Your Thursday Briefing – The New York Times

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has indicated that he will punish people who enabled the Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin’s rebellion over the weekend. But the Wagner leader’s deep ties to the ruling elite are complicating those efforts.

Putin fed speculation about a broader crackdown on Tuesday in a closed-door meeting with Russian media figures at the Kremlin, where he said he was delving into Prigozhin’s lucrative business contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry. Pro-war Russian blogs reported that the authorities were investigating military service members with ties to Prigozhin, but those reports could not be independently confirmed.

U.S. officials are still trying to learn whether a top Russian general, Sergei Surovikin, who holds significant support in its military, helped plan the mutiny led by Prigozhin. He has not been seen in public since early Saturday.

Background: After a career spent in the shadows, Prigozhin turned himself into a public figure in the last year, casting himself as a tough-talking mercenary leader who was far more effective than the traditional military. He regularly castigated and belittled military leaders like Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defense minister.

Wagner’s new home? Satellite imagery shows that Belarus is rapidly building what appear to be temporary structures at a deserted military base, revealing a possible location for the group’s fighters.

News from the war:

  • The death toll from the strike on a popular restaurant in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, has climbed to 11.

  • The Pentagon said it would send an additional $500 million in weapons, including 55 more armored vehicles and equipment for clearing minefields.

  • A Times analysis shows how Ukraine’s terrain is impeding the country’s counteroffensive.

Debris and presumed human remains from the Titan submersible have been recovered and returned to land, nearly a week after an international search-and-rescue operation ended and the vessel’s five passengers were presumed dead. The submersible is believed to have experienced a “catastrophic implosion” with no survivors, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

At a Canadian Coast Guard pier in St. John’s, Newfoundland, crews unloaded what appeared to be the Titan’s 22-foot hull, crinkled and twisted with exposed wires and cables. The debris will be taken to a U.S. port where the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Board of Investigation will do analysis and testing.

Medical professionals “will conduct a formal analysis of presumed human remains that have been carefully recovered within the wreckage at the site of the incident,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.

Investigation: The recovered debris could contain vital information about what exactly happened to the Titan, experts said. Investigators would be looking for three things: a point of failure of the hull; how pieces of carbon fiber and titanium, the submersible’s materials, were connected; and if any electronic data was recoverable.

Thick smoke from wildfires in Canada has again blanketed large swaths of the U.S., prompting warnings for residents to stay indoors. Air quality in several major cities, including Detroit and Indianapolis, fell well into the “very unhealthy” category, and the smoke has drifted east toward New York. Track the forecast with our map.

In Canada, nearly 500 active wildfires were burning early yesterday, officials said, and more than 250 were burning out of control, in one of the worst wildfire seasons in decades. Climate change has turned once improbably high temperatures into more commonplace occurrences and intensified conditions that fuel catastrophic wildfires and their effects on air quality.

Wildfire season in Canada usually doesn’t even begin until early July, and the blazes are likely to grow, said David Brown, an air quality meteorologist at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. As a consequence, dangerous air quality could threaten the northern United States for weeks to come.

Each week, a 130-foot wooden vessel travels 500 miles up and down the Paraguay River — a floating ferry, supermarket, freight shipper and bar. On board are Mormon missionaries and Mennonite farmers, Indigenous chiefs and Japanese chefs. Welcome aboard the Aquidaban.

Wilfried Zaha, Stormzy and AFC Croydon Athletic: Inside the alliance between a Premier League star, a famous rapper and a nonleague soccer club.

Harry Kane to Bayern Munich? The guest columnist Alan Shearer, a former striker for England, provides insight on how players judge themselves.

Nurturing the future of Mercedes: A closer look at Gwen Lagrue, the F1 talent guru tasked with scouting, recruiting and coaching the likes of George Russell and Esteban Ocon.

From The Times: The star gymnast Simone Biles, whose appearance at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics was disrupted by mental health issues and who has not competed since, may be planning a comeback a year before the Paris Games.

Did the pope wear Balenciaga? Could Elon Musk have given a lifelike robot a little kiss?

A.I.-generated images depicting such scenes threaten society’s ability to separate fact from fiction. To sort through the confusion, a fast-burgeoning crop of companies now offer services to detect what is real and what isn’t, using sophisticated algorithms.

But some tech leaders and misinformation experts have expressed concerns that advances in A.I. will always stay a step ahead of the tools. The Times tested five new services, using more than 100 synthetic images and real photos. Often the services got it right — but not always.

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