Your Monday Briefing

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Russian artillery strikes continued yesterday near the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine, as negotiations continued to allow international inspectors to visit the complex.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, has assembled a team of experts with the hope that they will visit the plant in southern Ukraine “in the coming days,” officials said. They would assess physical damage, determine whether safety and security systems are functional and evaluate working conditions, the agency said.

But as talks continue, a potential crisis looms. Raised barrages near the factory hit towns, ammunition depots and a Russian military base in intense fighting yesterday, raising the question of whether the area will ever be safe enough to allow inspectors anywhere near the factory.

Background: Russia and Ukraine have acknowledged the risks of a possible nuclear accident at the plant, Europe’s largest power station, but neither seems to be pausing the attacks. And for weeks, the countries blame each other for firing artillery at the nuclear power plant.

Details: Ukrainian officials hastily distributed potassium iodide to tens of thousands of people living near the plant. The drug may protect people from radiation-induced thyroid cancer.

Other updates:

  • Ukraine uses retrofit equipment, such as missiles and missile systems mounted on trucks and speedboats, to win major victories against Russia.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin offered Ukrainians incentives to move to his country as part of greater efforts to integrate people living in the area it occupies.

  • During the war, Ukrainian women took on new roles, including mine clearance and combat. But they are increasingly carrying the worst of the conflict.


Finland’s 36-year-old Prime Minister Sanna Marin has been embroiled in scandal after videos of her dancing at a party were leaked this month.

The conflict, my colleague Katrin Bennhold reported from Helsinki, is at the heart of the country’s identity shift to become a beacon of progressive modernity. Some Finns are demanding Marin’s resignation, arguing that her behavior is inappropriate for a prime minister. Others see her as inspiring.

The issue has also raised the question of whether Marin is held to a different standard than older male leaders. “This hurts a certain type of older man,” said Tarja Halonen, Finland’s first female president. “They are afraid of the situation – that it is becoming more and more normal for women of all ages to take on political roles and that women are now more the rule than the exception.”

context: Even by Finnish standards, Marin is exceptionally young and her government exceptionally feminine. When she took office in 2019, at age 34, she was more than 20 years younger than her two immediate male predecessors when she took office.

Legacy: Marin has led Finland through the coronavirus pandemic with one of Europe’s lowest death rates. After Russia invaded Ukraine, she traveled to Sweden to gain support for Finland’s and Sweden’s momentous bid to join NATO.


Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic has canceled EuroPride, a week-long annual LGBTQ celebration.

“This is a violation of the rights of minorities,” Vucic acknowledged, “but right now the state is under pressure from numerous problems.” He cited tensions with Kosovo, economic problems and concerns about anti-gay protesters.

The announcement shocked the organizers, who promised to continue with the festivities, scheduled for September 12-18. They said they were willing to initiate legal proceedings and that a cancellation would violate their right to freedom of assembly and expression, as enshrined in the Serbian constitution and protected by European human rights law.

Background: EuroPride is a week-long festival that has been held in a different European city every year since 1992. More than 15,000 people, many of whom came from abroad, were said to attend the event in Belgrade, which is said to have sparked a Pride march.

context: Belgrade’s bid to host EuroPride was backed by Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, who is the first woman and the first openly gay person to hold the position. It would be Serbia’s first year to host the event.

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has staked his legacy on a new train intended to revitalize the country’s poorest region.

But the project is threatened by an explosive budget and rushed construction over fragile terrain. Even though it rages toward disaster, it refuses to slow it down.

The wildest transfer saga in football history: Portuguese midfielder Luís Figo went from hero to traitor at Barcelona when a world record transfer fee took him to rivals Real Madrid in 2000. Relive the full story.

Why are the biggest clubs in world football now spending a lot of money on players over 30? Conventional wisdom has always meant clubs scour the world in search of the best young stars for relatively cheap. But nowadays it seems there is no substitute for experience.

The humble Liverpool hero’s 100 goals: Superstars Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane have dominated the headlines, with Liverpool taking home the trophies over the past five years. But now Roberto Firmino is in the spotlight after a century of strikes.

Climate change is making the Middle East and North Africa hotter and drier. Clouds have emerged as a new battleground in the battle for freshwater.

Countries across the region are turning to “cloud seeding,” an unproven process of injecting chemicals into clouds to try to force precipitation. (The science is complicated, but the basic idea is to make water molecules so heavy that they fall like rain.)

The United Arab Emirates is the undisputed leader: after 20 years of research and experimentation, the country is carrying out its program with almost military protocols. Nine pilots are on standby, ready for meteorologists to spot a promising weather formation.

Other countries are rushing to catch up, sometimes accusing each other of stealing water. And the process is complicated, imprecise, and hotly debated in the scientific community: there are serious questions about whether the technique is generating enough rainfall to be worth the effort and expense.

That was it for today’s briefing. Thank you for participating. — Amelia

PS Azmat Khanwhose reporting was part of our Pulitzer Prize win for reporting on civilian casualties in airstrikes, joins The Times.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about US student loan forgiveness.

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