The New York Times 2024-02-17 00:10:10


Live Updates: Biden Says ‘Putin Is Responsible’ After Report of Navalny’s Death

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Here is the latest.

President Biden said that there was “no doubt” that President Vladimir V. Putin’s government was behind the death of Aleksei A. Navalny, the outspoken dissident who Russian authorities said had died at a remote Arctic prison on Friday.

“Make no mistake: Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death,” Mr. Biden said at a White House news conference, while acknowledging that the United States still did not know details of what happened. “What has happened to Navalny is even more proof of Putin’s brutality. No one should be fooled.”

Mr. Navalny’s death would leave the country without its most prominent opposition voice at a time when Mr. Putin has amassed near-total power, invaded neighboring Ukraine and drawn the sharpest divisions with U.S.-led Western allies since the end of the Cold War.

Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service said in a statement that Mr. Navalny, 47, had lost consciousness and died after taking a walk on Friday in the Arctic prison where he was moved late last year. “All necessary resuscitation measures were taken, which did not lead to positive results,” the statement said.

The news shocked world leaders, although Western officials and many of Mr. Navalny’s supporters expressed skepticism about the Russian authorities’ statements. Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said in a live broadcast that his team could not immediately confirm his death but believed in all likelihood he was dead.

Here is what else to know:

  • President Biden praised Mr. Navalny’s activism and his courage in returning to Russia after being poisoned in 2020. “Even in prison, he was a powerful voice for the truth,” Mr. Biden said. He also repeated denunciations of former President Donald J. Trump, who said recently that he would “encourage” Russia to attack NATO allies that do not spend enough on their militaries, calling Mr. Trump’s comments “dangerous” and “outrageous.”

  • Mr. Putin did not immediately comment on the reports. His spokesman said that Mr. Navalny’s death had been reported to Mr. Putin, according to the Tass state news service. Shortly after the announcement, Russian television showed Mr. Putin speaking with students and industrial workers in the Ural Mountains, where he was asked about topics like robotics, government subsidies and engineering schools. He did not mention Mr. Navalny.

  • Yulia Navalnaya, Mr. Navalny’s wife, made a dramatic appearance at the Munich Security Conference, telling an audience of world leaders that while no one could trust Mr. Putin’s government, if her husband was dead, “they will be brought to justice.”

  • Mr. Navalny had been serving multiple prison sentences — on what supporters said were fabricated charges — that would likely have kept him locked up until at least 2031. In December, he disappeared for three weeks as the Russian authorities transferred him to a remote penal colony in the Arctic. He was last seen publicly on Thursday, when he appeared via video link in a court hearing.

  • Mr. Navalny, a former real estate lawyer, rose to prominence as an anticorruption activist. His death would deal a major blow to Russia’s marginalized opposition movement, already weakened by repression, internal rivalries and wartime nationalism.

Navalny saw the internet’s potential to organize, a Times editor remembers.

There’s someone interesting you should meet, a colleague in Moscow told me more than 15 years ago. He’s an activist, she said, but unlike anyone else in the band of politicians, intellectuals and dissidents who made up the fractured but lively opposition to Vladimir V. Putin back then.

He’s a blogger, she said.

A few days later, I sat down with Aleksei A. Navalny, then just 32, in a small office with cubicles and fluorescent lights that resembled what we now would call a co-working space. I was a new Moscow correspondent writing a story about ordinary Russians who had invested in partial sales of state firms known as “people’s IPOs,” and lost their life savings when shares crashed in the global financial crisis. He was a new lawyer organizing these people — mostly aging pensioners — to demand a bailout of the sort the Kremlin had arranged for oligarchs and other big investors.

We spoke for more than an hour, and though I ended up quoting him only briefly, near the end of a story that was published in The Washington Post, he left a deep impression.

On his laptop, he showed me how he was using Google spreadsheets and documents, which he shared with the public, to collect information not just about the “people’s IPOs” but also examples of corruption across Russia. Nobody else was doing anything like this at the time. The Google Docs suite had only been launched two years earlier, and YouTube, which he would later use to circumvent censorship and reach huge audiences, only a year before that. More than anyone I had met, this little-known Russian lawyer saw the potential of the internet to harness discontent scattered across the vast country into a movement against the state.

We met at a strange moment of uncertainty in Russian politics. Mr. Putin had stepped down as president and was serving as prime minister, a charade of respect for term limits but one that nevertheless dangled the possibility of a post-Putin future. But Mr. Navalny, I remember, was distinctly pragmatic about the weak state of the opposition in Russia.

A year earlier, he had been expelled from the small, liberal opposition party Yabloko and he was trying to launch a new group that embraced nationalism, even anti-Western nationalism, and that allied itself with anti-immigrant sentiment, all of which was taboo in much of the traditional opposition.

When I asked him about the most prominent pro-democracy leaders back then, the chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov and the former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov, he was gently dismissive. Mr. Kasparov could never win over the Russian people because his mother was Armenian, he said, and Mr. Nemtsov would not be able to do so either because his mother was Jewish. Mr. Navalny made clear he did not support such attitudes but said it was just the cold truth of Russian public opinion. To replace Mr. Putin, who enjoyed broad popular support and was then only 56, you had to understand that, he said.

Still, he insisted, Mr. Putin and the authoritarian state he had built were vulnerable, because of widespread official corruption. He scrolled through the documents on his screen, and described plans to go after Russia’s big oil and gas companies, the cash machines of the economy. He said he would insist on transparency as an activist investor — and expose theft that benefited the political establishment, meaning Mr. Putin and his allies.

“They wanted the money without the responsibility, without recognizing the rights of shareholders,” he said of the “people’s IPOs.”

My colleague, who translated for us during the meeting, asked me afterward what I thought of Mr. Navalny. I told her she was right. He was interesting and not of the mold of the political dissidents and opposition figures embraced by the West at the time.

For Mr. Putin, it seemed, he would be quite a bit more dangerous.


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Several of Putin’s other critics have been poisoned or have met violent ends.

Western officials were quick to blame President Vladimir V. Putin for the reported death in prison of Aleksei A. Navalny, the most prominent opposition leader in Russia. One reason is the long history of killings and poisonings of figures who were perceived to have challenged Mr. Putin’s rule.

Mr. Putin and the Kremlin have always denied having a hand in the deaths of his political opponents, but Western officials say there is a clear pattern over the Russian leader’s two decades in power suggesting otherwise.

Yevgeny V. Prigozhin

Last year, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the Russian mercenary leader of the private military force Wagner, staged a brief uprising against Russia’s military leadership and marched on Moscow after questioning the Kremlin’s motives for its war against Ukraine and criticizing Russia’s defense minister. The Wagner forces eventually halted their advance after the president of Belarus brokered a deal.

Two months later, Mr. Prigozhin died in a plane crash, which U.S. and Western officials believed was a result of an onboard explosion. The Kremlin denied allegations that Mr. Putin had Mr. Prigozhin killed for disloyalty.

Boris Y. Nemtsov

Boris Y. Nemtsov, a vocal champion of democratic reforms and an opposition leader, was shot and killed in central Moscow in 2015, days before he planned to lead a protest against the Russian moves to seize control of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. His assassination was considered one of the most prominent murders since Mr. Putin came into power.

Mr. Putin condemned the killing, and his spokesman said he would personally lead the investigation. Two years later, five men were convicted of Mr. Nemtsov’s assassination, but the opposition leader’s family said that those actually responsible had yet to be brought to justice.

Anna Politkovskaya

In 2006, Anna Politkovskaya, a 48-year-old journalist and fierce critic of Mr. Putin, was shot in the head and found dead in her apartment. Ms. Politkovskaya had covered the second Chechen war for a Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, writing about the brutal war tactics used there such as torture, mass executions and kidnappings.

Eight years later, Moscow’s highest criminal court sentenced five men to prison for Ms. Politkovskaya’s murder, but it remains unclear who ordered the killing. Last November, one of the convicted organizers of the murder was pardoned by Mr. Putin in return for his service in Ukraine, his lawyer said.

Sergei V. Skripal

Other Kremlin dissidents were nearly killed after being poisoned abroad, including a former Russian intelligence officer turned British spy, Sergei V. Skripal. He was found unconscious with his daughter on a park bench in England in 2018, having been poisoned with Novichok, the same nerve agent used against Mr. Navalny in Russia in August 2020.

It was unclear whether Mr. Putin played a role in Mr. Skripal’s poisoning, but their lives had intersected in key moments, according to dozens of interviews and a review of Russian court documents. Three Russian military intelligence offices were eventually charged by British authorities for the attempted assassination.

Viktor A. Yushchenko

Viktor A. Yushchenko, a former Ukrainian candidate opposing the Kremlin-backed candidate in 2004, was poisoned after having dinner with a Ukrainian intelligence official. Once he became Ukraine’s president in January 2005, he and Mr. Putin pledged to mend ties and cooperate.

In London, hundreds gathered outside the Russian Embassy for a spontaneous rally. One of its organizers, Alexey Egorov, a 45-year-old I.T. specialist, made a visible effort not to break down in tears. “It is very sad,” he said, “but Navalny asked us not to give up, and we won’t.”

Russians around the world gather to mourn and protest Navalny’s reported death.

Thousands of supporters came out on Friday inside Russia and across the world to commemorate the death of Aleksei A. Navalny, Russia’s foremost opposition leader, and to express their anxiety, shock and despair.

Inside Russia, they braved freezing-cold weather and possible arrest with police officers standing by as they laid their flowers and candles in silence.

In Moscow, a line of people queued up in front of the Solovetsky stone, brought from one of the first Gulag camps and installed in front of the secret police headquarters to commemorate victims of political repression in the country. According to a video posted by Sotavision, a local news outlet, police officers urged people to move along to make sure there would not be a big crowd. Late at night, the monument was completely covered by flowers, according to pictures from the area.

In an interview from Moscow, Irakli, 33, who spoke on the condition that his last name be withheld for fear of repercussion, said that Mr. Navalny had been uniquely able to unite people and achieve meaningful results.

“This is a great loss for the future of the people and the future of Russia,” he said via Telegram, a messaging app.

In St. Petersburg, Russia, people left flowers, candles and photos of Mr. Navalny in the city center, on a monument memorializing the victims of Stalinist purges. People also came out in Novosibirsk, a major city in Siberia; Rostov-on-Don in the south; and other cities.

A 28-year-old lawyer from Belgorod, a regional center on the Russian border with Ukraine, said that Mr. Navalny “showed that you can and should stand until the end.”

“It’s a shame that a man who ended up in prison for no reason died,” he said. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because in Russia, he said, you can “only whisper Navalny’s name, only call him an extremist.”

The atmosphere was subdued in Russia, but in other countries people gathered in front of Russian embassies shouting slogans and waving posters that called President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia a “murderer.”

When Kirill Tkachenko, 27, learned the news about Mr. Navalny’s death, he went to write a poster that said just that.

“I felt shocked,” said Mr. Tkachenko, a software engineer who came to Tbilisi, Georgia, from St. Petersburg, Russia, after Mr. Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. “Navalny was the face of the Russian opposition; his death was a big blow.”

Hundreds of people protested in front of the Russian diplomatic mission to Georgia, a country in the Caucasus that hosted thousands of Russians who fled the country protesting the war or in fear of being conscripted. They shouted “Don’t give up,” one of Mr. Navalny’s slogans, or “He went to prison for us and died for us.”

“It was impossible to get ready for this news,” said Sonya Sepman, 24, a video producer who fled Russia after the war.

“I don’t want to lose hope, but Aleksei was such a symbol for us,” she said, bursting into tears. “I hope his memory will be preserved.”

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More than 100 people have been detained across Russia on Friday while honoring Navalny, the OVD-Info rights and legal aid group reports. People have held memorial vigils in at least 55 Russian cities, according to 7×7, a Russian news organization that covers the country’s regions.

Could Navalny’s poisoning in 2020 have hastened his death?

Medical toxicologists said on Friday that it was unlikely that the death of Alexei A. Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, had anything to do with lasting effects from the poisoning attack in 2020 that exposed him to a highly potent Novichok nerve agent.

After the attack, which left Mr. Navalny violently ill during a flight on Aug. 20, 2020, he was treated in the Russian city of Omsk and then evacuated by air ambulance to Berlin. Over weeks of intensive treatment there, doctors later reported, Mr. Navalny made a remarkable recovery.

“Our patient had a very favorable outcome,” a group of German doctors wrote in a case report in a scientific journal in late 2020. Within two months of the attack, they said, he had “near-complete recovery” of his neurological health and no evidence of polyneuropathy, a nerve condition associated with the Novichok family of toxins.

From that report, it appeared unlikely that Mr. Navalny had been suffering the types of lasting problems from the poisoning that could have, on their own, considerably weakened his health, experts said.

“I don’t think his death is related to his poisoning years ago,” said Dr. Peter Chai, a medical toxicologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who has studied the history and medical effects of the Novichok class of nerve agents. “He seems to have made a pretty complete recovery after a pretty severe poisoning.”

Novichok is a weaponized version of a chemical commonly used in agricultural settings to kill insects and plants. The Novichok toxins are so dangerous in part because they are believed to target the peripheral nervous system.

As a result, the agents can cause debilitating nerve damage, leaving victims with difficulty balancing, walking and grasping things as well as tingling sensations in their hands or feet and a susceptibility to chronic infections.

One theory of the motivation for developing Novichok toxins as weapons in the 1980s, Dr. Chai said, was that it could benefit attacking forces to have an agent that left even survivors of an exposure with chronic nerve issues, making it more difficult for them to resume the fight.

That type of long-lasting neuropathy can range from mildly annoying to excruciatingly agonizing, said Dr. Edward W. Boyer, a professor specializing in medical toxicology at Ohio State University.

But the German doctors’ case report said there were no signs of that condition in Mr. Navalny two months after his poisoning. And even in patients with the condition, Dr. Boyer said, it is generally difficult to draw a straight line from the nerve condition to a death.

“It’s really difficult for me to connect the dots from a Novichok exposure in the past to a death today,” he said.

A Times reporter reflects on a conversation with Navalny, an uncommon Russian politician.

Sitting in the warren of rooms in a hipster brick Moscow office building where Aleksei A. Navalny ran both his political movement and his anti-corruption organization, I asked him about running for president in 2024.

