Your Thursday Briefing – The New York Times

Russia is building a vast network of trenches, traps and obstacles to try to stem Ukraine’s push to war, with new structures being built in a matter of days, according to a Times analysis of satellite radar data . The fortifications, often built near natural obstacles such as rivers, are designed to slow down Ukrainian vehicles and force them into predetermined positions where Russian forces can target them.

Trenches are not new to Ukraine. Trench warfare has long been a feature of the battle for the Donbas region in the eastern part of the country. The Ukrainians are fighting from their own trenches on their side of the line near Popasna, where the Russians aim to dislodge Ukrainian troops from the town of Bakhmut. But the pace and scale of Russian construction in recent months is unmatched.

The fortifications could hold back Ukraine’s military, but they are only effective if they are properly manned by Russian troops, experts say. “These are just holes in the ground unless they are in the hands of motivated and disciplined soldiers who are supported by artillery, mobile reserves and logistics,” one analyst said.

On the ground: Russia remains on the offensive near Bakhmut, pounding it with artillery and gradually gaining ground east and south of the city over the past two weeks. The new construction offers several defensible positions to retreat to, should the Ukrainians counterattack.

In other war news:

  • Paul Whelan, an American detained in Russia on espionage charges, has no clear path to release, despite being arrested long before two other Americans who have since been released.

With a triple whammy of cold weather, an early snowfall and crippling strikes across multiple industries, Britain faces what the London tabloids have described as another winter of discontent.

Among those on strike are postal and railway workers; up to 100,000 nurses; driving test examiners in motor vehicle departments; baggage handlers; bus drivers; road equipment; and employees of energy companies. Newspapers have started publishing color-coded calendars to help readers keep track of which services will be disrupted on which date.

The proliferation of labor unrest has drawn comparisons with the original Winter of Discontent in 1978-79, when public and private sector strikes paralyzed the country, eventually toppling the Labor government and ushering in a decade of Conservative rule under Margaret Thatcher . Today, the unions are not as strong as they once were, but the political danger to the current Conservative government is still acute.

A sea of ​​problems: Rishi Sunak, Britain’s prime minister, faces a plethora of other problems: double-digit inflation, rising interest rates and recession. Speaking to British media, he said he plans to introduce anti-strike legislation next year and that it is “not right” to cause “so much misery and disruption” at Christmas time.

In a closely watched semi-final, France beat Morocco, dashing the hopes of millions of Arab and African fans with a 2-0 win. “At some level, this will always be Morocco’s World Cup,” writes Rory Smith, our chief football correspondent, “the one that made it a trailblazer, a record, a watermark that never it will fade.”

It was a match that went far beyond mere sport: France ran a protectorate in Morocco from 1912 until 1956, when Morocco gained independence. France has an uneasy relationship with its North African population, although the two countries maintain mostly cordial relations.

Morocco’s magical run at the tournament has thrilled fans – they were the first Arab or African team to reach the semi-finals. France stepped up in the second half, when they scored another goal. Now, despite its loss, Morocco has become the champion of the world’s colonized against the world’s colonizers.

Over a period of decades, hundreds of children were secretly buried under the yard of an Irish home for single mothers in Tuam, County Galway.

For years after their discovery, the children’s bones remained in the ground as Ireland embarked on a years-long odyssey to solve: a painful journey of investigation, self-recrimination, bureaucratic delay, evasion and pain. Now, a resolution is finally coming.

World Cup final set: Heavyweights France and Argentina meet on Sunday, pitting the present and future faces of football against each other. It will be Lionel Messi’s last chance to lift the trophy, while 23-year-old Kylian Mbappé could be in line for his second.

It’s fine to debate whether Messi is the best: football it’s a game of opinions, until you dare to talk about comparing grains. This column insists you ignore the naysayers.

Croatia and Morocco have shown that World Cups cannot be bought: In an era of club football dominated by the wealthy, the success of less lavish nations at this year’s World Cup is a refreshing change.

From the Times: Sportswriter Grant Wahl, who died suddenly in Qatar, had a tear in his ascending aorta, which caused an aneurysm, according to an autopsy performed in New York.

In “Great Expectations,” which opens on Broadway today, British actor and comedian Eddie Izzard plays the orphan Pip, the abandoned Miss Havisham, the seductive Estella, the desperate Magwitch and about fifteen others, from done, every part.

And while the play, an adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel, is not explicitly a comic tale, “Izzard pulls moments of levity out of thin air,” writes Lauren Collin-Hughes, bringing “his own humor from arc to a multi-character character.” .. technique” that Izzard attributes to the comedian Richard Pryor, a virtuoso of the multitudinous solo scene.

At 60 years old, Izzard is ready to go deeper and to show what she’s capable of. “Drama is something I’ve always wanted to do from the beginning, and I just came a long way to get there,” she said. Recently he is preparing a solo “Hamlet” with Selina Cadell, the director of “Great Expectations”.

Izzard prefers his pronouns but said the decision was taken out of his hands after a TV presenter asked him which one he would prefer. “I said, ‘Ahh, oh, her,'” she said. “I had been thinking about changing them. And then the show came out and the whole world changed them.” It was, she said, “a great honor.”

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