The New York Times 2024-03-31 01:15:13


How African Immigrants Have Revived a Remote Corner of Quebec

Reporting from Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec

Not long ago, the handful of African immigrants in Rouyn-Noranda, a remote city in northern Quebec, all knew one another.

There was the Nigerian woman long married to a Québécois man. The odd researchers from Cameroon or the Ivory Coast. And, of course, the doyen, a Congolese chemist who first made a name for himself driving a Zamboni at hockey games.

Today, newcomers from Africa are everywhere — in the streets, supermarkets, factories, hotels, even at the church-basement boxing club.

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A Stork, a Fisherman and Their Unlikely Bond Enchant Turkey

Ben Hubbard and

Reporting from Eskikaraagac, Turkey

Thirteen years ago, a poor fisherman in a small Turkish village was retrieving his net from a lake when he heard a noise behind him and turned to find a majestic being standing on the bow of his rowboat.

Gleaming white feathers covered its head, neck and chest, yielding to black plumes on its wings. It stood atop skinny orange legs that nearly matched the color of its long, pointy beak.

The fisherman, Adem Yilmaz, recognized it as one of the white storks that had long summered in the village, he recalled, but he had never seen one so close, much less hosted one on his boat.


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A 500-Year Old Chapel, 438 Solar Panels and an Architectural Squabble

Clambering across the sloped roof of King’s College Chapel with the agility of an undergraduate, Toby Lucas, 56, pointed to where his craftsmen had welded solar panels to an expanse of newly installed lead. It was the scariest part of the project, he said, because an errant spark could have ignited the 500-year-old timbers underneath, which hold up the roof of this English Gothic masterpiece.

“It’s an iconic landmark in Cambridge, and it’s part and parcel of where I live,” said Mr. Lucas, whose firm, Barnes Construction, did the restoration. “You don’t want to be the person who is responsible for burning part of it down.”

The chapel came through the project unscorched and now stands at the heart of Cambridge University, no longer just a glorious relic of the late-medieval period but also a cutting-edge symbol of the green-energy future. Its 438 photovoltaic panels, along with solar panels on the roofs of two nearby buildings, will supply a shade over five percent of the college’s electricity.

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Troop-Starved Ukrainian Brigades Turn to Marketing to Attract Recruits

Skyscraper-sized billboards show assault troops in battle gear emerging from a ball of flames. On street posters, soldiers urge passers-by to enlist, proclaiming that “victory is in your hands.” Take a seat on a high-speed train and chances are high that a television will be advertising jobs for drone operators.

Slick recruiting campaigns brimming with nationalist fervor have become ubiquitous in Kyiv, the capital, and other Ukrainian cities in recent months. They are perhaps the most visible sign of a push to replenish Ukrainian troops depleted by more than two years of a brutal war — an effort that experts and officials say is crucial for fending off relentless Russian attacks.

But most of the campaigns are not the work of the country’s political and military leadership. They are the initiatives of troop-starved brigades that have taken matters into their own hands, shunning an official mobilization system that they say is dysfunctional, often drafting people who are unfit and unwilling to fight.

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Dispute Over Conscription for Ultra-Orthodox Jews Presents New Threat to Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing his most challenging political threat since the start of the Gaza war because of a disagreement among members of his coalition about whether ultra-Orthodox Jews should retain their longstanding exemption from military service.

An unwieldy right-wing alliance of secular and ultra-Orthodox lawmakers, the coalition’s members are divided about whether the state should continue to allow young ultra-Orthodox men to study at religious seminaries instead of serving in the military, as most other Jewish Israelis do. If the government abolishes the exemption, it risks a walkout from the ultra-Orthodox lawmakers; if it lets the exemption stand, the secular members could withdraw. Either way, the coalition could collapse.

The situation poses the gravest challenge to Mr. Netanyahu’s grip on power since Hamas raided Israel on Oct. 7, prompting Israel to invade Hamas’s stronghold in the Gaza Strip. Criticized by many Israelis for presiding over the October disaster, Mr. Netanyahu is trailing in the polls and faces growing calls to resign. But until now, there were few obvious ways in which his coalition might collapse.

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The ‘Night Government’ Expands Its Violent Reach in Rohingya Camps

They could not worship freely. The authorities denied their very existence and razed evidence of their historical communities. Then came a campaign of ethnic cleansing that forced them to flee to a foreign country where they crowded into bamboo-and-tarp shelters. There they have waited years for a better life.

Instead, a new threat is stalking the roughly one million Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar who have resettled in refugee camps in Bangladesh: a surge in deadly violence from some of their own people.

Armed Rohingya groups and criminal gangs involved in the drug trade are so entrenched in the camps, aid groups and refugees said, that they are known as the “night government,” a moniker that signified their power and the time that they typically operated. In recent months, they have become more brazen, terrorizing their fellow Rohingya and battling one another in gunfights in broad daylight as they fight for control of the camps.

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Middle East Crisis: U.N. Peacekeepers Injured in Lebanon Blast as Tensions Rise

Members of a U.N. peacekeeping team are wounded in an explosion in Lebanon.

Three U.N. military observers and a Lebanese translator were injured in an explosion as they were patrolling the border with Israel on Saturday morning, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon said, adding that it was investigating the source of the blast.

Two senior Lebanese security officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, attributed the explosion to Israel, without providing evidence. Israel and Hezbollah and other militant groups have been trading fire for months, and on Saturday the Israeli military denied striking in the area.

Andrea Tenenti, a spokesman for the mission — commonly known by its acronym, UNIFIL — said it was “investigating the origin of the explosion” near the town of Rmeish. He said the wounded personnel were in stable condition but had been evacuated for medical treatment.

“Safety and security of U.N. personnel must be granted,” Mr. Tenenti said in a statement. “All actors have a responsibility under international humanitarian law to ensure protection to noncombatants.”

UNIFIL was first established to observe Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in the late 1970s. Since the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, the peacekeeping mission has monitored and reported on violations of the subsequent cross-border truce.

Najib Mikati, the Lebanese caretaker prime minister, condemned the “grave incident” in a brief statement. He said he had received assurances from UNIFIL that the matter would be properly investigated.

Tensions along the Israeli-Lebanese border have soared since Oct. 7, when the Hamas-led attack in Israel prompted the devastating war in Gaza. Hezbollah, the politically powerful Lebanese armed group, has launched scores of rockets at Israeli territory, and Israel has bombarded what it says are militant commanders and infrastructure.

More than 150,000 people have been driven from their homes on both sides of the border because of the constant bombardment, amid fears of a far deadlier escalation. The tit-for-tat fire on both sides has been simmering for months, but military analysts warn that even a slight miscalculation on either side could ignite the situation.

In recent weeks, Israel struck Hezbollah command centers in Baalbek, deep inside Lebanese territory, according to the Israeli military, in its farthest publicly confirmed strikes in years. On Wednesday, an Israeli strike left seven dead in Lebanon, according to the Lebanese authorities; subsequent rocket fire into Israel killed a 25-year-old man.

On Friday, airstrikes killed a number of soldiers near the Syrian city of Aleppo, the country’s state news media and an independent monitoring organization reported, in what appeared to be an unusually deadly Israeli strike.

Israel did not take responsibility for the Aleppo strike. Israeli officials have acknowledged pursuing a campaign of targeted attacks against Iranian forces and their proxies in Syria, but rarely comment on specific operations there.

The Israeli military also announced it had assassinated a Hezbollah commander near the southern city of Tyre.

Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, appeared to hint at Israeli involvement in the Syria strike during a visit to Israel’s northern command on Friday. “We will pursue Hezbollah every place it operates and we will expand the pressure and the pace of the attacks,” he said on social media, promising more operations in Lebanon, Syria and “other more distant locations.”

Charity that made first delivery of food to Gaza by sea sends a second load of aid.