There had been a series of small but widespread protests across Russia against corruption that spring of 2017, prompted by his investigation that revealed the vast wealth amassed by Dmitri A. Medvedev, the prime minister and former president. Although his supporters hoped Mr. Navalny could run for president in 2018, one told me he thought 2024 was more likely.

Mr. Navalny shook his head. “When I hear such a question I think about the president of the Republic of Zimbabwe,” he started.

The African leader had been in power for 35 years, and Mr. Navalny said that he could imagine President Vladimir V. Putin sticking around until not just 2024, but 2044 with his approval rating still stuck at 84 percent and his body mostly bionic.

“We need to think about what we need to do right now,” he said. “I do not agree with these rulers. They are making life in Russia worse. They are taking the country in the wrong direction.”

It was a vintage Navalny response: smart, witty, irreverent, prescient and somewhat unexpected. He seemed to embody the idea that if he ever became president, Russia would be a more relaxed place.

Of course, he used his response to pivot immediately to his favorite theme: criticizing Mr. Putin’s authoritarian grip on power. (Mr. Putin later changed the constitution so that he can stay in office until 2036.) Russian politicians in general are not given to cracking jokes, much less comparing their faded empire to a small African dictatorship.

Mr. Navalny was approachable, preferring to speak Russian rather than English, which he had worked to improve and spoke fluidly. He usually dressed casually but well, sporting clean bluejeans and a pressed cotton shirt. He kept fit.

At the time of that interview, he was thrilled that his live broadcasts on YouTube were beginning to catch on. He opined about politics and took questions from viewers submitted via social media. While I was watching him prepare, he looked startled for a minute because he thought he had missed the queue and that the broadcast had started. He joked easily with his staff.

“It’s always nerve-racking,” said a man who, in his public positions, did not seem to fear anything. On air that day, Mr. Navalny was going to discuss corruption allegations swirling around Alisher Usmanov, a billionaire oligarch close to the Kremlin.

The sound engineer asked him for a voice check.

“12345. Alisher Usmanov is bad,” he said.

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Haley attacks Trump over past praise for Putin after report of Navalny’s death.

Many Republicans lined up to condemn President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Friday after Russian authorities reported the death of Aleksei A. Navalny, the outspoken opposition leader.

But Nikki Haley went further, using criticism of Mr. Putin to attack former President Donald J. Trump, her rival in the G.O.P. primary, for his past remarks that praised Mr. Putin.

“Putin did this. The same Putin who Donald Trump praises and defends,” Ms. Haley, a former governor of South Carolina who served Mr. Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, wrote on the social media platform X on Friday.

She referenced comments that Mr. Trump made in 2015, during his first run for president, when he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that, “In all fairness to Putin, you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t seen that.”

Russian authorities announced on Friday that Mr. Navalny, an anticorruption activist who was openly critical of Mr. Putin and was serving multiple sentences that would likely have kept him in prison until 2031, had died in a prison inside the Arctic Circle. President Biden said on Friday afternoon that U.S. officials did not have a full understanding of the situation’s circumstances, but that he believed “there is no doubt that the death of Navalny was a consequence of something that Putin and his thugs did.”

Mr. Trump has not yet commented publicly on Mr. Navalny’s death, prompting Ms. Haley to also seize on his silence. In another post to X, she wrote that, “Putin murdered his political opponent and Trump hasn’t said a word after he said he would encourage Putin to invade our allies. He has, however, posted 20+ times on social media about his legal drama and fake polls.”

Since reports of Mr. Navalny’s death surfaced Friday morning, Mr. Trump delivered posts on Truth Social that criticized Fani T. Willis, the prosecutor in his Georgia election interference case; said that the world had “experienced misery, destruction, and death” during Mr. Biden’s term in office; and promoted his appearance at “Sneakercon” in Philadelphia on Saturday. But as of Friday afternoon, there was no mention of Mr. Putin or Mr. Navalny.

Ms. Haley has been increasingly critical of Mr. Trump’s approach to foreign policy, and specifically his attitude toward Mr. Putin. She told voters at recent stops in South Carolina that Mr. Trump had taken “the side of a thug,” after the former president said in South Carolina last weekend that he might “encourage” Russia to attack N.A.T.O. allies delinquent on payments to the military alliance.

Her campaign issued a statement later on Friday that attempted to further connect Mr. Trump’s past praise to his recent comments.

“Donald Trump continues to side with Vladimir Putin — a man who kills his political opponents, holds American journalists hostage, and has never hidden his desire to destroy America,” Ms. Haley said. “Trump continues to side with Putin over our allies and our military service members.”

The Kremlin was never able to fully silence Navalny.

While the Kremlin authorities worked tirelessly over many years to silence Aleksei A. Navalny, they never entirely succeeded, not even by locking him up in one of the harshest penal colonies located above the Arctic Circle.

Using both his reputation as the most respected, most viable leader of the often beleaguered opposition movement — and his training as a lawyer with a wily understanding of loopholes in the system — Mr. Navalny always found ways to be heard.

From prison, he denounced the war in Ukraine and continued to spotlight the vast wealth accumulated by senior government officials. In his latest effort, he endorsed the idea that, during the presidential election from March 15 to 17, all Russians opposed to the war should protest silently by showing up at polling stations across Russia exactly at noon.

“While in prison, Aleksei Navalny remained the moral and de facto leader of the opposition to Putin,” said Fyodor Krasheninnikov, a Russian political commentator based in Brussels. “This certainly bothered the authorities.”

While in prison, Mr. Navalny used several methods to communicate with the outside world. Barred from seeing his immediate family members, he spoke to his lawyers and some of what he said invariably ended up on X, formerly Twitter, and other social media apps.

For example, starting in early 2023 he had a 15-point posting pinned to the top of his profile in X attacking President Vladimir V. Putin for the war in Ukraine and predicting defeat. Russia criminalized such comments early in the war, but Mr. Navalny, already sentenced to at least two decades in prison, had nothing to lose.

“The real reasons for this war are the political and economic problems within Russia, Putin’s desire to hold on to power at any cost, and his obsession with his own historical legacy,” the post said. “He wants to go down in history as ‘the conqueror czar’ and ‘the collector of lands’.” It attracted more than 3.3 million views.

The authorities first tried to hinder communications by installing an opaque barrier in the visiting room, so he and his lawyers could not see written messages. When that failed, his three lawyers were arrested last year and charged with participating in an extremist organization. Both his organization, Foundation for Fighting Corruption, and his sprawling network of regional political offices were declared extremist organizations in 2021. The three lawyers who were accused are currently in pretrial detention.

Imprisoned under increasingly harsh conditions, often in solitary confinement, Mr. Navalny repeatedly brought lawsuits against the authorities over violations of prison regulations. That forced the authorities to hold open hearings, and Mr. Navalny used his appearance from a court inside prison to both denounce his treatment and to comment on political issues.

He sued over the fact that he was not given a paper and pen. He sued over the 10-minute limit imposed on him to eat, saying that since he was given boiling water he could not drink it in that time.

Last August, the prison authorities sought to punish him over his use of slang words, saying that he was contributing toward a “criminal environment.” But Mr. Navalny, who demanded that the prison authorities supply him with a list of prohibited words, again sued, arguing that senior Kremlin officials used similar vocabulary all the time. The concept of a “criminal environment” in Russia was a broad one that included “people in suit jackets,” he said.

His organization, which moved to exile in Lithuania even before Russia invaded Ukraine, continued with its anti-corruption investigations and its You Tube news channel, which also kept him in the spotlight.

Evgenia Albats, a renowned Russian journalist currently at Harvard University, said Mr. Navalny maintained his appeal from prison. (She underscored that she was still waiting for confirmation of his death from his lawyers, because the government might just be “trying to hide him.”)

“He used every possibility to speak out and people were listening to him, people were watching for the news from the penal colony,” she said. “His main message was ‘I am not afraid, and you should not be afraid.’”

Milana Mazaeva contributed reporting.

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Navalny’s team believes he has died in part because of Russian official statements, but also because it received confirmation of unusual happenings in Kharp, the Arctic town where the opposition campaigner was being incarcerated. Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny’s anticorruption foundation, said the prison stopped taking calls and had been put under special protection, as a lot of people arrived in the town, with some sort of official proceedings in the hospital and morgue.

Navalny’s lawyers and relatives are expected to arrive on Saturday at the Arctic prison where he has been held, said Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s press secretary.

Navalny, a provocateur, once duped a Russian officer into confessing to a plot to poison him.

Aleksei A. Navalny made a career of needling Russia’s security establishment. In December 2020, he produced perhaps his most brazen move: a video which he said showed him phoning a Russian intelligence officer and tricking him into confessing to a plot to kill Mr. Navalny by planting poison on his underpants.

“The priority was maximum secrecy,” the man can be heard telling Mr. Navalny over the phone. “So that no one could record it, no one saw anything they didn’t need to see, and so on.”

Mr. Navalny and Bellingcat, the open-source investigative outlet, identified the man as Konstantin Kudryavtsev, a chemical weapons specialist at Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B. The F.S.B., in a statement, called Mr. Navalny’s video a forgery.

The video of the purported 49-minute call with his own would-be assassin inside one of Russia’s most secretive and powerful intelligence agencies jolted the Russian internet, drawing more than seven million views on YouTube within hours. And it put the Kremlin on the defensive yet again over Mr. Navalny’s poisoning.

Mr. Navalny used caller-I.D.-spoofing software to make it look as if he were calling from an F.S.B. landline, and introduced himself as an aide to a senior Russian security official preparing an urgent report on what went wrong in the mission.

Mr. Navalny first similarly tried to trick another F.S.B. officer on the team, who responded, “I know exactly who you are,” and hung up, according to Bellingcat. But Mr. Kudryavtsev apparently took the bait.

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Biden condemns ‘Putin and his thugs’ for Navalny’s death as allies ‘panic.’

President Biden blamed President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia personally on Friday for the reported death of the imprisoned Russian dissident Aleksei A. Navalny, and cited the case in pressing House Republicans to approve military aid to Ukraine in its war with Moscow.

But while he once threatened to impose “devastating” consequences on Mr. Putin if Mr. Navalny died in prison, the president conceded that there was not much more he could do after the sanctions and other actions taken in the last two years in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Make no mistake: Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death,” Mr. Biden said in a televised statement from the White House. “Putin is responsible. What has happened to Navalny is yet more proof of Putin’s brutality. No one should be fooled, not in Russia, not at home, not anywhere in the world.”

Asked if Mr. Navalny had been assassinated, Mr. Biden said the United States did not have a full understanding of the circumstances. “The answer is, we don’t know exactly what happened, but there is no doubt that the death of Navalny was a consequence of something that Putin and his thugs did.”

The death of Mr. Navalny came at a delicate moment in America’s confrontation with Russia over its aggression in Europe and repression at home. House Republicans are blocking $60.1 billion in military aid to Ukraine at the behest of former President Donald J. Trump, who himself is boasting that he would “encourage” Russia to attack NATO allies that do not spend enough on their armed forces.

Mr. Biden is seeking to make the case for American leadership in the world and reassure European allies that the United States still has their back. He sent Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to the Munich Security Conference in Germany this week to defuse fears of an American retreat. But the mood in Munich was dark even before reports of Mr. Navalny’s death. American attendees said everywhere they went, they were besieged by distraught Europeans.

“What we want to hear are real assurances that the Americans are not going to abandon Ukraine and Europe,” Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German ambassador to the United States and longtime impresario at the conference, said before Ms. Harris’s speech. “There is panic in this country.”

Ms. Harris sought to give just such assurances, although there was great skepticism in the hall, where many were already preparing for the prospect of a second term for Mr. Trump if he wins the November election.

“In these unsettled times, it is clear: America cannot retreat,” Ms. Harris told the conference. “America must stand strong for democracy. We must stand in defense of international rules and norms, and we must stand with our allies. That is what represents the ideals of America, and the American people know that is what makes us strong. And make no mistake, the American people will meet this moment, and America will continue to lead.”

Speaking in Washington, Mr. Biden cited Mr. Navalny’s death to press his argument to Congress to pass the security aid to Ukraine and expressed indignation that the House had left for a recess without taking action.

“It’s about time they step up, don’t you think?” he said. “Instead of going on a two-week vacation. Two weeks! They’re walking away. Two weeks! What are they thinking? My God. This is bizarre. And it’s just reinforcing all the concern and almost, I won’t say panic, but real concern about the United States being a reliable ally. This is outrageous.”

It was not clear exactly what had happened to Mr. Navalny, but no one in the Biden administration was taking seriously the official explanation that he simply had lost consciousness and died after taking a walk at his Arctic prison. If he was killed, American officials will have to consider what that says about Mr. Putin at this moment. With events seemingly going his way in Washington lately, some analysts said, Mr. Putin may have felt more impunity to act against his most prominent internal challenger without fear of penalty.

Nearly three years ago, Mr. Biden said he had warned Mr. Putin, during a meeting in Geneva, not to harm Mr. Navalny while he was in prison, adding that no one would buy any Russian cover stories if he did turn up dead. “I made it clear to him that I believe the consequences of that would be devastating for Russia,” Mr. Biden told reporters following the meeting in 2021.

“What do you think happens when he’s saying it’s not about hurting Navalny, all the stuff he says to rationalize the treatment of Navalny, and then he dies in prison?” Mr. Biden said at the time. “It’s about trust. It’s about their ability to influence other nations in a positive way.”

But the president conceded on Friday that it would be hard to deliver those “devastating” consequences because in the years since, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had prompted the United States and the West to impose broad sanctions and other penalties on Moscow. Nonetheless, Mr. Biden said, “we’re contemplating what else can be done.”

Mr. Biden said Mr. Navalny’s death should remind Americans of the importance of standing up to Mr. Putin and took a swipe at Mr. Trump, who appears likely to be his challenger, for encouraging Russia to attack allies. Mr. Biden, calling that a “dangerous statement,” vowed to stand by Europe against Russian aggression.

The president praised Mr. Navalny’s courage for returning to Russia even after he was poisoned and knew that going back would put him at risk of being sent to prison, as he was.

“He was so many things that Putin was not,” Mr. Biden said. “He was brave, he was principled, he was dedicated to building a Russia where the rule of law existed and where it applied to everybody.”

Steven Erlanger contributed reporting.

Where does Navalny’s reported death leave Russia and Putin?

The death of Aleksei A. Navalny, as reported by authorities in Moscow on Friday, ushers in a new turning point for President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia, underscoring both the Kremlin’s power and the potential for instability that continues to threaten it.

