Your Friday Briefing

A day after a Russian strike reduced to rubble a theater in Mariupol, Ukraine, where hundreds of people had been huddling for shelter, rescuers began pulling out survivors one by one. The southern city, under siege by Russian forces, has been squarely in Moscow’s cross hairs since the invasion began three weeks ago. Follow the latest updates.

With as many as a thousand people reported to have taken shelter at the theater and still unaccounted for, fears remained that whatever hope emerged from the rescue scene would eventually be eclipsed by despair. “Our hearts are broken by what Russia is doing to our people, to our Mariupol,” said Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president.

Ukraine has suffered thousands of civilian casualties from the war. Taking heavy losses on the battlefield, Russian forces have increasingly been aiming bombs and missiles at towns and cities. Unable to capture urban centers, they are leveling them instead, and the toll on civilians is worsening.

Kyiv: Russian forces are stalled outside the capital, where they have taken heavy casualties and — perhaps most surprising — have failed to achieve dominance in the air. Western officials said they were no longer confident that Russia was planning a ground assault on Kyiv, a major objective.

Talks: Cease-fire negotiations between the two sides continued into a fourth day, with uncertain prospects. The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting to discuss the worsening humanitarian situation and the status of the more than three million refugees.

Other updates:

The pharmaceutical company Moderna has asked U.S. health officials for emergency authorization of a second booster of its coronavirus vaccine for all adults. It comes after Pfizer and BioNTech sought authorization for a second booster for those 65 and older on Tuesday.

The request is likely to intensify the ongoing scientific debate over how long protection from the two vaccines lasts in the face of new variants. While some scientists believe a second booster will help to bolster protection against infection or mild disease, others say it is unclear whether protection against severe disease is waning and whether such a booster in necessary.

Moderna said its request covered all adults so that officials and providers could determine the appropriate use of a second booster, for groups including those at higher risk of Covid-19 disease. Although there are indications that regulators could move swiftly on Pfizer’s request, it is unclear how favorably they will view Moderna’s more sweeping application.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

In June last year, three aid workers for Doctors Without Borders suddenly vanished amid the conflict in northern Ethiopia. Their satellite phone went unanswered, and a tracking device showed their vehicle making a sudden U-turn and then stopping. The next day, their bullet-riddled bodies were found sprawled on a roadside near their burned-out vehicle.

Doctors Without Borders denounced the killings as “brutal murder” but did not identify any culprit. But investigators, aid officials and Ethiopian soldiers interviewed by The Times said the three aid workers had been gunned down by Ethiopian government troops on the orders of a commander who was infuriated to find them in an active combat zone.

Their deaths have underscored the specific perils facing aid workers in Ethiopia, where hunger and dislocation threaten millions even as the government seems to treat aid groups as enemies rather than allies. Since last July, senior U.N. officials have been expelled from Ethiopia. A punishing blockade on the region has also cut off food supplies to five million needy people.

Remembering their names: The aid workers were María Hernández, a 35-year-old Spaniard and conflict veteran; Yohannes Halefom, a 32-year-old Ethiopian medic, found face down in the dirt; and Tedros Gebremariam, 31, their Ethiopian driver.

Context: The brutal slayings, which attracted relatively little attention, were yet another senseless atrocity in a bitter conflict that has been accompanied by reports of massacres, sexual assault, ethnic cleansing and other likely war crimes.

It was a 17-pound tuber, found by chance in a New Zealand garden and christened Doug. It looked — and tasted — very much like the world’s largest potato. But Doug wasn’t a potato at all.

Elena Ferrante, the pseudonymous author of the Neapolitan novels and more, has published a collection of lectures about writing and reading. Here are a few takeaways:

She kept a notebook as a teenager. “The writer,” her young self wrote, “has a duty to put into words the shoves he gives and those he receives from others.”

She balances tidiness with disorder. “Love stories become interesting to Ferrante at the moment when a character falls out of love; mysteries gain intrigue when she understands that the puzzle won’t be solved,” The Times’s Molly Young writes.

She’s a rereader. She circles the same texts for decades. “To read a book is to absorb, consciously or not, all the other books that influenced that book, as well as the books that influenced those books, and so on; to interpret even one paragraph on a page is to vector endlessly back in time,” Molly writes.

In this vegan dish, chewy rice cakes are stir-fried until crispy and then smothered in peanut sauce and finished with hoisin.

Rosalía, the Spanish pop singer known for her reinvention of flamenco, has smashed together new sounds from the Latin world and beyond on “Motomami,” out today.

“Last Call at the Hotel Imperial,” a disturbingly prescient history, tells the story of reporters who tried to report the truth about Europe before the start of World War II.

Play today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Puts on social media (five letters).

Here’s today’s Wordle. (If you’re worried about your stats streak, play in the browser you’ve been using.)