‘Cyprus Problem’ Top Priority for Island’s New President

Nikos Christodoulides was sworn in as Cyprus’s president on Tuesday, promising to make finding a solution to the “Cyprus problem” his top priority after winning an election runoff on Feb. 12.

Christodoulides, 49, inherits a deadlock in reunification talks on the ethnically split island, labor disputes over high inflation, and what he called challenges of “exceptionally complex” irregular migration.

Christodoulides took an investiture oath in parliament. Cyprus has an executive system of government, with power invested in the presidency and its council of ministers.

Backed by centrist and right-wing parties, Christodoulides, a foreign minister until early 2022, won 52% of the vote over his main rival, leftist-backed Andreas Mavroyiannis.

“A solution to the Cyprus problem is my top priority,” he said. He met with Ersin Tatar, the Turkish Cypriot leader, last week.

Christodoulides has already sailed into his first controversy by falling short on a pre-election pledge of women making up 50% of his cabinet and of avoiding appointments of individuals who served in past governments.

“He raised the bar, but fell short,” the opposition leftist AKEL said in a statement.

Of 25 appointments announced on Monday, 14 were male and 11 female, though there were fewer females in key posts.

Two of his ministers have served in previous administrations – Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou, who served as health minister under the government of former President Nicos Anastasiades, and Finance Minister Makis Keravnos, who served in the same post 20 years ago.

The Digital Front of Ukraine’s Fight Against Russia

Working from bomb shelters has become the norm for Ukrainians like Roman Osadchuk.

“At the beginning, there were a lot of air raids. Nowadays, there are maybe two a week,” said Osadchuk. “I mean, I was in the shelter today,” he said offhandedly when he spoke with VOA from Kyiv.

Most times Osadchuk still has a “solid internet connection” and sometimes he has Wi-Fi in the shelter so he can still work, “just underground.”

That work is part of the digital front of the war in Ukraine. Based in Ukraine’s capital, Osadchuk monitors Russian disinformation for the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.

His work is part of a broader international effort from open-source researchers, analysts and journalists to study Russian disinformation, debunk false claims, and document violations.

Russia has deployed propaganda about Ukraine for years. And with the full invasion in February 2022, President Vladimir Putin falsely claimed the war was necessary to “de-Nazify” Ukraine and prevent genocide.

Some of those false narratives and tactics have changed in the past 12 months, but the omnipresence of Russian propaganda has remained constant, analysts said.

“This is the most digital conflict to ever occur,” and when it comes to the digital front, Russia has been on the back foot, said Nina Jankowicz, vice president in the U.S. for London’s independent nonprofit, the Center for Information Resilience.

“I think they expected, just like in the kinetic side of the war, to be really unmatched in the digital side of the war, and that absolutely has not been the case,” Jankowicz told VOA.

Open-source researchers have been working to “throw cold water on the lies coming out of Russia,” Jankowicz said. “And that’s what we’ve done.”

The Center for Information Resilience launched the Eyes on Russia Project in early 2022, as Russian troops amassed along the Ukraine border.

When troops crossed into Ukraine, the project worked to verify and geolocate incidents and attacks on civilian infrastructure.

Like detectives, researchers use everything from satellite imagery and shadows to street signs and license plates to help verify events, she said.

Those skills have helped the team to expose lies and debunk “everything from ‘Ukraine is full of neo-Nazis,’ to ‘Ukraine is attacking its own citizens,’” Jankowicz said.

The propaganda is mostly shared on social media, messaging platforms like Telegram, news sites and TV.

Initially the focus of propaganda was to justify the invasion, according to Ruslan Deynychenko, of the Ukrainian fact checking site StopFake.org and a journalist who previously contributed to VOA’s Ukrainian Service.

They created stories about de-Nazification and liberation, nuclear programs and secret laboratories where Ukrainians and Americans supposedly developed “combat mosquitoes” and other bioweapons, said Deynychenko. But about six months after the invasion, Deynychenko noticed that the rhetoric on Russian networks changed.

