Your Wednesday Briefing

President Andrzej Duda of Poland, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France, in Berlin on Tuesday.Credit…Pool photo by Hannibal Hanschke

Europe calls for peace, but not at any price

After two days of diplomacy about the crisis in Ukraine, the leaders of France, Germany and Poland said their overriding goal was the preservation of peace in Europe, but they warned Russia of dire consequences “politically, economically and surely strategically,” according to Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, if the country launched further incursions into Ukraine.

It was one of the strongest statements yet on the crisis from Scholz. Germany has faced criticism for what has been perceived as a weak response to the massive Russian troop buildup at the Ukrainian border. But a recent meeting with President Biden appeared to have stiffened the resolve of the chancellor, who took office just two months ago.

A spokesman for the Kremlin rejected reports that Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and Vladimir Putin, the leader of Russia, had reached any agreement in a recent meeting to de-escalate the crisis over Russia’s military buildup at Ukraine’s border, suggesting that it was the U.S., not France, that had standing to negotiate such a deal.

Quotable: Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, called the situation “the most difficult since 1989.” Europe, he added, “has not seen these kinds of troop movements since World War II.”

News analysis: With few compromises so far, the standoff could turn into a drawn-out and dangerous diplomatic slog. The Ukraine crisis is here to stay, our Moscow bureau chief writes.

Nathan Chen is halfway to a gold medal after setting a world record.Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

World records and dazzling feats at the Olympics

Four years after a mistake-laden short program cost him a chance at gold, the American figure skater Nathan Chen is halfway to gold in Beijing. He set a world record with his high score. The gold medal will be decided tomorrow after the free skate.

Eileen Gu, the 18-year-old freestyle ski star who was born and raised in California and competes for her mother’s home country of China, won gold in big air with a trick she hadn’t tried in competition. Here’s how she did it.

China chose a little-known Uyghur athlete to light the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony. Since her star appearance, Dinigeer Yilamujiang has kept a low profile. The host country has high hopes for its short-track speedskating team, which is dominated by athletes from a small coal city.

Here’s the latest news, the medal count and how to watch.

Other Olympics updates:

  • China’s Northeast region has supplied most of the country’s athletes for the 2022 Games.

  • Asian Americans have transformed American figure skating, which until the 1990s was almost entirely white.

  • Winter Olympians say Simone Biles paved the way for them to talk about mental health.

Protesters in Windsor, Ontario, blocking a bridge that links the United States and Canada.Credit…Carlos Osorio/Reuters

Protests in Canada reverberate around the world

Protesters in Canada have occupied Ottawa, the capital, for 12 days. The demonstrations have rippled far beyond its borders, with a new road blockade temporarily cutting off the country’s busiest link to the U.S. and copycat convoys spreading to New Zealand and Australia. Talks of a similar protest are in the works in the U.S.

The demonstrations, which began as loosely organized groups of truck drivers and protesters opposed to the mandatory vaccination of truckers crossing the border, have also captured the imagination of far right and anti-vaccine groups around the world. The protests have also tapped into wider fatigue with pandemic restriction.

In Canada, most of the protesters and the organizers are clearly on the fringe, with some even wearing Nazi symbols and desecrating public monuments, though others described themselves as ordinary Canadians driven to distraction. Some members of the convoy in Australia have claimed to be “sovereign citizens” who are not subject to any laws.

Frustrations: Polls in the U.S. suggest the desire to return to normalcy has approached or even overtaken alarm about the coronavirus itself.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Italy will no longer require masks to be worn outdoors as new coronavirus cases decline in the country.

  • England has a huge backlog of elective medical procedures, worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, that will take years to clear, the health secretary warned.

  • Hong Kong will institute its tightest social-distancing rules since the start of the pandemic to curb its largest coronavirus outbreak so far.

  • Johnson & Johnson has quietly shut down a crucial plant producing its Covid vaccine.


