Your Wednesday Briefing

A Russian solder in Melitopol, which Russia occupies. Credit…Olga Maltseva/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A prelude to annexation in Ukraine

Officials installed by Moscow in four occupied Ukrainian regions announced plans to hold “referendums” on formally joining Russia, according to the state news media. The votes, which will last five days beginning Friday, are widely seen as a precursor to annexation and a potential escalation of the war. They are also a sign of Moscow’s growing desperation.

The Kremlin signaled that if Russia were to go forward with annexation — even if no other countries recognized it — further military action by Ukraine in those regions could be seen as an attack on Russia itself, justifying any military response and allowing it to use “all the forces of self-defense,” as Dmitri Medvedev, the former Russian president, put it.

Ukraine and its backers, including the U.S., said that any supposed elections conducted by the Russian authorities would be a manipulated farce, conducted under a harsh, coercive occupation, during an ongoing war, in territory that millions of people have fled.

Background: Russia set an annexation precedent when it took control of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. That came after a referendum that was widely dismissed as a sham in the West, but which Putin has used to justify his threat that he was ready for war if Ukraine sought to retake the peninsula by force.

U.N. General Assembly: Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Emmanuel Macron, the leaders of Turkey and France, have used the gathering as a stage to cast themselves as would-be peacemakers in the war. “We need a dignified way out of this crisis,” Erdogan said.

Donald Trump has claimed that he declassified some of the seized records.Credit…Hannah Beier for The New York Times

Doubts cast by Trump special master

A federal judge, Raymond Dearie, expressed skepticism about efforts by Donald Trump’s legal team to avoid offering any proof of his claims that he had declassified sensitive documents that were seized last month from his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago. Dearie is acting as a special master reviewing the materials.

Trump has claimed that he declassified some of the seized records, but neither he nor his lawyers have made those same assertions in court, where they could face penalties for lying. Instead, they have danced a fine line, suggesting that, as president, he could declassify the documents while remaining silent on the issue of whether he actually did.

At the same time, Trump’s lawyers said that Dearie should not simply take the Justice Department’s word that some of the seized records are classified, as prosecutors claim. At his first hearing as special master, Dearie told Trump’s lawyers that he was likely to deem the documents classified — unless they offered evidence to the contrary.

Context: In addition to the documents case, Trump is facing several civil and criminal investigations into his business dealings and political activities.

Prime Minister Liz Truss of Britain is in New York this week.Credit…Pool photo by Toby Melville

A big week in British politics

After 10 days of mourning for Queen Elizabeth II, Britons have returned to normal life to confront a torrent of pressing problems. The new prime minister, Liz Truss, is attending the U.N. General Assembly in New York. At home, her government will roll out major initiatives this week to confront an array of economic and social problems.

En route to New York, Truss said Britain did not anticipate a U.S. trade deal in the “short to medium term” — an admission that some analysts said was aimed at removing the Biden administration’s leverage in pressuring Britain to resolve a dispute with the E.U. over trade in Northern Ireland and allowing Truss to take a harder line in negotiations with Brussels.

By the end of the week, Thérèse Coffey, Britain’s new health secretary, and the new chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, will outline their plans to tackle mounting pressure on health care and the economy. Kwarteng must explain how he can finance his promises to shield consumers and businesses from soaring energy costs while also cutting taxes.

Agenda: Among the government’s plans are an end to both the cap on bonuses for bankers and a moratorium on hydraulic fracking. Both are likely to prove contentious.


Around the World

Credit…Associated Press
  • Antigovernment protests erupted in cities across Iran yesterday after a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, died in the custody of the country’s morality police.

  • Egypt’s economy, which relies heavily on imported goods and foreign borrowing, has been badly battered by disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine and Covid-19.

  • Hurricane Fiona grew stronger yesterday, as parts of the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico faced potentially life-threatening flash flooding.

Other Big Stories

Credit…Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times
  • “We cannot go on like this.” The annual session of the U.N. General Assembly takes place at a time of grave upheaval, fueled by the war in Ukraine, climate change and a food crisis.

  • U.S. medical experts recommended that doctors screen all adult patients under 65 for anxiety.

  • Dozens of people have been charged with stealing $240 million from pandemic aid programs intended to feed children in Minnesota.

What Else Is Happening

  • European corporate investment in China is falling steeply and is now mostly limited to a handful of multinationals.

  • The Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, the playwright’s birthplace, has named its next artistic directors.

  • High-speed video recordings reveal that the eight arms of an octopus do not move randomly when they go in for the kill.

A Morning Read

Credit…Bradley Secker for The New York Times

In Istanbul, the elegant pavilions and summer palaces known as kasir offer a glimpse of history and an intimate and enticing slice of Ottoman life. Step into three of the most spectacular.


How Champions League games in America might work: European football is flirting with the idea of playing games overseas, but could it really happen? Would the U.S. welcome a diluted version?

Ten Hag’s impressive start to life in England: The Manchester United manager has restored order at Old Trafford by winning players’ respect, establishing a settled team and avoiding any potential fallout from the Cristiano Ronaldo saga. His employers made the right decision in avoiding Mauricio Pochettino.

Exclusive Willian interview: The Brazilian winger discusses why he decided to walk away from his lucrative Arsenal contract last summer. He also reveals his aspirations of playing until the age of 40 and details his plans to become an agent post-retirement.


A conviction, overturned

A judge in Baltimore on Monday overturned the murder conviction of Adnan Syed, whose case was at the center of the first season of the hit podcast “Serial.” Syed served 23 years in prison after being handed a life sentence for the murder of his high school classmate and onetime girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 1999. He has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

This month, prosecutors recommended that his conviction be overturned and that he be granted a new trial because, they said, “the state no longer has confidence in the integrity of the conviction.” The judge gave prosecutors 30 days to proceed with a new trial or drop the case.

Sarah Koenig, the host of “Serial,” spoke to “The Morning” newsletter about the ambiguities of the case and the influence of the podcast. “This kid goes to prison for life at 18, based on a story that wasn’t accurate,” Sarah said. “That’s what we wanted people to think about: Even setting aside the question of Adnan’s guilt or innocence, are we OK with a system that operates like that?”

Listen to a new episode of “Serial” about the latest development in the case.


What to Cook

Credit…Sarah Anne Ward for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Pamela Duncan Silver.

Make this chocolate mousse in a blender.


Works in the “universal language of butter.”


The second coming of the appletini.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Word after “nanny” and before “cheese” (four letters).

And here are today’s Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha

P.S. Jack Nicas, our Brazil bureau chief, spoke to The Times about how he manages to cover five countries.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the overturned conviction of Adnan Syed.

You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].

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