A second load of aid from the World Central Kitchen left Cyprus for Gaza on Saturday, an even bigger batch of badly needed food for Palestinians at imminent risk of famine.

A vessel, called the Jennifer, and other barges were carrying almost 400 tons of shelf-stable and ready-to-eat items like rice, pasta, flour, canned vegetables and proteins — double the amount delivered in the World Central Kitchen’s first shipment to Gaza in mid-March, the charity said in a statement. The United Arab Emirates also contributed a shipment of dates, which are often eaten to break one’s fast during Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar. There is a little more than a week until Eid al-Fitr, the Islamic festival that celebrates the end of the holiday. This year it is expected to fall on or near April 9.

It was not clear when the second shipment would arrive, but the first vessel, called the Open Arms, took about four days to reach Gaza after leaving Cyprus. The Jennifer was also carrying two forklifts and a crane to offload cargo.

Delivering aid by sea is one of the latest international initiatives to stave off the threat of starvation in Gaza, where aid has been limited to tightly controlled border crossings.

When the first vessel arrived in Gaza, José Andrés, the Spanish American chef who founded the World Central Kitchen, said distribution efforts would start in northern Gaza, where violence and lawlessness has hindered food distribution efforts. Arriving at a newly built jetty on the coast, south of Gaza City, it was the first vessel authorized to deliver aid to Gaza in decades.

The United States has also announced a plan to build its own temporary floating pier to bring aid into Gaza, but it could take weeks to build.

A recent report from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification global initiative, the global authority on famine and nutrition, found that the food shortages driven by the war were so severe that northern Gaza might reach a famine anytime in the coming months.

A famine is defined when an area meets three criteria: At least 20 percent of households have an extreme lack of food; at least 30 percent of children suffer from acute malnutrition; and at least two adults, or four children, for every 10,000 people die daily from starvation or from disease linked to malnutrition.

The process of getting aid into Gaza by land is long and convoluted, with trucks facing delays and difficulties at every stage of the distribution process. Roads ruined by Israel’s bombardment of Gaza make it difficult for trucks to traverse northern Gaza; aid agencies such as the World Food Program have suspended their deliveries there, citing security concerns.

The U.N. agency for Palestinians, known as UNRWA, says that Israel has prevented aid from entering at the necessary pace with its slow inspections. COGAT, the Israeli unit that supervises deliveries into Gaza, points the blame at the aid groups for not distributing aid fast enough.

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A Times photographer went along on a Gaza airdrop. Here’s what he saw.

The huge rear gate of the Jordanian air force cargo plane slowly lowers like a stiff iron jaw, revealing a hazy blue sky and, far below, the battered landscape of northern Gaza.

Inside the plane’s cavernous hold, the aid being delivered by the crew is lined up in neat rows: chest-high bundles of boxes stacked atop wooden pallets, each one bound by shrink-wrap and heavy straps and marked with images of Jordan’s flag.

As the light and the sound rush in, the bundles slide down rollers in the floor and disappear out the door, floating down under billowing parachutes as a silent, and most likely inadequate, offering to the desperate population below.

With humanitarian groups and others sounding the alarm over a looming famine in northern Gaza and hunger widespread throughout the territory, airdrops are playing a prominent role in efforts to deliver food, water and urgent supplies to Palestinians.

On Thursday, the Jordanian air force allowed a photographer for The New York Times on one of its planes to observe the airdrop of bundles of aid across northern Gaza. The trip, taking off and returning from Jordan’s King Abdullah II air base, east of Amman, took several hours.

Countries including Jordan, the United States, Britain and France say the drops are helping compensate for a steep fall in the amount of aid entering Gaza by truck since Oct. 7, when Hamas led a deadly attack on Israel, and Israel responded with a monthslong military assault.

The United Nations and aid groups have complained that deliveries by truck are being slowed by Israel’s insistence on inspecting all supplies going into Gaza. Most aid trucks have been allowed in through just two border crossings — one from Egypt and one from Israel — in southern Gaza.

Israel has maintained that disorganization among aid groups is responsible for slow deliveries of aid to Palestinians and that much of the aid is diverted to Hamas or the black market, though it is not possible to verify those claims.

One of the few alternatives is dropping supplies from the sky, a process that takes only minutes in the air but extensive bureaucracy and hours of preparation on the ground.

The dozens of pallets pushed out of the planes on Thursday included thousands of meals, the Jordanians said. But airdrops are inefficient and expensive, humanitarian officials say, with even big military cargo planes delivering less than a single convoy of trucks could.

And the airdrops can be dangerous: This week, Gazan authorities said 12 people drowned while trying to retrieve assistance that had fallen into the ocean.

Israel must work with the U.N. and open more border crossings to prevent famine, an aid official says.

A United Nations relief official called on Friday for increased global pressure on Israel to open more border crossings for aid to reach the Gaza Strip after an order by the top U.N. court that said famine was “setting in.”

The top court, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, ordered Israel on Thursday, using its strongest language yet, to ensure “in full cooperation with the United Nations, the unhindered provision” of aid into Gaza.

Philippe Lazzarini, the U.N. official who leads the organization’s agency that aids Palestinians, known as UNRWA, has said that Israel refuses to work with his agency to bring aid to northern Gaza, the part of the enclave hit hardest by shortages of food and other vital supplies.

Mr. Lazzarini urged the court’s member states on Friday to “exert more pressure” to carry out the court order, adding that countries who paused their funding to UNRWA should reconsider their decision and help the organization avert a famine in the enclave.

The U.N. court does not have any means of forcing Israel to comply with its orders, but it is the highest arbiter of international law, and its decisions carry symbolic weight.

While UNRWA has for decades provided food to Gaza’s more than two million residents and has organized schools, hospitals and other services, its deliveries of aid to northern Gaza have slowed to a trickle in recent months. The Israeli authorities have denied blocking UNRWA, but Israel and the aid agency have been locked in a dispute over not only responsibility for the crisis, but also the status of UNRWA itself.

In January, the Israeli government accused at least 12 of the agency’s employees of participating in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which killed about 1,200 people. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then called for the agency to be closed. UNRWA suspended the staff members and opened an investigation, but some of its biggest donors have since suspended funding.

“Cooperation means that Israel must reverse its decision and allow @UNRWA to reach northern Gaza with food and nutrition convoys on a daily basis + to open additional land crossings,” Mr. Lazzarini said on social media.

The international court’s order, he said, was a “stark reminder that the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is man made,” adding that it can still be reversed.

In response to Thursday’s ruling, Israel’s government has said that it is committed to allowing adequate supplies into Gaza, and has noted that it has supported new shipment routes by land, air and sea, though deliveries through them have been very limited.

U.N. officials and international aid groups have reported severe and deadly malnutrition in Gaza and have blamed Israel, which inspects every truckload aid. Israeli officials say it is disorganization among the aid groups, not the inspections, that is slowing the delivery, and that much of the aid is diverted to Hamas or the black market.

“Hunger and malnutrition, driven wholly by man-made causes and by a lack of humanitarian access, have spread through Gaza at frightening speed, causing catastrophic rates of disease, death and despair,” the executive director of the U.N. agency for sexual reproductive health, Natalia Kanem, said in a statement this week. “For pregnant women and newborns, every day has become a fight for survival.”

Nearly all of aid that has reached Gaza has entered through two border crossings in the south, and conditions are especially bad in northern Gaza, where most of the population lived before being displaced by the Israeli invasion.

Getting truck convoys from the southern border crossings to the north is difficult and dangerous work, and the route is sometimes blocked by roads damaged by Israeli bombardment, Israeli checkpoints or battles between Hamas fighters and Israeli troops. In some cases, crowds of people have swarmed the trucks, stripping them of supplies.

The World Food Program said that only 11 of its convoys carrying food had reached the north since the start of the year.

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Days after the U.N. cease-fire resolution, has anything changed in the war in Gaza?

