Thursday Briefing

Exploding drones were launched into six regions of Russia overnight on Wednesday, Russian officials said, damaging military cargo planes at an airfield 30 miles from the border with Estonia, a NATO member, in an apparent sign that Ukraine was increasingly capable of striking back deep inside Moscow’s territory.

Around the same time, Russia unleashed an aerial assault on at least three regions of Ukraine, officials in that country said, including one of the most significant barrages the Kyiv region has received in months. Ukraine’s air force said it had shot down 43 of 44 incoming missiles and drones.

The assault in Russia came after months of Moscow’s deadly missile and drone strikes on Ukrainian cities, infrastructure and military targets. Ukrainian officials did not claim responsibility for the overnight strikes on Russian soil, in keeping with standard practice.

Strategy: Attacks on Russian soil are also intended to pierce Russian propaganda by showing Russians that their military is vulnerable, and to bolster morale among Ukrainians wanting payback.

In other news from the war:

Military officers in Gabon said they had seized power early yesterday, overturning disputed election results that returned the incumbent, Ali Bongo Ondimba, to office. The president, detained inside his residence, issued a video plea for help. But celebrations erupted in the streets outside, as many Gabonese cheered the apparent demise of a family dynasty that has dominated for a half-century.

By the end of the day, the officers had announced Gen. Brice Oligui Nguema, Bongo’s cousin and the head of the Republican Guard, which is responsible for protecting him, as Gabon’s new leader.

Context: If it succeeds, the coup in Gabon would be the latest in an extraordinary run of military takeovers across a swath of Africa — at least nine in the past three years, including one last month in Niger.

Speaking in Lisbon early this month, in comments that were made public this week, Pope Francis expressed his dismay at “a very strong, organized, reactionary attitude” opposing him within the U.S. Roman Catholic Church, one that fixates on social issues like abortion and sexuality to the exclusion of caring for the poor and the environment.

Quotable: “I would like to remind these people that backwardness is useless,” Francis, 86, said. “Doing this, you lose the true tradition and you turn to ideologies to have support. In other words, ideologies replace faith.”

Other news: Theodore McCarrick, a former Catholic cardinal, is not competent to stand trial on sexual abuse charges, a Massachusetts judge ruled.

In part of Paris’s 14th Arrondissement, a grass-roots initiative is working to improve ties among residents.

Members of the group, called the Republic of Super Neighbors, hold weekly brunches, after-work drinks and community gatherings. Their mission is to transform neighbors who interact five times daily into those who do so 50 times a day — one of many in cities around the world that riff on the idea of hyperlocality.

Nicholas Hitchon, who appeared aged 7 in “Seven Up!,” a 1964 British documentary, and reappeared in subsequent installments for more than a half-century, has died at 65.

John Isner’s last hurrah: The elder statesman of American men’s tennis is playing his final U.S. Open.

U.S. Ryder Cup team: Key questions were answered after the squad was announced.

Bolstering the Aston Martin brand: How the team is looking to capitalize on the Formula 1 boom.

Cautionary tale: It happens every year — a promising young player wins a match or two at a Grand Slam, and all of a sudden, the next big thing has arrived.

A year ago, the city of Philadelphia invited a sculptor to design a public statue of Harriet Tubman. Complaints poured in, partly because the selected artist was a white man, and the city eventually issued an open call for submissions. Five semifinalist designs, all created by Black artists, were ultimately selected.

“We know the depth and value of our stories,” said Vinnie Bagwell, a 65-year-old artist from New York who is one of the semifinalists. Wesley Wofford, above, the artist who was originally commissioned, was dismayed by the public outcry. “Art is supposed to be a universal language that transcends gender, race and culture,” he said.

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