The New York Times - Monday Briefing: Putin extends his rule

Also, new avenues to get aid into Gaza are not yet relieving hunger.
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Morning Briefing: Asia Pacific Edition

March 18, 2024

Author Headshot

By Amelia Nierenberg

Writer, Briefings

Good morning. We’re covering Russia’s elections and the aid deliveries to Gaza.

Plus, Afghan women in the U.S. learn to drive.

People waiting in line outdoors.
Voters lined up outside a polling station in Moscow at noon yesterday, part of a protest against Vladimir Putin. Nanna Heitmann for The New York Times

Putin extends his rule after a predetermined vote

President Vladimir Putin claimed another six-year term in a presidential contest in which he faced no real competition. He is expected to hold a Red Square rally to formally declare victory — and to portray the vote as a public endorsement of his invasion of Ukraine.

Here’s the latest.

Some Russians quietly registered their dissent yesterday. They turned the rubber-stamp election into a startling protest: Many formed long lines at polling stations to register their discontent with Putin as he prepared to take his fifth term as president.

Aleksei Navalny, the opposition leader who died in prison last month, had urged his supporters to vote at noon local time. Lines formed quickly at polling stations in major cities, and several people in Moscow told The Times that they had come to express their support for Navalny.

One woman, who gave her name as Dayana, 22, said she was heartened to stand among fellow Putin critics and feel “that I am not alone, that there are a lot of us.”

But there was no sign that the protest would deter Putin, who has ruled Russia since 1999. He extended his rule until 2030 and, if he serves until the end of his next term, will have the longest tenure of any Russian leader since Catherine the Great in the late 1700s.

A predetermined outcome: Even Putin’s spokesman said last year that the elections were “not really democracy,” but “costly bureaucracy.” In the occupied regions of Ukraine, armed soldiers watched people vote for president.

What’s next: Many fear that a new wave of mobilization may soon follow the election.

Updates from the war:

People standing on a beach and looking at a ship in the sea.
A barge with about 200 tons of humanitarian aid off of Gaza last week. Mohammed Hajjar/Associated Press

With aid limited, malnutrition persists in Gaza

A maritime shipment of aid reached northern Gaza’s shores this weekend, the first to do so in nearly two decades, and another batch of aid is expected to depart from Cyprus soon.

But experts and aid groups said that diversifying the methods of delivery had not relieved hunger and widespread malnutrition. They said that the main method should be over land, and that the best way to stave off a famine was a cease-fire.

There could be some movement toward a pause in fighting after Hamas softened a demand for a permanent cease-fire. The new proposal would allow the release of hostages in exchange for a phased pullback of Israeli troops.

Risks: On Thursday, an attack near aid trucks in Gaza killed at least 20 people. Gazan officials accused Israel of a “targeted” attack; Israel blamed Palestinian gunmen. The U.N. human rights office has documented 10 attacks this month on Gazans waiting for aid.

The U.S.: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Senator Chuck Schumer’s criticism yesterday: “We’re not a banana republic.”

A man in a suit stands in front of metal shelves holding several plaques.
Di Sanh Duong said he saw himself and his community as a bridge between Australia and China. Abigail Varney for The New York Times

Did Australia catch a Chinese spy?

In 2020, Di Sanh Duong became the first person charged under Australia’s foreign interference laws. Late last month, he was sentenced to almost three years in prison, although he is expected to serve a year.

In the case, the government fought Duong, a suburban tombstone maker, over interpretations of two words (“us Chinese”), and a $25,000 donation to a hospital that — prosecutors said — would at some point have become the basis for a pro-China pitch to a lawmaker. The question at stake: Was Duong a savvy operator for Beijing, or merely a bombastic braggart?

In his only in-depth interview since his arrest, Duong — who is ethnically Chinese — told The Times that he was a scapegoat of geopolitical tensions, saying his prosecution was intended to send a message: “Don’t walk too close to China.”

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MORE TOP NEWS

Reddish-orange lava flows and smoke billows during a volcanic eruption.
Icelandic authorities declared a state of emergency as lava threatened infrastructure. Icelandic Coast Guard, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • Iceland: A volcano erupted with little notice on a peninsula near Reykjavik. It was likely the most powerful in a series of eruptions that started in December.
  • Senegal: The presidential candidate of the main opposition party, as well as its powerful founder, were released from jail 10 days before a national election.
  • Haiti: More than half of the hospitals in the capital and a neighboring region are closed or not at full capacity because of violence and looting.
  • India: A data dump has revealed the fuzzy lines between money and politics. “This is independent India’s biggest scandal,” an opposition leader said.
  • New York City: A man was shot during an argument on the subway last week, even after the governor deployed the National Guard to patrol the system.
  • Chile: A lack of water hampered efforts to fight the deadly wildfires last month.

U.S. Election

  • Trial: A judge delayed Donald Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial, set to begin this month, until at least mid-April.
  • Trump: He doubled down on his claim that immigrants were “poisoning the blood” of U.S., a day after he said some migrants were “not people.” His language echoes Hitler’s statements.
  • Fund-raising: President Biden’s campaign has a significant cash advantage over Trump’s.

MORNING READ

A GIF shows a man in the passenger seat of a car holding the wheel with one hand to steady it, as the driver grips the wheel with two hands while learning to drive.
Rachel Bujalski for The New York Times

An 82-year-old retired professor in California found a new calling — offering free driving lessons to women from Afghanistan. His waiting list is 50 deep, and he sometimes teaches five back-to-back classes, some up to two hours long.

“Our life changed completely,” one student said after she and her sister passed their road tests.

The Australia Letter: The country devotes substantial time and resources to managing feral cats. Domestic ones are a trickier issue.

Conversation Starters

  • Perilous pet: Authorities seized a blind alligator from a New York man who had kept it for 34 years and had allowed people to be in the pool with it.
  • Beware: A potentially hazardous cat may be wandering around Fukuyama, Japan. (It fell into a chemical tank.)
  • Discover: A treasure hunter found a Viking sword in an English waterway. It is probably more than 1,000 years old.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this newsletter, which is made possible through subscriber support. Subscribe to The New York Times.

ARTS AND IDEAS

Phoebe Philo, in the blue bomber, sits at the table, her head resting in her hand. She appears deep in thought,
Phoebe Philo in London. Charlotte Hadden for The New York Times

Phoebe Philo’s first interview

The British designer Phoebe Philo, who has been called “the Chanel of her generation,” transformed both Chloé and Celine. Then she walked away from the industry almost seven years ago and pretty much dropped out of sight.

Late last year, Philo returned to start a brand in her name. Sky-high expectations faltered amid complaints about the prices, the vision and the impossible return policy. As she prepared for her second drop, she spoke with our chief fashion critic in her first formal interview in a decade.

“There may have been an expectation that I could have provided everything to everyone immediately,” Philo said. “And that’s just not possible. It takes time and effort to make most things that have meaning. One has to stand for something.”

RECOMMENDATIONS

An oval Dutch oven holds glossy bourbon-braised beef with carrots and herbs.
Armando Rafael for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Cyd Raftus McDowell.

Braise: Bourbon adds complexity to a beef dish.

Listen: Check out these nine new songs.

Daydream: These homes in Paris cost $1.5 million.

Garden: A cheap tool may speed up weeding.

Play Spelling Bee, the Mini Crossword, Wordle and Sudoku. Find all our games here.

That’s it for today. See you tomorrow. — Amelia

Questions? Comments? Email us at briefing@nytimes.com.

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