Your Wednesday Briefing: E.U. Leaders Visit Kyiv

Good morning. We’re covering a visit by three European leaders to Ukraine, the ripple effects of China’s surge of Covid cases and a once-perilous road in Afghanistan.

The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia traveled by train to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, on Tuesday to express the European Union’s support for Ukraine. Next week, President Biden will travel to Brussels to attend a special NATO meeting about the war.

The Tuesday visit comes as fighting raged around the city. Blasts shook Kyiv at dawn, killing at least four people, the mayor said. Follow live updates here.

Russia’s advance remains stalled on several fronts as Ukrainian forces repel attacks in parts of the east and the south. But the Russian Defense Ministry claimed to have captured the entire Kherson region, after seizing the main city two weeks ago.

Ukrainian resistance: The move possibly strengthens Russia’s ability to push west toward Mykolaiv, a strategic port city where the morgue is already overflowing. Our correspondent and photographer reported from Mykolaiv on a “refusal to succumb” by Ukrainian fighters and residents.

The regional governor, Vitaliy Kim, predicted that any Russian effort to take Mykolaiv would lead to a bloody firefight. Residents have piled tires and incendiary bombs on every street corner. It would be apocalyptic, Kim said.

More updates:

Oil prices dropped below $100 a barrel on Tuesday, the lowest prices in weeks, as a coronavirus outbreak in China threatened to slow the country’s economy and decrease global demand. Over the past week, crude oil prices have plunged by more than 20 percent, reversing much of the surge that came after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The global economic harm caused by China’s rise in Covid cases — and the government’s tough response — could soon get worse. Numerous lockdowns and mitigation tactics have disrupted the production of goods like cars, iPhone circuit boards and computer cables.

Context: China’s strict measures come as some other nations in the Asia-Pacific region are easing pandemic rules, despite seeing some of the world’s steepest spikes in Covid cases.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

Before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, a trip along the road from Kabul to Kandahar was dangerous. Gunfire, roadside bombs, extortion and death were once rampant.

Not anymore. The highway between the country’s two largest cities, still dotted with destroyed vehicles and bullet-ridden homes, has come back to life. Grape farmers dig their fields in what was one of the most violent provinces in the war. Young men laugh and play volleyball near the road.

But the cost of U.S. sanctions is evident along the highway, which is half-paved and half-gnarled still. In Ghazni, a city along the road, prices for items like cooking oil have skyrocketed. People are traveling to Pakistan, seeking medical care. And outside Kabul, a 12-year-old boy pried apart old barriers to make a chicken coop. “We are hungry,” he said.

As the world warms, Switzerland’s glaciers are melting. A team of cartographers are racing to correct the ever-changing mountain maps — a task they often have to do by hand.

In March 2021, the college basketball player Sedona Prince posted a TikTok video.

“This is our weight room,” she said, pointing at a sorry stack of hand weights at the N.C.A.A. women’s basketball tournament. “Let me show y’all the men’s weight room,” she says, panning across a state-of-the art gym for the men’s tournament, crammed with machines and benches.

Prince’s video immediately went viral. It also led to a gender-equity review in college basketball and to changes in the women’s event, including branding the tournament with the moniker March Madness. The N.C.A.A. had previously resisted such a move.

“Every budget line is compared and contrasted,” said Dan Gavitt, the N.C.A.A.’s senior vice president for basketball. “Where there are differences, they are resolved in the name of equity.”

Prince accomplished last March what generations before her could not: She showed the disparity between the tournaments in a way that couldn’t be explained away.