Your Friday Briefing

Russian tanks near the border with Ukraine on Wednesday.Credit…Associated Press

Russia warns it may abandon diplomacy

Russian officials signaled yesterday that they might abandon diplomatic efforts to resolve the security crisis surrounding Ukraine, bringing a whirlwind week of talks to an ominous end and deflating hopes that negotiators could move to ease tensions in Eastern Europe. Russia’s next move will most likely be up to its president, Vladimir Putin.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said the West’s current approach led only to a “dead end.” Michael Carpenter, the U.S. official present at the negotiations, also depicted the two sides as engaged in a standoff with no clear resolution. Ukraine said Russia’s massing of troops needed to be reversed.

Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, said that the U.S. was prepared to talk further, especially about missile deployments and military exercises in Europe, but was also preparing to respond “to a further Russian invasion of Ukraine.” “We have been very clear with Russia on the costs and consequences of further military action or destabilization,” he said. “So we’re ready either way.”

Related: A Russian-led military alliance began withdrawing troops from Kazakhstan on Thursday, Moscow said. Putin’s recent actions there, in Belarus and in Ukraine show that he is straining to maintain a sphere of influence.

Prince Andrew in New Zealand in 2005.Credit…Marty Melville/Getty Images

Prince Andrew is stripped of his military titles

As a sexual abuse case proceeds against him, Prince Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, was stripped of his military titles and royal charities by Buckingham Palace. He has been accused by Virginia Giuffre of raping her when she was a teenager — a charge he denies — during a period in which he was friendly with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

The stinging rebuke by the British royal family came a day after a federal judge in New York allowed the case to go ahead. Buckingham Palace said that Andrew, 61, would not “undertake any public duties and is defending this case as a private citizen.”

The palace also said Andrew, who is known as the Duke of York, would no longer be referred to as “His Royal Highness” in any official capacity.

Simultaneous difficulties: Historically, the British government and the monarchy have stabilized each other in rocky moments. With Prince Andrew and Boris Johnson, the prime minister, each facing their own crises, that’s now not an option, our London bureau chief writes. Here’s how Johnson could be forced out.

Anwar Raslan in court in Koblenz, Germany, on Thursday.Credit…Pool photo by Thomas Frey

Syrian officer is convicted in landmark trial

A court in Germany found Anwar Raslan, a former intelligence officer in Syria, guilty yesterday of crimes against humanity. Raslan entered Germany on a visa in 2014 and lived there legally until the German authorities arrested him in 2019.

The highest-ranking Syrian official to be held accountable for abuses during the country’s civil war, Raslan was accused of overseeing a detention center where prosecutors said at least 4,000 people were tortured and nearly 60 were killed. He has been sentenced to life in prison.

An international network of lawyers, activists and war survivors has struggled for years to bring officials involved in the violence to justice. Bashar al-Assad remains in power, and he and his senior advisers and military commanders avoid traveling to places where they might be arrested.

Context: Prosecutors indicted Raslan using “universal jurisdiction,” a legal principle stipulating that in the case of crimes against humanity and genocide, normal territorial restraints on prosecutions do not apply.


Virus News

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
  • The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers, a key element of the White House’s pandemic strategy.

  • Unvaccinated women with Covid are more likely to lose fetuses and infants.

  • Nearly 40 percent of elementary-school teachers and nearly a quarter of secondary-school teachers went on strike yesterday in France over lax Covid rules in schools.

  • Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

Other Big Stories

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
  • President Biden’s push for new voting rights laws has hit another roadblock, after Senator Kyrsten Sinema said she would not support changes to the filibuster to enact the legislation.

  • Doctors in the U.S. are divided over new guidelines that say teenagers should undergo mental health screenings before receiving hormones or gender surgeries.

  • The Taliban, having trouble filling government roles, are reaching into Pakistan to recruit ex-Taliban fighters quietly living there.

  • The U.S. ordered sanctions against North Korean officials in response to the country’s latest missile test.

Around the World

  • MI5, Britain’s domestic security agency, sent an alert on Thursday to lawmakers warning that an agent of the Chinese government was working to subvert political processes.

  • Nigeria lifted a seven-month ban on Twitter.

A Morning Read

Credit…Caroline Yang for The New York Times

Chuck McGinley, a chemical engineer from Minnesota, has returned again and again to society’s stinkiest sites for the past half-century. His goal: to measure, describe and demystify smell.


Billy Crystal hosting in 2012.Credit…Monica Almeida for The New York Times

Who will host the Oscars?

The Oscars haven’t had a host since Jimmy Kimmel in 2018. That’s changing this year, organizers announced this week, though they haven’t confirmed who will be stepping into the role.

Hosting the Academy Awards is a tough gig: It’s tricky to achieve the right balance of seriousness and humor in an hourslong broadcast. There have been great hosts, like Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal, and truly strange hosts, like an animated Donald Duck in 1958.

But many have struggled with the job, including seasoned comedians like David Letterman (“the gold standard of Oscar bombing,” The Atlantic wrote in 2015) and Hollywood stars like James Franco and Anne Hathaway (a disastrous attempt to attract younger viewers). In 2019, the show went hostless after the comedian Kevin Hart dropped out amid a backlash over his past homophobic tweets.

The ideal host is a star with mass appeal who can help boost the show’s ratings, which reached a record low in 2021. The show’s organizers are apparently considering the actor Tom Holland, who starred in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” The Hollywood Reporter writes. Award nominations will be out on Feb. 8, while the ceremony will air on March 27.


What to Cook

Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Need something to bring to a friend stuck in quarantine? Try this one-pot broccoli mac and cheese.

What to Watch

Try one of these critically acclaimed animated films this weekend — like “Belle,” about a high school student who journeys into a virtual world.

Advice From Wirecutter

Tasty nonalcoholic drinks to get you through Dry January.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Command to a dog (four 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. What does it mean to commit to another person in 2022? Here’s how our Weddings section is answering that question.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about a Covid battle in Chicago schools.

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

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