The announcement came just a month before Russia’s rubber-stamp presidential elections, when the Kremlin will look to portray Russians as united behind Mr. Putin and his bid for a fifth term. Analysts expect the Kremlin to try to couple his surefire electoral victory with fresh gains on the front in Ukraine, where Russian forces have been taking the initiative against a Ukrainian Army struggling to maintain its Western support.

As the third year of the war nears, Mr. Putin’s control of domestic politics appears nearly total, with his most prominent surviving opponents either in jail or in exile. Street protests are immediately snuffed out, and thousands of Russians have been prosecuted for criticizing the war.

Offering high salaries to military recruits, the Kremlin has managed to wage its invasion without resorting to a second military draft, meaning that most Russians have been able to go on with their daily lives. The West’s far-reaching sanctions have not crippled Russia’s economy.

But to some analysts, the reports of Mr. Navalny’s death — which his aides said they feared were most likely true — are a reminder that Mr. Putin’s power may be more tenuous than meets the eye.

“Navalny tended to sense the vulnerable points, rather than creating them,” a Moscow political analyst, Mikhail Vinogradov, said in a phone interview on Friday, suggesting Mr. Putin had liabilities, like corruption, that provided an opening for an opportunistic opponent. Mr. Vinogradov described the day’s news as the most shocking death of a Russian politician in the country’s post-Soviet history.

The circumstances remain murky. But citing the widespread view that the Kremlin was essentially responsible for Mr. Navalny’s death — which President Biden also asserted in comments Friday afternoon — Mr. Vinogradov added that the news could further unsettle Russia’s governing class. It could remind them, he said, of the extraordinary lengths the government will go to to silence dissent. Such repression, he said, “is always a bit of an experiment.”

Simmering unease with Mr. Putin’s war and his crackdown on the opposition has been visible repeatedly in recent months, even as polls continue to show widespread support for — or at least acceptance of — the Ukraine invasion. There was the surprise popularity of a little-known antiwar candidate for the coming presidential election, and the movement of the wives of mobilized soldiers demanding their husbands’ return.

Before that, there was the stunning, 24-hour uprising last summer led by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, a threat that Mr. Putin apparently addressed, American intelligence agencies assess, by downing the mercenary chief’s plane last August. That episode highlighted the potential for bubbling opposition to Mr. Putin to spin out of control at a moment’s notice, and the pent-up demand by some of the Russian public for a charismatic leader who might represent an alternative.

One key question now is whether the Kremlin follows Mr. Navalny’s death with a new round of repression and censorship. Even in death, the political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya said on Friday, Mr. Navalny poses a problem for the Kremlin.

“A lot will depend on whether the regime overreacts, which may become an issue in and of itself,” Ms. Stanovaya wrote. “They will have to deal with Navalny’s legacy.”

The power of that legacy was already on display within hours of Mr. Navalny’s reported death, as Russians gathered for impromptu vigils in cities around the world and social media filled with reports of people inside Russia laying flowers in his memory.

In front of the Russian Embassy in Berlin, a former Kremlin consultant turned opposition figure, Marat Guelman, said he believed that Mr. Navalny’s death had the potential to re-energize Russia’s beleaguered and disparate opposition groups.

“I hope,” he said, “that in Russia, one hero will be replaced by 100 heroes.”

Tatiana Firsova contributed reporting.

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Inside Russia, supporters of Navalny expressed shock and despair. Images on social media showed Russians laying flowers at memorials to Soviet-era political repression. In an interview, a 28-year-old man in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don said: “I wanted to believe that Russia had its own Nelson Mandela, who would soon be released from prison and everything would be fine. Today this man is gone.”

Russians placed mounds of flowers and candles at the snowy Solovetsky Stone memorial in Moscow, creating a display so large it surpassed the size of the stone itself. The memorial, dedicated to victims of repression under Stalin, was brought from a remote Russian prison camp where political prisoners were held in the 1920s and 1930s.

The police hovered close to the crowd by the monument and appeared to take at least one man from the scene. The Russian authorities have increasingly cracked down on protests in recent years, making the flowers a rare form of public protest in the Moscow of 2024.

What we know about the cause of Navalny’s reported death.

The Russian government has announced the death of Alexei A. Navalny without offering many details. Here is what we know about Mr. Navalny’s fate and what happens next.

Cause of death: In announcing Mr. Navalny’s death, Russia’s prison service said that he felt suddenly unwell during a walk. The medical workers who had arrived to attend to him in an ambulance had “performed all the required resuscitation procedures,” without success.

A doctor working near Mr. Navalny’s prison above the Arctic Circle told the independent Russian news outlet Mediazona that the closest ambulance team is 35 kilometers, or 22 miles, from the prison. By the time it would have arrived, a patient in severe distress would already be dead, said the doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Who were they resuscitating?” he added.

President Biden said at a White House appearance that, “We don’t know exactly what happened, but there’s no doubt that the death of Navalny was the consequence of something that Putin and his thugs did.”

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, resorted to the government’s usual legalese in commenting on Mr. Navalny’s death, without offering additional details. Mr. Peskov said on Friday that the prison service “is carrying out all the checks and procedures in accordance with all the existing rules,” adding that the cause of death is being determined.

Some state media outlets went further, saying that Mr. Navalny died from a blood clot without providing the source of that assertion.

These claims could not be independently verified. But a former mid-ranking Russian prison official said they should be treated with caution. Anna Karetnikova, who oversaw pretrial detention centers in the Moscow region, said in her experience “blood clotting” was a common shorthand for lethal cases that prison authorities had no intention of investigating.

Next steps: Mr. Navalny’s team said on Friday that his lawyer was flying to the prison to establish the facts. They did not immediately confirm the death, adding that the family had yet to be officially notified.

Russian law states that families of inmates must be notified within 24 hours of their relative’s death.

The former prison official said that when a person dies in jail, protocol dictates that their body is taken immediately to a morgue. This means the lawyer is unlikely to find the body when they arrive at the prison, she added.

Under Russian law, the receiving morgue must perform an autopsy on Mr. Navalny’s body. The family is entitled to see the autopsy report, but they may not receive it for up to a week following the procedure, the former prison official added.

Alina Lobzina contributed reporting.

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Asked whether Navalny was assassinated, Biden says, “We don’t know exactly what happened, but there’s no doubt that the death of Navalny was the consequence of something that Putin and his thugs did.”

Biden, who in 2021 promised “consequences” if Navalny died in prison, made it clear there’s not a lot more that can be done because in the three years since then the United States has already taken broad actions against Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine. But he said, “we’re looking at a whole number of options.”

Biden uses the news of Navalny’s death to press House Republicans to pass security aid to Ukraine. “I hope to God it helps.”

Biden expressed admiration for Navalny’s courage: “He was everything Putin is not. He was brave, he was principled, he was dedicated to building a Russia where rule of law existed and where it applied to everybody.”

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Biden praises Navalny’s activism in Russia, and his courage in returning to the country after being poisoned in 2020. He says that despite poisoning, arrest, conviction and imprisonment, “even in prison he was a powerful voice for the truth.”

President Biden says Putin is at fault: “Make no mistake: Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death. Putin is responsible. What has happened to Navalny is even more proof of Putin’s brutality. No one should be fooled.”

President Biden is addressing the reports of Navalny’s death. He says he is “both not surprised and outraged” by the reports.

Who was Aleksei Navalny? Here’s a timeline.

Aleksei A. Navalny, the outspoken activist who Russian authorities said died in prison on Friday, was born on June 4, 1976, according to his website, and grew up outside Moscow to liberal parents who opposed Soviet rule.

Starting his political career as an anticorruption blogger who organized street protests, Mr. Navalny mobilized a generation of young Russians through social media and rose to prominence for investigations into Russia’s elite.

Here’s a look at Mr. Navalny’s career:


2000

Mr. Navalny, who had studied law and finance and worked as a real estate lawyer, joined the liberal Yabloko party the same year that Vladimir V. Putin was first elected president of Russia. Looking to organize grass-roots opposition to the Kremlin, he took aim at what he called lawless Moscow construction projects, moderated political debates, started a radio show and criticized pro-Putin tycoons on a widely read blog.


2011

Mr. Navalny led protests of thousands of Russians who were outraged over reports of fraud in Russia’s parliamentary elections that year, drawing the largest anti-Kremlin demonstrations since Mr. Putin became president.


2013

He ran for mayor of Moscow, capturing 27 percent of the vote.


2017

Mr. Navalny was barred from a presidential run after a Russian court convicted him on fraud charges. He organized nationwide protests and boycotts against Mr. Putin’s re-election and built up offices and investigative teams across the country to investigate Russia’s elite.

The Russian authorities responded by jailing him, accusing him of money laundering and raiding the homes and offices of activists with whom he was affiliated.


August 2020

While flying back to Moscow from Siberia, Mr. Navalny fell violently ill, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing. More than two days after he lost consciousness, Mr. Navalny was flown to Germany for treatment, after the flight was delayed by Russian doctors who blocked his transfer.

Weeks later, the German government said that Mr. Navalny had been poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent called Novichok, a class of chemical weapon developed by the Soviet Union. A similar weapon had been used in 2018 against Sergei V. Skripal, a former Soviet spy, and his daughter in an attack in England that the British government attributed to Russian military intelligence.


December 2020

Bellingcat, an open-source investigative outlet, published a report showing that Russian intelligence officers from the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., had trailed Mr. Navalny for years and were close by when he was exposed to Novichok. The Kremlin continued to deny any involvement in his poisoning.

Days later, Mr. Navalny posted a video on his YouTube channel that he said showed him calling a Russian intelligence officer and tricking him into confessing to a plot to kill Mr. Navalny by planting poison on his underwear.


January 2021

Five months after he was poisoned, Mr. Navalny flew back to Moscow and was arrested upon arrival. Tens of thousands of protesters, mostly young Russians, took to the streets to demand his release in the biggest public showdown in years between the Kremlin and its critics.

Two months later, the Russian authorities ordered Mr. Navalny to serve a two-year prison sentence in a penal colony known for its abusive treatment of inmates, beginning a string of prison terms for charges that his supporters said were based on fabricated charges. He went on a weekslong hunger strike to protest the prison’s lack of proper medical treatment, causing his health to deteriorate.


January 2022

Navalny,” a documentary following the activist for months as he investigated his own poisoning, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film, by Canadian director Daniel Roher, received the Academy Award for best documentary feature the following year. Yulia Navalnaya, Mr. Navalny’s wife, said onstage at the ceremony that her husband had been imprisoned for “telling the truth” and “defending democracy.”


August 2023

A Russian court sentenced Mr. Navalny, who was still in prison, to an additional 19 years on charges of supporting “extremism.” The court ruled that the sentence was to be served concurrently with his existing ones, meaning he would probably have been locked up until 2031.


December 2023

Mr. Navalny’s aides lost contact with him for 20 days. Finally, his spokeswoman said he had been found — the authorities had moved him to a Arctic penal colony officially known as IK-3 Polar Wolf, located in one of the most remote towns of Russia and known for its harsh conditions.


Feb. 15

He was last seen publicly on Thursday, when he appeared in via video link in a court hearing, standing in a prison cage and wearing a black robe.

The following day, the Russian authorities reported that he had lost consciousness and died after taking a walk at the prison.

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President Biden’s remarks on Navalny have been postponed until 12:30 p.m. Eastern.

One of the questions likely to arise among Navalny’s supporters is whether he was wise to return to Russia three years ago after fleeing to Germany to be treated for poisoning. Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s press secretary, said he decided to return as soon as he came out of a coma. “There was never any other choice for him,” she said.

President Biden plans to address reports of Aleksei Navalny’s death in a televised statement from the White House at noon in Washington.

In 2021, Biden said he had warned Vladimir Putin that there would be “consequences” if Navalny died in prison, making clear then that no one would believe any cover stories.

Over the years, through Navalny’s near death from poisoning and long prison sentences, many Russians have hoped that his wife, Yulia Navalnaya, might step in to become an alternative leading figure in the opposition. She has always demurred.

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Ivan Zhdanov, one of Navalny’s top aides, called what appears to have happened to Navalny a “political murder in its purist form” by the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.

Zhdanov said Navalny’s organization was still functioning. Its employees gathered an hour ago at its office in Vilnius, Lithuania.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, told Russian journalists that statements by Western officials that the Kremlin was to blame for Navalny’s death were “absolutely unacceptable” because “there is no information about the cause of death.”

Ivan Zhdanov, a member of Navalny’s team, said in a live broadcast that with all probability Navalny had been killed in prison.

Zhdanov said that, under Russian law, Navalny’s next of kin should receive notification of his death within a day. But so far no notification had been given. He said the prison was not answering calls.

Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s press secretary, said in a live broadcast that Navalny’s team was not yet able to issue an official confirmation of his death but believes in all likelihood he has died.

For Ukrainians, Navalny was a controversial figure.

Aleksei A. Navalny has long been a controversial figure in Ukraine, where he was respected for his staunch opposition to the autocratic rule of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, but also criticized for comments that appeared to question Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty.

So when reports of his death broke on Friday, there was a mixed response among Ukrainians.

President Volodymyr Zelensky was among those to lament Mr. Navalny as yet another victim of the Russian government, because Mr. Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine two years ago that has inflicted daily suffering on its people.

“It is clear to me that he was killed like thousands of others who were tortured to death because of one person, Putin,” Mr. Zelensky said during a news conference Friday in Berlin.

But many Ukrainians remembered Mr. Navalny less favorably, in particular recalling his comments about Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Russia illegally annexed in 2014. Mr. Navalny, who had Ukrainian roots, had suggested that the region had always been an integral part of Russia.

“Everything is very ambiguous” in Mr. Navalny, said Daria Nepomniashcha, a Kyiv resident. “There are no guarantees whatsoever that he would have been a good president.”

In an interview with the Echo of Moscow radio station in 2014, Mr. Navalny said that “despite the fact that Crimea was seized with outrageous violations of all international norms, nevertheless, the realities are such that Crimea is now part of the Russian Federation.”

“So let’s not kid ourselves,” he added. “It will remain part of Russia and will never become part of Ukraine in the foreseeable future.” Mr. Navalny then suggested that, should he become president of Russia, he would not return Crimea to Ukraine.