Although the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution on Monday that demands an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, it remains to be seen whether ​i​t ​w​ill have a concrete effect on the war or prove merely to be a political statement.

The measure, Resolution 2728, followed three previous attempts that ​t​he United States ​had blocked. It passed by 14 votes, after the United States abstained from voting and did not employ its veto.

The resolution also calls for the unconditional release of all hostages and the end to barriers to humanitarian aid.

Israel’s government condemned the vote, and early indications are that the U.N.’s action has changed little on the ground or spurred diplomatic progress.

Days after the vote, here’s a look at what has changed and what might happen next:

Has the resolution affected fighting?

Senior Israeli officials said that they would ignore the call for a cease-fire, arguing that it was imperative to pursue the war until it has dismantled the military wing of Hamas, the militant group that led the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Since Monday, there has been no apparent shift in the military campaign. Israel’s air force continues to pound Gaza with strikes, and Hamas is still launching attacks.

Israel’s military is pressing on with a raid at Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, the territory’s biggest medical facility, as well as its offensive in Khan Younis, the largest city in the south, where fighting has been fierce.

If Israel doesn’t heed the resolution, what can the U.N. do?

The Security Council has few means to enforce its resolutions. The Council can take punitive measures, imposing sanctions against violators. In the past, such measures have included travel bans, economic restrictions and arms embargoes.

In this case, however, legal experts said that any additional measure would require a new resolution and that passing it would require consent from the council’s five veto-holding members, including the United States, Israel’s staunchest ally.

There may be legal challenges as well. While the United Nations says that Security Council resolutions are considered to be international law, legal experts debate whether all resolutions are binding on member states, or only those adopted under chapter VII of the U.N. charter, which deals with threats to peace. The resolution passed on Monday did not explicitly mention Chapter VII.

U.N. officials said it was still binding on Israel, but some countries disagreed. South Korea said on Monday that the resolution was not “explicitly coercive under Chapter VII,” but that it reflected a consensus of the international community.

Crucially, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, maintained that the resolution was nonbinding. The United States, which holds significant power on the Security Council because of its permanent seat, likely views the passage of the resolution as more a valuable political instrument than a binding order, experts said.

The U.S. abstention sends a powerful signal of its policy priorities even if, in the short term, the Security Council is unlikely to take further steps, according to Ivo H. Daalder, a former American ambassador to NATO.

“Neither Israel or Hamas is going to be swayed by a U.N. resolution,” Mr. Daalder said.

What about aid?

Israel controls the flow of aid into Gaza, and after five months of war, Gazans are facing a severe hunger crisis bordering on famine, especially in the north, according to the United Nations and residents of the territory.

Aid groups have blamed Israel, which announced a siege of the territory after Oct. 7. They say officials have impeded aid deliveries through inspections and tight restrictions.

Israel argues that it works to prevent aid reaching Hamas and says that its officials can process more aid than aid groups can distribute within the territory. Growing lawlessness in Gaza has also made the distribution of aid difficult, with some convoys ending in deadly violence.

Little has changed this week. The number of aid trucks entering Gaza on Tuesday from the two border crossings open for aid roughly matched the average daily number crossing this month, according to U.N. data. That figure, about 150 trucks per day, is nearly 70 percent less than the number before Oct. 7.

How has the resolution affected diplomacy?

Israel and Hamas appear to still be far apart on negotiations aimed at brokering a halt in fighting and an exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

Mediators have been in Qatar to try to narrow the gaps. But late Monday, Hamas rejected Israel’s most recent counterproposal and its political leader, on a visit to Tehran this week, said the resolution showed that Israel was isolated diplomatically.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has argued that the resolution set back negotiations, emboldening Hamas to hold out for better terms.

The biggest sticking point in the cease-fire talks had recently been the number of Palestinian prisoners to be released, in particular those serving extended sentences for violence against Israelis, U.S. and Israeli officials have said.

Girl, 8, Is Sole Survivor of Bus Plunge: ‘No One Can Explain This Miracle’

Lauryn Siako is the rare 8-year-old who springs out of bed to get herself ready for church, her family said. She loves the singing, the dancing, the worshiping.

So when leaders of her church announced that they were resuming the enormous annual Easter pilgrimage to church headquarters in South Africa this year, after a four-year hiatus for Covid-19, Lauryn pleaded with her mother to let her go for the first time.

Lauryn and her grandmother boarded a bus in their home village of Molepolole, Botswana, on Wednesday night with 43 fellow members of the St. Engenas Zion Christian Church, excited for the experience of a lifetime.


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Wanted in South Korea: Imperialism-Free Cherry Blossoms

John YoonMike Ives and

John Yoon and Chang W. Lee reported from Gyeongju, South Korea. Mike Ives reported from Seoul, and Hisako Ueno from Tokyo.

Shin Joon Hwan, an ecologist, walked along a road lined with cherry trees on the verge of blooming last week, examining the fine hairs around their dark red buds.

The flowers in Gyeongju, South Korea, an ancient capital, belong to a common Japanese variety called the Yoshino, or Tokyo cherry. Mr. Shin’s advocacy group wants to replace those trees with a kind that it insists is native to South Korea, called the king cherry.

“These are Japanese trees that are growing here, in the land of our ancestors,” said Mr. Shin, 67, a former director of South Korea’s national arboretum.

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Czechs Accuse Men of ‘Russian Influence Operation’ in Europe

The Czech Republic has frozen the assets of two men and a news website it accuses of running an influence operation in Europe that supports “the foreign policy interests of the Russian Federation,” the country’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry identified the men as Viktor Medvedchuk, a high-profile, pro-Russian Ukrainian politician and the leader of the effort, and Artem Marchevskyi, a Ukrainian-Israeli citizen who allegedly ran the website, the Czech-registered Voice of Europe. Long known as an ally of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, Mr. Medvedchuk was arrested in Ukraine and handed over to Russia in a prisoner exchange in 2022.

“We cracked down on a Russian influence operation that was directed by Viktor Medvedchuk directly from Russia,” Jan Lipavsky, the Czech foreign minister, said in a statement. “The aim was to spread pro-Russian narratives undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty while infiltrating the European Parliament.”

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From New England to Notre-Dame, a U.S. Carpenter Tends to a French Icon

Notre-Dame Cathedral sat in the pre-dawn chill like a spaceship docked in the heart of Paris, its exoskeleton of scaffolding lit by bright lights. Pink clouds appeared to the east as machinery hummed to life and workers started clambering around.

One of them, Hank Silver, wearing a yellow hard hat, stood on a platform above the Seine River and attached cables to oak trusses shaped like massive wooden triangles. A crane hoisted them onto the nave of the cathedral, which was devastated by fire in 2019.

Mr. Silver — a 41-year-old American-Canadian carpenter — is something of an unlikely candidate to work on the restoration of an 860-year-old Gothic monument and Catholic landmark in France. Born in New York City into an observant Jewish family, he owns a small timber framing business in rural New England and admits that until recently he didn’t even know what a nave was.

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A Loyal Israel Ally, Germany Shifts Tone as the Toll in Gaza Mounts

Days after Hamas launched its Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, was one of the first Western leaders to arrive in Tel Aviv. Standing beside the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, he declared that Germany had “only one place — and it is alongside Israel.”

That place now feels increasingly awkward for Germany, Israel’s second-largest arms supplier and a nation whose leadership calls support for the country a “Staatsräson,” a national reason for existence, as a way of atoning for the Holocaust.

Last week, with Israel’s deadly offensive continuing in Gaza, the chancellor again stood next to Mr. Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, and struck a different tone. “No matter how important the goal,” he asked, “can it justify such terribly high costs?”

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A Harsh Mongolian Winter Leaves Millions of Livestock Dead

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An unusually brutal winter in Mongolia has left much of the country’s grazing land frozen and snow-covered, starving or freezing millions of animals and upending thousands of lives in a country where a third of the population depends on herding and agriculture to make a living.

