Your Thursday Briefing: U.S. believes Ukrainians were behind a killing in Russia

Plus arming Taiwan to deter China and OPEC cuts oil production
Author Headshot

By Daniel E. Slotnik

Metro Reporter

Salutations. We’re covering Ukraine’s possible involvement in an assassination in Russia, U.S. efforts to arm Taiwan and OPEC’s cut in oil production.

Daria Dugina’s memorial service was held in Moscow in August.Kirill Kudryavtsev/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

U.S. believes Ukrainians authorized an assassination in Russia

U.S. intelligence agencies believe that parts of the Ukrainian government signed off on the car bomb attack near Moscow in August that killed Daria Dugina, the daughter of a prominent Russian nationalist.

An assessment about Ukrainian complicity was shared within the U.S. government last week and has not been previously reported. Specifics about the operation remained scant: American officials did not disclose which elements of the Ukrainian government were believed to have authorized the mission, who carried out the attack or whether President Volodymyr Zelensky had cleared it.

Ukraine has denied involvement in the assassination. Senior Ukrainian officials repeated those denials when asked about the American intelligence assessment.

American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the U.S. did not provide intelligence or otherwise assist in the attack. They added that the American government would have opposed the assassination if it had been consulted, and that Ukraine was admonished for it.

Background: Some American officials suspect that Dugina’s father, Aleksandr Dugin, a Russian ultranationalist, was the actual target of the operation, and that the operatives who carried it out believed he would be in the vehicle with his daughter.

Context: Ukraine’s security services have demonstrated their ability to attack collaborators on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine. But killing Dugina would be one of the boldest operations to date and could provoke Moscow to carry out retaliatory strikes against Ukrainian officials, for little direct military gain.

The U.S. has approved several weapons packages for Taiwan, which conducted military exercises in July.Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

The U.S. aims to arm Taiwan

Current and former American officials said that the U.S. was intensifying efforts to build a giant stockpile of weapons in Taiwan, turning it into a “porcupine” bristling with armaments to discourage aggression from mainland China.

Chinese naval and air force exercises in August showed that China would probably blockade Taiwan before attempting an invasion, and the democratically governed island would have to hold its own until the U.S. or other nations intervened, if they decided to.

Smaller, maneuverable weapons systems could be critical to Taiwan’s endurance, and U.S. officials are quietly pushing Taiwanese officials to order more of them. Many of the weapons that could bolster Taiwan’s defenses are going to Ukraine, and arms makers are reluctant to set up new production lines without long-term orders.

Background: China has long sought to control Taiwan, which it considers part of its territory, and the U.S. has worked to help the island without enraging Beijing. President Biden said last month that the U.S. was “not encouraging” Taiwan’s independence, but he has also said that the U.S. would defend the island if China attacks.

Context: The Biden administration announced last month that it had approved a $1.1 billion weapons sale to Taiwan, and officials are discussing how to streamline the sale-and-delivery process. Getting weaponry through a Chinese blockade could risk setting off a confrontation between China and the U.S.

The European Union hopes to curb the revenue that Russia earns from oil sales.Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times

OPEC and Russia agree to cut oil production

The oil industry cartel and its allies, including Russia, approved a drop in oil production of two million barrels a day to shore up prices.

The production drop will most likely make Russia’s oil even more valuable on the world market, and complicates Western plans to impose a price cap on Russian oil, an important measure to drain funding for President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

The decision came after Biden administration officials spent more than a week trying to minimize production cuts by oil-producing countries in the Middle East.

Analysis: The cut of two million barrels a day represents about 2 percent of global oil production during a time of reduced global demand. Stock prices dropped and the national average price of gasoline in the U.S. rose for the 15th consecutive day, to $3.83 a gallon.

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ARTS AND IDEAS

The idiotic genius of “Beavis and Butt-Head”

Critics have largely focused on animated shows like “The Simpsons” while sidelining “Beavis and Butt-Head,” Mike Judge’s 1990s cartoon about two teenage numbskulls who mock music videos. But overlooking the popular MTV program is a mistake, writes Jason Zinoman, The Times’s new critic at large.

“Can I explain why Beavis pulling his T-shirt over his blond bouffant and declaring himself the Great Cornholio made me laugh louder than anything Bart Simpson has ever done?” Zinoman writes. “No, but it’s true. Sometimes life (and thus comedy) is stupid.”

“Beavis and Butt-Head” stuck to plots that Zinoman called “pointedly indifferent.” The result was humor that felt effortless, unaffected and, to many, moronic — but still hilarious. But the heart of the show was them watching and commenting on music videos. For Zinoman, then a budding critic, watching the program was “essentially watching the performance of criticism.”

Paramount+ has made a major investment in the show, putting old seasons online and rolling out a new movie and a reboot. The new show maintains the imbecility of the original, though some episodes, alas, have more developed plots.

PLAY, WATCH, EAT

What to Cook
Armando Rafael for The New York Times

This pulled pork recipe is saucy, satisfying and easy enough to pull off for dinner whenever you want.

What to Watch

The Octonauts” is one of the first TV shows to teach very young children about climate change.

What to Listen To

Here are five minutes that will make you love bebop.

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Shakespeare play with the line “To thine own self be true.” (6 letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

Thank you for reading today’s briefing. Have a great day. — Dan

P.S. Livia Albeck-Ripka will become a reporter for The Times’s Express team.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on flooding in Pakistan.

You can reach Dan and the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

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