The comments infuriated many Ukrainians, who said they reflected deeply rooted imperialist views in Russia. Mr. Navalny also supported Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia, although he later apologized for those comments.

While in jail, Mr. Navalny condemned Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

“This war will lead to a vast number of victims, destroyed lives and continued impoverishment of Russian people,” he said during a court hearing on the first day of the war.

Mr. Navalny also regularly used social media over the last two years to criticize Russia’s decision to invade, making him one of the country’s most prominent critics of the conflict. But it did little to improve his reputation in Ukraine.

“Alexey Navalny is widely distrusted, if not despised, in Ukraine,” wrote David M. Herszenhorn, an editor at The Washington Post, in a book published last year about Mr. Navalny.

Several residents of Kyiv on Friday said that Mr. Navalny’s fate had been sealed the moment he was jailed about three years ago, noting Russia’s highly repressive government. “This country is terrifying. It was very much expected,” Dana Sebesevych, 33, said of reports of his death.

Still, they did not hide their anger toward a man who, they said, had questioned Ukraine’s sense of nationhood.

“Great. Another person who said Crimea cannot be returned to Ukraine has died,” Erza Pastor, a Kyiv resident, said on Friday afternoon.

The distrust among Ukrainians was evident last year when many expressed outrage that “Navalny,” a film about the Russian opposition leader, was named best documentary at the Academy Awards.

Some Ukrainians complained that the acceptance speech by his wife, Yulia Navalnaya, did not mention the war in Ukraine and that Mr. Zelensky’s request to address the audience at the ceremony had been denied.

“The problem here is not that a documentary about Navalny won an Oscar – it’s the stance of the Russian opposition in general, which has not taken any steps to rethink its approach to the imperialist narrative inherent in Russia’s historical and current relations with its neighbors,” Kate Tsurkan, a reporter at The Kyiv Independent wrote in an opinion column at the time.

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Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, who was at the Munich Security Conference on Friday, met with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken at the event. “The secretary expressed his condolences to Ms. Navalny if the reports of Aleksei Navalny’s death are true and reiterated that Russia is responsible for his death,” said Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman.

News of Navalny’s death was greeted with some skepticism from his family and U.S. officials.

When the Russian authorities announced that the opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny had died in an Arctic prison on Friday, some supporters and Western officials expressed skepticism, given the Kremlin’s track record of falsehoods, half-truths and outright lies in the service of propaganda.

Yulia Navalnaya, Mr. Navalny’s wife, who learned the news while attending an international security conference in Munich, said that no one can trust President Vladimir V. Putin’s government. “They are lying constantly,” she said.

But if it is true that her husband is dead, she added, “They will be brought to justice, and this day will come soon.”

Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service said that Mr. Navalny, 47, had lost consciousness and died after taking a walk on Friday in the Arctic prison where he was moved late last year. “All necessary resuscitation measures were taken, which did not lead to positive results,” the statement said.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Navalny, Kira Yarmysh, said on social media that his team could not immediately confirm his death, and that a lawyer was going to the remote town where the prison is to investigate.

Mr. Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila, said that she did not want to hear any condolences yet. According to Novaya Gazeta, a Russian news outlet that quoted her Facebook account, Ms. Navalnaya had found her son “alive, healthy and happy” when she last saw him in the penal colony on Monday.

Leonid Volkov, Mr. Navalny’s longtime chief of staff, was with the activist’s wife attending the Munich Security Conference, where Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and leaders from around Europe were gathering to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and other threats, many emanating from Moscow.

Ms. Harris said at the start of her address to the conference — which had already been expected to focus on Russia — that the United States was still trying to confirm the reports of Mr. Navalny’s death, but that it held Russia’s government responsible.

“If confirmed, this would be a further sign of Putin’s brutality,” she said. “Whatever story they tell, let us be clear Russia is responsible and we’ll have more to say on this later.”

Mr. Blinken, before a meeting with Indian officials, also injected a skeptical note into his comments. “If these reports are accurate, our hearts go out to his wife and his family,” he said.

Mr. Navalny was last seen in public on Thursday, when he appeared via video link in a court hearing.

Standing in a prison cage and wearing a black robe, he appeared to be in good spirits despite being held in a harsh prison above the Arctic Circle. He jokingly asked the judge for part of his “huge salary.”

Many of his supporters on Friday also expressed skepticism about the official statements. Some on social media described his reported death as a “murder,” but others expressed the hope the report of his death was false. One woman wrote on Telegram: “Please tell me that everything is fine! Otherwise it’s simple … No future, no hope, nothing.”

Pro-democracy Russians are gathering in impromptu vigils around the world. “Hope dies last,” Nikolai Medvedev, 37, said in an interview by the Russian Embassy in Berlin, where protesters chanted, “Russia without Putin!” He added: “Today, along with Aleksei, I’m forced to bury part of my hope.”

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Navalny’s wife makes a dramatic appearance at a conference in Munich.

This was not the speech she expected to give, at least not on this day. Yulia Navalnaya had come to a gathering of world leaders in Munich to press them to remember her imprisoned husband and her troubled country.

And then just as the conference opened on Friday morning came word from Russian state media that her husband, the crusading, defiant dissident Aleksei A. Navalny, was dead in one of President Vladimir V. Putin’s prisons.

By her own admission, her first thought was to fly away, to join her grown children to mourn in private a man who had already survived a horrific poisoning and years behind bars. But before she did, she decided she had to speak out. Because he would have wanted her to.

Ms. Navalnaya stunned the presidents, prime ministers, diplomats and generals at the Munich Security Conference when she strode into the hall on Friday afternoon, took the stage and delivered an unflinching condemnation of Mr. Putin, vowing that he and his circle would be brought to justice. Her dramatic appearance electrified a conference already consumed with the threat posed by a revanchist Russia.

“I don’t know whether to believe the news or not, the awful news that we receive only from government sources in Russia,” she told the high-powered audience, which hung on her every word. “We cannot believe Putin and Putin’s government. They’re always lying.”

“But if this is true,” she went on, speaking in Russian, “I want Putin and everyone around him, Putin’s friends, his government, to know that they will bear responsibility for what they have done to our country, to my family and to my husband. And this day will come very soon.”

“And I want to call on the world community,” she continued, “everyone in this room and people around the world to come together to defeat this evil, defeat this horrible regime that is now in Russia.”

Ms. Navalnaya spoke clearly and calmly, with no notes but remarkable composure, her face etched with evident pain. Standing at the lectern, she clasped her hands in front of her and stared straight ahead as if willing herself to focus on her message. She was dressed in the professional pantsuit she had brought for what she thought would be a couple of days of lobbying, her hair pulled back, her makeup perfect. She appeared determined to show no weakness.

She spoke for just two minutes, but it captivated the audience, which included Vice President Kamala Harris sitting in the front row and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken up in the balcony. The crowd rose to its feet to give her an emotional standing ovation, and Representative Nancy Pelosi, the former House speaker, reached out as Ms. Navalnaya left the stage to kiss her as a couple of senators looked on.

“On what must be the worst day of her life, she was so strong, and a reminder that Russians who believe in freedom will continue to fight for as long as it takes to hold Putin accountable for his barbaric crimes,” Michael A. McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia, said of Ms. Navalnaya after her speech.

In the annals of international meetings, it would be hard to remember a more riveting moment, when the careful choreography and scripted speeches laden with diplomatic jargon fall to the wayside as life-or-death questions play out in such personal fashion. The leaders gathered in Munich were already consumed about what to do about Russia, but the news added fresh urgency to the conversations.

Ms. Harris had come to give a speech about the dangers of going soft on Russia at a time when House Republicans are blocking aid to Ukraine and former President Donald J. Trump is boasting that he would “encourage” Russia to attack NATO allies that do not spend enough on their own militaries.

In the minutes before her address, she and her staff heard the news about Mr. Navalny, scrambled to learn what they could and quickly updated her text to reflect outrage.

“If confirmed, this would be a further sign of Putin’s brutality,” she told the conference, words later echoed by President Biden back in Washington. “Whatever story they tell, let us be clear: Russia is responsible.”

She went on to deliver the message she had hoped to impart, that the United States remains committed to its allies and to American leadership in the world. Without naming him, she castigated Mr. Trump for seeking “to isolate ourselves from the world,” “to embrace dictators and adopt their repressive tactics” and to “abandon commitments to our allies.”

“Let me be clear,” she said. “That worldview is dangerous, destabilizing and, indeed, shortsighted. That view would weaken America and would undermine global stability and undermine global prosperity.”

Afterward, Ms. Harris and Mr. Blinken each met separately with Ms. Navalnaya to express their condolences and commitment.

Ms. Navalnaya had come to Munich along with Leonid Volkov, her husband’s longtime chief of staff, to keep world leaders focused on her husband’s case and the clampdown on dissent by Mr. Putin’s government. She mingled on Thursday evening with conference attendees, seeing them at dinner and describing how conditions had worsened for her husband since they transferred him to a different prison in the Arctic.

“He had hardly any contact with other people,” Mr. McFaul said she told him. “His outdoor walking space was actually just another cell adjacent to him with no roof. They limited severely what he could read and piped in Putin speeches on a radio channel that had only one channel. It sounded like horrific torture.”

Over the years, many Russians hoped that Ms. Navalnaya might step in to become an alternative leading figure in the opposition. While fiercely outspoken in defending her husband and criticizing the many forms of oppression that he faced, however, she has never ventured directly into opposition politics — and rarely took to a podium as she did in Munich.

During Mr. Navalny’s time in Germany, where he was treated after his poisoning in 2020, she remained private, posting only occasional photos of the two of them together during his treatment and recovery, but never speaking publicly.

She became familiar to tens of millions around the world last year, however, when she appeared at the Academy Awards ceremony, where the documentary “Navalny” won an Oscar. In an interview afterward with Der Spiegel, the German news outlet, she expressed worry for her husband’s health in prison and lamented that she might never get to see him in person again.

“We all understand that it is Putin personally who is keeping Aleksei in prison,” she said then, “and as long as he stays in power, it is hard to imagine that Aleksei will be released.”

Mr. Navalny had continued to post on social media from prison by passing messages to his visiting lawyers. His most recent Instagram post was on Wednesday — Valentine’s Day — and it was a message to Yulia: We may be separated by “blue blizzards and thousands of kilometers,” he wrote, “but I feel that you are near me every second, and I keep loving you even more.”

Anton Troianovski and Melissa Eddy contributed reporting.

In Prison or Out, Navalny Was the Thorn in Putin’s Side

The death of Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, Aleksei A. Navalny, at a remote Arctic prison on Friday ended one of the most audacious political careers of modern times and left wartime Russia without its most charismatic antiwar voice.

Mr. Navalny, whose death was reported by Russian authorities, stood as the most outspoken critic of President Vladimir V. Putin for more than a decade, harnessing broad opposition to the Russian leader more successfully than any other foe of the Kremlin. After surviving a poisoning widely seen as the Kremlin’s doing in 2020 and recovering in Germany, Mr. Navalny returned to Russia in 2021, and was immediately arrested.

But Mr. Navalny, a joking, gregarious, straight-talking former real estate lawyer, stayed relevant even from prison, publishing Instagram posts via messages relayed by his lawyers that were at once humorous and outraged. He pleaded with Russians not to give up or give in to their fears, and railed against the “criminal” war in Ukraine, which he said would bring the “continued impoverishment of Russian people.”

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Israel Says It Will Not Force Gazans Into Egypt, as It Searches Major Hospital

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Israel said on Friday that it would not try to force Palestinians from southern Gaza into Egypt, seeking to calm Palestinian fears of a mass displacement even as Israeli forces pressed ahead with a military operation inside the largest hospital in the area.

After months of speculation that the Israeli invasion of Gaza after the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks would end with millions of Gazans being pushed into northeastern Egypt, Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said on Friday that no one would be forced to leave.

The announcement appeared to reverse secret Israeli efforts earlier in the war to promote the idea of sending millions of Gazans into Egypt, a move that Palestinians feared might lock them out of their homeland and led to warnings that Egypt might suspend its peace treaty with Israel. Photographs also show that Egypt has started construction near the border, which some fear is meant to house a sudden rush of refugees from Gaza.

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Architect Embraces Indigenous Worldview in Australian Designs

Jefa Greenaway will never forget the first time he heard his father’s voice. It was in 2017, when he was watching a documentary about Indigenous Australians’ fight to be recognized in the country’s Constitution.

“It was poignant, surreal,” Mr. Greenaway recalled. “In one word: emotional.”

In the film, his father, Bert Groves, an Indigenous man and a civil rights activist born in 1907, recounts how he was prevented from pursuing an education because of the size of his skull, a victim of phrenology, the pseudoscience that lingered in Australia into the 20th century.

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Aleksei Navalny, Russian Opposition Leader, Dies in Prison at 47

Valerie Hopkins and

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Aleksei A. Navalny, an anticorruption activist who for more than a decade led the political opposition in President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia while enduring arrests, assaults and a near-fatal poisoning, died Friday in a Russian prison, according to Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service. He was 47.

The prison authorities said that Mr. Navalny lost consciousness on Friday after taking a walk in the Arctic penal colony where he was moved late last year. He was last seen on Thursday, when he had appeared in a court hearing via video link, smiling behind the bars of a cell and making jokes.

Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s press secretary, said in a live broadcast Friday that Navalny’s advisers were not yet able to issue an official confirmation of his death but believed that he had perished. And while acknowledging that the United States did not know the details of what happened, President Biden at a White House news conference said, “Make no mistake: Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death.”

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Israel Was Behind Attacks on Major Gas Pipelines in Iran, Officials Say

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Israel carried out covert attacks on two major natural gas pipelines inside Iran this week, disrupting the flow of heat and cooking gas to provinces with millions of people, according to two Western officials and a military strategist affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The strikes represent a notable shift in the shadow war that Israel and Iran have been waging by air, land, sea and cyberattack for years.

Israel has long targeted military and nuclear sites inside Iran — and assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists and commanders, both inside and outside of the country. Israel has also waged cyberattacks to disable servers belonging to the oil ministry, causing turmoil at gas stations nationwide.

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U.S. Designates the Houthis a Terror Group

The State Department on Friday designated the Houthis as a terrorist organization, following through on a mid-January warning to crack down on the Yemen-based militant group.

The action officially labels the Houthis as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group, a step that gives the United States new powers to crack down on the Iran-backed Houthis’ access to the global financial system.