“They openly admit that they are fighting Ukraine and Ukrainians, and it’s not that they’re liberating Ukrainians from a neo-Nazi regime,” Deynychenko told VOA from Kyiv. “They basically [try to] justify Russian efforts to kill Ukrainians, to bomb Ukrainian cities.”

Russia’s Washington embassy did not reply to VOA’s email requesting comment.

The intensity of the work is a challenge, the researchers said.

“It became more difficult to figure out which case is more relevant,” said Nika Aleksejeva, who researches Russian disinformation about Ukraine at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.

What would have been noteworthy before the war isn’t as important today, she said. “The baseline has moved.”

Her colleague Osadchuk agreed. “It’s kind of toxic when you eat a lot of it,” Osadchuk said about the volume of disinformation he has analyzed over the past year.

For Toma Istomina, deputy chief editor at the English-language online newspaper, The Kyiv Independent, reporting accurately on the war is one of the best ways to combat disinformation.

“Information is probably as big of a tool in this war as the traditional weapons used on the ground,” Istomina told VOA from Vinnytsia, a city southwest of Kyiv.

“Information has really been weaponized by Russia for a while against Ukraine,” she added, but “Ukraine did a very good job during this war debunking Russia’s bullshit.”

The Kyiv Independent makes a point to not report on every lie that Russia tells, Istomina said, in part because there are just so many. But another reason is that reporting too much on Russian propaganda could risk legitimizing it.

Putin likely considers the Russian audience — inside the country and the diaspora — to be the most important target for disinformation, but Ukrainians are also in his sights, according to Osadchuk. The Global South has also become an increasingly important target, he said.

It’s always challenging to measure how effective disinformation is at influencing public opinion, Aleksejeva said, but propaganda probably helps the Russian domestic audience “cope with such an uncomfortable reality, basically escape it somehow.”

As for the West, she said, “it was much harder to win this battle from the very beginning.”

The fight against propaganda has extra relevance for Ukrainian researchers.

Exposing disinformation and documenting violations is a way for them to contribute to the war effort.

“Every Ukrainian on February 24 [2022] felt that there is a need to resist in some way, where you have some skills,” Osadchuk said.

For StopFake’s Deynychenko, he sees his work as a way to gather evidence that could be used to prosecute people “who used media as a powerful weapon” in the war. “We believe that those people should be held responsible,” he said.

And at The Kyiv Independent, Istomina said the mentality is that “when we work, we’re not victims — we’re fighters.”

EU Defends Talks on Big Tech Helping Fund Networks

Europe’s existing telecom networks aren’t up to the job of handling surging amounts of internet data traffic, a top European Union official said Monday, as he defended a consultation on whether Big Tech companies should help pay for upgrades.

The telecom industry needs to reconsider its business models as it undergoes a “radical shift” fueled by a new wave of innovation such as immersive, data-hungry technologies like the metaverse, Thierry Breton, the European Commission’s official in charge of digital policy, said at a major industry expo in Barcelona called MWC, or Mobile World Congress.

Breton’s remarks came days after he announced a consultation on whether digital giants should help contribute to the billions needed to build the 27-nation bloc’s future communications infrastructure, including next-generation 5G wireless and fiber-optic cable connections, to keep up with surging demand for digital data.

“Yes, of course, we will need to find a financing model for the huge investments needed,” Breton said in a copy of a keynote speech at the MWC conference.

Telecommunications companies complain they have had to foot the substantial costs of building and operating network infrastructure only for big digital streaming platforms like Netflix and Facebook to benefit from the surging consumer demand for online services.

“The consultation has been described by many as the battle over fair share between Big Telco and Big Tech,” Breton said. “A binary choice between those who provide networks today and those who feed them with the traffic. That is not how I see things.”

Big tech companies say consumers could suffer because they’d end up paying twice, with extra fees for their online subscriptions.

Breton denied that the consultation was an attack on Big Tech or that he was siding with telecom companies.

“I’m proposing a new approach,” he later told reporters. Topics up for discussion include how much investment is needed and whether regulations need to be changed, he said.

