Your Monday Briefing: A U.K. Accusation

Good morning. We’re covering reports of Russia’s positioning in Ukraine, Beijing’s hard-line Olympic strategy and miserable conditions at a Chinese tire factory in Serbia.

The Ukrainian military at a front line position near the Russian separatists.Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Britain accuses Russia of Ukraine plot

The British government said that the Kremlin appeared to be developing plans to install a pro-Moscow leader in Ukraine.

The highly unusual public statement, backed by U.S. officials, comes at a pivotal moment in high-stakes negotiations. Moscow has deployed more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders that could, according to American officials, attack anytime.

According to the assessment, Russian planners are considering installing Yevgeniy Murayev, a former member of Ukraine’s Parliament, as leader of a pro-Kremlin puppet government. The new accusations provided few details about how Russia might impose a new government and did not say whether such plans were contingent on an invasion.

Explainers: Here are the basics of the conflict and one way a war might start.

Analysis: The U.K.’s announcement signals its ambitions to be a player in Europe’s security crisis — and deflect attention from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s overlapping scandals.

Chernobyl: Ukraine has initiated a defensive strategy around the husk of the power plant, which lies on the shortest path between Russia and Kyiv. Its security forces patrol one of the most radioactive places on Earth.

Xi Jinping, China’s leader, put his personal prestige on the line when China bid to host the 2022 Winter Games.Credit…Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China’s hard-line Olympic stance

With the Games only days away, President Xi Jinping is defying critics and delivering the event on his own terms.

China no longer has to prove itself to the world, as it did for the 2008 Summer Olympics. It has overruled the International Olympic Committee on health protocols and sustained its strict “zero Covid” strategy; it has implicitly warned broadcasters and sponsors not to bend to calls for boycotts over the crackdown in Hong Kong and repression in Xinjiang.

China’s tenacious — many say ruthless — efficiency was precisely what appealed to Olympic delegates after messy preparations in Sochi and Rio de Janeiro. By selecting Beijing, the committee had alighted on a “safe choice,” said Thomas Bach, the committee’s president.

Athletes: Thousands of Olympians worldwide are struggling to avoid Covid-19 infections before their competitions.

Hong Kong: Businesses that held on through several outbreaks are now trembling as the city struggles with supply chain issues, a severed connection to international trade and Beijing’s zero-tolerance approach.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Here’s what we know about the course of an Omicron infection.

  • Japan is struggling to provide booster shots as cases rise.

  • New Zealand imposed its highest level of restrictions after at least nine cases of the Omicron variant were reported.

  • The Biden administration suspended 44 flights in a tit-for-tat with China over passengers with coronavirus.

  • Pakistan will allow only fully vaccinated people into mosques.

The Ling Long Tire factory construction site in Zrenjanin, Serbia.Credit…Marko Risovic for The New York Times

China’s failed promise in Serbia

About 400 Vietnamese workers are building a $900 million Chinese tire factory in Serbia, one of Europe’s poorest nations.

The factory, recognized as China’s biggest industrial investment in Europe, has now become a magnet of criticism. Opponents accuse Serbia’s leaders of a no-questions-asked subservience to Beijing and criticize the factory as another example of environmental destruction caused by Chinese projects.

Workers and activists say problems like human trafficking, prisonlike working conditions and environmental abuse are endemic.

“It’s like hell on Earth here,” a 40-year-old Vietnamese construction worker said.

Analysis: Serbia’s populist president, Aleksandar Vucic, and Xi Jinping, China’s leader, have established a mutual alliance, as both nations face pressure from the European Union.

Impact: Serbia says Chinese investment has helped it achieve economic growth of over 7 percent last year, among the highest in Europe. But the furor over the factory has set back Serbia’s yearslong effort to join the E.U.



Rescue vehicles at the scene of the October fire in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.Credit…Woo Swee Kay/Via Reuters
  • Taiwanese prosecutors formally charged a suspect in the case of the “ghost building” fire that killed 46 people.

  • President Biden is trying to jump start a huge federal investment to compete with China.

  • The first female leader of a troop of Japanese macaque monkeys may be vulnerable to a usurper, as a male suitor jockeys for power during mating season.


  • The offshore volcano eruption severed Tonga’s lone undersea cable. The consequences are just now emerging.

  • Waves almost 50 feet high hit three tiny, sparsely populated islands.

  • The tsunami triggered a devastating oil spill off the coast of Peru.

  • A Tongan man survived 26 hours at sea after being swept away by the tsunami.

World News

  • Saudi-led airstrikes knocked out Yemen’s internet and killed at least 70 people at a prison, according to international aid groups.

  • Islamic State fighters attacked a Syrian prison to try to free thousands of their comrades, one of the boldest assaults since the so-called caliphate fell three years ago.

  • Soldiers in Burkina Faso who want changes to a faltering campaign against Islamists appeared to have taken control of several military bases, as gunfire rattled the capital.

  • At least 16 people died after a Cameroon nightclub fire.

  • A split in the party of the president-elect of Honduras has left her with little ability to fight corruption and organized crime.

What Else Is Happening

Munzir El Nezzel and his son Mustafa in southern Turkey, near the border with Syria, in January 2021.Credit…Mehmet Aslan
  • The Syrian family in the award-winning photograph above has relocated to Italy after considerable effort.

  • In Greece, a string of deadly assaults on women has pushed domestic abuse into the spotlight.

  • New research suggests that there may be an ocean inside Mimas, a 250-mile-wide moon of Saturn that resembles the Death Star in “Star Wars.”

A Morning Read

Students in Kabul, Afghanistan, on a Zoom call with public high school students in San Diego.

In September, when she learned that the Taliban would likely not permit girls to attend school, an 11th grader in Afghanistan, wrote an anguished poem: “Why Was I Born a Girl?” It found its way to a high school history class in San Diego, and now she and her coed classmates in Kabul are now connecting with public school students in California.

The Saturday Profile: Modou Fall, a Senegalese man who dresses head to toe in plastic, is trying to rid Dakar of the scourge of plastic bags.

Lives lived: Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who was one of the world’s most influential Zen masters, died on Saturday. He was 95. Here is a selection of his thoughts.


Remembering André Leon Talley

The larger-than-life fashion editor, who shattered his industry’s glass ceiling when he went from the Jim Crow South to the front rows of Paris couture, died last week at 73.

Talley was the rare Black editor at the top of a field that was mostly white and notoriously elitist. He operated without the filter of a corporate public relations apparatus and often made broad, extravagant declarations like, “We’re living in such a vulgar age!” or “My eyes are starving for beauty!”

“He was the last of the great pontificating editorial personages,” our critic Vanessa Friedman writes in an appraisal, “those characters who saw personal style as a kind of religion, the dictats of chic as a catechism, and considered it essential to practice what they preached. Who believed categorically in the virtues of dressing up, rather than down.”


What to Cook

Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times

In Hawaii, onaga is the most prized kind of snapper and the centerpiece of festive meals. Try steaming the whole fish, Chinese-style, with a sour-salty stuffing.

What to Watch

“Introduction,” a new film from the prolific South Korean director Hong Sangsoo, tells a fractured coming-of-age story in three vignettes.


Vegans have more options now, as plant-centric hotels, restaurants, festivals and tours proliferate worldwide.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia

P.S. Christopher Clarey, a Times sports reporter, talked about Australia’s decision to cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa on “Here and Now” on WBUR and “Erin Burnett OutFront” on CNN.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on Djokovic and Australian immigration policies.

You can reach Amelia and the team at [email protected].

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