It restores a designation given to the group late in the Trump administration, which Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken reversed soon after taking office in 2021, partly to facilitate peace talks for Yemen’s civil war.

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Rishi Sunak Back in Hot Seat After Losses, but His Ouster Is Unlikely

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain could find himself in a familiar predicament after his Conservative Party went down to defeat in parliamentary elections in two districts on Thursday: isolated, embattled and the subject of whispered plotting by restive Tories bent on pushing him out for a new leader.

The crushing loss of two seats in once-reliable Conservative areas capped another dismal week for Mr. Sunak. Economic data confirmed on Thursday that Britain had fallen into recession at the end of last year, undermining one of the prime minister’s five core pledges — that he would recharge the country’s growth.

Yet the scheming against Mr. Sunak, analysts said, is no more likely to go anywhere than it has during his previous leadership crises. However desperate the political straits of the Conservatives, they would find it hard, at this late stage, to replace their languishing prime minister with someone else.

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Zelensky Visits Berlin and Paris to Shore Up Support as U.S. Wavers

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine made a whirlwind trip through Berlin and Paris on Friday in a bid to shore up European backing at a critical moment in his country’s fight against Russia, with support from the United States wavering and Ukraine desperately in need of more arms.

Arriving in Berlin on Friday morning, Mr. Zelensky signed a security agreement with Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany that pledged to “strive for a just and lasting peace in Ukraine.” The Ukrainian leader then traveled to Paris later Friday to sign a similar accord with President Emmanuel Macron of France, before an expected appearance at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

“We are determined to stand by your side and defeat Russia’s war of aggression,” Mr. Macron said during a news conference on Friday at the Élysée Palace in Paris, adding that he would visit Kyiv by mid-March.

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What 2 U.S. Families Did When Hamas Captured Their Sons

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One hundred and three days after Omer Neutra was taken prisoner by Hamas, his parents, Ronen and Orna, found themselves in the basement of the United States Capitol, looking for an exit. Andrea Mitchell, the NBC News journalist, stood with them, eager for an interview. Beside Ms. Mitchell were two Senate staff members, with orders to deliver the Neutras to meetings with their bosses.

It would be the second media interview of the morning for the Neutras and for Yael and Adi Alexander, whose son Edan is also held captive by Hamas. The two families have worked together for months to build political pressure to free their sons, an effort that on this day would include meeting privately with Joni Ernst, a Republican senator from Iowa, and gathering with dozens of members of Congress for a candlelight vigil.

“I have walked more distance in these corridors than I have in my own house,” Ronen Neutra, 59, said of his experience the last four months. “I can’t believe this is our life.”

Hamas took more than 240 people captive when it attacked Israel on Oct. 7. About 100 hostages, most of them women and children, were released during a cease-fire in November, and at least 30 others are believed to have died in captivity, according to Israeli officials. That may leave around 100 alive, most of them men who are Israeli citizens.

Those who remain include a number of Israel Defense Forces soldiers, like Mr. Alexander and Mr. Neutra. The young men, dual American-Israeli citizens who both grew up a short train ride from Manhattan, were serving together on the same military outpost the morning of the attacks.

For the Neutras and the Alexanders, the capture and imprisonment of their sons has thrust their families into a new, public life. Almost every week, the families fly to Israel or to Washington. They spent two hours with President Biden in the White House, where he cried with them and gave them a tour of his private offices. Ronen Neutra flew to Qatar to meet Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani; Ms. Alexander met with the sheikh privately in Washington.

The two families share one urgent goal: the immediate release of their sons. So they have upended their lives, enduring fatigue and forsaking privacy to keep their sons’ shared plight near the forefront of policymakers’ minds.

Their activism is choreographed in part by some of the world’s most skilled and influential lobbying groups and consultants. The families, new to politics but savvy to the politicization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, understand they must avoid alienating any politician who may someday help bring their sons home, while constantly debating whether to be more aggressive.

As Israel’s war effort grows more unpopular in the United States — the war has killed more than 28,000 people in Gaza, according to health officials there — the families respond to growing criticism of Israel by not responding. They take no stand on Israel’s war tactics or a possible two-state solution. And they try to avoid criticizing Hamas, which their advisers warn might further endanger their sons.

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“We get pressure mostly from the Israeli press,” Adi Alexander, 52, said. “They want us to be more political, to say which politicians need to resign. But that is not our place.”

Omer Neutra and Edan Alexander are two of six Americans held by Hamas.

Their families have received no information about their medical conditions, and no evidence that the young men are still alive. Their only insights come from the Israeli government, which has told the families it has no evidence that the soldiers are dead.

Mr. Neutra is 22, two years older than Mr. Alexander. Both are the sons of dual Israeli-American citizens. They met in the summer of 2023, as Israeli soldiers stationed near the Gaza border, on a military outpost the size of a suburban Walgreens back home.

As a boy on Long Island, Mr. Neutra’s lubberly horsing around concealed his seriousness, his parents said. He became captain of the volleyball and basketball teams at the Schechter School of Long Island, a private Jewish school, and president of the United Synagogue Youth group’s Metro New York chapter. He moved to Israel, joined the Israel Defense Forces, and opted to serve in a tank brigade, partly because he had heard it was among the army’s toughest jobs.

Mr. Alexander grew up in New Jersey, where his powerful backstroke made him a star on the Tenafly High School swim team. Boys liked his jokes; girls liked his suave smile and sensitive eyes. During his senior year in 2022 he joined Garin Tzabar, a program of the Israel Scouts that prepares young people from around the world to join the Israel Defense Forces. He was assigned to the infantry, arriving at the tiny base near Gaza in September.

When Hamas attacked, Mr. Neutra drove two miles to the border, where Hamas militants ambushed his tank with rocket-propelled grenades. More militants surrounded the outpost, where Mr. Alexander stood with his rifle, alone.

Both were taken prisoner.

Their parents used videos of the attack posted to the internet by Hamas militants, plus conversations with Israeli military officials and members of their sons’ units, to piece together how the men were captured.

Unlike civilian hostages, soldiers taken captive are considered prisoners of war, a class that is protected but also accepted under international law, including the Geneva Accords. (Israeli and Hamas leaders accuse each other of employing torture and other practices that violate those accords.)

To their parents, Mr. Alexander and Mr. Neutra are not so different from their civilian counterparts who were taken hostage.

“They were taken by force during a peaceful situation,” Ms. Neutra said. “Israel was at peace. They all need to come home.”

Four months after the attack, at her home in Tenafly, Yael Alexander picked up a pack of Marlboro Ultra Light 100s and a can of Diet Coke, walked into her garage and opened the garage door. She lit a cigarette and watched a cold rain slap the driveway.

“I was a smoker, in the army,” said Ms. Alexander, 44, who served in the Israel Defense Forces in her 20s. “I stopped, obviously, because of the kids. But now, I start smoking again. This is the only time I can actually breathe.”

Later that morning, she stood outside in the rainstorm and addressed a crowd of 500 supporters in downtown Tenafly.

“We miss your laugh, and your beautiful smile, so, so much, Edani,” she said, reading the words from her iPhone as her husband held an umbrella above her head.

Her message — free of politics, delivered as if she were speaking directly to her son — followed advice from consultants at SKDK, a well-connected public relations firm in Washington. SKDK is paid by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which was founded after the Hamas attacks and has raised millions of dollars in donations.

The American families realized within days of Oct. 7 that they needed advice from people who understood power in Washington, Mr. and Ms. Neutra said. Their aim was to use their stature as Americans to keep Congress and the White House focused on the hostages’ safe return.

The families interviewed three consulting firms for the job. They chose SKDK partly for its experience with previous hostage negotiations, and partly because the firm’s roster includes Kendra Barkoff Lamy, who served more than four years as press secretary to Mr. Biden when he was vice president.

“They take us by the hand, chauffeur us around,” Mr. Neutra said. “It’s very helpful. Without it, we’d be lost.”

Ms. Lamy and a spokesperson for SKDK declined to discuss the company’s role with the families.

The Neutras own a company that makes scientific equipment. Mr. Alexander works as a diamond dealer in Manhattan. Both families live comfortably, but neither could afford SKDK’s fees on their own.

In addition to their regular trips to Israel and Washington, the Neutras flew recently to Utah, where they met celebrities attending the Sundance Film Festival, they said. Whenever they need to travel, Mr. Neutra said, he texts volunteers at the forum, who plan each trip, book hotel rooms and pay for flights.

The organizational effort also includes the American Jewish Committee, an advocacy group that is helping to schedule meetings with political leaders, and Gilbert LLP, a law firm that offers use of its offices, a few blocks from the Capitol, when the families visit Washington.

The goal is to “keep this issue as a top global humanitarian priority until every single hostage is brought home,” Ted Deutch, the committee’s chief executive, said in a written statement.

As a recent gray Friday turned blue with dusk, Orna Neutra opened the refrigerator in her home in Plainview on Long Island. She pulled out trays of couscous, chicken in wine and a chocolate cake.

The food had been prepared by friends, who organized themselves to cook most of the couple’s meals after the Neutras’ new lives left no time to buy groceries. In a few minutes, the Neutras would bring the food to a friend’s house for Shabbat dinner.

Dusk on Friday is also when the Neutras used to enjoy video chats with Omer, who called from his army outpost in Israel. They played backgammon together. Omer always won.

“This is when we miss him the most,” Ms. Neutra, 54, said.

And so the parents wait, and fear, and prepare for a reunion they insist will come. To accommodate all the guests they plan to invite, both families bought new, larger dining room tables. The Neutras recently flew to Israel to rent an apartment. When Omer is released, they hope, he will have a place to go.

“We wanted to create the reality that he is coming home very soon,” Mr. Neutra said.

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Senegal Must Hold Election After All, Top Court Rules

Senegal’s constitutional court ruled on Thursday that a national election that had been postponed by the president must take place as soon as possible, throwing the West African country’s political future into fresh doubt.

The court, the country’s highest, said that while it is now impossible to hold an election in 10 days’ time — the vote had initially been planned for Feb. 25 — the balloting should be held by the earliest feasible date.

Less than two weeks ago, President Macky Sall issued a decree indefinitely postponing the balloting, pending an investigation into corruption allegations in the constitutional court. Just a couple days later, the country’s Parliament decided to delay the vote by nearly 10 months, setting Dec. 15 as the date.

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Life Imitates Art as a ‘Master and Margarita’ Movie Stirs Russia

By all appearances, the movie adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s cult favorite novel “The Master and Margarita,” in Russian theaters this winter, shouldn’t be thriving in President Vladimir Putin’s wartime Russia.

The director is American. One of the stars is German. The celebrated Stalin-era satire, unpublished in its time, is partly a subversive sendup of state tyranny and censorship — forces bedeviling Russia once again today.

But the film was on its way to the box office long before Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine and imposed a level of repression on Russia unseen since Soviet times. The state had invested millions in the movie, which had already been shot. Banning a production of Russia’s most famous literary paean to artistic freedom was perhaps too big an irony for even the Kremlin to bear.

Its release — after many months of delay — has been one of the most dramatic and charged Russian film debuts in recent memory. The movie refashions the novel as a revenge tragedy about a writer’s struggle under censorship, borrowing from the story of Bulgakov’s own life. The emphasis, for many Russians, has hit close to home. And, for some defenders of Putin, too close.

“I had an internal belief that the movie would have to come out somehow,” the director, Michael Lockshin, said in a video interview from his home in California. “I still thought it was a miracle when it did come out. As for the response, it’s hard to expect a response like this.”

More than 3.7 million people have flocked to see the film in Russian theaters since its Jan. 25 premiere, according to Russia’s national film fund.

Some moviegoing audiences in Moscow have erupted in applause at the end of screenings, recognizing echoes of Russia’s wartime reality and marveling that the adaptation made it to theaters at all. Other, less politically minded viewers have praised the adaptation for its special effects and audacity in departing from the book’s plot.

Putin’s most bellicose defenders have been less than thrilled.

Pro-war propagandists mounted a broadside against Lockshin, who has publicly opposed Russia’s invasion and supported Ukraine, calling for a criminal case against him and for his designation as a terrorist.

Fulminating on state television, one of Russia’s most prominent propagandists, Vladimir Solovyov, demanded to know how Lockshin had been allowed to make the movie. He asked whether the release was a “special operation,” or if somebody had been “duped.”

State networks didn’t promote the movie the way they normally would for a government-funded picture. And the state film fund, under pressure after the release, removed the movie’s production company from its list of preferred vendors.

The antics spurred a new wave of moviegoers, who rushed to theaters fearing the film was about to be banned.

“The film amazingly coincided with the historical moment that Russia is experiencing, with the restoration of Stalinism, with the persecution of the intelligentsia,” said the Russian film critic Anton Dolin, who has been branded a “foreign agent” and fled the country. “And when the author of the film began to be subjected to this persecution, a completely magical rhyme arose.”

Bulgakov’s novel, written in the 1930s, is a phantasmagorical story exploring the capacity for good and evil in every individual. In it, the devil arrives with his retinue in Joseph Stalin’s Moscow, where he meets an afflicted author, known as the Master, and his lover, Margarita. The novel also retells the story of Pontius Pilate ordering Jesus’s crucifixion, which the reader finds out is the subject of a forbidden text the Master has written.

Bulgakov’s own travails were reflected in the Master’s torment.

Stalin didn’t order the novelist’s execution or imprisonment, in contrast to the treatment of other Soviet writers of the time, but severely restricted Bulgakov’s work and suffocated his artistic ambitions. Bulgakov poured much of that pain into “The Master and Margarita,” which wasn’t published until the late 1960s, more than a quarter century after his death.

“The movie is about the freedom of an artist in an unfree world,” Lockshin said, “and what that freedom entails — about not losing your belief in the power of art, even when everything around you is punishing you for making it.”

“Of course,” he added, “there is a love story in it as well.”

Lockshin, who grew up both in the United States and Russia but is an American citizen, signed on to the project in 2019, choosing a Quentin Tarantino-style revenge plot as a frame for the adaptation before the war revived severe censorship in Russia.

When Putin launched his invasion two years ago, Lockshin opposed the war on social media from the United States and called on his friends to support Ukraine. Back in Russia, that put the movie’s release at risk.

“My position was that I wouldn’t censor myself in any way for the movie,” he said. “The movie itself is about censorship.”