This year has brought the most snow in 49 years to Mongolia, and the deaths of more than 5.9 million livestock, the worst toll since 2010, international aid groups said this week. While the harshest weather might have passed, about 60 million animals face starvation until new grass sprouts in May, imperiling the future of herding families.

“The worst is yet to come,” Tapan Mishra, the top United Nations official in Mongolia, wrote in a report this week. “The peak of livestock mortality is expected at the end of April.”

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What to Know About Jeffrey Donaldson, the Former D.U.P. Leader in Northern Ireland

Jeffrey Donaldson, who resigned as leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party on Friday, has spent his career defending the political union between Britain and the six-county statelet where he was born 61 years ago.

Northern Ireland’s longest-serving member of Parliament, he has been present at most of the pivotal moments in its recent political history. His sudden resignation, after being charged with non-recent sexual offenses on Thursday, has upended the status quo in Northern Ireland and raised questions about the future direction of the Democratic Unionist Party, or D.U.P.

Michelle O’Neill, the first minister of Northern Ireland, said on Friday that the charges against Mr. Donaldson were “now a matter for the criminal justice system” and added that her priority was to “provide the leadership the public expect and deserve, and to ensure the four-party executive coalition delivers for the whole of our community now and in the future.”

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The Japanese Sensei Bringing Baseball to Brazil

Reporting from Rio de Janeiro

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Yukihiro Shimura always arrives first. He quietly puts on his baseball uniform. He rakes the dirt field meditatively. He picks up the coconut husks and dog poop. And, finally, when he finishes, he bows to Rio de Janeiro’s only baseball field.

Then his misfit team — including a geologist, graphic designer, English teacher, film student, voice actor and motorcycle delivery man — starts to form. Most are in their 20s and 30s, and some are still learning the basics of throwing, catching and swinging a bat.

It was not what Mr. Shimura envisioned when he signed up for this gig. “In my mind, the age range would be 15 to 18,” he said. “I should have asked.”

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Snakes in the Grass — and Under the Piano, by the Pool and in the Prison

Natasha Frost spent two days trailing snake catchers on the Sunshine Coast, Australia.

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The phone rings. It’s the local prison. There’s a snake in a cell. Within a few hours, snakes have also been spotted at a school, beneath a piano stored in a private garage and near a lagoon-like swimming pool at a retirement home. Customers want them gone.

Business has never been so good for Stuart McKenzie, who runs a snake-catching service in the Sunshine Coast, a verdant enclave along miles of pristine beach in the vast Australian state of Queensland. On the busiest days, he can receive more than 35 calls about troublesome snakes.

Queensland is home to the largest number of snake species in Australia — about 120. Of those, two-thirds are venomous and a handful are deadly. Throughout Australia, fatalities from snake bites remain extremely rare — about two a year — and in Queensland, the reptiles are simply a part of life.

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A Boring Capital for a Young Democracy. Just the Way Residents Like It.

Reporting from Belmopan, Belize

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Mention Belmopan, Belize’s capital that sits deep in the country’s interior, and many Belizeans will belittle the city as a bastion of pencil-pushing bureaucrats that’s not just dull, but also devoid of nightlife.

“I was warned, ‘Belmopan is for the newlyweds or the nearly deads,’” said Raquel Rodriguez, 45, owner of an art school, about the reactions when she moved to Belmopan from coastal, bustling Belize City.

Not exactly known as an Eden for young urbanites, Belmopan figures among the smallest capital cities anywhere in the Americas. It has only about 25,000 residents and a cluster of hurricane-proof, heavy-on-the-concrete, Maya-inspired Brutalist buildings.

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For Car Thieves, Toronto Is a ‘Candy Store,’ and Drivers Are Fed Up

Vjosa Isai drove around Toronto in a Volkswagen Passat with 290,000 miles on it, a vehicle not coveted by car thieves, to report this article.

Whenever Dennis Wilson wants to take a drive in his new SUV, he has to set aside an extra 15 minutes. That’s about how long it takes to remove the car’s steering wheel club, undo four tire locks and lower a yellow bollard before backing out of his driveway.

His Honda CR-V is also fitted with two alarm systems, a vehicle tracking device and, for good measure, four Apple AirTags. Its remote-access key fob rests in a Faraday bag, to jam illicit unlocking signals.

As a final touch, he mounted two motion-sensitive floodlights on his house and aimed them at the driveway in his modest neighborhood in Toronto.

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Where Hostage Families and Supporters Gather, for Solace and Protest

A week after Hamas-led terrorists stormed his kibbutz and kidnapped his wife and three young children, Avihai Brodutch planted himself on the sidewalk in front of army headquarters in Tel Aviv holding a sign scrawled with the words “My family’s in Gaza,” and said he would not budge until they were brought home.

Passers-by stopped to commiserate with him and to try to lift his spirits. They brought him coffee, platters of food and changes of clothing, and welcomed him to their homes to wash up and get some sleep.

“They were so kind, and they just couldn’t do enough,” said Mr. Brodutch, 42, an agronomist who grew pineapples on Kibbutz Kfar Azza before the attacks on Oct. 7. “It was Israel at its finest,” he said. “There was a feeling of a common destiny.”

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Insooni Breaks Racial Barrier to Become Beloved Singer in South Korea

When she took the stage to perform at Carnegie Hall in front of 107 Korean War veterans, the singer Kim Insoon was thinking of her father, an American soldier stationed in South Korea during the postwar decades whom she had never met or even seen.

“You are my fathers,” she told the soldiers in the audience before singing “Father,” one of her Korean-language hits.

“To me, the United States has always been my father’s country,” Ms. Kim said in a recent interview, recalling that 2010 performance. “It was also the first place where I wanted to show how successful I had become — without him and in spite of him.”

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An American Who Has Helped Clear 815,000 Bombs From Vietnam

On a visit to the former battlefield of Khe Sanh, scene of one of the bloodiest standoffs of the Vietnam War, the only people Chuck Searcy encountered on the broad, barren field were two young boys who led him to an unexploded rocket lying by a ditch.

One of the youngsters reached out to give the bomb a kick until Mr. Searcy cried out, “No, Stop!”

“It was my first encounter with unexploded ordnance,” Mr. Searcy said of that moment in 1992. “I had no idea that I would be dedicating my life to removing them.”

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‘Decolonizing’ Ukrainian Art, One Name-and-Shame Post at a Time

Hiding for days in the basement of a kindergarten in Bucha, the Kyiv suburb that became synonymous with Russian war crimes, Oksana Semenik had time to think.

Outside, Russian troops were rampaging through the town, killing civilians who ventured into the streets. Knowing she might not make it out, Ms. Semenik, an art historian, mulled over the Ukrainian artworks she had long wanted to write about — and which were now in danger of disappearing.

That time spent holed up in Bucha was during the early days of Russia’s full-scale invasion, but even then, two years ago, she had already seen reports of destroyed museums. Precious folk paintings by her favorite artist, Maria Primachenko, had gone up in flames. Moscow, she realized, was waging a war on Ukrainian culture.

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Murder and Magic Realism: A Rising Literary Star Mines China’s Rust Belt

For a long time during Shuang Xuetao’s early teenage years, he wondered what hidden disaster had befallen his family.

His parents, proud workers at a tractor factory in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, stopped going to work, and the family moved into an empty factory storage room to save money on rent.

But they rarely talked about what had happened, and Mr. Shuang worried that some special shame had struck his family alone.

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Can Gabriel Attal Win Over France?

Gabriel Attal, 34, is a new kind of French prime minister, more inclined to Diet Coke than a good Burgundy, at home with social media and revelations about his personal life, a natural communicator who reels off one-liners like “France rhymes with power” to assert his “authority,” a favorite word.

