism between Hindus and Muslims in India deepens. Yesterday, the incident led to protests in the state of Rajasthan, where the attack occurred.

In response, the authorities arrested the men on terrorism charges and shut down Rajasthan’s internet. The government also deployed its counterterrorism force, saying it was “immensely concerned” because the men had threatened Modi.

Background: The events that led up to the killing of Kanhaiya Lal Teli, a Hindu tailor, began last month when a spokeswoman for Modi’s party made insulting remarks about the Prophet Muhammad. Two Muslim men were killed at a protest calling for the spokeswoman’s arrest.

Details: Teli had posted a WhatsApp status in support of the spokeswoman, which the police said had led Muslims to file a complaint against him. Teli then filed his own complaint, citing death threats. A few days later, he was killed.


Egypt is destroying historic houseboats that have lined the Nile since the 1800s. A Nobel laureate wrote a novel on one, while divas hosted debauched salons on others. Now, the floating homes appear to have fallen victim to the government’s push to modernize — and monetize.

Taika Waititi might be the busiest man in Hollywood.

He directed and co-wrote the new Marvel movie “Thor: Love and Thunder,” which opens July 8. He played Blackbeard in the new HBO Max pirate comedy series “Our Flag Means Death.” He voices a character in the new Pixar film “Lightyear.”

He is also creating two Roald Dahl projects for Netflix,” working on a handful of TV series and writing a new “Star Wars” movie for Lucasfilm, among others. And that, Waititi, 46, told the Times, is “not even mentioning the five other things that haven’t been reported on yet.”

In just a few years, he has become one of the industry’s most ingenious and reliable purveyors of escapist fare. His style is distinctive enough that it still shines through on monolithic and increasingly familiar Marvel movies.

But Waititi’s runaway résumé is also a sign of how difficult he finds it to say no. “Sometimes you’re pissed off at life,” he said, “and you’re like, ‘Why did I say yes to everything? I don’t have a social life — I’m just working.’ But then the thing comes out, you see where the hard work goes and it’s really worth it.”

Read Dave Itzkoff’s full profile of the New Zealand filmmaker.

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