Universal Pictures, which had signed on to distribute the film, pulled out of Russia after the war began and exited the project. (The movie currently has no distributor in the United States.)

And as repression in Russia expanded, life began to imitate art. “All of these things that were in the movie were kind of playing out,” Lockshin said.

Russia charged a theater director and a playwright with allegations of justifying terrorism, echoing a show trial for the Master that the film’s creators added to the script. An “almost naked” theme party in Moscow led to a crackdown on its celebrity attendees, conjuring images of the novel’s famous satanic ball. And Russians began denouncing one another for harboring antiwar sympathies, much like when the Master’s friend snitches on him.

“Not everyone can afford to be so uncompromising,” the friend tells the Master in the movie, before ratting him out. “Some people have alimony to pay.”

The film’s verisimilitude was unmistakable for many moviegoers.

Yevgeny Gindilis, a Russian film producer, said that he had crowded into a Moscow theater near the Kremlin to watch it, and sensed some discomfort in the hall. At the end, he said, about a third of the audience erupted in applause.

“I think the clapping,” Gindilis said, “is about the fact that people are happy they are able to experience and watch this film that has this clear, anti-totalitarian and anti-repressive state message, in a situation when the state is really trying to oppress everything that has an independent voice.”

Gindilis recounted how one of the most uncomfortable scenes for people to watch in Moscow was the final revenge sequence, when the devil’s mischievous talking cat repels a secret police squad that has come to apprehend the Master, leading to a fire that ultimately engulfs all of Moscow.

The Master and Margarita, alongside the devil, played by the German actor August Diehl, gaze out over the burning city, watching a system that ruined their lives go up in flames.

“Today the whole country is unable to take revenge or even respond to the persecution, restrictions and censorship,” Dolin, the film critic, said. But the protagonists of the film, having made a deal with the devil, manage to get even.

The film flashes to the Master and Margarita in the afterlife, reunited and free. “Listen,” she says to him. “Listen and enjoy that which they never gave you in life — peace.”

Alina Lobzina contributed reporting.

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Which Version of an Ex-General Did Indonesia Just Vote For?

A strongman apparatchik accused of multiple human rights abuses. A violent nationalist. A pious defender of Muslims. A loyal acolyte of a popular president with few achievements of his own.

Prabowo Subianto has been called all of these over the years he has sought power in Indonesia. Now he is projected to be the country’s next president. Unofficial tallies from Wednesday’s election show him winning a decisive victory, with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

During the campaign, Mr. Prabowo repeatedly promised that he would continue on the path and policies charted by Joko Widodo, the popular departing president. That would mean doling out billions of dollars on welfare programs like school lunches, health care and housing. Mr. Joko, who had beaten Mr. Prabowo in previous elections and is scheduled to step down in October, seemed to offer support to his former rival as well, through his 36-year-old son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, who will be Mr. Prabowo’s vice president.

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This Centuries-Old Border Dispute Pits an Army Against Unarmed Volunteers

Simon Romero and Alejandro Cegarra spent several days in Belize, traveling by boat to the Sarstoon River and crisscrossing the country by car to speak with people about the dispute with Guatemala.

The boat edged its way past the mangrove swamps, a tangled maze of thorn-covered branches sheltering jaguars and shrieking howler monkeys. We were in Belize, our GPS signals showed, the English-speaking Central American country where British pirates put down stakes centuries ago.

But then members of Guatemala’s military, clad in camouflage and berets, spotted us. Pulling up in their own boat, they grasped rifles, index fingers close to the triggers.

“You’ve just entered Guatemalan waters!” one shouted in Spanish when they were just a few feet away. “We request that you steer toward the nearest Guatemalan command post.”

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An English City Gave Soccer to the World. Now It Wants Credit.

As far as the man in the food truck is concerned, the patch of land he occupies in Sheffield, England, is about as humdrum as they come. To him, the spot — in the drab parking lot of a sprawling home improvement superstore, its facade plastered in lurid orange — is not exactly a place where history comes alive.

John Wilson, an academic at the University of Sheffield’s management school, looks at the same site and can barely contain his excitement. This, he said, is one of the places where the world’s most popular sport was born. He does not see a parking lot. He can see the history: the verdant grass, the sweating players, the cheering crowds.

His passion is sincere, absolute and shared by a small band of amateur historians and volunteer detectives devoted to restoring Sheffield — best known for steel, coal and as the setting for the film “The Full Monty” — to its rightful place as the undisputed birthplace of codified, organized, recognizable soccer.


Map locates Sheffield, Manchester and London in England. It also shows where Wembley Stadium is in northwest London.

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How John Travolta Became the Star of Carnival

Jack Nicas and Dado Galdieri reported this article among the giant puppets of the Carnival celebrations in Olinda, Brazil

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It was near the start of one of Brazil’s most famous Carnival celebrations, in the northern seaside city of Olinda, and the town plaza was jammed with thousands of revelers. They were all awaiting their idol.

Just before 9 p.m., the doors to a dance hall swung open, a brass band pushed into the crowd and the star everyone had been waiting for stepped out: a 12-foot puppet of John Travolta.

Confetti sprayed, the band began playing a catchy tune and the crowd sang along: “John Travolta is really cool. Throwing a great party. And in Olinda, the best carnival.” (It rhymes in Portuguese.)

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‘This Is Where I Want to Be’

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When Ayelet Khon moved back to the Kfar Azza kibbutz with her husband two months after the brutal Hamas-led attack of Oct. 7, the first thing she did was hang a string of rainbow-colored lights up on the front patio.

At night, when darkness drenches this community, the twinkling colors are the only lights visible.

“We are going to keep these lights on and never turn them off — even if we’re out for the evening — they are lights of hope,” Ms. Khon said she told her husband, Shar Shnurman.

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Manhattan or Pulau Rhun? In 1667, Nutmeg Made the Choice a No-Brainer.

Richard C. Paddock and

Richard C. Paddock and Muktita Suhartono, along with the photographer Nyimas Laula, spent three days on Pulau Rhun to document life on the remote island.

The isles of Manhattan and Pulau Rhun could hardly be farther apart, not just in geography, but also in culture, economy and global prominence.

Rhun, in the Banda Sea in Indonesia, has no cars or roads and only about 20 motorbikes. Most people get around by walking along its paved footpaths or up steep stairways, often toting plastic jugs of water from the numerous village wells or sometimes lugging a freshly caught tuna.

But in the 17th century, in what might now seem one of the most lopsided trades in history, the Netherlands believed it got the better part of a bargain with the British when it swapped Manhattan, then known as New Amsterdam, for this tiny speck of land.

The delight the Dutch took in the deal can be summed up in one word: nutmeg.

With its forest of nutmeg, a spice worth its weight in gold at the time, Rhun used to be one of the world’s most valuable patches of real estate.

It is one of 11 small isles that make up the Banda Islands, formerly the only place where nutmeg grew. To the north lie the larger Maluku Islands, famous for cloves. Collectively, the two island groups were known to European colonizers as the Spice Islands.


Map locates the Maluku Islands in eastern Indonesia. It also locates Pulau Rhan, an island in the Banda Island group, which is part of the Maluku Islands.

The European desire for nutmeg, cloves, pepper and other spices launched fleets of ships, setting off a wave of global exploration, colonization, exploitation and genocide.

While Rhun is little remembered today, some say the island’s role in world history is far larger than its size of just two miles long and a half-mile wide would suggest: The British first reached the island in 1603, making it one of their earliest colonies. In the words of the historian John Keay, Rhun is “the seed from which grew the most extensive empire the world has ever seen.”

Rhun islanders swore allegiance to the British in an unsuccessful attempt to secure protection from the Dutch, who committed genocide by killing or enslaving 90 percent of the Bandanese people. Today, there are no native Bandanese living on Rhun; its residents are descended from migrants from other islands.

Reaching Rhun by boat 400 years ago was a daunting journey. And it’s still not easy getting to this spot 1,600 miles east of Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta.

Most travelers take a crowded, cockroach-infested ferry from the Maluku Islands to the main port on the island of Banda Neira. From there, they go by motorboat to Rhun, a trip that can take hours in rough seas. Arriving vessels can wait hours more outside the shallow coral reef for the tide to rise.

Despite this isolation, many on Rhun are at least vaguely aware of the island’s connection with Manhattan, and while they know there are stark differences in wealth and public works, they think their home compares favorably.

“Manhattan can have all the skyscrapers, but I am proud to come from Rhun because we have nature — the sea and the forest,” said Burhan Lohor, 51, a deputy village chief on the island who also farms nutmeg, teaches at the Islamic school and runs a guesthouse.

The junior high school, the island’s highest level of education, sits at the top of the village. Rhun’s colonial history is not part of the curriculum, but most students know that nutmeg was once highly prized and have heard of the treaty that exchanged Rhun for Manhattan.

When a visitor showed the students a photograph of the Manhattan skyline on a cellphone, they crowded around for a closer look. Arzal Yadi, 14, one of the older students, was unimpressed.

“It looks like a very barren place,” he said, “because it has so many buildings.”

Much of Indonesia has benefited from a huge push by President Joko Widodo to improve infrastructure and bind the nation of 17,500 islands more closely together, but such progress has yet to reach Rhun.

The island’s 2,000 people live in a single village by the island’s only bay. Colorful, metal-roofed houses huddle together along the waterfront and on the hillside above. At low tide, dozens of fishing boats lie beached.

The steamy island has no air-conditioning, and there is electricity only at night. Cellphone service recently arrived, but connections are spotty. Islam is the only religion, and no shops sell alcohol.

With no running water, students are assigned to bring jugs of well water to school for flushing toilets and washing.

“It’s like their homework,” said Aldo Valentino Wattimury, 29, the science teacher at the junior high school. “Six students are assigned each day to bring water. We have a schedule. When there is a special occasion, every student must bring water.”

Rhun, like other Indonesian islands, is plagued by litter, especially plastic waste. With no organized trash collection, residents dump garbage in the forest, on the beach or in the sea. The smell of burning trash often wafts over the village.

Fishermen clean their catch along the waterfront, tossing fish heads and guts onto the beach. At low tide, plastic wrappers and fish skeletons litter the shallows, and severed tuna heads stare up reproachfully from the sand.

Man-made remnants of the island’s colonial past are few. Fortifications built by the British in the 1600s were reclaimed long ago by the jungle. In 2017, officials installed a white marble monument on Rhun’s waterfront commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Treaty of Breda between England and the Netherlands, which set the terms for the trade.

But like the history, the monument’s inscription has faded.

What is still prevalent on the island is nutmeg, which along with tuna is a mainstay of the local economy, although nutmeg is also grown in many other places now.

Herman Abdullah, whose family has farmed nutmeg for generations, hiked up the hill above the village one recent day to harvest the fruit, similar in size to a large apricot.

The aroma of nutmeg wafted through the grove, with some trees more than 75 years old. Rhun is ideal for growing nutmeg, Mr. Herman said, and a mature tree can produce 1,000 fruits every four months.

“Rhun has the best climate and also the best soil for nutmeg,” he said.

Two spices are derived from each nutmeg fruit — what the world knows as nutmeg is the seed, while the spice mace is the red membrane surrounding the seed. The soft outer flesh is edible, but not widely marketed.

After Mr. Herman chose a tree, his friend Sairin Kasem climbed up. More than 50 feet above the ground and nearly invisible among the dense branches, he knocked hundreds of nutmegs to the ground with a long pole. For a time, it seemed to be raining nutmeg.

Sitting in the shade, the two men sliced the fruit open, casting aside the outer flesh and keeping the seeds with their mace covering. Loading the harvest into a basket on his back, Mr. Herman headed back down the hill.

This story was produced with support from the Round Earth Media program of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

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Discontent and Defiance on the Road to Pakistan’s Election

Christina Goldbaum and

The reporters traveled along a famed highway in Pakistan’s most heated political battleground to understand how Pakistanis are feeling before a national election on Thursday.

The highway is the most politically charged slice of a politically turbulent country. It winds 180 miles from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, through the fertile plains of Punjab Province to Lahore, the nation’s cultural and political heart.

For centuries, it was known only as a sliver of the Grand Trunk Road, Asia’s longest and oldest thoroughfare, linking traders in Central Asia to the Indian subcontinent. But in Pakistan, this stretch of the smog-drenched highway has become the stage for major rallies and protests led by nearly every famed civilian leader the country has had.

As Pakistan heads into national elections on Thursday, the road is buzzing. Politics dominates the chatter between its vendors and rickshaw drivers, their conversations seeped in a culture of conspiracy, cults of political personality and the problems of entrenched military control.


The map highlights the Grand Trunk Road from Islamabad to Lahore in Pakistan . The towns of Gujar Khan, Jhelum, Wazirabad and Gujranwala along the road are also located.

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The Friar Who Became the Vatican’s Go-To Guy on A.I.

Before dawn, Paolo Benanti climbed to the bell tower of his 16th-century monastery, admired the sunrise over the ruins of the Roman forum and reflected on a world in flux.

“It was a wonderful meditation on what is going on inside,” he said, stepping onto the street in his friar robe. “And outside too.”

There is a lot going on for Father Benanti, who, as both the Vatican’s and the Italian government’s go-to artificial intelligence ethicist, spends his days thinking about the Holy Ghost and the ghosts in the machines.

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Cleaning Latrines by Hand: ‘How Could Any Human Do That?’

When he came to fully realize exactly what his parents and older brother did for a living, and what it likely meant for his own future, Bezwada Wilson says he was so angry he contemplated suicide.

His family members, and his broader community, were manual scavengers, tasked with cleaning by hand human excrement from dry latrines at a government-run gold mine in southern India.

While his parents had tried hard to hide from their youngest child the nature of their work as long as they could — telling Mr. Bezwada they were sweepers — as a student Mr. Bezwada knew his classmates viewed him with cruel condescension. He just didn’t know the reason.

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A Child of Another War Who Makes Music for Ukrainians

When the owner of an underground club in Kyiv reached out to Western musicians to play in Ukraine, long before the war, there were not so many takers.

But an American from Boston, Mirza Ramic, accepted the invitation, spawning a lasting friendship with the club’s owner, Taras Khimchak.

“I kept coming back,” Mr. Ramic, 40, said in an interview at the club, Mezzanine, where he was preparing for a performance during a recent tour of Ukraine.

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A Woman Who Shows Age Is No Barrier to Talk Show Stardom

Pushing a walker through a television studio in central Tokyo earlier this week, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi slowly climbed three steps onto a sound stage with the help of an assistant who settled her into a creamy beige Empire armchair.