Since taking office in early January, the boyish-looking Mr. Attal has waded into the countryside, far from his familiar haunts in the chic quarters of Paris, muddied his dress shoes, propped his notes on a choreographed bale of hay, and calmed protesting farmers through adroit negotiation leavened by multiple concessions.

He has told rail workers threatening a strike that “working is a duty,” not an everyday French admonition. He has shown off his new dog on Instagram and explained that he called the high-energy Chow Chow “Volta” after the inventor of the electric battery. He has told the National Assembly that he is the living proof of a changing France as “a prime minister who assumes his homosexuality.”

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‘Get Ready to Scream’: How to Be a Baseball Fan in South Korea

In the United States, many Major League Baseball games feature long periods of calm, punctuated by cheering when there’s action on the field or the stadium organ plays a catchy tune.

But in South Korea, a baseball game is a sustained sensory overload. Each player has a fight song, and cheering squads — including drummers and dancers who stand on platforms near the dugouts facing the spectators — ensure that there is near-constant chanting. Imagine being at a ballpark where every player, even a rookie, gets the star treatment.

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Canadian Skaters Demand Bronze Medals in Olympics Dispute

Nearly a month after international figure skating’s governing body revised the results of a marquee competition at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, stripping Russia of the gold medal and giving the United States team a long-delayed victory, a new fight about the outcome erupted on Monday.

Eight members of the Canadian squad that competed in the team competition in Beijing have filed a case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport demanding that they be awarded bronze medals in the team event. The court announced the filing but revealed no details.

The Canadians, whose case was joined by their country’s skating federation and national Olympic committee, are expected to argue that figure skating’s global governing body erred when it revised the results of the competition in January after a Russian skater who had taken part, the teenage prodigy Kamila Valieva, was given a four-year ban for doping.

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In Latin America, a New Frontier for Women: Professional Softball in Mexico

Reporting from Mexico City and León, Mexico

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In many parts of Latin America, baseball is a popular and well-established sport with men’s professional leagues in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, among others. But women wanting to play baseball’s cousin — softball — professionally had only one option: to leave. They had to go to the United States or Japan.

Until now.

In what is believed to be a first in Latin America — a region where men often have more opportunities than women, particularly in sports — a professional women’s softball league has started in Mexico. On Jan. 25, when the inaugural season began, 120 women on six teams got to call themselves professional softball players, many for the first time.

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Why the Cost of Success in English Soccer’s Lower Leagues Keeps Going Up

Geoff Thompson knows there are plenty of people who want to buy what he has to sell. The phone calls and emails over the last few weeks have left no doubt. And really, that is no surprise. Few industries are quite as appealing or as prestigious as English soccer, and Mr. Thompson has a piece of it.

It is, admittedly, a comparatively small piece: South Shields F.C., the team he has owned for almost a decade, operates in English soccer’s sixth tier, several levels below, and a number of worlds away, from the dazzling light and international allure of the Premier League. But while his team might be small, Mr. Thompson is of the view that it is, at least, as perfectly poised for profitability as any minor-league English soccer club could hope to be.

South Shields has earned four promotions to higher leagues in his nine years as chairman. The team owns its stadium. Mr. Thompson has spent considerable sums of money modernizing the bathrooms, the club shop and the private boxes. There is a thriving youth academy and an active charitable foundation. “We have done most of the hard yards,” Mr. Thompson said.

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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.

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La mayoría de los estadounidenses desaprueba las acciones de Israel en Gaza, según una nueva encuesta

Una mayoría de estadounidenses desaprueba las acciones militares de Israel en Gaza, en un pronunciado cambio desde noviembre, según una nueva encuesta publicada por Gallup el miércoles.

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En una encuesta realizada entre el 1 y el 20 de marzo, el 55 por ciento de los adultos estadounidenses manifestó que desaprobaba las acciones militares de Israel, lo que supone un aumento de 10 puntos porcentuales respecto a cuatro meses antes, según Gallup.

La aprobación por parte de los estadounidenses de la conducta de Israel en la guerra descendió por un margen aún mayor, del 50 por ciento en noviembre, un mes después del comienzo de la guerra, al 36 por ciento en marzo, mientras que la proporción de estadounidenses que dijeron no tener opinión sobre el tema aumentó ligeramente del 4 por ciento al 9 por ciento.

Los resultados son la prueba más reciente del descontento cada vez mayor de los estadounidenses con Israel a lo largo de los cinco meses en los que han muerto más de 32.000 palestinos en Gaza, entre ellos casi 14.000 niños, según las autoridades de salud locales y las Naciones Unidas. Las autoridades israelíes afirman que unas 1200 personas murieron en Israel durante el ataque dirigido por Hamás el 7 de octubre.

La encuesta de Gallup reveló que la aprobación estadounidense de las acciones militares de Israel descendió en todo el espectro político: aunque la mayoría de los republicanos seguía manifestando su aprobación, esa cifra descendió del 71 por ciento en noviembre al 64 por ciento en marzo. La aprobación de los independientes bajó del 47 por ciento al 29 por ciento, y la de los demócratas, del 36 por ciento al 18 por ciento.

Una encuesta de AP-NORC realizada a finales de enero reveló que la mitad de los adultos estadounidenses consideraban que la respuesta militar de Israel en Gaza había “ido demasiado lejos”, frente a cuatro de cada 10 en noviembre. Esa encuesta también mostró un aumento de la desaprobación pública en todos los partidos políticos, de unos 15 puntos porcentuales para los republicanos, 13 para los independientes y cinco para los demócratas.

Otra encuesta reciente del Pew Research Center —que, al igual que Gallup y AP-NORC, es un líder bien considerado en el sector de las encuestas— encontró cismas importantes en la opinión pública entre segmentos generacionales y religiosos. Los adultos más jóvenes y los musulmanes estadounidenses eran significativamente más propensos que los adultos de más edad y los estadounidenses judíos a decir que la forma en que Israel estaba llevando a cabo su respuesta al ataque de Hamás del 7 de octubre era inaceptable, según la encuesta realizada entre mediados y finales de febrero.

Se realizó un sobremuestreo de estadounidenses musulmanes y judíos, ponderado para reflejar su proporción respectiva en la población total, con el fin de analizar sus opiniones de forma más fiable y por separado.

Anushka Patil es reportera y cubre noticias en directo. Se unió al Times en 2019. Más de Anushka Patil


El Kremlin teme que el atentado terrorista pueda avivar las tensiones étnicas en Rusia

En un acto conmemorativo celebrado esta semana frente a la sala de conciertos en la que se sospecha que extremistas islamistas perpetraron un atentado terrorista mortífero, uno de los raperos pro-Kremlin más populares de Rusia advirtió a los “grupos de derecha y extrema derecha” que no deben “incitar al odio étnico”.

En una reunión televisada sobre el atentado, el fiscal superior de Rusia, Igor Krasnov, prometió que su servicio prestaba “especial atención” a la prevención de “conflictos interétnicos e interreligiosos”.

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Y cuando el presidente Vladimir Putin hizo sus primeros comentarios sobre la tragedia el fin de semana pasado, dijo que no permitiría que nadie “sembrara las semillas venenosas del odio, el pánico y la discordia en nuestra sociedad multiétnica”.

Tras el atentado ocurrido cerca de Moscú en el que murieron 139 personas el pasado viernes, ha habido un tema recurrente en la respuesta del Kremlin: el temor a que la tragedia pueda incentivar luchas étnicas dentro de Rusia. Mientras Putin y sus jefes de seguridad acusan a Ucrania —sin ofrecer pruebas— de haber ayudado a organizar el ataque, el hecho de que los cuatro sospechosos detenidos por el atentado procedan del país centroasiático de Tayikistán, predominantemente musulmán, está avivando la retórica antimigratoria en internet.

