Your Friday Briefing – The New York Times

Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, said yesterday that it needed more time to begin a counteroffensive against Russia because Ukraine’s forces are still waiting for military equipment promised by the West. “We’d lose a lot of people,” he said. “I think that’s unacceptable. So we need to wait. We still need a bit more time.”

For months, Ukraine’s political and military leaders have been signaling that they are preparing a major push to retake territory seized by Russia since it invaded last year, though they have not said precisely when or where the blow would come.

Analysts said that Zelensky’s remarks might be intended to pressure Ukraine’s allies to ramp up deliveries, to lower expectations for the counteroffensive or to confuse the Kremlin about Kyiv’s intentions. Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner private militia, said that the Ukrainian counteroffensive was already underway in the Donbas.

The latest: Ukrainian forces have made gains around Bakhmut this week for the first time since March, commanders on both sides have said, but it is unclear whether those reflect opportunistic, small-scale attacks or the start of something bigger.

In other news from the war:

Three days before crucial presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s chances of securing a swift victory have narrowed after one of his challengers left the race. The move is likely to benefit Erdogan’s main competitor, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who is backed by a coalition of six opposition parties.

The elections, seen by some as a make-or-break moment for Turkish democracy, will set the future course for Turkey, a major economy at the intersection of Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and a NATO ally of the U.S. If Kilicdaroglu obtains a simple majority, Erdogan’s 20-year streak as Turkey’s most prominent politician would come to a sudden end.

The election could also alter Turkey’s foreign affairs. Under Erdogan, the country has pursued a nonaligned foreign policy that has unnerved its NATO allies. Although Turkey condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and has sent aid to the Ukrainian military, Erdogan has also pursued a closer relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, and hobbled efforts to expand NATO.

Context: At home, Erdogan’s standing has sunk, primarily because of extremely high inflation that has eaten into family budgets. Many economists attribute the inflation, which exceeded 80 percent last year, to ill-advised financial policies.

The Israeli military and Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian militant group in Gaza, traded fire yesterday amid mounting tensions in the region. Israel stepped up its campaign of targeted assassinations of Islamic Jihad commanders, killing two more to take the toll to five in three days. An effort by Egypt and other regional powers to bring about a cease-fire is underway.

The cross-border exchanges started out less intense than on Wednesday, but by evening, Islamic Jihad was firing longer-range rockets in apparent retaliation for Israel’s targeted assassinations. A powerful blast on a residential building in Israel severely damaged apartments on three floors, sending shards of window frames and glass onto the road.

Toll: At least 29 Palestinians have been killed this week, six of them children, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. The ministry said that more than 90 Palestinians had also been wounded. And in Israel, one man was killed and five people were injured after a rocket fired from Gaza struck a residential building, according to Israel’s ambulance service.

More than a year into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Western sanctions have damaged Russia’s economy but not crippled it. And though most of the West’s leading electronics, automobile and luxury brands announced last year that they were pulling out of Russia, their products are still widely available to Russia’s elites, via inventive, border-crossing workarounds.

“The wealthy people always stay wealthy,” one worker at a luxury car showroom in Dubai said. The war, she added, “did not affect them.”

The 20-year-old soccer player compared to Messi: Florian Wirtz, Bayer Leverkusen’s supremely talented No. 10, is back from an injury and is making up for lost time.

J.J. Watt on the advice he got from Ryan Reynolds and why he’s investing in soccer: The former N.F.L. star talks about his plan for the English club Burnley and why he thinks retirement is exhausting.

This weekend, millions of viewers in Europe and beyond will be glued to the Eurovision Song Contest, a glitzy, campy celebration of pop music. Acts from three dozen countries will perform original songs, with viewers voting for their favorites.

Known now as a sprawling television extravaganza, Eurovision began in 1956 as a way of uniting Europe after World War II. As it has grown — and expanded beyond Europe, with entries from Israel and Australia — the contest has often reflected wider political and social issues.

Last year, the Ukrainian act Kalush Orchestra won with an upbeat track that mixed rap and traditional folk music. Ukraine’s act this year, the pop duo Tvorchi, will perform a song inspired by the soldiers who fought to defend the now-ruined city of Mariupol. They spoke with The Times about rehearsing for the contest amid air-raid sirens.

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