We’re covering a siege on Mariupol and Yoon Suk-yeol’s win in the South Korean election.
Mariupol under siege as Russia grows isolated
Seven days since Russian forces encircled the city, an important port on Ukraine’s southern coast, most communications with the outside world are severed and residents don’t have electricity or heat.
Russian forces appear to be laying siege to the roughly half a million people living there with overwhelming and indiscriminate firepower, forcing many to live in dire conditions. “There are just bodies lying in the streets,” one resident told The Times.
Efforts to negotiate a cease-fire to give civilians a chance to escape have failed repeatedly. For three days, the prospect of relief reaching the city though a “humanitarian corridor” fell apart in a hail of mortar and artillery fire.
With more than 98 percent of the votes counted, Yoon was 0.8 percentage points ahead of Lee, the tightest race since South Korea began holding free presidential elections in 1987.
The race between the two men had been so plagued by scandals and mudslinging that it was called a contest between “unlikables.” More than three-quarters of South Koreans cast their vote, rivaling voter turnout from the country’s last presidential election in 2017.
The election was widely seen as a referendum on President Moon Jae-in, who pushed for engagement with North Korea. Washington and South Korea’s neighbors closely watched the election, because Yoon could upend Moon’s policy on North Korea.
President-elect: Yoon is an outsider with no political experience who rose to prominence as a prosecutor in both conservative and liberal administrations. His party had been in disarray following the impeachment of its former boss, ex-President Park Geun-hye, who was convicted of corruption. Yoon, an anti-corruption crusader, helped imprison Park.
Foreign policy: Yoon has vowed to align South Korea more closely with its traditional ally, the U.S., and to upend what he called the current government’s “partial to China” foreign policy.
Hong Kong’s outbreak persists
With nearly 600,000 cases recorded so far in Hong Kong’s current coronavirus outbreak, officials have been rushing to build temporary isolation facilities and makeshift hospitals with the help of Chinese companies.
Hong Kong authorities have vowed to test all 7.4 million residents. Such an operation would almost certainly require restrictions on people’s movements, but the government has been ambiguous on whether a lockdown will happen.
The possibility has set residents scrambling to fill their homes with necessities, and left them wondering: Will we be sent into isolation facilities? Will our children be taken from us if they test positive?
Data: In Hong Kong, the daily fatality rate from the virus is averaging about three deaths per 100,000 residents, which is currently the world’s highest, according to New York Times data — largely because many older Hong Kongers are unvaccinated.
Context: Residents have been alarmed by the government’s approach to children who test positive, which has included isolating young children from their families. Foreign governments have also responded with concern; the U.S. warned of familial separation during travel.
In other developments:
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ARTS AND IDEAS
Returning the Benin Bronzes
The Smithsonian Institution plans to return most of its collection of 39 Benin Bronzes to Nigeria, a sweeping move that would punctuate a monthslong institutional review of its collection practices.
The name Benin Bronzes encompasses a variety of artifacts including brass plaques, carved elephant tusks and wooden heads. Some were stolen from what is now Nigeria during the British Army’s 1897 raid on the ancient kingdom of Benin.
The Smithsonian has legal title to the items, but it plans to give up ownership and ship the pieces to Nigeria at its own expense. Some may remain in or return to Washington on a long-term loan.
“We’ve long been entirely comfortable that if we had legal title to an object, then certainly we were entitled to keep it and care for it,” said Kevin Gover, the under secretary for museums and culture at the Smithsonian. But now, he added, “we’re going beyond legal title and asking, Should we own this, knowing the circumstances under which it came into our ownership?”