Para Putin, el problema se ve agravado por las prioridades de su guerra en Ucrania. Los miembros de grupos minoritarios musulmanes constituyen una parte significativa de los soldados rusos que luchan y mueren. Los migrantes de Asia Central proporcionan gran parte de la mano de obra que mantiene en marcha la economía rusa y su cadena de suministro militar.

Pero muchos de los más fervientes partidarios de la invasión de Putin son nacionalistas rusos cuyos populares blogs a favor de la guerra en la aplicación de mensajería Telegram han rebosado xenofobia en los días posteriores al ataque.

“Hay que cerrar las fronteras en la medida de lo posible, si no es que clausurarlas”, decía uno de ellos. “La situación actual ha demostrado que la sociedad rusa está al borde del abismo”.

Como resultado, el Kremlin está caminando por una línea muy fina, tratando de mantener contentos a los partidarios de la guerra prometiendo medidas más duras contra los migrantes, al tiempo que intenta evitar que las tensiones estallen en toda la sociedad. El potencial de violencia se evidenció en octubre, cuando una turba antisemita irrumpió en un aeropuerto de la región rusa de Daguestán, predominantemente musulmana, para enfrentarse a un avión de pasajeros procedente de Israel.

“Las autoridades consideran que se trata de una amenaza muy grave”, declaró en una entrevista telefónica Serguéi Márkov, analista político que simpatiza con Putin y exasesor del Kremlin radicado en Moscú. “Por eso se están haciendo todos los esfuerzos para calmar a la opinión pública”.

Atrapados en medio están millones de trabajadores migrantes y rusos de minorías étnicas que ya se enfrentan en las calles de la ciudad a un aumento del tipo de discriminación por perfil racial que era habitual incluso antes del atentado. Svetlana Gannushkina, defensora rusa de los derechos humanos desde hace mucho tiempo, declaró el martes que se apresuró a intentar ayudar a un hombre tayiko que acababa de ser detenido porque la policía “busca tayikos” y “vio a una persona con ese aspecto”.

“Necesitan migrantes como carne de cañón” para el ejército ruso “y como mano de obra”, dijo Gannushkina en una entrevista telefónica desde Moscú. “Y cuando necesiten cumplir el plan de lucha contra el terrorismo, también se centrarán en este grupo” de tayikos, añadió.

Casi un millón de ciudadanos de Tayikistán, que tiene una población de unos 10 millones de habitantes, se registraron en Rusia como trabajadores migrantes el año pasado, según las estadísticas del gobierno. Forman parte de los millones de trabajadores migrantes en Rusia procedentes de todas las antiguas repúblicas soviéticas de Asia Central, y que son un motor de la economía rusa en actividades como el reparto de alimentos y la construcción hasta el trabajo en fábricas.

Una gerente de una empresa de alimentación de Moscú que emplea a tayikos dijo en una entrevista que el ambiente de la capital rusa le recordaba a la década de 2000, cuando los musulmanes de la región del Cáucaso sufrían una discriminación generalizada tras los atentados terroristas y las guerras de Chechenia. Los tayikos de Moscú son tan aprensivos que apenas salen a la calle, dijo, solicitando el anonimato porque temía repercusiones por hablar con un periodista occidental.

“Ya no hay suministro de mano de obra debido a la operación militar especial”, añadió. “Y ahora será aún peor”.

Las tensiones étnicas han sido un desafío permanente para Putin durante su gobierno de casi un cuarto de siglo, pero también ha intentado utilizarlas en su beneficio geopolítico. El ascenso al poder de Putin estuvo marcado por la guerra en la región meridional de Chechenia, predominantemente musulmana, donde Rusia trató de extinguir brutalmente los movimientos separatistas y extremistas. También ha contribuido a fomentar el separatismo en lugares como las regiones georgianas de Osetia del Sur y Abjasia, tomando partido en conflictos que llevan mucho tiempo latentes con el fin de ampliar la influencia de Rusia.

El gobierno de Putin ya está tratando de demostrarle a la opinión pública que está dispuesto a tomar medidas contra los migrantes. Un alto legislador propuso el martes que se prohibiera la venta de armas de fuego a los ciudadanos rusos recién naturalizados. Krasnov, el fiscal superior, dijo que el número de delitos cometidos por migrantes aumentó un 75 por ciento en 2023, sin dar detalles concretos. “Tenemos que desarrollar soluciones equilibradas basadas en la necesidad de garantizar la seguridad de los ciudadanos y la conveniencia económica de utilizar mano de obra extranjera”, añadió.

Lejos de intentar mantener alejados a los extranjeros, Rusia ha facilitado que los migrantes se conviertan en ciudadanos rusos desde el comienzo de su invasión a gran escala de Ucrania en febrero de 2022. Una de las principales razones parece ser la necesidad militar de soldados en Ucrania, y las redadas policiales contra trabajadores inmigrantes para obligarlos a inscribirse en el servicio militar se han convertido en algo habitual en las noticias rusas.

Como consecuencia, los emigrantes tayikos en Moscú temen ahora no solo ser deportados, sino también la posibilidad de que se les obligue a prestar servicio en Ucrania, dijo Saidanvar, de 25 años, activista tayiko de derechos humanos que hace poco abandonó Moscú. Pidió que no se utilizara su apellido por motivos de seguridad.

“Los tayikos tienen mucho miedo”, dijo en una entrevista, “de que las autoridades rusas empiecen a enviar tayikos al frente en masa para luchar como una especie de venganza contra nuestro pueblo tayiko”.

En sus discursos sobre la guerra, Putin se ha referido con frecuencia a Rusia como un Estado multiétnico, un legado de los imperios ruso y soviético. En marzo de 2022, tras describir el heroísmo de un soldado de Daguestán, Putin enumeró algunos de los grupos étnicos de Rusia diciendo: “Soy un lak, soy un daguestaní, soy un checheno, un ingusetio, un ruso, un tártaro, un judío, un mordvin, un osetio”.

En su retórica sobre el conflicto con Occidente, Putin ha acusado con frecuencia a los adversarios de Rusia de intentar atizar la lucha étnica en el país. Esa fue su respuesta a los disturbios del aeropuerto de Daguestán en octubre, de los que culpó sin fundamento a las agencias de inteligencia occidentales y a Ucrania.

También es cada vez más el centro de su respuesta al atentado terrorista del viernes, cuya autoría reivindicó el Estado Islámico y que, según funcionarios estadounidenses, fue perpetrado por una rama del grupo extremista. El martes, el jefe de la agencia rusa de inteligencia nacional afirmó que espías ucranianos, británicos y estadounidenses podrían haber estado detrás del atentado.

El resultado parece ser que el Kremlin está tratando de reorientar la indignación por el ataque hacia Ucrania, al tiempo que intenta mostrar al público que está teniendo en cuenta las preocupaciones sobre la migración.

“Van a agarrar a los tayikos y culpar a los ucranianos”, dijo Gannushkina, la defensora de los derechos humanos. “Estaba claro desde el principio”.

Sin embargo, Márkov, el analista pro-Kremlin, dijo que veía tensiones en torno a la política migratoria incluso dentro del poderoso estamento de seguridad de Putin. Las fuerzas del orden y los servicios de inteligencia contrarios a la inmigración están en desacuerdo con un complejo militar-industrial que necesita mano de obra inmigrante.

“Es una contradicción”, dijo. “Y este ataque terrorista ha agravado mucho ese problema”.

Anton Troianovski es el jefe del buró en Moscú del Times. Escribe sobre Rusia, Europa del Este, el Cáucaso y Asia Central. Más sobre Anton Troianovski

Milana Mazaeva es reportera e investigadora, y colabora en la cobertura de la sociedad rusa. Más de Milana Mazaeva


Edmundo González, la apuesta de la oposición venezolana para participar en las elecciones

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Primero fue María Corina Machado, una popular exlegisladora. Luego, se suponía que sería Corina Yoris, una profesora de filosofía poco conocida. Ahora, una coalición opositora ha presentado a un antiguo diplomático, Edmundo González, como su tercer candidato para enfrentarse al presidente Nicolás Maduro en las elecciones previstas para julio.