A stylist removed the custom-made sturdy boots on her feet and slipped on a pair of high-heeled mules. A makeup artist brushed her cheeks and touched up her blazing red lipstick. A hairdresser tamed a few stray wisps from her trademark onion-shaped hairstyle as another assistant ran a lint roller over her embroidered black jacket. With that, Ms. Kuroyanagi, 90, was ready to record the 12,193rd episode of her show.

As one of Japan’s best-known entertainers for seven decades, Ms. Kuroyanagi has interviewed guests on her talk show, “Tetsuko’s Room,” since 1976, earning a Guinness World Record last fall for most episodes hosted by the same presenter. Generations of Japanese celebrities across film, television, music, theater and sports have visited Ms. Kuroyanagi’s couch, along with American stars like Meryl Streep and Lady Gaga; Prince Philip of England; and Mikhail Gorbachev, the former leader of the Soviet Union. Ms. Kuroyanagi said Gorbachev remains one of her all-time favorite guests.

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They Thought They Knew Death, but That Didn’t Prepare Them for Oct. 7

At 76, David Weissenstern has collected the remains of the dead for most of his adult life. But after the Oct. 7 attacks, in which Hamas-led fighters killed about 1,200 people along Israel’s border with Gaza, he can no longer stand the smell of grilled meat. The odor, he says, reminds him too much of burned human flesh.

His son Duby Weissenstern, 48, has lost track of time after working successive days and nights to recover those killed on Oct. 7. He now marks time in relation to that date.

And his son-in-law Israel Ganot, 32, now gags at the smell of food that has turned rotten. He was in the second wave of recovery workers who reached bodies that had been trapped under rubble for weeks.

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Playing Soccer in $1.50 Sandals That Even Gucci Wants to Copy

The wealthy pros of Ivory Coast’s national soccer team were resting in their luxury hotel last week, preparing for a match in Africa’s biggest tournament, when Yaya Camara sprinted onto a dusty lot and began fizzing one pass after another to his friends.

Over and over, he corralled the game’s underinflated ball and then sent it away again with his favorite soccer shoes: worn plastic sandals long derided as the sneaker of the poor, but which he and his friends wear as a badge of honor.

Shiny soccer cleats like his idols’? No thanks, said Mr. Camara, a lean 18-year-old midfielder, as he wiped sweat from his brow.

“How did the pros start playing when they were kids like us? With lêkê,” he added, referring to the sandals that are ubiquitous not only in his pickup game but almost any place an Ivorian puts their feet.

While the best African teams run out in expensive branded cleats at this year’s continental soccer championship, the Africa Cup of Nations, it is in lêkê (pronounced leh-keh) that amateur players craft the best street soccer.

They praise the cheaper sandals for their practicality — “They’re lighter, they fit better and they’re more comfortable where we play,” as Mr. Camara put it — in games that take place not on manicured grass fields in shiny new stadiums but on countless sandy pitches, dusty courtyards and narrow alleyways.

“Lêkê are the national shoes of Ivory Coast,” said Seydou Traoré, his feet resting inside an orange pair (the national color) as he watched a nerve-racking match on a television pulled into the street alongside dozens of neighbors and friends. Many of them wore lêkê, too.

It is unclear how the shoe became so popular in Ivory Coast. Most players said they had been wearing them since they were toddlers. School children wear them to school. And they blossom on countless feet when the streets of Abidjan fill with water during the rainy season.

And while the jelly shoe has become trendy in the fashion world in recent years, with luxury brands like Gucci making their own version, they’re chic in Ivory Coast for reasons of both style and pragmatism.

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“Apart from in the office, you can wear them everywhere, even at a party,” said Mr. Traoré, an amateur player who once competed in Ivory Coast’s second league.

Heels, dress shoes or leather sandals remain the favored shoes for the office in Ivory Coast, one of West Africa’s largest economies and home to a dynamic middle class. But the appeal of lêkê shone through few years ago, when one of the country’s most famous singers turned businessman posed on the cover of a style magazine wearing a Western-style gray suit and white plastic sandals.

The story goes that the jelly sandal was born in 1946, when a French knifemaker invented the original model as a way to use a large batch of plastic he had ordered to make knives. Its original shape — soles studded with spikes, a round tip and a basket-weave top — has barely changed in decades.

The French company that now owns the patent, Humeau-Beaupreau, sells 800,000 pairs a year, according to a representative of the company. But the bulk of the lêkê seen across West Africa are manufactured locally; in Ivory Coast, one can buy a pair on almost every street corner for about $1.50.

On a recent afternoon, Céliba Coulibaly and Saliou Diallo were purchasing a new pair — “chap chap,” they said, or hurriedly — because they had tickets to collect for a Cup of Nations match later that day featuring Guinea, Mr. Diallo’s home country.

Of course they would go to the stadium in lêkê, Mr. Diallo said. “They’re light and comfortable,” he added. “What else would I wear?”

In Ivory Coast, amateur soccer players are divided on the best model to wear — those bearing the name of the Argentine star Lionel Messi, or those named after Basile Boli, the Ivorian-born French player who retired from soccer before many of those now wearing lêkê were born.

As soccer shoes, lêkê are a short-term commitment, since the straps often break after only a few weeks. They are only replaced when they can’t hold the feet anymore, so worn soles are a point of pride — proof of hours of uninterrupted play on scrappy fields locally known as Maracana, in homage to the famed soccer stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The scars and scratches left on feet by the metallic strap are both a badge of suffering and a symbol of dedication to the game, players say.

“Let a guy come with proper sneakers and we’ll make fun of him: ‘You think you’re a professional player or what?’” Iliass Sanogo said as he watched a group of friends — all wearing lêkê — play in the hazy twilight.

Street vendors said the popularity of the sandals colored with the Ivorian flag (orange, white and green) had soared during the Africa Cup of Nations.

“Then we started losing and sales collapsed,” joked one of them, Aboubakar Samaké, as he hawked jerseys for the tournament’s teams and all kinds of green and orange goodies, from bracelets to lêkê, in a bustling neighborhood in Abidjan.

The drop in sales might also be because Mr. Samaké, describing his mood as “overwhelmed” after one particularly crushing loss, didn’t leave the house for two days.

“But discouragement isn’t an Ivorian thing,” Mr. Samaké quickly added, now back at work.

A few hours later, Ivory Coast’s national team was scheduled to face the reigning Cup of Nations champion, Senegal. Mr. Camara, dusty and sweaty from his pickup game, rushed home, dropped his lêkê and jumped in the shower. He resurfaced minutes later wearing an Ivory Coast jersey and clean jeans. He left his lêkê to rest, donned flip flops, and strolled to a nearby kiosk to watch his team win.

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Russian Skaters Stripped of Olympic Gold, Setting Up New Fight for Medals

International skating’s governing body on Tuesday sought to put an end to a two-year-old controversy by revising the disputed results of a marquee figure skating competition at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. But in stripping Russia of its victory in the team event, awarding the gold medal to the United States and denying Canada the bronze it had been expecting, the sport may have only set the stage for yet another protracted legal fight.

The revised finishes were announced by the skating body, the International Skating Union, one day after the teenage Russian star Kamila Valieva was banned for four years for doping. Disqualifying Valieva, a 15-year-old prodigy who had led Russia to an apparent victory, had the most immediate effect on the Olympic team standings: elevating the U.S. to gold and Japan to silver, while, surprisingly, dropping Russia just enough that it could still claim the bronze.

Within hours, Russia’s Olympic committee, already furious about Valieva’s ban, announced that it would appeal any outcome that denied it the team gold. Canadian officials quickly threatened to appeal the ruling as well. That left skating officials and the International Olympic Committee, which had chosen not to award medals in the team event until Valieva’s doping case was resolved, wondering how they could at last arrange a “dignified Olympic medal ceremony” for an ugly dispute that appeared nowhere near its end.

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FIFA Convictions Are Imperiled by Questions of U.S. Overreach

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Nearly a decade after police officers marched world soccer officials out of a luxury hotel in Zurich at dawn, revealing a corruption scandal that shook the world’s most popular sport, the case is at risk of falling apart.

The dramatic turnabout comes over questions of whether American prosecutors overreached by applying U.S. law to a group of people, many of them foreign nationals, who defrauded foreign organizations as they carried out bribery schemes across the world.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year limited a law that was key to the case. Then in September, a federal judge, citing that, threw out the convictions of two defendants linked to soccer corruption. Now, several former soccer officials, including some who paid millions of dollars in penalties and served time in prison, are arguing that the bribery schemes for which they were convicted are no longer considered a crime in the United States.

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Depardieu Sexual Assault Suit Dropped Over Statute of Limitations

A sexual assault lawsuit filed against Gérard Depardieu by a French actress has been dropped because it was past the statute of limitations, prosecutors in Paris said on Monday, but the French actor is still under investigation in a separate case.

In the lawsuit that was dropped, the actress Hélène Darras had accused Depardieu of groping her on the set of “Disco,” a comedy released in 2008. Her suit had been filed in September but was made public only last month, shortly before she appeared in a France 2 television documentary alongside three other women who also accused Depardieu of inappropriate comments or sexual misconduct.

The documentary, which showed Depardieu making crude sexual and sexist comments during a 2018 trip to North Korea, set off a fierce debate in France that prompted President Emmanuel Macron and dozens of actors, directors and other celebrities to defend Depardieu, splitting the French movie industry.

Depardieu, 75, has denied any wrongdoing, and he has not been convicted in connection with any of the accusations against him.

On Monday, the Paris prosecutor’s office said that Darras’s suit was dropped in late December because the statute of limitations had run out on the alleged assault, an outcome that was widely expected — including by the actress herself. She told Agence France-Presse in December that she still “wanted to respond to the defense that plays down our allegations by saying they’re ‘just’ witness accounts.”

In France, adult victims of sexual assault have six years after an alleged crime to file a lawsuit.

Another lawsuit, filed in Spain by Ruth Baza, a Spanish journalist who has accused Depardieu of kissing and groping her without her consent when she was in Paris in 1995, could face a similar fate.

Depardieu has been charged with rape and sexual assault in a case involving Charlotte Arnould, a French actress who says he sexually assaulted her in Paris in 2018, when she was 22. That investigation is continuing, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office.

While allegations of Depardieu’s sexual misconduct had been growing for years, criticism of the actor resurfaced recently after the France 2 documentary.

Darras was one of 13 women — actresses, makeup artists and production staff — who in April had told Mediapart, an investigative news website, that Depardieu had made inappropriate sexual comments or gestures during film shoots over the years.

In the France 2 documentary, and in interviews with Mediapart and other outlets, Darras said that in 2007, on the set of “Disco,” Depardieu had groped her repeatedly in between takes, touching her hips and buttocks, and had propositioned her, even after she refused.

Darras, who was 26 at the time, had said that no one on set had reacted to the groping because Depardieu was treated like a “king,” and that she had been afraid to speak out because she was just starting her career and was worried about being blacklisted.

In a news conference this month, Macron — who had condemned what he called a “manhunt” against Depardieu — said he had “no regrets about defending the presumption of innocence for a public figure.”

But, he added: “If I have one regret, at that moment, it’s that I didn’t say enough about the importance of the voice of women who are victims of this violence, and how essential this fight is for me.”

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An Olympic Dream Falters Amid Track’s Shifting Rules

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Maximila Imali, a top Kenyan sprinter, did not lose her eligibility to compete in the Paris Olympics because she cheated. She did not fail a doping test. She broke no rules.

Instead, she is set to miss this year’s Summer Games because she was born with a rare genetic variant that results in naturally elevated levels of testosterone. And last March, track and field’s global governing body ruled that Ms. Imali’s biology gave her an unfair advantage in all events against other women, effectively barring her from international competition.

As a result, Ms. Imali, 27, finds her Olympic dream in peril and her career and her livelihood in limbo.

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Alexéi Navalny, crítico de Putin, muere en prisión, según las autoridades rusas

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Alexéi Navalny, activista anticorrupción que durante más de una década lideró la oposición política en la Rusia del presidente Vladimir Putin, murió el viernes en una prisión en el círculo polar ártico, informaron las autoridades rusas.

Su muerte fue anunciada por el Servicio Penitenciario Federal de Rusia, que declaró que Navalny, de 47 años, perdió el conocimiento el viernes luego de dar un paseo en la prisión a la que fue trasladado a finales del año pasado. La última vez que se le vio fue el jueves, cuando compareció en una audiencia judicial por videoconferencia; sonreía tras los barrotes de una celda y hacía bromas.

[El video a continuación muestra imágenes del medio de comunicación ruso SOTA en donde aparece Alexéi Navalny riendo y haciendo bromas entre rejas durante su última comparecencia ante el tribunal a través de una conexión de video].

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Ucrania afirma que Rusia utilizó por primera vez un nuevo misil hipersónico

Ucrania dijo tener pruebas de que Rusia utilizó por primera vez un nuevo misil de crucero hipersónico en un ataque la semana pasada, algo que, de confirmarse, podría plantear otro nuevo desafío a las ya abrumadas defensas aéreas del país.

Un análisis preliminar de fragmentos de misil realizado por el Instituto de Investigación Científica y Peritaje Forense de Kiev, organismo dirigido por el gobierno, concluyó que se había utilizado un misil 3M22 Zircón en un ataque llevado a cabo el 7 de febrero contra ciudades de toda Ucrania. Según el instituto, en los escombros se encontraron marcas típicas del misil.

“Vemos elementos característicos del misil 3M22 Zircón. Partes y fragmentos del motor y de los mecanismos de dirección tienen marcas específicas”, declaró Oleksandr Ruvin, director del instituto, en una publicación en las redes sociales el lunes por la tarde en la que incluyó un video de los restos del misil.

Las autoridades rusas no han hecho comentarios sobre el uso de un misil Zircón y las pruebas presentadas por el instituto no han podido ser verificadas de forma independiente. Funcionarios estadounidenses, que hablaron bajo condición de anonimato, dijeron que estaban evaluando la afirmación pero que no podían confirmar su uso en combate el 7 de febrero.

Sidharth Kaushal, investigador y experto en poder marítimo del Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), se mostró cauteloso y afirmó que ninguno de los buques de guerra desde los que se había probado anteriormente el misil estaba operando en el mar Negro en el momento del ataque, lo que quiere decir que los restos podrían pertenecer a otro tipo de misil.

