Your Friday Briefing: A Crucial Moment in the Ukraine War

7 mins read

Good morning. We’re covering Ukraine’s fight for the Donbas and the start of Jan. 6 hearings in the U.S.

President Volodymyr Zelensky described the battle for Sievierodonetsk as a crucial moment in what is increasingly a war of attrition in eastern Ukraine. “The fate of our Donbas is being decided there,” he said.

Ukrainian forces are outgunned by the Russians. The city is burning as the sounds of gunfire echo from vicious street-by-street combat. If Sievierodonetsk and its sister city Lysychansk fall, Russia will control all of Luhansk, one of two provinces in the Donbas region.

Ukraine’s defense minister said his country “desperately needs heavy weapons, and very fast.”

Both sides are still struggling to control what Zelensky has called “dead cities” as Russian bombardment further destroys the metropolises in the east. Here are live updates.

Deaths: Ukraine is keeping its casualty numbers secret. But on the front lines, fresh graves show how relentless the fighting has become.

The House panel investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol will open public hearings in Washington to begin setting out the findings from its nearly yearlong investigation.

Lawmakers plan to start the session by presenting previously unreleased video testimony from people close to Donald Trump. They will also share footage revealing the role of the far-right group the Proud Boys in the riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

The committee intends to paint a picture of Trump at the center of a coordinated effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election that led to the attack. We have live updates.

“We’ll demonstrate the multipronged effort to overturn a presidential election, how one strategy to subvert the election led to another, culminating in a violent attack on our democracy,” said Representative Adam Schiff of California, a Democrat and a member of the committee.

Details: The first hearing begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time (that’s 8 a.m. in Hong Kong). A total of six hearings are planned for this month.

Resources: The Times has constructed an exhaustive timeline of the attack — the planning beforehand, the events at the Capitol and the preparation for the hearings.

Trump: Lawyers plan to question the former president under oath as part of a separate investigation into his business practices led by the New York State attorney general’s office.

Australia and Canada say Chinese military jets have harassed their planes in recent weeks, sometimes flying so close that the pilots could see each other.

Beijing says the maneuvers are reasonable responses to foreign military patrols that threaten its security. But the two U.S. allies worry the pilots’ actions could lead to midair collisions.

Any such mishap in the Asia Pacific could ignite an international incident at a time when tensions are rising between China and the West.

Background: In 2001, a Chinese fighter jet collided with a U.S. Navy surveillance plane, leading to tense negotiations and an apology from the U.S. Beijing has honored the fallen pilot, Wang Wei, whose confrontational way of flying is held up as a model for new Chinese pilots to emulate, an expert said.

Details: The Chinese pilots have repeatedly buzzed a Canadian plane monitoring North Korea in recent weeks, and one plane sprayed metallic chaff in the path of an Australian surveillance aircraft.

Dom Phillips, a British journalist, and Bruno Pereira, a Brazilian expert on Indigenous groups, disappeared in the Amazon after facing threats. They had gone to interview Indigenous people who patrol parts of the dense jungle plagued by illegal fishing, hunting and mining, a problem exacerbated by government budget cuts under President Jair Bolsonaro. They have not been seen since Sunday.

An upstart professional golf circuit, the LIV Series, held its first event yesterday in Britain. The tour has attracted stars including Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson to help it compete with the dominant PGA Tour.

But it has also attracted scorn because of its biggest investor: the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia. Yesterday, the PGA Tour said it had suspended the 17 players who had taken part.

Why are golfers going to LIV? The Saudis’ remarkably large purse. Mickelson was reportedly paid $200 million to join, and Johnson $150 million. The prize money for this weekend’s event alone is $25 million; Tiger Woods, by contrast, has won $120 million over his entire PGA career.

What’s the controversy? Critics have accused Saudi Arabia of using its oil profits to buy major sports organizations and sanitize its image. Mickelson lost endorsements after joining, and he acknowledged that Saudi Arabia had a “horrible record on human rights,” including the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

What is the PGA’s reaction? It has aggressively sought to thwart the Saudi tour. The PGA has said that it will discipline players who compete and that it could bar them from most major American golf events.

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

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The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the Proud Boys.

Tom Wright-Piersanti wrote today’s Arts & Ideas. You can reach Amelia and the team at

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