News From Europe

Credit…Andy Rain/EPA, via Shutterstock
  • Amid calls from his own party audto quit, Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, shuffled his top team yesterday and hired a new chief whip to contain the mutiny.

  • The E.U. will withhold millions of euros in payments to Poland to recover unpaid fines. It is the first time it has used such a method to discipline a member country.

  • Four people, including an American skateboarder and a prominent Icelandic aviator, died in a small plane crash last week in Iceland.

  • In Switzerland’s biggest financial fraud trial in years, Pierin Vincenz, a former chief executive of Raiffeisen, is accused of making millions through illegal outside deals.

Other Big Stories

Credit…Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
  • Cyclone Batsirai battered Madagascar yesterday, causing widespread damage and leaving more than 20 people dead and tens of thousands homeless.

  • North Korea is building an underground base to house intercontinental ballistic missiles near China in an effort, experts say, to deter pre-emptive strikes from the U.S.

  • Three women say Harvard University ignored allegations that an anthropologist had sexually harassed students. The controversy has divided the faculty.

  • Mitch McConnell, the Senate G.O.P. leader, denounced the Republican National Committee’s characterization of the Jan. 6 attack as “legitimate political discourse,” calling it a “violent insurrection.”

What Else Is Happening

  • Responding to a report that he mishandled cases involving sexual abuse decades ago, retired Pope Benedict XVI asked for forgiveness, although he denied any misconduct.

  • Once a pandemic winner, Peloton announced the resignation of its chief executive and 2,800 layoffs, after a $439 million loss in the most recent quarter.

  • The Venice Biennale — the longest-running exhibition of contemporary art — features some big changes this year.

A Morning Read

Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

Across Taiwan, Beethoven’s well-known classical melody, “Für Elise,” is a Pavlovian call to action: Bring down your garbage and catch up on neighborhood gossip.

It’s part of a decades-old waste management policy in Taiwan under which “trash is not allowed to touch the ground.” People must hand-deliver their trash to garbage trucks, as opposed to wheeling out their bins for a later pickup or tossing the garbage into a dumpster.

Lives Lived

Greta Ferusic is thought to be the only person to have survived both internment at Auschwitz and the 1990s siege of Sarajevo. She died at 97.


And the Oscar goes to …

It’s Oscars season. Here are the highlights from the nominations announcement yesterday, ahead of the ceremony in late March.

Who led the pack? The Netflix western “The Power of the Dog” secured 12 nominations, while the sci-fi epic “Dune” earned 10. Steven Spielberg’s take on “West Side Story” and the historical drama “Belfast” — about the Troubles in Northern Ireland — each scored seven nominations.

History-makers: Troy Kotsur became the first deaf actor to get a nomination for the movie “CODA,” which stands for Child of Deaf Adults. Beyoncé — already the female artist with the most Grammys — picked up her first Oscar nomination for best original song for “Be Alive,” from “King Richard.”

Snubs: The drama “Passing” — about old friends navigating the color line in 1920s New York — didn’t get any nominations, and the Academy ignored Lady Gaga’s performance in “House of Gucci.” Denis Villeneuve, the force behind “Dune,” was also overlooked for directing.

If you watch one movie: Make it Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s quiet masterpiece, “Drive My Car,” which nabbed four nominations, including best picture and director. Yes, it’s nearly three hours long, but it’s a stunning meditation on grief and love.


What to Cook

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Harissa and white beans are key to this fresh, 30-minute chili recipe.

What to Watch

“Lingui, the Sacred Bonds” is an electric liberation story from Chad about a mother and daughter.

Q. and A.

Christopher Walken reveals the secret to his offbeat cadence and delivery.


If you’re addicted to your phone, here’s how to cut back.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Having an attitude (five letters).

And here is the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha

P.S. Tammy Audi joined the National desk as an enterprise editor.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on Ukraine.

Sanam Yar wrote today’s Arts and Ideas. You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].

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