Your Thursday Briefing

A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited the plant yesterday.Credit…Andrey Borodulin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Soldiers amass near nuclear plant

Russia and Ukraine are ramping up their military forces in southern Ukraine. Now, concerns are rising about what an escalation in fighting could mean for the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the top U.N. nuclear official said yesterday.

“The situation is not improving,” said the official, Rafael Mariano Grossi, who crossed the front line to reach the Russian-controlled complex yesterday. “It is obvious that military activity is increasing in this whole region, so every possible measure and precaution should be taken so that the plant is not attacked and can be protected.”

Russian forces seized the nuclear plant — the largest in Europe — more than a year ago. They have used artillery stationed there to launch attacks on nearby towns. Grossi has warned that shelling around the plant — some of which has hit critical equipment — could lead to a catastrophic nuclear accident.

In an implicit rebuke to Russia, he said: “This is a nuclear power plant. It is not a military base. It should never be a military base.”

In the same region: A new round of explosions shook Melitopol, a Russian-occupied city that is a priority for Ukraine to retake. (The nuclear plant is around 80 miles northwest of the city.) Recapturing Melitopol would build on Ukraine’s successes late last year: The military retook Russian-occupied areas in two nearby regions, Kharkiv and Kherson.

The surrounding area: The nuclear plant lies on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, behind Russian lines. Ukrainian forces are stationed on the western shore of the river across from the plant, and they also hold ground on the east side of the river, about 35 miles from the complex.

Other updates from the war:

  • Germany promised more help to Ukraine, after lawmakers passed a spending bill that includes 8 billion euros (about $8.67 billion) of long-term military aid.

  • Russia sent a 13-year-old girl to an orphanage after her father, a Russian national, criticized the war in Ukraine.

The letter was spearheaded by Moldova and signed by its president, Maia Sandu. Credit…Vladislav Culiomza/Reuters

Leaders urge fake news crackdown

An open letter from eight prime ministers urged tech giants to take more aggressive steps to fight disinformation on their platforms. The prime ministers expressed concerns about the destabilizing effects of fake news from Russia, especially about the war in Ukraine.

Their letter called on the leaders of Meta and other companies to take action “against disinformation that undermines our peace and stability” and urged them to stamp out efforts “to weaken our support to Ukraine amid Russia’s war of aggression.” The prime ministers also called for more coordinated regulation from governments.

The State of the War

  • Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant: The former director of the facility provided a harrowing account of abuse of Ukrainian workers and careless practices by the Russians who took control of the plant.
  • Refusing to Leave Home: In the battered town of Avdiivka, as in Bakhmut and other devastated places on the front lines in Ukraine, most residents left long ago, but there are holdouts.
  • Restoring a Giant Plane: Ukraine plans to rebuild the colossal Mriya cargo plane, a symbol of pride that was destroyed in the first days of the war. But critics say there are far more pressing needs.

The national leaders called for tech companies to better self-police; devote more resources toward responding to false narratives; adjust algorithms to prioritize truthfulness over engagement; and clearly mark deepfakes and automated posts — including those produced by A.I.

“Tech platforms like yours have become virtual battlegrounds, and hostile foreign powers are using them to spread false narratives that contradict reporting from fact-based news outlets,” they wrote. Paid ads “are often used to call for social unrest, bring violence to the streets and destabilize governments,” they said.

A.I.: Tech leaders, including Elon Musk, warned that the technology could present “profound risks to society and humanity.”

Explanation: Here are ways in which chatbots can go wrong.

Pope Francis sometimes relies on an aide to help him get in and out of a wheelchair.Credit…Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

Pope Francis in the hospital

Pope Francis will be hospitalized for several days for treatment of a respiratory infection, the Vatican said. The news raises concerns about the 86-year-old pontiff’s health.

Francis has a recent history of medical challenges. He has knee problems and sciatica that have caused a severe limp and have, in recent months, often required him to use a wheelchair. In the summer of 2021, he underwent major intestinal surgery.

Background: As a young man, he also survived severe pneumonia and had part of a lung removed.

What’s next: Francis is scheduled to begin a busy series of ceremonies in the coming days, including Palm Sunday this weekend, followed by Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday on April 9.


Around the World

Credit…J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
  • In an effort to regain congressional war powers, the U.S. Senate voted to repeal decades-old war authorizations for combat operations in Iraq.

  • China threatened retaliation over the Taiwan president’s planned meeting in the U.S. with Kevin McCarthy, the speaker of the House.

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel responded defiantly to President Biden’s sharp criticism of the government’s proposed judicial overhaul.

Other Big Stories

  • Vanuatu has secured U.N. approval to ask the world’s highest court to issue an opinion on whether nations have a legal obligation to fight climate change.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has tightened his grip on India’s democracy by leaning on the judiciary to protect allies and target rivals, critics say.

  • A new DNA analysis of skeletons helped confirm oral histories of the origins of coastal Swahili society.

  • Republicans are trying to create obstacles to voting for college students, who lean Democratic.

A Morning Read

Credit…Costfoto, via Sipa USA

China once poured billions into its bid to become a player in soccer, the world’s most popular sport. A decade later, the country

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