El uso de un misil Zircón significaría un nuevo paso en la campaña aérea rusa contra la infraestructura militar y civil ucraniana.

Los restos que, según Ucrania, pertenecían a un Zircón se encontraron en la región de Kiev, dijo un portavoz del instituto forense sin revelar la ubicación exacta. El ejército ucraniano afirmó haber derribado varios misiles de crucero durante el ataque, pero no mencionó haber interceptado un Zircón.

Las defensas aéreas de Ucrania han demostrado ser relativamente eficaces durante el último año, interceptando a menudo hasta tres cuartas partes de los misiles disparados contra su territorio. Pero en los últimos meses, Rusia ha lanzado andanadas cada vez más complejas de diferentes misiles y drones en un intento de saturar y penetrar estas defensas. Así ocurrió de nuevo en el ataque de la semana pasada, en el que murieron 5 personas y participaron 64 misiles de crucero, misiles balísticos y aviones no tripulados rusos, así como un misil Zircón, según funcionarios ucranianos.

Según los expertos, de ser correcta la descripción de las capacidades del misil que Rusia hizo con anterioridad, este sería capaz de eludir potentes defensas antimisiles, como el sistema Patriot diseñado por EE. UU., que Ucrania ha utilizado para derribar otros misiles hipersónicos y de crucero rusos. Las autoridades rusas han afirmado que el Zircón puede alcanzar ocho veces la velocidad del sonido, tiene un alcance de 1005 kilómetros y puede transportar una ojiva de 300 kilogramos.

La Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, una organización sin fines de lucro con sede en Estados Unidos, afirmó que, si esa información es exacta, el misil Zircón sería uno de los más rápidos del mundo, “lo que haría casi imposible defenderse contra él ya solo por su velocidad”.

El misil “no tiene análogos en ningún país del mundo”, declaró el presidente de Rusia, Vladimir Putin, a principios del año pasado.

Kaushal señaló que el misil se probó por primera vez en vuelo en 2015 y se declaró operativo a finales de 2022, un ciclo de desarrollo inusualmente rápido. Dijo que se había probado con dos buques de guerra, la fragata de clase Almirante Gorshkov y el submarino de clase Yasen, antes de ser utilizado para armar la fragata en enero de 2023.

Sin embargo, señaló que ninguno de esos dos buques de guerra “se encuentra en el mar Negro en este momento” y que “sería inusual que el misil se disparara en combate real por primera vez desde un buque desde el que nunca se ha probado antes”.

Las autoridades ucranianas no mencionaron la plataforma de lanzamiento del misil.

El hecho de que Rusia no haya comunicado el uso de un misil Zircón la semana pasada también plantea dudas. Cuando utilizó por primera vez un misil Kinzhal, en marzo de 2022, el Ministerio de Defensa de Rusia lo comunicó rápidamente.

Queda por ver cómo el Zircón cambiaría los cálculos en el campo de batalla ucraniano.

Rusia ya antes ha afirmado que sus misiles hipersónicos Kinzhal lanzados desde el aire, unas de las armas más sofisticadas de su arsenal, son imposibles de detener. Pero después de que Ucrania fue equipada con el sistema Patriot, consiguió derribar varios Kinzhals antes de que pudieran alcanzar sus objetivos.

Kaushal también dijo que la eficacia de combate del misil Zircón sigue siendo desconocida, pues hay interrogantes en torno a su supuesta velocidad y precisión.

La capacidad de Rusia para producir y operar misiles Zircón, “especialmente porque el programa competirá por recursos financieros y de otro tipo con prioridades como la reconstrucción de las fuerzas terrestres rusas”, también sigue en duda, dijo Kaushal en un informe de investigación publicado el año pasado.

Julian Barnes y Eric Schmitt colaboraron con este reportaje.

Constant Méheut cubre Francia desde la corresponsalía en París del Times desde 2020. Más de Constant Méheut


Rusia oculta su número de bajas. Estas son las pistas que tenemos

El verdadero número de bajas en Rusia por su invasión a Ucrania es un secreto a voces. El Kremlin mantiene una política de silencio y muchos rusos no hablan públicamente por miedo a las repercusiones.

El Times  Una selección semanal de historias en español que no encontrarás en ningún otro sitio, con eñes y acentos.

Pero se cree que el número de rusos heridos en combate es abrumador.

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En Venezuela, un día eres crítico y al siguiente estás detenido

De todos los críticos del gobierno, pocos pensaban que Rocío San Miguel sería la que iba a desaparecer.

San Miguel, de 57 años, durante mucho tiempo ha sido una de las expertas en seguridad más conocidas de Venezuela, una mujer que se atrevió a investigar al gobierno autoritario de su país incluso cuando otros huían. También es moderada, cuenta con reconocimiento internacional y parecía tener fuertes contactos en el hermético mundo del ejército venezolano, cualidades que sus colegas pensaban que podrían protegerla.

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Pero a finales de la semana pasada, San Miguel llegó al aeropuerto de las afueras de Caracas con su hija, con destino a lo que un familiar calificó como un viaje corto a Miami, cuando fue detenida por agentes de contraespionaje. Poco después, su familia también empezó a desaparecer. La hija, dos hermanos y dos antiguas parejas sentimentales. Desaparecidos.

Durante cuatro días, la única información pública sobre San Miguel procedió del fiscal general de Venezuela, que afirmó en redes sociales, sin aportar pruebas, que San Miguel había sido vinculada a un complot para asesinar al presidente del país, Nicolás Maduro.

Finalmente, el martes por la noche, sus abogados dijeron que había aparecido, y que estaba recluida en un centro de detención conocido por su crueldad. Su familia también estaba bajo custodia estatal.

La detención de San Miguel, directora de una modesta pero influyente organización sin fines de lucro que monitoreaba a las fuerzas armadas, ha desencadenado un pequeño terremoto en los círculos de derechos humanos de Venezuela, donde hace solo unos meses muchos observaban con cautelosa expectativa cómo Maduro firmaba un acuerdo con la oposición del país, donde prometía trabajar para lograr unas elecciones presidenciales libres y justas este año.

El cambio político, aunque todavía era una posibilidad lejana, parecía un anhelo digno de consideración.

Ahora, el pequeño grupo de activistas, trabajadores humanitarios, críticos, analistas, periodistas y otros que han podido resistir dentro del país —a pesar de años de represión y crisis económica— ven cómo se reducen aún más los estrechos espacios de actuación disponibles para ellos.

Como resultado, el camino hacia la democracia parece tan arduo como siempre.

Una nueva ley propuesta por el partido de Maduro pretende regular estrictamente las organizaciones sin fines de lucro, prohibiéndoles participar en acciones “que amenacen la estabilidad nacional”, lo que hace temer que se utilice para criminalizar a estos grupos.

La principal candidata de la oposición del país, María Corina Machado, ha sido inhabilitada para presentarse a las elecciones presidenciales, varios miembros de su equipo han sido detenidos y una violenta banda afín al gobierno interrumpió recientemente uno de sus actos, ensangrentando a sus partidarios.

“Si esto le ocurrió a Rocío San Miguel, ¿qué le queda a los demás?”, dijo Laura Dib, que dirige el programa sobre Venezuela en la Oficina en Washington para Asuntos Latinoamericanos.

El encarcelamiento de personas que el gobierno de Maduro considera una amenaza no es nuevo. En Venezuela hay 263 presos políticos, según un grupo de vigilancia, Foro Penal, muchos de los cuales llevan años recluidos sin juicio.

Lo que distingue el caso de San Miguel no es solo lo conocida es y lo bien relacionada que estaba, sino que las autoridades detuvieron a toda su familia y luego los mantuvieron a todos sin comunicación durante días, táctica conocida en el derecho internacional como “desaparición forzada”.

En conjunto, estas medidas forman parte de un cambio notable en la represión, dijo Gonzalo Himiob, de Foro Penal, en el que el gobierno busca casos que atraigan la atención de los medios de comunicación y tácticas de detención que puedan aumentar el miedo entre quienes lo desafían.

“El gobierno está cruzando líneas que no había cruzado antes”, dijo.

En el centro de estas acciones parece estar el propio miedo de Maduro. El chavismo, el movimiento que lidera, ha gobernado Venezuela desde que su predecesor, Hugo Chávez, ganó las elecciones presidenciales en 1998.

Chávez, y luego Maduro, dirigieron una revolución de inspiración socialista que al principio sacó a muchos de la pobreza. Pero en los últimos años, la mala gestión gubernamental del sector petrolero, así como la corrupción y las sanciones estadounidenses, han devastado la economía.

Una crisis humanitaria al interior del país ha desbordado sus fronteras, con millones de venezolanos que buscan refugio fuera de él.

Maduro quiere que Estados Unidos retire las sanciones, algo que podría ayudar a mejorar la situación financiera del país, y que Washington ha dicho que hará si Maduro toma medidas para apoyar la democracia.

En octubre, con cautelosos elogios de Estados Unidos y sus aliados, Maduro firmó un acuerdo con la oposición para celebrar elecciones presidenciales.

Días después, la principal candidata de la oposición, Machado, ganó unas primarias con una participación que superó las expectativas y que se consideraron una señal de la debilidad de Maduro.

Las detenciones de San Miguel y su familia, dijo Dib, son un “mensaje a la sociedad civil de que no van a conseguir lo que quieren”. Es decir, unas elecciones de verdad.

Maduro, añadió, “no está dispuesto a perder el poder”.

San Miguel, que tiene doble nacionalidad, venezolana y española, es la directora de Control Ciudadano, que ha publicado una investigación sobre el número de personas asesinadas por las fuerzas de seguridad del Estado y ha criticado una ley venezolana que permite el uso de fuerza letal durante las protestas.

La mañana del 9 de febrero, San Miguel había llegado al aeropuerto en las afueras de Caracas con su hija de 26 años, según Minnie Díaz Paruta, tía de la hija.

San Miguel fue abordada por agentes del gobierno y detenida.

Aterrorizada, la hija volvió a Caracas. Un día después, regresó al aeropuerto para recuperar su equipaje, pero desapareció al poco tiempo y dejó de contestar a los mensajes, dijo la tía. Los hermanos y exparejas de San Miguel fueron detenidos por esas fechas, según Díaz y otros informes.

Dos días después, el fiscal general de Venezuela, Tarek William Saab, anunció en la plataforma de redes sociales X que San Miguel estaba detenida por el Estado, acusada de participar en una operación que, según él, buscaba el asesinato de Maduro.

Aseguró que la detención se había producido de acuerdo con “las normas nacionales e internacionales de protección de los derechos humanos”.

(El gobierno de Maduro afirma con frecuencia haber descubierto complots de asesinato contra el presidente).

A los abogados de San Miguel no se les permitió verla ni se les dijo dónde estaba.

Un grupo de activistas de derechos humanos recorrió algunos de los centros de detención del país con la esperanza de encontrarla, dijo Dib, sin éxito. No está claro cómo dieron con ella finalmente.

La embajada estadounidense para Venezuela, que se encuentra en la vecina Colombia, dijo que las detenciones seguían “una tendencia preocupante de detenciones aparentemente arbitrarias de actores democráticos”.

El Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU, que en 2020 afirmó que Maduro había cometido “crímenes contra la humanidad” en sus esfuerzos por silenciar a la oposición, emitió una declaración similar.

Saad dijo el 13 de febrero que San Miguel había comparecido en una audiencia celebrada la víspera, acusada de traición, conspiración y terrorismo. Sus abogados dijeron que no estuvieron presentes.

Más tarde ese mismo día, un miembro de su equipo de defensa anunció en internet que la habían localizado: estaba en el Helicoide, un edificio de la década de 1950 construido como centro comercial que desde entonces se ha convertido en un conocido centro de detención.

La misión de las Naciones Unidas que examina las violaciones de derechos humanos en el país ha entrevistado a detenidos del Helicoide y afirma que han denunciado torturas, incluidas palizas y el uso de descargas eléctricas.

La misión también informó, en 2022, que el director de la principal agencia de inteligencia del país, que ostenta un poder significativo en el Helicoide, recibía órdenes directas de Maduro.

El abogado de San Miguel dijo que una de sus exparejas, Alejandro González, estaría recluido en otro centro, y que ambos permanecerían bajo custodia.

Los otros cuatro miembros de la familia, Miranda Díaz San Miguel, Víctor Díaz Paruta, Miguel San Miguel y Alberto San Miguel, serían puestos en libertad con la condición de que no salieran del país ni hablaran con los medios de comunicación.

La noticia de las detenciones se difundió rápidamente. Jairo Chourio, de 46 años, que vive en la ciudad de Maracaibo, dijo que se enteró de la detención de San Miguel en un grupo de Telegram, donde recibió información del partido socialista del país. Celebró las detenciones, que debían ser “bien merecidas”.

Otros dijeron que las detenciones eran señales angustiosas del estado de la democracia del país.

“En mi familia, todos tenemos miedo de opinar”, dijo Andrea Bracho, de 28 años, también de Maracaibo.

Bracho solo había decidido hablar con una periodista, dijo, “porque ya mañana me voy”.

“Por ahora, no tengo esperanzas”, continuó. “Y lo siento mucho”.

Sheyla Urdaneta colaboró con reportería desde Maracaibo, Venezuela.

Julie Turkewitz es la jefa del buró de los Andes, que cubre Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Perú, Surinam y Guyana. Antes de mudarse a América del Sur, fue corresponsal de temas nacionales y cubrió el oeste de Estados Unidos. Más de Julie Turkewitz


El Carnaval de Brasil solo empieza cuando llega John Travolta (el que mide 4 metros)

Jack Nicas y Dado Galdieri reportaron este artículo entre los gigantescos muñecos de las celebraciones de Carnaval en Olinda, Brasil

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El Times  Una selección semanal de historias en español que no encontrarás en ningún otro sitio, con eñes y acentos.

Era casi el comienzo de una de las celebraciones más famosas del Carnaval en Brasil, en la ciudad costera de Olinda, al norte del país, y la plaza de la ciudad estaba repleta de miles de asistentes. Todos esperaban a su ídolo.

Justo antes de las 9 p. m., las puertas de un salón de baile se abrieron de par en par, una banda de música se abrió paso entre la multitud y salió la estrella que todos habían estado esperando: un muñeco de John Travolta de cuatro metros.

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