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Wednesday briefing


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the United States and Europe to do more to defend Ukraine. Extensive interview with The Times. He proposed that NATO aircraft shoot down Russian missiles in Ukrainian airspace.

“What’s the problem?” Zelensky said in an interview in Kiev on Monday. “Why can’t we shoot them down? Is it defensive? Yes. Is it an attack on Russia? No. Are you shooting down Russian planes and killing Russian pilots? No. So what’s the problem with getting NATO countries involved in the war? There is no such problem.”

Analysts say such direct involvement by NATO could provoke Russian retaliation, but it has been resisted by Western countries. Zelensky compared how the United States and Britain helped Israel shoot down a series of drones and missiles from Iran last month.

Zelensky said he had also called on senior U.S. officials to allow Ukraine to launch U.S. missiles and other weapons at military targets in Russia, but the United States remained opposed to the strategy. He said the inability to do so gave Russia a “huge advantage” in cross-border warfare, which it was using to launch attacks in northeastern Ukraine.

Zelensky’s speech betrayed frustration and confusion over the West’s reluctance to take bolder steps to ensure Ukraine wins the war.

His request comes at a critical moment in the war in Ukraine. Its troops are retreating, and America’s package of new weapons has yet to arrive in sufficient numbers. Analysts say Ukraine has never faced such a severe military challenge since the early days of the war.

“Shoot down objects in the sky over Ukraine,” Zelensky said. “And provide us with weapons to fight Russian troops on the border.”

Read interview transcript.

Videos released by Iranian news agencies showed crowds gathering on both sides of the streets in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz yesterday. Procession carrying coffin draped with flags President Ibrahim Raisi, the foreign minister and six others were killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

The parade in Tabriz was the first in a series of official events to bid farewell to Lacey. Raisi is a hardline cleric widely seen as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The country is grappling with the shock of losing two of its top leaders at such a tumultuous time. Now, Khamenei is weighing options on how to move forward with elections and rebuild the country’s leadership structure.

He must choose whether to launch the campaign and face moderate rivals or limit candidates and risk the embarrassment of low voter turnout, My colleague Erica Solomon reports.

The Biden administration is preparing to send about a dozen Guantánamo Bay detainees headed to Oman for resettlement last year. Then Hamas attacked Israel, and the United States suddenly halted its covert operations.

The Yemeni prisoners have never been charged with any crime and all had their transfer approved by a national security review panel. A military aircraft was parked on the runway, ready to fly them out.

But U.S. officials say Democrats are concerned about possible instability in the Middle East after the Oct. 7 attacks. My colleague Carol Rosenberg reports that these arrangements are still under review.

Jenny Erpenbeck’s novel Kairos, about a passionate love story in the final years of East Germany, won the International Booker Prize yesterday. The jury president said the book’s relationship and the couple’s “descent into a destructive spiral” traced the history of East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Erpenbeck shared the award with Michael Hoffman, who translated the book into English. This is the first award-winning original novel in German.

Read our review and Configuration file Erpenbeck.

OpenAI asked Scarlett Johansson, who played the virtual assistant in the movie Her, to consider licensing her voice to the virtual assistant. Johansson declined twice.

But last week, the company released a chatbot that Johnson said sounds “strikingly similar to mine”. She hired a lawyer and asked OpenAI to stop using the voice called Sky.

The company paused Sky launches over the weekend. “Sky’s voice is not Scarlett Johansson’s and is not intended to be an imitation of hers,” OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said.

Johansson is the latest high-profile figure to accuse OpenAI of using creative works without permission. The company has been sued by writers, actors and newspapers for copyright infringement, with The Times suing OpenAI and its partner Microsoft.

That concludes today’s press conference. Thank you for spending time with us this morning, see you tomorrow. — Justin

PS The Athletic has expanded its Tennis coverage.

You can contact Justin and the team at: briefing@nytimes.com.

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