News Wrap: Ukraine president implicates Russia in plot to overthrow the government

In our news wrap Friday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said intelligence services found Russia is involved in a plot to overthrow the government, the FDA reported Merck's experimental COVID-19 pill is effective, Russian rescuers found one survivor inside a Siberian coal mine ​after a deadly methane explosion and China condemns a U.S. congressional delegation for Taiwan visit.

Read the Full Transcript

  • William Brangham:

    In the day's other news: The U.S. Food and Drug administration reported Merck's experimental COVID-19 pill is effective. The FDA analysis found it can reduce rates of hospitalization and death in patients with mild to moderate infections.

    But the agency will consider new data from Merck that showed the pills benefits are smaller than first believed. FDA officials are also still mulling potential risks of birth defects.

    The president of Ukraine charged today there's a plot to overthrow his government, and that the Russians are involved. Volodymyr Zelensky said his intelligence service recorded the plotters planning a coup for next week and that it also involved Ukraine's richest man. Zelensky spoke with reporters in Kiev.

  • Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukrainian President (through translator):

    We have not only intelligence information, but even audio information, where representatives of Ukraine with representatives of Russia, let's say, are discussing Rinat Akhmetov's participation in the coup d'etat in Ukraine, and $1 billion will be used.

  • William Brangham:

    Akhmetov called the allegation that he'd fund a coup an absolute lie. Russia also denied any role.

    Ukrainian troops have been preparing for trouble along the border, where Russia's military is building up forces. Moscow insists it has no intention of invading Ukraine.

    Russian search crews have found one survivor inside a coal mine in Siberia. This is a day after a deadly methane explosion. It reduced the expected death toll to just 51. Crews resumed the search today, but officials said finding other survivors is unlikely. Families of the victims gathered at the mine, demanding answers to what caused the disaster.

    China is condemning a U.S. congressional delegation for visiting Taiwan today, with tensions at their highest in decades. President Tsai Ing-wen greeted four Democrats and one Republican from the House of Representatives, who reaffirmed American support for the island. Beijing said the visit challenged China's longstanding claims to Taiwan.

    Online retailing giant Amazon faced protests and scattered strikes on this Black Friday. Climate activists from Extinction Rebellion blockaded warehouses in Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands. They called for improved working conditions and environmentally friendly business practices.

    Here at home, stores opened early for Black Friday, but, in many places, crowds were smaller than in years past. Analysts cited online shopping, concerns over inflation and supply chain disruptions. Still, people lined up early from San Diego to New York.

    Some said it was calmer than usual, but that sought-after items were harder to find.

  • Eric Thay, Black Friday Shopper:

    Seems more chill. Nobody is rushing, yes, not the craziness that it normally is.

  • Juliana Viama, Black Friday Shopper:

    Well, we came from Brazil.We're tourists. And we came here to buy. I want to buy the iPhone, and he want to buy the Samsung 21. And they're all sold out. So, we need to wait a little bit more.

  • William Brangham:

    The National Retail Federation predicts sales will grow 8.5 percent to 10.5 percent this year.

    Much of Western Washington state is threatened tonight with new flooding. Forecasters say a wave of heavy storms could bring up to three inches of rain to areas already hit hard by earlier floods. The danger is most significant around Bellingham and the greater Seattle area through Monday afternoon.

    The Biden administration is recommending an overhaul of the federal oil and gas leasing program. Today's report calls for limiting the areas available for drilling on public lands and for making energy companies pay more. It stops short of proposing an outright end to leasing. The issue has drawn new attention lately with gasoline prices rising sharply.

    And an Afghan woman who famously appeared on "National Geographic"'s cover as a young girl in 1985 has now taken refuge in Italy. Sharbat Gula is now in her late 40s. She arrived in Rome on Thursday after being evacuated from Kabul. There had been fears that the Taliban might target her for being such a high-profile woman.

    And one of the greats of Broadway musicals, Stephen Sondheim, died today at his home in Connecticut. He was a six-time Tony Award winner, renowned for his words and music, starting with the lyrics for "West Side Story" and "Gypsy" in the 1950s. And then a long list of hits followed, including "Company" with Elaine Stritch and Jane Russell, plus "A Little Night Music," "Sweeney Todd," and "Into the Woods."

    Sondheim discussed his work in a "NewsHour" interview back in 2010.

  • Stephen Sondheim, Composer:

    The craft is not just the craft of writing. It's the craft of doing. It's the craft of putting it on. It's the craft of the combination of the orchestra and the singers and the final collaborator, the audience, because the audience is the final collaborator on every show.

  • William Brangham:

    Stephen Sondheim was 91 years old. We will have more on his life and work later in the program.

Listen to this Segment