Your Friday Briefing: A Times Investigation Into Bucha

Russian paratroopers entered Bucha to gain control of a major route toward Kyiv.

The Russians who killed in Bucha

An eight-month investigation by The Times has identified the Russian military unit behind one of the worst atrocities of the war in Ukraine: the killing of dozens of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.

A team of reporters spent months in Bucha after Russian forces withdrew in late March, interviewing residents, collecting security-camera footage and obtaining records from government sources. In New York, the reporters analyzed the materials and reconstructed the killings along one street.

The Times concluded that the perpetrators of a massacre along Yablunska Street were Russian paratroopers from the 234th Air Assault Regiment, based in the city of Pskov in western Russia and led by Lt. Col. Artyom Gorodilov.

The evidence shows that the killings were intentional. Russian troops apparently killed the people as part of a ruthless “clearing” operation to secure a route leading to Kyiv. Some of the most damning evidence implicating the 234th Regiment included phone records and decoded call signs used by commanders on Russian radio channels.

The Visual Investigations team identified 36 Ukrainian victims and retraced their final moments. For weeks, their bodies lay along Yablunska Street.

These are some of the people killed in Bucha.Credit…The New York Times

More on Ukraine

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky headed back to Kyiv after receiving a hero’s welcome in Washington.

  • Zelensky’s address to Congress revealed hints about his worries for the year ahead, David Sanger writes in an analysis.

  • The U.S. Senate passed a $1.7 trillion spending bill, which includes nearly $50 billion in assistance to Ukraine.

  • Bakhmut has been under fierce Russian attack for months. But through it all, one snack stand remained open.

Benjamin Netanyahu announced the coalition deal just minutes before a midnight deadline on Wednesday night.Credit…Maya Alleruzzo/Associated Press

Netanyahu’s new hard-line coalition

Israel’s Parliament is expected to ratify in the coming days a coalition deal that will return Benjamin Netanyahu to office just 18 months after he left. Netanyahu will lead a hard-line six-party coalition, the most right-wing administration in Israeli history.

Netanyahu’s deals to cement the support of far-right coalition partners are raising widespread concerns about the Israel’s future as a liberal democracy. Already, the coalition is pushing legislation that could upset the balance of powers between the government, the police and the judiciary.

Understand the Situation in China

The Communist Party cast aside restrictive “zero Covid” policy, which set off mass protests that were a rare challenge to the Communist leadership.

  • Medicine Shortages: As Covid rips through parts of China, millions are struggling to find treatment — from the most basic cold remedies to take at home to more powerful antivirals for patients in hospitals.
  • Traumatized and Deflated: Gripped with grief and anxiety, many in China want a national reckoning over the hard-line Covid policy. Holding the government accountable may be a quixotic quest.
  • A Cloudy Picture: Despite Beijing’s assurances that the situation is under control, data on infections has become more opaque amid loosened pandemic constraints.
  • In Beijing: As Covid sweeps across the Chinese capital, Beijing looks like a city in the throes of a lockdown — this time, self-imposed by residents.

The country is also preparing for a constitutional showdown. Netanyahu is on trial for corruption. He denies any intention to influence the case. But some coalition members seek to legalize some crimes of which he is accused and to restrict the authority of the attorney general, who is overseeing his prosecution.

Details: Future ministers include several far-right Jewish settlers who have a history of homophobia, antagonism toward Israel’s Arab minority and opposition to secular aspects of public life. One, Itamar Ben-Gvir, was barred from serving in the Israeli Army because he was considered too extremist.

Looking ahead: The right-wing block would be Israel’s first ideologically cohesive government since 2019, but analysts say that will not necessarily provide political stability. Members frequently disagree over policy and took more than six weeks to formalize their partnership.

This testing booth in Beijing was shut down after China ended its “zero Covid” policy.Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

China’s censors in a tailspin

Since China dropped its “zero Covid” policy, the country’s hundreds of thousands of internet censors don’t know how they are supposed to adapt or explain the abrupt policy shift.

