Your Tuesday briefing: Russia steps up attacks on civilians

We cover civilians in Ukraine caught up in escalating attacks and new research warns of a less resilient Amazon rainforest.

Russian forces are stepping up their indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets and besieging towns across Ukraine. Fears are growing over the fate of thousands of Ukrainians trapped in cities without heat or sufficient food.

On Monday, 202 schools, 34 hospitals and more than 1,500 residential buildings have been destroyed since the start of the war, while nearly 1,000 towns and villages are completely without electricity, water and heating, according to an adviser. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukraine has rejected a Kremlin proposal to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people to Russia and its ally Belarus. Russian forces have continued to shell the so-called evacuation corridors, where civilians are trying to flee. Follow our live updates.

At dawn, Russian forces launched a fierce artillery attack on the southern city of Mykolaiv, hitting residential neighborhoods with rockets. By evening the guns had died down and Ukrainian officials said their forces had once again repelled the Russian onslaught.

Just a month ago, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Putin met in Beijing and said their countries’ friendship had “no limits”. Less than three weeks later, Russia invaded Ukraine in the kind of unilateral military intervention that China has long denounced.

Now Xi is in a tough spot as he seeks a groundbreaking third term as party leader. After initially appearing sympathetic to Moscow’s security demands, China has sought to soften its tone, expressing grief over civilian casualties and calling for an end to the war.

A Western intelligence report concluded that Chinese officials told the Russians not to invade during the Olympics, although it is unclear whether Putin directly informed Xi of his plans. Either way, Xi’s warm embrace of Putin may have encouraged Putin to bet on a war in Ukraine.

Other international benefits: Bari, Italy, home to relics revered by Orthodox Christians across the former Soviet bloc, is facing a spillover of tensions following the Russian invasion.

The Amazon is approaching a critical threshold beyond which much of it will be replaced by grassland, with far-reaching consequences for global climate change, scientists have reported.

A new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change has found that more than three-quarters of intact rainforest has lost resilience since 2000, and the loss was greatest in areas that are drier or closer to human activities such as ‘lumbering. The researchers who led the study said their findings show that efforts to halt deforestation will affect the resilience of the Amazon as a whole.

About 17% of the Amazon has been deforested over the past half century. If the trend continues, the loss of rainforest could add up to 90 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, the equivalent of several years of global emissions. Savannahs would also absorb much less carbon than the tall, broad-leaved trees they replace.

Quoteable: We must achieve zero deforestation, zero forest degradation,” said Carlos Nobre, senior scientist at the National Amazon Research Institute. “We still have a chance to save the forest.”

Other climate news: The Biden administration has proposed tough new limits on pollution from buses, delivery vans and other heavy trucks.

Burundian percussion is a global phenomenon, featured in blockbuster films and hit albums. But back home, the authorities restricted him to official duties – and banned women from performing.

If you are lactose intolerant, there are now many other options for you. Grocery stores are selling milk made from soy, almonds, coconut, oats and even potatoes, and the trend isn’t slowing down, writes Victoria Petersen in The New York Times.

Plant milks have been around for a long time. Coconut milk has been used for centuries in Southeast Asia, South America and the Caribbean, and almond milk has been a staple ingredient in North Africa, Europe and the Middle East for nearly 1 000 years. But the growing popularity of vegetarian and vegan diets has made it big business: in 2020, plant-based milks accounted for 15% of all retail milk sales.

“Living in a metropolitan center like London, I don’t need to drink milk from cows, goats or any other animal,” said Sarah Bentley, who runs a plant-based cooking school. His favorites: hemp milk, for its low environmental impact, and oat milk enriched with vitamins B and D for his son.

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