“We will have zero taboo,” Breton said, referring to the conference’s approach that no topic is off limits. “Do we need to adapt it? Do we need to discuss who should pay for what? This is exactly what is the consultation today.”

Russia’s Ukraine Invasion Dominates at UN Human Rights Council

Russia’s war of aggression took center stage at the opening of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s five-and-a-half-week session in Geneva.

As he kicked off this historically long and politically charged conference, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned what he called the carnage unleashed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which he said, “has triggered the most massive violations of human rights we are living today.”

“It has unleashed widespread death, destruction, and displacements,” he told those gathered in Geneva. “Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure have caused many casualties and terrible sufferings.”

Guterres presented a gloomy assessment of the state of human rights, noting that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which sets out the rights to life, liberty, security and many other rights and freedoms, was “under assault from all sides.”

He warned the erosion of human rights around the world has stalled and, in some cases, reversed progress in human development. He added that extreme poverty and hunger are rising around the world for the first time in decades.

“A record one-hundred million people have been forced to flee by violence, conflict and human rights violations,” said Guterres. “Just yesterday, yet another horrific shipwreck in the Mediterranean claimed the lives of scores of people seeking a better future for themselves and their children.”

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said much of the progress made over decades was being reined back and even reversed.

“The oppression of the past can return,” he said, along with “the old authoritarianism, with its brutal limits on freedoms writ large, and the suffocating straitjacket of patriarchy.”

The high commissioner added: “The old destructive wars of aggression from a bygone era with worldwide consequences, as we have witnessed again in Europe with the senseless Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Rights challenges in Africa

This week, some 150 heads of state, foreign ministers, and other dignitaries will present their priorities and the challenges they’re facing.

Democratic Republic of the Congo President Felix Tshisekedi headed a list of 46 dignitaries scheduled to speak during Monday’s opening day meeting.

He told the council that the main challenge facing his country was the cycle of violence and looting of natural resources by terrorists and armed groups since 1994, the year of the Rwandan genocide.

He said some 150 groups, including the M-23 rebels, mainly operate in the provinces of Ituri, Maniema, North Kivu, and Tanganyika.

“It is no secret to anyone that they are supported, armed by some states of the region, such as Rwanda and by foreign financial sectors,” he said. “For 30 years, the Democratic Republic of Congo has been the theater of the most abominable human atrocities.”

Rwanda has denied accusations that it has supported the M23 group in eastern DRC. However, United Nations observers and human rights groups have said there is evidence of Rwandan backing for the M23.

Tshisekedi said he is in consultation with 53 armed groups within the context of the Nairobi Peace Process. He said the consultations, which aim to re-integrate the militias into national life, do not include the M23 rebels or the group known as CODECO, a cooperative of militants drawn mainly from the Lendu farming community, which has been accused perpetrating violence against civilians.

Over the course of the coming weeks, the 47-member Council will review the human rights situations in Afghanistan, China, Myanmar, Syria, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Nicaragua, Israel and the Palestinian territories, among others.

It also will address thematic issues, such as torture, violence against children, discrimination, and freedom of religion.

Moscow is set to be represented at the meetings for the first time since Russia suspended its council membership last year.

Some information is from Reuters and The Associated Press.

New Earthquake in Turkey Kills 1, Injures 110 

A 5.6 magnitude earthquake hit southeastern Turkey on Monday, killing one person, injuring at least 110, and causing a number of already-damaged buildings to collapse.

The new tremor came three weeks after a 7.8 magnitude shook Turkey and Syria and killed more than 50,000 people.

Turkish authorities said that rescue teams were immediately deployed Monday to rescue people from the rubble. A father and daughter who were trapped beneath the ruins of a four-story building they had entered in the town of Yesilyurt to retrieve their belongings after the earlier quake were saved.

Yesilyurt, in Malatya province, was the center of Monday’s quake.

Yunus Sezer, the head of Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), said that search and rescue teams had been deployed at five buildings.

The region has had four earthquakes in the past three weeks, as well as more than 10,000 aftershocks, according to AFAD’s general director of earthquake and risk reduction, Orhan Tatar.