Al menos, esa es la situación por ahora.

La coalición de partidos políticos de la oposición, llamada la Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, lleva meses esperando para poder unirse en torno a un candidato único que pueda ser un rival viable para Maduro.

Pero, como deja claro la rápida sucesión de posibles candidatos, el gobierno de Maduro ha puesto una serie de obstáculos para impedir ese objetivo.

El lunes, una comisión electoral nacional controlada por aliados de Maduro utilizó una maniobra técnica para impedir que la coalición incluyera a Yoris en la papeleta. Era el último día para que los candidatos presidenciales se inscribieran a fin de participar en las elecciones de julio, y parecía que el esfuerzo por presentar un candidato unificado había sido derrotado.

Entonces, el martes por la tarde, la coalición anunció en la plataforma de redes sociales X que la autoridad electoral le concedió una prórroga y que había “decidido inscribir provisionalmente” a González, a quien identificó como presidente de la junta directiva de la Mesa de la Unidad Democrática.

Los voceros de la oposición dijeron en su publicación de X que la inscripción de González en la papeleta electoral permitiría a la coalición seguir “en su lucha sin descanso” en pro de la democracia, ya que busca desafiar la presidencia de Maduro, cuyo gobierno represivo ha dejado a Venezuela en la ruina financiera y ha ayudado a expulsar a, aproximadamente, una cuarta parte de su población.

“Esto abre la puerta a un punto de partida más fuerte para que el resto de la oposición negocie lo que sucederá”, dijo Tamara Taraciuk Broner, que investiga a Venezuela para el Diálogo Interamericano, una organización con sede en Washington. “En general, son buenas noticias”.

La candidatura provisional de González —que podría servir como un suplente, mientras los partidos negocian alternativas durante las próximas semanas— fue el último de una serie de acontecimientos repentinos suscitados en torno a quién se postularía contra Maduro en la votación de julio.

La Mesa de la Unidad Democrática anunció la semana pasada que había acordado presentar a Yoris, de 80 años, como candidata contra Maduro en una muestra de unidad después de que el tribunal supremo del país impidió en enero la participación de Machado en las elecciones.

El nombramiento de Yoris suscitó brevemente la esperanza de que pudieran celebrarse unas elecciones libres y justas. Pero, a medida que avanzaba la semana, Yoris dijo que no pudo acceder a la plataforma digital creada por la autoridad electoral del país para inscribirse como candidata.

Todas las organizaciones políticas autorizadas en Venezuela reciben un código para acceder a la plataforma electoral. Pero tanto el partido de Yoris, Un Nuevo Tiempo, como la coalición Mesa de Unidad Democrática, dijeron que sus códigos no funcionaban, lo que les impedía inscribir a Yoris.

“Hemos agotado todas las vías”, dijo Yoris en una rueda de prensa el lunes por la mañana. “Se queda todo el país sin opción si no me puedo inscribir”.

A medida que avanzaba el día, la confusión aumentaba en medio de señales de que, tras bambalinas, el gobierno estaba tratando de influir para lograr un campo electoral que le diera a Maduro una mejor oportunidad de ganar.

Pocos minutos antes de que finalizara el plazo de inscripción, y de manera inexplicable, el partido Un Nuevo Tiempo fue autorizado para inscribir a un candidato diferente: Manuel Rosales, fundador del partido y gobernador del populoso estado Zulia. Para varios analistas políticos, la inscripción de Rosales muestra que su candidatura cuenta con la aprobación de Maduro.

Rosales, en un discurso pronunciado el martes antes de que se anunciara la inscripción de González, dijo que se proponía llevar a cabo una campaña rigurosa, prometiendo “voy a encabezar la rebelión de votos más grande que ha existido”.

Otros dos candidatos se inscribieron el lunes, elevando a 13 el número total de los que se postulan a las elecciones, incluido Maduro. La mayoría son considerados cercanos al presidente, y ninguno es visto como un contendiente serio.

“No hay duda de que Maduro quiere elegir contra quién competir y tiene miedo de competir contra cualquiera que le represente una amenaza”, dijo Taraciuk Broner.

No estaba claro el martes por qué el gobierno había permitido que González se inscribiera ni lo que podría significar para la candidatura de Rosales.

Según Rafael Uzcátegui, sociólogo y director del Laboratorio de Paz, una organización de derechos humanos con sede en Caracas, la continua confusión sobre quién puede y quién no puede presentarse es una táctica deliberada del gobierno de Maduro para sembrar la desconfianza entre el electorado y dividir el voto.

En octubre, Maduro firmó un acuerdo con la oposición del país y aceptó trabajar para lograr una votación presidencial libre y justa. El mandatario dijo que celebraría elecciones antes de finales de año y, a cambio, Estados Unidos, en señal de buena voluntad, retiró algunas sanciones económicas.

Días después, Machado obtuvo más del 90 por ciento de los votos en la elección del candidato opositor, en unas votaciones primarias organizadas sin la participación del gobierno. Los decisivos resultados subrayaron su popularidad y aumentaron la posibilidad de que pudiera derrotar a Maduro en unas elecciones generales.

Tres meses después, el máximo tribunal del país, lleno de funcionarios leales al gobierno, inhabilitó a Machado por lo que los jueces consideraron irregularidades financieras ocurridas cuando era diputada nacional.

Seis colaboradores de la campaña de Machado han sido detenidos en las últimas semanas, y otros seis tienen órdenes de detención en su contra y están escondidos. Hombres en moto han atacado a simpatizantes en sus actos.

El gobierno no ha hecho comentarios sobre las dificultades de la oposición para inscribirse.

La vicepresidenta del país, Delcy Rodríguez, anunció el domingo en X la creación de una comisión estatal contra el fascismo para enfrentar las amenazas de “centros de poder al servicio del norte global”.

En febrero, un informe no clasificado de la inteligencia de Estados Unidos afirmó que era probable que Maduro ganara las elecciones y se mantuviera en el poder “debido a su control de las instituciones estatales que influyen en el proceso electoral y su voluntad de ejercer su poder”.

Aunque el gobierno de Maduro nombró a sus aliados en el consejo electoral, el informe de inteligencia dijo que también estaba “tratando de evitar el fraude electoral flagrante”.

Después de registrarse para votar el lunes, Maduro afirmó, sin aportar pruebas, que dos miembros del partido de Machado habían intentado matarlo esa tarde durante una marcha para celebrar su registro. El partido, Vente Venezuela, niega esas acusaciones.

En sus declaraciones, criticó a los miembros de la oposición, llamándolos “lacayos de la derecha”.

“Se dedicaron a pedir sanciones contra la sociedad y la economía, a pedir el bloqueo y la invasión de su propio país”, dijo. “No piensan por sí mismos; no actúan por sí mismos. Son piezas en el juego del imperio estadounidense para apoderarse de Venezuela.“

“El 28 de julio”, añadió, dirigiéndose a la oposición, “habrá elecciones con ustedes o sin ustedes”.

Rusia envía el mensaje de que la tortura ya no es un tabú para el país, según analistas

Los cuatro hombres acusados de llevar a cabo el atentado terrorista más mortífero de Rusia en décadas comparecieron el domingo por la noche en un tribunal de Moscú con vendajes y con heridas. Uno de ellos entró con un vendaje en la oreja, parcialmente rebanada. Otro iba en una silla de ruedas naranja, con el ojo izquierdo hinchado, la bata de hospital abierta y un catéter en el regazo.

