Your Thursday Briefing: Six Months of War in Ukraine

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Six months of war in Ukraine

The largest land war in Europe since World War II has sown horror for six months. Military losses have been heavy for both sides, and civilian casualties in Ukraine could be in the tens of thousands; there are now 6.6 million refugees from the war.

The anniversary fell on Ukraine’s Independence Day, which the country celebrated with quiet resolve. A missile strike on a railway station in central Ukraine killed at least 15 people, but a feared escalation of attacks by Moscow did not immediately materialize.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, now controls about 20 percent of Ukraine. But he appears as far as ever from bringing it back into Russia’s fold — and there is little indication that he is prepared to stop fighting. It is also unclear what sort of deal he would accept to end the war. Here is how the conflict appears to the combatants, and to a continent plunged into turmoil.

Ukraine: Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine was a nation “reborn” in conflict with a renewed sense of cultural and political identity, now wholly separate from Russia, and that it had united democracies around the world with a new sense of purpose. “Every new day is a new reason not to give up,” he said.

Russia: After half a year of war, Russia is both stunningly different and shockingly unchanged. Putin has silenced most dissent, and many Russians have been able to ignore the war, since Putin has resisted calls to put Russia on a war footing and his government has succeeded in largely blunting the impact of economic sanctions.

Allies: European solidarity with Ukraine is holding despite significant strains from the cost of economic sanctions, but the war is increasingly being seen as an American-led struggle. President Biden announced nearly $3 billion more of arms and equipment for Ukraine.

Climate change threatens India’s milk industry

India, the world’s largest producer of milk, relies on 80 million farmers to generate more than 200 million tons every year, mostly for domestic use.

But those oceans of milk are growing more difficult to produce, and more expensive to buy, largely because of climate change. Wilting heat came earlier and lingered longer this year than usual, which scientists found stressed cattle and created a decline in milk yield of 11 percent. Erratic rainfall and extreme weather exacerbated an already troubling fodder deficit.

A majority of India’s dairy farmers are small producers, and a lot of the heat-mitigation measures they’ve long relied on, such as shared village ponds, are no longer tenable because of water shortages and pollution.

What’s next: Scientists at the National Dairy Research Institute have conducted studies to help address the issue, including one on developing new breeds of buffalo — nearly half the country’s milk comes from buffaloes, which have proved more able to adapt to heat than crossbred cattle — and another on using new shrubs for protein content. Some scientists are even playing flute music to see whether it relaxes the bovines.

Quotable: “We have to find the ways to make the animal stress-free,” said Dr. Ashutosh, who goes by one name and leads a team of scientists studying the issue. “Only then we can make them resilient.”

Fertility in South Korea hits another record low

South Korea broke its own record for the world’s lowest total fertility rate, which dropped for the sixth year in a row to 0.81 in 2021. Census data reflects problems present and future, including widespread economic anxiety preventing young adults from having children and a looming shortage of workers to pay into the pension system.

By comparison, the fertility rate — the average number of children born to a woman during her reproductive years — was 1.66 in the U.S. and 1.37 in Japan. A fertility rate of 2.1 is needed for a population to remain the same size without migration.

The implications of the low fertility rate in South Korea are already being felt. The population has shrunk in the past two years. Schools have faced shortages of students, the military has expanded eligibility requirements for conscripts and the dwindling number of working-age people has imperiled the pensions of retirees.

What’s next: South Korea may see a serious labor shortage by the mid-2030s, and within three or four generations the population could decline drastically. The prospect of a shrinking work force has put the country at the forefront of developing robots and artificial intelligence for the workplace.

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A K-pop superstar shares his love of art

When RM, the leader of the South Korean boy band BTS, isn’t performing in a packed stadium, he can often be found at art fairs, museums or shows — or, when he’s tired or let down, having a conversation with the art on his walls.

RM, 27, has been a supporter and collector of fine art since he was captivated by Seurat and Monet paintings during an impromptu visit to the Art Institute of Chicago while on tour in 2018. Since then, he has amassed a collection of work by artists like Takashi Murakami and KAWS, as well as by key 20th-century Korean artists like Park Soo Keun, Chang Ucchin and Nam June Paik.

RM has also shared videos of his artistic experiences with his 37 million Instagram followers, becoming a dream ambassador for the insular, impenetrable art world.

“He is throwing away the kind of barrier between the art institutions — galleries and museums — and younger people,” the veteran dealer Park Kyung-mee said in an interview at her gallery, PKM, in Seoul.

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