The earthquakes are expected to have an impact on Turkey’s upcoming elections. Current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is running for another term and faces what is expected to be a tough election in June.

Critics accuse the government of being too slow to respond to the initial quake emergency and opposition parties have said Erdogan’s government is responsible for the extent of the disaster, due to its failure to enforce building regulations.

At a news conference Monday, Erdogan acknowledged his government’s response was deemed by many to be insufficient.

“In the first days, we were not able to conduct work as efficiently as we wanted to in [the hard-hit town of] Adiyaman, for reasons such as the destructive impact of the tremors, adverse weather and challenges due to the damaged infrastructure,” Erdogan said.

The president said construction to rebuild damaged 309,000 homes would start soon. He said that in March and April, construction will also start on 234,000 new homes, while infrastructure, medical centers, and parks will also be built.

During the huge Feb. 6 earthquake, 173,000 buildings in Turkey collapsed or were severely damaged, making it the worst disaster in the country’s modern history

After this latest tremor, AFAD issued a warning on Twitter telling people not to enter or stand near damaged buildings in the earthquake zone.

Some information for this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press.


UK Says Sunak, Von Der Leyen Seal Deal to Fix EU Trade Spat 

The U.K. and the European Union ended years of wrangling on Monday, sealing a deal to resolve their thorny post-Brexit trade dispute over Northern Ireland.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the “decisive breakthrough” marked a “new chapter” in the U.K.-EU relationship.

Sunak and and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen signed off on the deal at a meeting in Windsor England. Von der Leyen told a news conference it was “historic what we have achieved today.”

The agreement, which will allow goods to flow freely to Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K., ends a dispute that has soured U.K.-EU relations, sparked the collapse of the Belfast-based regional government and shaken Northern Ireland’s decades-old peace process.

Fixing it is a big victory for Sunak — but not the end of his troubles. Selling the deal to his own Conservative Party and its Northern Ireland allies may be a tougher struggle. Now Sunak awaits the judgment of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which is boycotting the region’s power-sharing government until the trade arrangements are changed to its satisfaction.

Sunak is due to make a statement to the House of Commons later setting out details of the deal.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the U.K. that shares a border with an EU member, the Republic of Ireland. When the U.K. left the bloc in 2020, the two sides agreed to keep the Irish border free of customs posts and other checks because an open border is a key pillar of Northern Ireland’s peace process.

Instead there are checks on some goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K. That angered British unionist politicians in Belfast, who say the new trade border in the Irish Sea undermines Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom.

The Democratic Unionist Party collapsed Northern Ireland’s Protestant-Catholic power-sharing government a year ago in protest and has refused to return until the rules are scrapped or substantially rewritten.

The DUP has stayed largely silent in recent days, saying it needs to see the details of a deal before deciding whether it meets the party’s self-imposed tests.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said he was “neither positive nor negative” about the deal but would wait to see the details.

Hints of compromise towards the EU also have sparked opposition from hard-line euroskeptics who form a powerful bloc in Sunak’s governing Conservative Party. Critics include former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who as leader at the time of Brexit signed off on the trade rules that he now derides. Johnson was ousted by the Conservatives last year over ethics scandals, but is widely believed to hope for a comeback.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a prominent pro-Brexit Tory lawmaker, said acceptance of any deal “will all depend” on the DUP. “If the DUP are against it, I think there will be quite a significant number of Conservatives who are unhappy,” Rees-Moog said.

In a boost for Sunak’s chances of winning Conservative support, lawmaker Steve Baker — a self-styled “Brexit hardman” who helped topple Prime Minister Theresa May by opposing her Brexit deal in 2019 — said Sunak was “on the cusp of securing a really fantastic result.”

Sunak has said Parliament will get to debate any deal he strikes, but he hasn’t promised lawmakers a binding vote on it, and no vote in Parliament is expected this week.