Many frustrated and confused Chinese are openly asking why they put up with years of restrictions, only for China’s leadership to abandon the policies and allow the virus to spread unabated. For now, the propagandists are trying to emphasize social stability.

Cases: The W.H.O. says China is probably widely undercounting its Covid-19 cases, Reuters reports. This week, health authorities said that only deaths caused by coronavirus-induced pneumonia and respiratory failure would be attributed to Covid.


Asia Pacific

The police believed that Charles Sobhraj killed as many as 20 people, though he was convicted in only three killings.Credit…Prakash Mathema/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • A court in Nepal ordered the release from prison of a 78-year-old French serial killer who targeted Western tourists in Asia in the 1970s and ’80s.

  • Russia and China held joint naval drills in the East China Sea yesterday, The Associated Press reports, a day after Xi Jinping met in Beijing with Dmitri Medvedev, the former Russian leader and close ally of Vladimir Putin.

U.S. News

  • Sam Bankman-Fried will be released on $250 million bail. Two top executives of his crypto empire have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

  • Much of the middle of the U.S. is bracing for a brutal mix of cold, blowing snow and high winds set to arrive during peak Christmas-season travel.

  • Elon Musk has reinstated thousands of suspended Twitter users. They’re back to posting Covid skepticism and election denial.

The Week in Culture

Amber Heard has agreed to pay $1 million to end the case.Credit…Associated Press
  • Amber Heard decided to settle a defamation case involving her ex-husband, Johnny Depp.

  • Dolly Parton’s theme park has transformed, over three decades, into a major Christmas attraction.

  • Philip Pearlstein, an artist famous for his coolly observed nudes, died at 98.

  • The archaeological park of Pompeii keeps vegetation overgrowth at bay with a low-tech solution: hungry sheep.

A Morning Read

“It’s worse than Covid, worse than energy costs,” a restaurant owner said of the labor shortage.Credit…Mary Turner for The New York Times

London restaurants used to recruit many waiters, chefs and bartenders from Italy, Spain and Greece. Now, after Brexit closed doors to migrants, eateries are desperately short on staff.

About 40 percent of restaurants have curtailed their hours, and more than a third of restaurants, pubs and hotels could face insolvency or even closure by early 2023, according to a recent survey.

Lives lived: Xi Xi wrote with playful humor and poignancy about life at the margins of Hong Kong. She died at 85.


“Panettone isn’t a recipe; it’s a lifestyle,” said Giuseppe Piffaretti, who founded an international panettone competition.Credit…Camilla Ferrari for The New York Times

The fight over Panettone

Panettone was long a symbol of Christmas in Italy, where the domed sweet bread, scented with spices and dotted with fruit, was wrapped and given as a gift.

In the past decade, it has — much like pizza — burst past its Italian borders and gained a global profile. Panettone baking competitions have sprung up in Singapore and Japan, where one version is leavened with sake lees. Italians win most of the titles, and culinary schools and hotel chains have begun flying the winners to teach workshops in Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai.

But the international fanfare is causing hand-wringing among Italian bakers, who are determined to show that the original panettone is still No. 1. Best-of lists and awards have proliferated: “This is a world championship, not a church bake sale,” the founder of one contest said.

We have tips to help you pick the perfect panettone.


What to Cook

Credit…Kelly Marshall for The New York Times

This brown stew with pork shoulder is spiced and pungent.

What to Watch

Loosely based on real-life events in an ultraconservative Mennonite colony in Bolivia, “Women Talking” depicts women debating their faith after a series of sexual assaults.

What to Read

In “Blaze Me a Sun,” murders and disappearances pile up in a small Swedish town.

What to Listen to

An Indian American family celebrates Christmas with Bollywood music. Here’s their playlist.


London is too big to see in just a weekend. But you could try.

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and here’s a clue: Old flames (four letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. If you’re celebrating Christmas, I hope you have a lovely holiday. — Amelia

P.S. Rory Smith, our chief soccer correspondent, hoped for an unsurprising World Cup final. This one was harder to cover, but way more fun.

“The Daily” is about the political crisis in Peru.

You can always reach us at [email protected].

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