Muchas personas de todo el mundo, incluidos los rusos, ya sabían lo que les había ocurrido. Desde el sábado, videos de los hombres siendo torturados durante el interrogatorio circularon de manera extendida por las redes sociales, una aparente represalia, de acuerdo con analistas, por el atentado en una sala de conciertos que se les acusa de haber cometido el viernes de la semana pasada, en el que murieron al menos 139 personas y otras 180 resultaron heridas.

Uno de los videos más perturbadores mostraba a uno de los acusados, identificado como Saidakrami Rajabalizoda, con parte de la oreja cortada y metida en la boca. Una fotografía que circuló por internet mostraba una batería conectada a los genitales de otro de los hombres, Shamsidin Fariduni, mientras estaba detenido.

No está claro cómo empezaron a circular los videos, pero se difundieron a través de canales de Telegram nacionalistas y favorables a la guerra, considerados cercanos a los servicios de seguridad de Rusia.

Aunque los videoclips más sangrientos no se emitieron en la televisión estatal, quedó claro el trato brutal que recibieron los acusados. Y la decisión de las autoridades rusas de mostrarlo tan públicamente en el tribunal, como casi nunca lo habían hecho antes, pretendía ser una señal de venganza y una advertencia a posibles terroristas, según los analistas.

En la historia reciente de Rusia, los videos de torturas no se mostraban en la televisión estatal, dijo Olga Sadovskaya, del Comité contra la Tortura, una organización rusa de derechos humanos.

“Había dos intenciones” en la difusión de los videos, dijo Sadovskaya. “En primer lugar, mostrar a la gente que podría planear otro atentado terrorista lo que podría ocurrirles, y en segundo lugar, mostrar a la sociedad que hay venganza por todo lo que la gente sufrió en este atentado terrorista”.

Ella y otros analistas dijeron que la flagrante exhibición de los torturados demostraba algo más: hasta qué punto la sociedad rusa se ha militarizado, y se ha vuelto tolerante a la violencia, desde que comenzó la guerra en Ucrania.

“Es una señal de hasta qué punto hemos aceptado los nuevos métodos de llevar a cabo una guerra”, dijo Andrei Soldatov, experto en los servicios de seguridad rusos.

Las encuestas internacionales han demostrado que las sociedades toleran la violencia contra las personas que perciben como los peores delincuentes, incluidos terroristas, asesinos en serie y autores de delitos violentos contra niños.

No obstante, Sadovskaya afirmó que los videos emitidos por televisión representan un nuevo nivel bajo para el Estado ruso.

“Esto demuestra que el Estado y las autoridades evidencian que la violencia es aceptable, que normalizan la tortura de un determinado sujeto”, afirmó.

El portavoz del Kremlin, Dmitri Peskov, declinó hacer comentarios sobre las acusaciones de tortura el lunes, durante una reunión informativa con periodistas. Pero el expresidente Dmitri Medvédev, quien actualmente ocupa el cargo de vicepresidente del Consejo de Seguridad de Rusia, dijo: “Bien hecho a quienes los atraparon”.

“¿Deberíamos matarlos? Deberíamos. Y lo haremos”, escribió en Telegram el lunes. “Pero es más importante matar a todos los implicados” en el atentado. “A todos: a los que pagaron, a los que simpatizaron, a los que ayudaron”.

Ivan Pavlov, un abogado que solía defender casos difíciles de seguridad nacional antes de verse obligado a huir de Rusia, dijo que la tortura se había utilizado durante mucho tiempo en casos de terrorismo y asesinato, casi siempre fuera de la vista. Una vez que las noticias sobre torturas se filtran por las cárceles, dijo, permite que “otras personas sepan que si te acusan de terrorismo, las fuerzas especiales te torturarán. Así que funciona como prevención”.

Las audiencias judiciales del domingo fueron inusuales porque la tortura se expuso de forma tan abierta, dijo Pavlov.

“Antes lo ocultaban al público en general, pero ahora ya no, porque el público en general está preparado para la violencia”, dijo. “Ya no es algo extremadamente desagradable para el público en general debido a la guerra”.

Rusia ya no forma parte del Convenio Europeo de Derechos Humanos, pero la Constitución rusa prohíbe la tortura. También forma parte de la Convención contra la Tortura de las Naciones Unidas.

Dado que la tortura es un delito tanto según el derecho internacional como en muchos países, los abogados defensores normalmente intentarían que se desestimara cualquier testimonio extraído bajo tortura porque es muy poco confiable, dijo Scott Roehm, director de política global y defensa del Centro para las Víctimas de la Tortura, con sede en Minnesota, que trabaja en todo el mundo.

La afirmación legal de que la tortura es un delito, un aspecto fundamental de la legislación internacional sobre derechos humanos, se vio sometida a presión en Estados Unidos tras los atentados terroristas del 11 de septiembre, señaló Roehm. Por ello, las comisiones militares que se ocuparon de los casos de Guantánamo tuvieron que tener en cuenta que algunas de las pruebas estaban contaminadas por la tortura.

“Los torturadores no dedican mucho tiempo a pensar en las consecuencias de sus actos”, dijo Roehm, sobre todo después de un atentado como el de Moscú. “Creo que la mentalidad de un torturador suele ser una mezcla de un buen grado de venganza y una suposición totalmente equivocada e ignorante de que se puede conseguir que alguien ‘confiese’ bajo tortura, y que esa confesión puede utilizarse para condenarlo”.

Los juicios a extremistas en Rusia suelen celebrarse a puerta cerrada, como la mayoría de las audiencias del domingo, por lo que es imposible saber hasta qué punto los abogados defensores se han opuesto a esta práctica. La mayoría de los jueces rusos probablemente la ignorarían en cualquier caso, dijo Pavlov, porque saben de antemano lo que se espera de ellos en cuanto a la condena de los acusados.

De hecho, el juez del caso de Muhammadsobir Fayzov, de 19 años, quien por momentos parecía apenas consciente, ignoró casi por completo el hecho de que el acusado estaba en una silla de ruedas con una bata de hospital abierta y una bolsa de recolección de orina con un catéter en el regazo. La única vez que el juez lo reconoció fue al ordenar que dos médicos que acompañaban a Fayzov fueran expulsados de la sala con el resto del público cuando clausuró la audiencia, según el informe de Mediazona, un medio de noticias independiente ruso.

La flagrante exhibición el domingo de los sospechosos con señales de maltrato fue especialmente atroz, señaló Pavlov. “Son circunstancias tristes, por supuesto”, dijo, “pero convirtieron el juicio en un circo”.

Soldatov, experto de los servicios de seguridad, dijo que la tortura y la respuesta oficial a la misma fueron una señal para los militares de que la violencia espantosa era ahora aceptable y alentada.

Al hacer públicos los videos de las torturas, las autoridades están “enviando un mensaje de intimidación a todos los que no están del lado del Kremlin, y enviando un mensaje muy alentador a los militares y a los servicios de seguridad de que están en la misma página”.

Ruslan Shaveddinov, activista y periodista de investigación afiliado al Fondo Anticorrupción de Alexéi Navalny, el opositor que murió en una cárcel rusa el mes pasado, pidió a los rusos que condenaran tanto a los terroristas como las torturas empleadas contra ellos.

“Es importante decirlo: la tortura no es normal”, tuiteó el domingo. “La tortura como fenómeno no debería existir. La policía y el Estado torturan hoy a un terrorista, ven con buenos ojos este método, y mañana torturarán a un activista, a un periodista, a cualquier otra persona. No conocen otro método”.

Aric Toler colaboró con reportería.

Valerie Hopkins cubre la guerra en Ucrania y cómo el conflicto está cambiando a Rusia, Ucrania, Europa y Estados Unidos. Radica en Moscú. Más de Valerie Hopkins

Neil MacFarquhar es reportero del Times desde 1995, y ha escrito sobre una amplia gama de temas, desde la guerra a la política, pasando por las artes, tanto a escala internacional como en Estados Unidos. Más de Neil MacFarquhar