Relations between the U.K. and the EU, severely tested during the long Brexit divorce, chilled still further amid disputes over the Northern Ireland Protocol. The U.K. government introduced a bill that would let it unilaterally rip up parts of the Brexit agreement, a move the EU called illegal. The bloc accused the U.K. of failing to honor the legally binding treaty it had signed.

The mood between London and Brussels improved after Sunak, a pragmatic Brexit supporter, took office in October, replacing more belligerent predecessors — Johnson and Liz Truss.

A deal is likely to remove customs checks on the vast majority of goods moving between the U.K. and Northern Ireland and to give Northern Ireland lawmakers some say over EU rules that apply there as part of the Protocol.

The thorniest issue is the role of the European Court of Justice in resolving any disputes that arise over the rules.

The U.K. and the EU agreed in their Brexit divorce deal to give the European court that authority. But the DUP and Conservative Brexiteers insist the court must have no jurisdiction in U.K. matters.

After sealing the deal, Von der Leyen is due to have tea Monday with King Charles III at Windsor Castle, 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of London. Buckingham Palace said the meeting was taking place on the government’s advice, leading critics to accuse Sunak of dragging the monarch, who is supposed to remain neutral, into a political row.

“I cannot quite believe that No. 10 would ask HM the King to become involved in the finalizing of a deal as controversial as this one. It’s crass and will go down very badly in NI,” former Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster said on Twitter.

Sunak’s spokesman, Max Blain, said the government “would never” embroil the king in politics.

“His Majesty has met with a number of foreign leaders recently,” he said, including Polish President Andrzej Duda and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “This is no different.”

World Central Kitchen Founder Jose Andres Visits Ukraine

A nonprofit called World Central Kitchen has been serving over 550,000 hot meals served daily in more than 1,000 Ukrainian cities and towns since Russia’s invasion, helping Ukrainians stay well fed. On the war’s first anniversary, the organization’s founder, Jose Andres, came to the Kyiv region in person. Anna Kosstutschenko met with the world-famous chef. Camera: Pavel Suhodolskiy.

Wooden Migrant Ship Splinters Apart, Killing at Least 59

Italian officials say at least 59 migrants died when the wooden boat they were in began splintering apart in heavy seas Sunday off the Italian coast. At least 12 of the dead are children.    

Some bodies washed ashore at a resort in the Calabria region.  

At least 80 people, including those rescued by emergency workers and others who were able to swim ashore after the boat disintegrated, survived the wreck, officials said.  

Photos show big chunks of the vessel on the beach near the town of Steccato di Cutro, and pieces of wood and other debris all along the shore.  

“It’s an enormous tragedy,” Crotone Mayor Vincenzo said.   

One of the men from the ship was taken into custody by Italian authorities on suspected trafficking charges.  

Survivors estimate that between 150 to 200 people were onboard the vessel that began its journey a few days ago from Turkey. Many of the migrants were from Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

“The reports of the drowning of over two dozen Pakistanis in a boat tragedy in Italy are deeply concerning and worrisome,” Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Twitter. “I have directed the foreign office to ascertain facts as early as possible and take the nation into confidence,” he wrote.  


Afghanistan’s de facto Taliban authorities did not immediately offer any comment on reports that Afghan nationals were also among the victims. 


Pope Francis said Sunday, “I pray for each of them, for the missing and the other migrants who survived.”   

Francis also said he also was praying for the rescuers “and for those who give welcome” to the migrants.  

Italy has been overwhelmed with migrants who are coming from Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and other places.  

Italy has asked other European Union countries to step up and take in some of the migrants, many of whom are not looking to stay in Italy, but instead are focused on traveling elsewhere in Europe to find work and/or reunite with family members. 

Ayaz Gul contributed to this report. 

France Reveals New African Strategy

French President Emmanuel Macron is set to deliver an address Monday revealing France’s new African strategy.   

Later in the week, the French leader travels to Gabon, Angola, the Republic of Congo and Congo. 

Macron’s visit to Africa comes as many nations there have expressed an anti-France sentiment that has included street protests in some West and North African countries.  

France is also finding that its long economic ties with Africa are starting to fray as Russia, China and Turkey make inroads.  

