Your Thursday Briefing

A Ukrainian military base near the Belarus border.Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

U.S. disputes withdrawal claims

Tensions over Ukraine abruptly ratcheted up on Wednesday as Western officials accused Russia of lying about whether it had really begun pulling back troops from the Ukrainian border.

A senior American official, who refused to be quoted by name, told reporters that Moscow had added more than 7,000 combatants — and directly accused Russia of lying, saying there was fresh evidence it was mobilizing for war.

All sides are following delicate strategies, trying to appear resolute but not inflexible. One has emerged into public view: a discussion underway by European, Russian and Ukrainian leaders and officials over whether Ukraine might resolve the threat by abandoning its ambitions to join NATO.

A senior Ukrainian official said the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was considering holding a referendum that could keep his country from joining the alliance, fulfilling a key Russian demand.

Here are the latest updates.

Cyberattack: A top Ukrainian official said a cyberattack against the websites of the country’s defense ministry, army and the interfaces of its two largest banks “bore traces of foreign intelligence services.”

Near miss: U.S. and Russian warplanes flew dangerously close to each other in three incidents, including one in which the aircraft came within about five feet of each other, U.S. officials said.

Analysis: A highly sensitive U.S. missile site in Poland is at the heart of an issue animating the Kremlin’s calculations.

Police officers checking vaccination certificates in Hanover, Germany, in November.Credit…Ole Spata/DPA, via Associated Press

Germany plans virus-rule exit

Germany has been slower than most E.U. countries to ease coronavirus rules. But on Wednesday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and state governors agreed on a three-step plan to lift most of the remaining restrictions.

The first step would allow people to gather privately in groups if they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid recently, and it would drop the requirement to show proof of vaccination or recovery when entering shops.

The second step would take effect on March 4 and drop the vaccination-or-recovery rule for bars, restaurants and hotels. Outdoor events of up to 25,000 people would be allowed again, and nightclubs could open with a vaccination-or-recovery rule in place. The third step would take effect on March 20 if hospitalizations remain low enough, and it would end most restrictions except for mask requirements.

Elsewhere: Switzerland said that most restrictions, other than mask mandates on public transportation and in nursing homes, would end on Thursday. Austria said most restrictions would be lifted by March 5.

In other virus news:

  • Britain will extend Covid vaccine eligibility to all children 5 to 11.

  • Hong Kong is struggling under an Omicron wave.

  • Cases in the U.S. fell below their Delta peak, and the C.D.C. said it would soon issue updated guidelines.

  • Ottawa police ordered protesters, who have clogged city streets for weeks, to leave or face charges.

  • A large new study suggests that Covid could increase the risk of developing mental health problems.

Prince Charles and Michael Fawcett in Scotland in 2019.Credit…Andrew Milligan/Press Association, via Associated Press

London police investigate a royal charity

London’s Metropolitan Police announced an investigation into allegations that a charity led by Prince Charles offered to help with a knighthood and British citizenship for a Saudi billionaire in return for a donation.

Michael Fawcett, once Charles’s closest adviser, is alleged to have offered the billionaire Mahfouz bin Mahfouz help with his citizenship application and a knighthood, while Fawcett was also soliciting Mahfouz for a donation of 10 million pounds ($13.5 million).

The police said on Wednesday that they had enough evidence to open a formal investigation of whether the foundation violated a 1925 law that prohibits the sale of peerages or other royal honors. A spokesman for Charles insisted that he had no knowledge of any deal, and Mahfouz has denied any wrongdoing.

Analysis: For Queen Elizabeth, the investigation may be a bigger headache than Prince Andrew’s recent settlement. If Scotland Yard uncovers evidence that Charles knew about a potential quid-pro-quo, royal experts said, that would pose a grave risk to the throne’s heir.



Credit…Bernadett Szabo/Reuters
  • The European Court of Justice ruled that the E.U. can withhold funding from member countries that fail to uphold the rule of law. Above, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, one of the countries affected.

  • London’s troubled police force is searching for a new leader.

  • A Russian museum suspended a security guard for drawing eyes on faceless figures in a valuable avant-garde painting.


Credit…Tolga Akmen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • Inflation in the U.K. rose to 5.5 percent in January, the highest level in 30 years.

  • Google said that it was working to limit the sharing of data on Android smartphones.

  • Japan’s unions “are built around men.” The first female leader of the country’s largest association of labor unions wants to change that.

  • U.S. Federal Reserve officials discussed removing policy supports more quickly if inflation continues to accelerate.

  • The Biden administration accused China of failing to uphold a wide range of trade commitments.


  • If Kamila Valieva finishes in the top three in the women’s skating competition, there will be no medal ceremony because her doping case is under investigation.

  • Slovakia knocked out the U.S. men’s hockey team in a shootout.

  • Here’s how the quad jump has changed women’s figure skating.

  • After winning medals in aerial skiing, a Ukrainian athlete and his Russian competitor embraced.

  • Here are the latest updates and the medal count.

A Morning Read

Credit…Harpreet Chandi

Harpreet Chandi, a 32-year-old captain in the British Army, is apparently the first woman of color to complete a solo expedition to the South Pole. She traveled for 40 days and usually averaged 11 hours of skiing daily, but she sometimes kept it up for almost 20 hours, enduring temperatures that dropped to minus 50 degrees Celsius (minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit).


The age of anti-ambition

“Essential or nonessential, remote or in person, almost no one I know likes work very much at the moment,” Noreen Malone writes in The Times Magazine. “The primary emotion that a job elicits right now is the determination to endure: If we can just get through the next set of months, maybe things will get better.”

An estimated 25 million Americans left their jobs in the second half of 2021; it’s all but certain that this is the highest U.S. quit rate since the government began tracking those numbers in 2000.

The burnout goes all the way to the top: In Amazon’s managerial ranks, departures have reached what is being seen as a “crisis” level, according to Brad Stone in Bloomberg. Top executives at other firms have quit to spend more time with their families.

At some companies, it finally feels as if the top-paid people are running a little scared of their underlings, and many young professionals want to be in solidarity with their colleagues instead of climbing the ladder.

For them, ambition has changed. “The meaning that they once found in work,” Malone writes, “is now found in trying to make the workplace itself better.”


What to Cook

Credit…Kelly Marshall for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Roscoe Betsill. Prop Stylist: Maeve Sheridan.

Yewande Komolafe’s version of eintopf, a hearty German stew, is a one-pot meal that bursts with flavor.

What to Watch

Next week, the Black Film Archive — a living register of Black cinema — will turn six months old. Here are six highlights.

What to Read

In “Stolen Focus,” Johann Hari investigates how our brains have been broken by technology and what we can do to fight back.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: London-based media org. (3 letters).

And here is the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

Thank you for joining me for today’s briefing. — Whet

P.S. Ashley Calloway-Blatch will join the Standards team at The Times later this month.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the trucker protests in Canada.

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

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