Your Wednesday Briefing: Ukraine Cracks Down on Corruption
No issue is more critical for Ukraine than the billions of dollars and advanced weaponry provided by Western allies.Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times
A corruption scandal in Ukraine
Several top Ukrainian officials were fired yesterday amid a ballooning corruption scandal, in the biggest upheaval in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government since the Russian invasion began.
There was no sign that the scandal involved the misappropriation of Western military assistance, which is essential for Ukraine’s continued survival. But even a whiff of malfeasance could slow aid. The move suggested an effort by Zelensky to clean house and reassure allies that his government would show zero tolerance for graft.
The firings followed a number of allegations of corruption — including reports that Ukraine’s military had agreed to pay inflated prices for food meant for its troops — and general bad behavior. But Ukraine’s cabinet ministry, which announced the firings on Telegram, provided no details about specific reasons.
Zelensky said he hoped that punishment would be taken as a “signal to all those whose actions or behavior violate the principle of justice,” and added: “There will be no return to what used to be in the past.”
Details: A deputy defense minister was fired, as was a deputy prosecutor general who took a wartime vacation to Spain. A senior official in Zelensky’s office also resigned after he was criticized for using an SUV that was donated for humanitarian missions.
The U.S. is moving closer to sending tanks to Ukraine, officials said. Germany said it will make its own decision soon.
Turkey indefinitely postponed a meeting with Finland and Sweden to discuss their bid to join NATO, amid Turkish anger over recent protests in Stockholm that included the burning of a Quran.
The hands on the Doomsday Clock moved closer to midnight than ever, in part because of the war.
Another mass shooting in California
A gunman on Monday killed at least seven people near San Francisco, less than 48 hours after a gunman killed 11 people in Los Angeles. The back-to-back shootings have shocked California, which has one of the lowest mortality rates from gun violence in the U.S., as well as some of its toughest gun laws.
The cases, which bracketed celebration of the Lunar New Year, claimed the lives largely of immigrant victims: Asian Americans in their 50s, 60s and 70s in Monterey Park, a thriving Chinese American suburb of Los Angeles, and Asian and Latino agricultural workers around Half Moon Bay, near San Francisco.
The suspects were immigrant Asian men in their 60s and 70s — a rare age bracket for assailants in mass shootings. In Half Moon Bay, officials said the 66-year-old suspect, who was taken into custody “without incident,” may have been targeting his co-workers. And in Monterey Park, police are still looking for a motive. The gunman targeted a dance hall he knew well.
Understand the Situation in China
The Chinese government cast aside its restrictive “zero Covid” policy, which had set off mass protests that were a rare challenge to Communist Party leadership.
- Rapid Spread: Since China abandoned its strict Covid rules, the intensity and magnitude of the country’s outbreak has remained largely a mystery. But a picture is emerging of the virus spreading like wildfire.
- A Tense Lunar New Year: For millions of holiday travelers, the joy of finally seeing far-flung loved ones without the risk of getting caught in a lockdown is laced with anxiety.
- Digital Finger-Pointing: The Communist Party’s efforts to limit discord over its sudden “zero Covid” pivot are being challenged with increasing rancor on the internet.
- Economic Challenges: Years of Covid lockdowns took a brutal toll on Chinese businesses. Now, the rapid spread of the virus after a chaotic reopening has deprived them of workers and customers.
Reaction: The White House said it was renewing a push for sweeping gun control measures that would renew an expired assault weapons ban.
The U.S.: In the first 24 days of this year, at least 69 people have been killed in at least 39 separate mass shootings. Just yesterday, a gunman in Washington state killed three people in a convenience store.
Hipkins distances himself from Ardern
Chris Hipkins, who is due to be sworn in as New Zealand’s leader today, is making a respectful, but pointed effort to create space between himself and Jacinda Ardern ahead of the national election in October.
He’s trying to rebrand the Labour Party and appeal to centrist, middle-class voters who have cooled on Ardern and her leftist policies. In one example, he seems to prefer calling the country New Zealand, as opposed to Aotearoa, the Maori name favored by Ardern.
“I supported Jacinda Ardern as our prime minister, I think she did an amazing job,” he said. “But look: We’re different people, and we’ll have a different style.”
Analysis: Hipkins was a top architect of the Ardern government’s key policies and its stringent Covid response. But he has a scrappier and more combative style. Those traits, and his reputation as a practical figure capable of hard work, could resonate with voters outside of cities.
From Opinion: Ardern put New Zealand on the geopolitical map, but she failed to keep many of her promises, Josie Pagani argues.
THE LATEST NEWS
The U.S. sued Google, accusing it of illegally abusing a monopoly over the technology behind online advertising.
Aides to Mike Pence found classified documents at his home in Indiana last week, one of his advisers said.
Health officials proposed offering new Covid-19 booster shots each fall, a strategy long employed against the flu.
Other Big Stories
Brazilian authorities said an illegal fishing trafficker ordered the assassinations of a British journalist and an Indigenous rights activist who were killed in the Amazon in June.
Eastern Europeans once powered British agriculture. After Brexit, British farmers are strapped for workers.
Developing nations are struggling to cover the costs of expensive medical therapies.
A Morning Read
Hundreds of thousands of Chinese people poured their life savings into apartments that were still under construction. But then, China’s decades-long real estate boom came to a sudden halt.
Now, the unfinished structures that dot the country are ugly reminders of dashed dreams and broken promises. “It was a simple dream,” one man said, “to have a home, a family.”
ARTS AND IDEAS
The Oscar nominees
In a year when moviegoers returned en masse to big-budget spectacles — and skipped nearly everything else — Oscar voters yesterday spread nominations remarkably far and wide.
The sci-fi movie, “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” led with 11 total nominations. Some of its stars, including Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu, also got acting nods.
“The Banshees of Inisherin” and “All Quiet on the Western Front” were tied for second, with nine nominations each. The drama “Tár” received a best picture nod, while the blockbuster sequels “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” were also recognized in the category.
In some ways, the spread reflected the jumbled state of Hollywood. Movies from streaming services were hot for the last few years, and then not. Studios are unsure about how many films to release in theaters and no one knows whether anything besides superheroes, sequels or horror can succeed. Widening the aperture of films nominated for best picture could also help the Oscar ceremony, which needs a real boost after years of flagging ratings.
Here’s a full list of the nominees, the biggest snubs and surprises and our critics’ picks for their top Oscar nominations. The 95th Academy Awards will be on March 12, in Los Angeles.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Everyone knows soup is the best food. Here are 24 recipes to prove it. (I’m looking forward to trying this recipe for Taiwanese beef noodle soup, which cooks for about two hours.)
What to Read
“Cobalt Red” exposes the horrors of mining the cobalt that is used in our smartphones.
What to Wear
How to pack for a work trip.
Here’s why weather changes can worsen pain from old injuries.
Now Time to Play
Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Like a tired baby (five letters).
Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia
P.S. My colleague David Dunlap explained how The Times keeps reporters safe when they cover deadly viruses.
“The Daily” is on the classified documents found in President Biden’s home.
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