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Your Monday Briefing: Russian Troops Mass in East Ukraine

todayApril 10, 2022 1

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We’re covering U.S. warnings of a Russian assault in eastern Ukraine and the results from the first round of France’s presidential election.

Russian troops are expected to carry out a major offensive from the city of Izium to Dnipro, a strategic target in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, according to U.S. military officials.

In anticipation of the assault, Ukrainian volunteer bus drivers were helping to evacuate residents to safety. Russian shelling destroyed the Dnipro airport on Sunday, the regional governor said.

After withdrawing its forces from the areas surrounding Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, Russia is focusing its military campaign on the Donbas, aiming to capture territory and create a land corridor to Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

To shore up its offensive, Russia appointed Gen. Aleksandr Dvornikov on Saturday as the top battlefield commander in Ukraine. Dvornikov oversaw Russian forces in Syria’s war and is accused of ordering strikes on civilian neighborhoods there.

Leaders: Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Saturday and went for a walkabout with President Volodymyr Zelensky. The Austrian chancellor, Karl Nehammer, who also visited Ukraine over the weekend, said he would meet with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow today.

Flee or fight: Thousands of Ukrainian men of military age have left the country to avoid participating in the war. Many say they feel guilty and ashamed.

The enemy within: With Putin’s direct encouragement, Russians who support the war are starting to denounce those who do not.

President Emmanuel Macron secured about 28.5 percent of the vote in the first round of France’s presidential election on Sunday, ahead of Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader, who picked up 24.2 percent, according to projections based on preliminary ballot counts.

Macron and Le Pen will now move to a runoff election on April 24. Follow our live updates.

Le Pen’s strong performance demonstrated the enduring appeal of nationalist and xenophobic currents in Europe.

Le Pen has softened her tone, if not her anti-immigrant stance. She has given the impression of being closer to the day-to-day concerns of French people, especially with regard to sharply rising gas prices and inflation.

Despite steering France through the coronavirus crisis, bringing unemployment to its lowest level in a decade and lifting growth, Macron has appeared disengaged, his attention focused on the war in Ukraine rather than on domestic issues. His refusal to debate other candidates has irked some voters.

Mood: Three hours before the polls were scheduled to close, voter turnout was 65 percent, the lowest in a French presidential election since 2002. Many voters said they felt disillusioned.

What’s at stake: The possibility of France lurching toward a xenophobic and nationalistic position from a Le Pen victory would be a shock as great as the British vote for Brexit in 2016 or the U.S. election of Donald Trump in the same year.

Pakistan was headed for an early election after Imran Khan, the former cricket star, lost a no-confidence vote in Parliament on Sunday.

Analysts expect the opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif to serve as interim prime minister until the election, likely in October. Khan has shown no signs of backing down and is expected to run again.

Elected in 2018, Khan was removed after failing to get the economy back on track and, perhaps most crucially, apparently losing the support of the country’s powerful military.

While no prime minister in Pakistan has ever completed a full five-year term in office, Khan was the first to be removed in a no-confidence vote.

A mixed record: Analysts said that Khan over-promised, backing often contradictory policies: He supported a deregulated, free-market economy but also a welfare state. His foreign policy decisions became a point of contention: He sought to shift away from the U.S. and closer to China and Russia.

When Australia closed its borders at the outset of the pandemic, thousands of its citizens were stuck abroad. Isabella Kwai, our reporter from the London bureau, recently made a long-awaited homecoming. She wondered how she would fit into the pandemic-altered country.

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todayApril 10, 2022