Is Britain preparing for a new era?
On Thursday, elections for Britain’s local officials. On Saturday, King Charles III’s coronation. As milestones go, the two could hardly have had less in common, yet each, in its own way, confirmed a Britain on the cusp of change, in both politics and the monarchy.
The stinging defeat of the Conservatives last week suggested that Britain’s governing party could be swept from power in the next general election, after 13 years of Conservative rule. And the crowning of Charles definitively turned the page from the reign of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, and thrust the monarchy into an uncertain future.
Change is not assured, of course. Charles, at 74, could prove to be a more cautious figure than his biographers expect, and the Conservatives could yet cling to power. But longer-term trends run strongly against the Conservatives, and polls show that many Britons, particularly younger ones, view the royal family as irrelevant and question the need for it.
Analysis: “The country is in a waiting room,” said Simon Schama, a British historian. “People are saying, ‘Let’s give our peculiar new king a chance,’ while the prospect of an election pacifies a lot of the frustration and rage that people would otherwise feel.”
Coronation: Charles had promised a thoroughly 21st-century ceremony, but when push came to shove he took his place on a 13th-century throne, writes Sarah Lyall, who has long covered the royal family for The Times.
Wagner mercenaries will stay in Bakhmut
Yevgeny Prigozhin, who leads the Russian mercenary group called Wagner, said that he had been promised as much weaponry as needed to continue the fight for the embattled Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, two days after he threatened to withdraw his fighters by Wednesday because Moscow’s Ministry of Defense was failing to support them.
On Friday, Prigozhin accused Russia’s military bureaucracy of withholding the ammunition needed to fully capture the city. He appeared in a gruesome video standing in front of what he said were freshly killed fighters, saying that the ministry had caused “useless and unjustified” losses by failing to replenish the ammunition stocks.
Only a sliver of Bakmut remains in Ukrainian hands, and Russia is trying to seize the city by tomorrow. All the territory Russia has gained during months of grinding conflict there has come at an enormous cost for both sides, including the deaths of thousands of fighters recruited by Wagner from Russian prisons and thrown right onto the battlefield.
Context: Few military analysts expected Prigozhin to carry out his threat to withdraw, especially because the Ministry of Defense has no real alternative to the estimated 10,000 Wagner fighters battling for control of the devastated city, where 70,000 people lived before the invasion.
In other news from the war:
Ukraine launched a wave of drone attacks at the occupied Crimean Peninsula, Russia said.
Ukraine is feeling immense pressure from Western allies to succeed in its looming counteroffensive.
No action after mass shootings in Texas
Thirteen people have died in mass shootings in Texas in the past two weeks, nearly a year after 21 people, including 19 children, were killed in a massacre at a school in Uvalde. But even as Texans display a little more openness to more gun regulation, the violence has done little to reshape the political realities in the State Capitol, where Republicans control both legislative chambers and all statewide offices.
In the past two years, as the state has been shaken by more than a dozen mass killings of four or more people, Texas has increased access to firearms, doing away with its permit requirements to carry handguns and lowering the age when adults can carry handguns to 18 from 21.
Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has said that efforts to limit access to firearms will not work, citing “an increased number of shootings in states with easy gun laws as well as shootings in states with very strict gun laws.” He said Texas was responding to the “dramatic increase in the amount of anger” across the U.S. by going to “its root cause, which is addressing the mental health problems behind it.”
From the White House: President Biden urged action yesterday. “Republican members of Congress cannot continue to meet this epidemic with a shrug,” he said in a statement that called for “a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”
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SPOTLIGHT ON AFRICA
On the run, again
Sudan’s war, incited by two feuding generals, has driven more than 100,000 civilians across borders, and aid workers say as many as 800,000 may be forced to flee in the coming months.
Thousands have fled to Egypt and Saudi Arabia and to relatively safer towns within Sudan. For many on the run, flight is not new. “The really, really sad thing about this is that this is not the first time these people are fleeing,” said Charlotte Hallqvist, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for South Sudan.
Sudan had more than a million refugees from countries already torn apart by civil war, like Syria and South Sudan. It also had millions of internally displaced people fleeing conflict within Sudan. Now, as the new fighting enters a fourth week, these people are on the move again, facing another wave of violence and trauma.
In the Darfur region of Sudan, more than three million were driven from their homes during a civil war in the early 2000s. Just weeks before the latest violence broke out, local authorities had started planning the gradual voluntary return of refugee communities in Darfur, said Toby Harward, principal situation coordinator in Darfur for the U.N.H.C.R.
Instead, more are now fleeing the region. — Lynsey Chutel, a Times writer in Johannesburg