Your Wednesday Briefing: Ukraine Cracks Down on Corruption

Several top Ukrainian officials were sacked yesterday amid a growing corruption scandal, in the biggest upheaval in the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky since the Russian invasion began.

There were no signs that the scandal involved the misappropriation of Western military assistance, which is essential for Ukraine’s continued survival. But even a mouthful of embezzlement could delay aid. The move suggested an effort by Zelensky to clean house and reassure allies that his government would show zero tolerance for corruption.

The dismissals followed a series of allegations of corruption, including reports that Ukraine’s military had agreed to pay inflated prices for food intended for its troops, and general misbehavior. But Ukraine’s cabinet ministry, which announced the layoffs on Telegram, did not provide details on the specific reasons.

Zelensky said he hoped the punishment would be taken as a “sign for all those whose actions or behavior violate the principle of justice,” adding: “There will be no return to what used to be in the past.”

Details: A deputy defense minister was fired, as was a deputy attorney general who vacationed in Spain during the war. A senior official in Zelensky’s office also resigned after he came under fire for using a van that was donated for humanitarian missions.

Other updates:

A gunman killed at least seven people near San Francisco on Monday, 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 death rates from gun violence in the US, as well as some of its strictest gun laws.

The cases, which coincided with the Lunar New Year celebration, claimed the lives of many immigrant victims: Asian-Americans in their 50s, 60s and 70s in Monterey Park, an affluent Chinese-American suburb of Los Angeles, and farmworkers. Asians and Latinos around half Moon Bay, near San Francisco.

The suspects were Asian immigrant men between the ages of 60 and 70, a rare age range for shooters in mass shootings. In Half Moon Bay, authorities said the 66-year-old suspect, who was taken into custody “without incident,” may have been attacking his co-workers. And in Monterey Park, the police are still looking for a motive. The gunman targeted a dance hall he knew well.

Reaction: The White House said it was renewing a push for sweeping gun control measures that would renew an expired assault weapons ban.

The United States: 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 at a convenience store.

Chris Hipkins, who is due to be sworn in as New Zealand’s leader today, is making a respectful but energetic effort to create space between himself and Jacinda Ardern ahead of October’s national election.

He is trying to rebrand the Labor Party and appeal to centrist middle-class voters who have cooled with Ardern and his left-wing policies. In one example, he seems to prefer calling the country New Zealand, rather than Aotearoa, Ardern’s preferred Maori name.

“I supported Jacinda Ardern as our prime minister, I think she did an amazing job,” she said. “But she looks: we are different people and we will have a different style.”

Analysis: Hipkins was one of the main architects of the Ardern government’s key policies and its strict response to Covid. But he has a more rudimentary and combative style. Those traits, and his reputation as a practical figure capable of hard work, could resonate with voters outside the cities.

From Opinion: Ardern put New Zealand on the geopolitical map, but failed to deliver on many of his promises, Josie Pagani argues

  • The United States sued Google, accusing it of illegally abusing a monopoly over the technology behind online advertising.

  • Mike Pence’s aides found classified documents at his Indiana home last week, one of his aides said.

  • Health officials have proposed offering new booster shots against Covid-19 each fall, a long-employed strategy against the flu.

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese invested their life savings in 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 broken dreams and broken promises. “It was just a dream,” said one man, “to have a home, a family.”

In a year when moviegoers flocked back to big-budget shows, skipping just about everything else, Oscar voters yesterday spread the 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 earned acting nominations.

“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 nomination, while the hit sequels “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” were also recognized in the category.

In some ways, the spread reflected the confused state of Hollywood. Movies from streaming services were all the rage in recent years, and then they weren’t. Studios aren’t sure how many movies to release in theaters, and no one knows if anything besides superheroes, sequels, or horror can be successful. Extending the opening of best picture nominees could also help the Oscars, which needs a real boost after years of low 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.