In addition, Mali has replaced the French troops stationed there with Russian military contractors, something France would not like to see replicated.  

The French leader will also attend a forest-themed climate summit in Gabon.   

‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ Dominates at SAG Awards

The unlikely awards-season juggernaut “Everything Everywhere All at Once” marched on at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, and even gathered stream with wins not just for best ensemble, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan but also for Jamie Lee Curtis.

The SAG Awards, often an Oscar preview, threw some curve balls into the Oscars race in a ceremony streamed lived on Netflix’s YouTube page from Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles.

But the clearest result of the SAG Awards was the overwhelming success of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s madcap multiverse tale, which has now used its hotdog fingers to snag top honors from the acting, directing and producing guilds. Only one film (“Apollo 13”) has won all three and not gone on to win best picture at the Oscars.

After so much of the cast of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” had already been on the stage to accept awards, the night’s final moment belonged to 94-year-old James Hong, a supporting player in the film and a trailblazer for Asian-American representation in Hollywood. He brought up the ignoble yellowface history of the 1937 film “The Good Earth.”

“The leading role was played with these guys with their eyes taped up like this and they talked like this because the producers said the Asians were not good enough and they were not box office,” said Hong. “But look at us now!”

Hong added that the cast of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” wasn’t all Chinese, though he granted Jamie Lee Curtis had a good Chinese name. Curtis’ win was one of the most surprising of the night, coming over the longtime favorite, Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”), who had seemed to be on a clear path to becoming the first actor to win an Oscar for a performance in a Marvel movie.

A visibly moved Curtis said she was wearing the wedding ring her father, Tony Curtis, gave her mother, Janet Leigh.

“I know you look at me and think ‘Nepo baby,’” said Curtis, who won in her first SAG nomination. “But the truth of the matter is that I’m 64 years old and this is just amazing.”

The actors guild, though, lent some clarity to the lead categories. Though some have seen best actress as a toss-up between Yeoh and BAFTA winner Cate Blanchett (“Tar”), Yeoh again took home the award for best female lead performance.

“This is not just for me,” said Yeoh, the first Asian actress to win the SAG Award for female lead. “It’s for every little girl that looks like me.”

Quan, the former child star, also won for best supporting male actor. The “Everything Everywhere All at Once” co-star had left acting for years after auditions dried up. He’s also the first Asian to win best male supporting actor at the SAG Awards.

“When I stepped away from acting, it was because there were so few opportunities,” said Quan. “Now, tonight we are celebrating James Hong, Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Hong Chau, Harry Shum Jr. The landscape looks so different now.”

Best actor has been one of the hardest races to call. Austin Butler (“Elvis”), Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”) and Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) have all been seen as possible winners. But it was Fraser who went home with the SAG Award for his comeback performance as an obese shut-in in “The Whale.”

“Believe me, if you just stay in there and put one foot in front of the other, you’ll get where you need to go,” said Fraser, who anxiously eyed the actor-shaped trophy and left the stage saying he was going to go look for some pants for him.

The SAG Awards are considered one of the most reliable Oscar bellwethers. Actors make up the biggest percentage of the film academy, so their choices have the largest sway. Last year, “CODA” triumphed at SAG before winning best picture at the Oscar s, while Ariana DeBose, Will Smith, Jessica Chastain and Troy Kotsur all won a SAG Award before taking home an Academy Award.

After the SAG Awards, presented by the film and television acting guild SAG-AFRTA, lost their broadcast home at TNT/TBS, Netflix signed on to stream Sunday’s ceremony. Next year’s show is to be on Netflix, proper.

Sunday’s livestream meant a slightly scaled-down vibe. Without a broadcast time limit, winners weren’t played off. A regal and unbothered Sam Elliott, winner for male actor in a TV movie or limited series for “1883,” spoke well past his allotted time. The show sped through early winners, including awards for Jean Smart (“Hacks”), Jeremy Allen White (“Bear”) and Jason Bateman (“Ozark”).

Another streaming effect: No bleeping.

