Wednesday, December 6, 2023
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Your Thursday Briefing

After a pair of explosions above the Kremlin early yesterday, Russia accused Ukraine of trying to assassinate Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, with a drone attack. Kyiv denied any involvement and asserted that Russia had manufactured the incident to distract attention from Ukraine’s expected imminent counteroffensive and possibly to justify an escalation of its own attacks.

Video footage showed what appeared to be two drones detonating over the Kremlin 15 minutes apart, the first shortly before 2:30 a.m. Russia called it an unsuccessful “attempt on the life of the president” by Ukraine that was foiled by Russian “electronic warfare systems” but did not release any evidence of a Ukrainian link.

A drone attack at the deeply symbolic heart of Russian power would be an audacious move by Kyiv, with the potential for serious repercussions. There were no reports of serious damage, and the Russian government said that Putin had not been in the Kremlin at the time.

U.S. intelligence: Agencies were still trying to determine what happened, according to officials. But the U.S. has in the past voiced concern that Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil could provoke Moscow without having a direct effect on the battlefield.

In other news from the war:

A seventh-grade student armed with pistols and Molotov cocktails ​shot and killed eight children and a security guard yesterday in an attack against his school in the Serbian capital, Belgrade. The boy will not be held criminally responsible for the killings because he is under the age of 14, according to the authorities in Belgrade.

The attack took place around 8:40 a.m. at the Vladislav Ribnikar primary school, in the upscale neighborhood of Vracar. The student fatally shot seven girls and one boy using two handguns, which he had taken from his father. Six children and a teacher were also injured in the attack.

The attacker, whom officials said had “showed no remorse,” has been arrested and taken to a mental health clinic. The boy’s parents were also arrested.

Quotable: “Today is one of the most difficult days in the modern history of our country,” President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia said in a speech. “Unfortunately, Serbia is united in grief.”

In the U.S.: A gunman killed one person and wounded at least four others inside a medical office building in Midtown Atlanta. A suspect has been caught by the police.

Local elections will be held across England today in a test of the popularity of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has stabilized Britain’s politics but whose Conservative Party trails the opposition Labour Party in opinion polls by double digits in the face of surging inflation, sluggish economic growth and labor unrest.

At stake are seats for around 8,000 representatives in lower tiers of government. Turnout will be far lower than at a general election, and parochial issues like planned housing developments could sway some races. Still, this may be the largest public vote between now and the next general election, which will most likely take place next year.

Keir Starmer, Labour’s leader, will need a decent result to sustain his hopes of becoming the next prime minister. Despite moving his party close to power, he has failed to excite voters. Some the most closely watched votes will be in so-called red wall areas in northern England and the Midlands, once heartlands of the Labour Party.

Timing: If the Conservatives do suffer, the prime minister has one thing going for him: On Saturday, all of the British news media’s attention will shift to the pomp and pageantry of the coronation of King Charles III.

Voter ID: Voters will, for the first time, be asked for proof of identity. The move has unleashed a political storm in Britain, where critics claim the change could reduce turnout, discourage young people from voting and disenfranchise some minority voters.

As in so many other places in Britain, devotion to the monarchy in Bristol, where the average age is around 34, runs hot and cold.

“The royal family, when I was a young girl, they were everything, and now it’s different,” one 82-year-old resident said. She added: “I don’t think we have so many people excited about the coronation now. There is that feeling of being a bit more removed.”

Lionel Messi’s run at P.S.G. ends here. It’s the right call: There is surely no way back now that Paris St.-Germain has suspended its superstar for two weeks. It could be an inspired move.

This soccer team outspent its rivals. Now it’s the worst in the Premier League: When not winning trophies, Chelsea has taken great relish in shattering the dreams of its rivals. Not anymore.

From The Times: Tori Bowie, a sprinter who won three medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and the next year won the world championship in the 100-meter dash with a stunning comeback, has died at 32.

What do Kate Bush, Missy Elliott, Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow and Rage Against the Machine have in common?

Along with George Michael and the 1970s soul group the Spinners, these acts are this year’s genre-spanning inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, voted in by more than 1,000 artists, historians and music industry professionals.

None of these musicians fit neatly into the most narrow strictures of what constitutes rock. But the genre and the institution have proved increasingly open to honoring rappers, pop singers and country artists like Dolly Parton, who attempted to remove herself from consideration last year but was voted in anyway.

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

P.S. Yes, it’s Star Wars Day. (Hint: Say “May the 4th be with you” out loud.) If marathoning the movies isn’t your thing, why not read The Times’s original reviews?

You can reach Natasha and the team at

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