Ukraine’s Fight Against Corruption
Happy Monday! Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles on punching their tickets to State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona in two weeks.
Thirty-one teams aren’t going to win the Super Bowl this year. Only one of those teams has the first pick in the NFL draft.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- The Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, increased 5 percent year-over-year in December, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported Friday—the slowest such pace since September 2021 and down from a 5.5 percent annual rate in November. After stripping out more volatile food and energy prices, core PCE increased at a 4.4 percent annual rate in December. Consumer spending, meanwhile, fell 0.2 percent from November to December, after dropping 0.1 percent the month before. Federal Reserve board members will meet later this week to discuss additional interest rate hikes.
- Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday the Justice Department had charged three Iran-backed individuals with money laundering and murder-for-hire in a plot to kill an Iranian-American journalist critical of Iran’s human rights record. The men—who are members of an Eastern European crime organization with ties to Iran—allegedly sought to kill Masih Alinejad, who identified herself as the target of the assassination on Twitter and was also the object of an attempted kidnapping scheme in 2021.
- The Russian prosecutor-general’s office banned Meduza last week, cutting off the largest remaining independent Russian news site for allegedly “posing a threat to the foundations of the Russian Federation’s constitutional order and national security.” The move makes it illegal to “cooperate” with Meduza journalists or share a hyperlink to their website, under penalty of up to six years in prison.
- Seven Israelis worshippers were killed at a synagogue on Friday night when a Palestinian man opened fire during worship. The attack, which took place on Holocaust Remembrance Day, is the deadliest of its kind since Israel’s new right-wing government took power in December.
- The city of Memphis released four videos Friday evening—three from police body cameras, one from an overhead surveillance camera—depicting the events leading up to the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols earlier this month. The footage shows five Memphis officers beating Nichols relentlessly after pulling him over on January 7 on suspicion of reckless driving. The officers violently pulled Nichols from his vehicle, subjecting him to a barrage of contradictory orders as they punched and kicked him for an extended time.
- Petr Pavel, a retired NATO commander, was elected president of the Czech Republic on Saturday, defeating billionaire and former prime minister Andrej Babis with 58 percent of the vote to Babis’ 42 percent on the second ballot.
- In his first public remarks since classified material was found at his home in Indiana, former Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News on Friday he takes “full responsibility” for the documents’ presence in his house, adding that “mistakes were made” when he and his team were packing up in the final days of the Trump administration. The possible 2024 candidate promised to fully cooperate with any and all investigations.
- Members of the Republican National Committee (RNC) voted 111-51 on Friday to re-elect Ronna McDaniel to a fourth term as the party’s chairwoman. McDaniel defeated Harmeet Dhillon, the RNC’s national committeewoman from California, and Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO who played a prominent role in spreading lies central to former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Ukraine Confronts Corruption
Ukrainian investigative journalist Denys Bigus made his name uncovering the shady financial dealings of a former president who eventually fled the country, leaving behind an opulent car collection and private zoo. These days, Bigus has put his journalism career on hold to help push back Russia’s attack by operating drones.
Bigus’ trajectory is just one example of how fighting off the Russian invasion has distracted attention from Ukraine’s ongoing fight against corruption. But the ouster of more than a dozen Ukrainian officials last week—several accused of graft—has put the spotlight back on the problem. While Western officials have praised Kyiv’s response so far and say there’s no evidence of the United States’ aid being misused, Ukrainian officials know continuing corruption could undermine the West’s goodwill.