Quinta Brunson and Janelle James of “Abbott Elementary” kicked off the ceremony with a few opening jokes, including one that suggested Viola Davis, a recent Grammy winner, is beyond EGOT status and has transcended into “ShEGOTallofthem.”

Brunson later returned to the stage with the cast of “Abbott Elementary” to accept the SAG award for best ensemble in a comedy series. Brunson, the sitcom’s creator and one of its producers, said of her castmates, “These people bring me back down to Earth.”

“The White Lotus” also took a victory lap, winning best ensemble in a drama series and another win for Jennifer Coolidge, coming off her wins at the Emmys and the Golden Globes. A teary-eyed Coolidge traced her love of acting to a first-grade trip to see a Charlie Chaplin film. She then thanked her date, a longtime friend, the actor Tim Bagley.

“You’re a wonderful date tonight,” said Coolidge. “I can’t wait until we get home.”

The ceremony’s first award went to a winner from last year: Jessica Chastain. A year after winning for her lead performance in the film “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” Chastain won best female actor in a TV movie or limited series for Showtime’s country music power couple series “George & Tammy.” Chastain jetted in from previews on the upcoming Broadway revival of “A Doll’s House.”

One award was announced ahead of the show from the red carpet: “Top Gun: Maverick” won for best stunt ensemble. Though some have cheered that blockbusters like “Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” are best picture nominees to the March 12 Oscars, the indie smash “Everything Everywhere All at Once” increasingly looks like the biggest blockbuster at this year’s Academy Awards.

The SAG Awards, Streaming Sunday, Oscar Bellwether? 

Last year, the top winners at the Screen Actors Guild Awards all corresponded exactly with the Academy Awards winners. Will Sunday’s SAGs offer the same preview?

The 29th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will begin at 8 p.m. EST Sunday and be streamed live on Netflix’s YouTube page. After the awards, presented by the film and television acting guild SAG-AFRTA, lost their broadcast home at TNT/TBS, Netflix signed on to stream the ceremony. Though future editions will be streamed live directly on Netflix, this year’s show, at Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles, will be on the streaming service’s YouTube page and its social media channels.

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “The Banshees of Inisherin” come in with a co-leading five nominations. Each film is up for the Guild’s top award, best ensemble, along with “Babylon,” “The Fabelmans” and “Women Talking.”

The SAG Awards are considered one of the most reliable Oscar bellwethers. Actors make up the biggest percentage of the film academy, so their choices have the largest sway. Last year, “CODA” triumphed at SAG before winning best picture at the Oscars, while Ariana DeBose, Will Smith, Jessica Chastain and Troy Kotsur all won both a SAG Award and an Academy Award.

With both supporting categories seemingly sown up by Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”) and Ke Huy Quan (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”), Sunday’s SAG Award could offer the most clarity in the lead acting awards.

Best actress could go to either Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”) or Cate Blanchett (“Tár”). While Andrea Riseborough’s much-debated campaign led to an Academy Awards nomination, some of the most notable Oscar snubs are up for best actress. Though nominated by the actors’ guild, Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”) and Viola Davis (“The Woman King”) were overlooked by the academy, prompting some to decry racial bias in Hollywood. Ana de Armas (“Blonde”) is also nominated.

In the best actor category, Austin Butler (“Elvis”), Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”) and Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) all are considered contenders with a realistic shot of winning. The Guild also nominated Adam Sandler (“Hustle”) and Bill Nighy (“Living”).

On the TV side, nominated for best ensemble in a drama series are: “Better Call Saul,” “The Crown,” “Ozark,” “Severance” and “The White Lotus.” Up for best comedy series ensemble are the casts of “Abbott Elementary,” “Barry,” “The Bear,” “Hacks” and “Only Murders in the Building.”

Presenters on Sunday include Zendaya (who scored her first SAG nomination for her leading performance in “Euphoria,” Aubrey Plaza, Jenna Ortega, Adam Scott, Chastain and Jeff Bridges. Sally Field is to receive the SAG lifetime achievement award, an honor to be presented to her by Andrew Garfield.