Plus Japan props up the yen and Cambodia concludes its Khmer Rouge trials.
Men flee Russia, fearing draft
One day after President Vladimir Putin announced a plan to bring 300,000 civilians into military service, thousands of Russians received draft papers and boarded buses to training sites. Many others left the country in a rush, paying rising prices to catch flights to Armenia, Georgia, Montenegro and Turkey, some of the countries that allow Russians to enter without visas.
Russian officials said the call-up would be limited to people with combat experience. But one journalist said her husband, a father of five with no military experience, had been summoned.
Our reporter spoke to a 23-year-old who bought a plane ticket to Istanbul, wrapped up his business and kissed his crying mother goodbye — all within about 12 hours of Putin’s announcement. He said he has no idea when he will return. “I was sitting and thinking about what I could die for, and I didn’t see any reason to die for the country,” he said. Here are live updates.
Reaction: The E.U. is scrambling to decide how to respond. Countries are weighing security concerns against their desire to help those fleeing an unjust war.
Surveillance: The Times obtained nearly 160,000 files from Russia’s powerful internet regulator, which the government uses to find opponents and squash dissent. Compared with China, much of the work of Russian censors is done manually, but what Moscow lacks in sophistication, it has made up for in determination.
Japan props up the declining yen
Japan announced yesterday that it had intervened to prop up the value of the yen for the first time in 24 years, in an effort to stop the currency’s continuing slide against the dollar.
Yesterday, the yen passed 145 to the dollar after the U.S. Federal Reserve’s announcement on Wednesday that it would raise its policy rate by an additional three-quarters of a percentage point. The yen has lost over 20 percent of its value against the dollar over the past year, and it has been the worst performing currency among major developed economies this year.
Context: The yen’s plunge has largely been caused by Japan’s determination to keep interest rates low. The government’s intervention followed an announcement by the Bank of Japan that it would stick fast to its longstanding ultralow interest rate policy — even as most other countries have begun to follow the U.S. Federal Reserve’s increases.
Explore the World of the ‘Lord of the Rings’
The literary universe built by J.R.R. Tolkien, now adapted into a new series for Amazon Prime Video, has inspired generations of readers and viewers.
- Artist and Scholar: Tolkien did more than write books. He invented an alternate reality, complete with its own geography, languages and history.
- Being Frodo: The actor Elijah Wood explains why he’ll never be upset at being associated with the “Lord of the Rings” movie series.
- A Soviet Take: A 1991 production based on Tolkien’s novels, recently digitized by a Russian broadcaster, is a time capsule of a bygone era.
- From the Archives: Read what W.H. Auden wrote about “The Fellowship of the Ring,” the first volume of Tolkien’s trilogy, in 1954.
History: For years, a weak yen was widely seen as a boon for its export-driven economy, making Japanese products cheaper and more attractive for consumers abroad.
Elsewhere: The Bank of England raised its key interest rate by half a point to 2.25 percent yesterday, the highest level since 2008. It is the latest effort to tame high inflation.
Prosecuting the Khmer Rouge
For more than 15 years, a court in a military camp in Cambodia has been working to prosecute the crimes of the Khmer Rouge regime, which caused the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians in the late 1970s.
In its final hearing yesterday, it rejected an appeal by Khieu Samphan, 91, the fanatical communist movement’s last surviving leader, upholding his conviction and life sentence for genocide and other crimes.
Many victims think the United Nations-backed tribunal, which spent over $330 million, was a hollow exercise conducted far too long after the atrocities were committed. Only three people were convicted, and many of the Khmer Rouge’s senior figures — including its notorious top leader, Pol Pot — were long dead by the time the court was created.
Background: From 1975 to 1979, the Khmer Rouge caused the deaths of nearly a quarter of the population from execution, torture, starvation and untreated disease as it sought to abolish modernity and create an agrarian utopia.
THE LATEST NEWS
North Korea denied a U.S. intelligence report that it was selling millions of artillery shells and rockets to Russia, accusing the U.S. of spreading a “reckless” rumor.
The Malaysian businessman known as Fat Leonard, who was at the center of a U.S. Navy bribery scandal, was recaptured after he escaped house arrest two weeks ago.
Tonga’s enormous underwater volcano that erupted in January may have caused a short-term spike in global warming, scientists said.
Yoon Suk Yeol, the South Korean president, was caught on a hot mic calling U.S. lawmakers “idiots,” The Washington Post reports.
Around the World
David Malpass, the president of the World Bank, refused to acknowledge human-caused global warming earlier this week. Yesterday, he said he accepted the overwhelming scientific conclusion.
A U.S. federal appeals court allowed the Justice Department to resume using sensitive documents seized from Donald Trump in its investigation.
U.S. veterans are pushing Congress to grant Afghan evacuees a pass to residency, but some Republicans argue they pose security risks.
A deadly cholera outbreak is spreading in Syria, where millions of people, displaced by civil war, lack clean water and health care.
What Else Is Happening
Roger Federer will play the last competitive match of his career today in London.
For the first time, Catholics outnumber Protestants in Northern Island, a striking demographic shift that could eventually fuel calls to reunite Ireland.
The U.S. Senate ratified an international treaty to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, the planet-warming chemicals found in refrigerators and air-conditioners.
The U.S. is on track to break its record for guns intercepted at airport checkpoints in one year. So far 4,600 have been discovered, and nearly 90 percent are loaded.
A Morning Read
Fake news is rising in India, with a surge of disinformation after the rise of Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist prime minister. Alt News, an independent website, has emerged as a leading debunker of misinformation, such as stories about child-kidnapping gangs and Muslims spreading Covid.
But highlighting hate speech against minority groups has put it on a collision course with Modi’s government: A founder was recently arrested and is accused of spreading communal unrest.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Tolkien, for Italy’s right wing?
Italy’s national election is on Sunday. Giorgia Meloni, the hard-right politician who is the front-runner to become the country’s next prime minister, has a surprising personal manifesto.
Meloni loves “The Lord of the Rings” and sees the fantasy adventure series, written by J.R.R. Tolkien, as something of a sacred text. As a youth activist in the post-Fascist Italian Social Movement, she used to dress up as a hobbit.
That might seem like a youthful infatuation. But in Italy, “The Lord of the Rings” has informed generations of post-Fascist youth. They have looked to Tolkien’s traditionalist mythic age for symbols, heroes and creation myths free of Fascist taboos, from which they could reconstruct a hard-right identity.
Meloni, 45, said that she had learned from dwarves, elves and hobbits the “value of specificity” with “each indispensable for the fact of being particular.” She extrapolated that as a lesson about protecting Europe’s sovereign nations and unique identities.
“I think that Tolkien could say better than us what conservatives believe in,” Meloni said. “I don’t consider ‘The Lord of the Rings’ fantasy.”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
The appletini is back, and it’s ushering in a new martini era.
Now Time to Play
Play today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Even the slightest bit (five letters).
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia
P.S. Phil Pan is our next International editor. He was the first Asia editor of The Times based in Hong Kong and previously served as our Beijing bureau chief.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is on Vladimir Putin’s escalation of the war.
You can reach Amelia and the team at email@example.com.