The New York Times 2024-03-31 16:12:26


A Russian Defector’s Killing Raises Specter of Hit Squads

The men who killed Maksim Kuzminov wanted to send a message. This was obvious to investigators in Spain even before they discovered who he was. Not only did the killers shoot him six times in a parking garage in southern Spain, they ran over his body with their car.

They also left an important clue to their identity, according to investigators: shell casings from 9-millimeter Makarov rounds, a standard ammunition of the former Communist bloc.

“It was a clear message,” said a senior official from Guardia Civil, the Spanish police force overseeing the investigation into the killing. “I will find you, I will kill you, I will run you over and humiliate you.”

Mr. Kuzminov defected from Russia to Ukraine last summer, flying his Mi-8 military helicopter into Ukrainian territory and handing the aircraft along with a cache of secret documents to Ukrainian intelligence operatives. In doing so, he committed the one offense President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has said again and again he will never forgive: treachery.

His killing in the seaside resort town of Villajoyosa last month has raised fears that Russia’s European spy networks continue to operate and are targeting enemies of the Kremlin, despite concerted efforts to dismantle them after Mr. Putin invaded Ukraine in 2022.


Russia’s intelligence services have been put on a war footing and begun operating at a level of aggressiveness at home and abroad reminiscent of the Stalin era, said Andrei Soldatov, an author and expert on Russia’s military and security services.

“It’s not about conventional espionage anymore,” he said. “It’s about operations — and these operations might include assassinations.”

In Spain, Mr. Kuzminov lived “an indiscreet life,” the senior Guardia Civil official said. He went to bars popular with Russian and Ukrainian clientele, burning through the money he had received from the Ukrainian state. He drove around Villajoyosa in a black Mercedes S-Class.

Exactly how the killers found him has not been established, though two senior Ukrainian officials said he had reached out to a former girlfriend, still in Russia, and invited her to come see him in Spain.

“This was a grave mistake,” one of the officials said.

Senior police officials speaking on the condition of anonymity said the killing bore hallmarks of similar attacks linked to the Kremlin, including the assassination of a former Chechen rebel commander in Berlin in 2019 and the poisoning of the former Russian military intelligence operative Sergei V. Skripal in Salisbury, England, in 2018. Mr. Skripal survived.

The two hooded killers who appeared on surveillance camera footage from the parking garage of Mr. Kuzminov’s apartment complex were clearly professionals who carried out their mission and quickly disappeared, police officials said.

“It is not common here in Spain for someone to be shot with a lot of ammunition,” said Chief Pepe Álvarez of the Villajoyosa Police Department. “These are indications that point to organized crime, to a criminal organization, to professionals.”

While no evidence of direct Kremlin involvement has emerged, Russia had made no secret of its desire to see Mr. Kuzminov dead. Weeks after his defection, the Kremlin’s signature Sunday evening news program ran a segment quoting fellow pilots and commandos from Russia’s military intelligence service vowing revenge.

“We’ll find this person and punish him, with all the severity of our country’s laws, for treason and for betraying his brothers,” said one of the commandos, who was not identified. “We find everyone eventually. Our arms are long.”

The defection of Mr. Kuzminov was a coup for Ukraine, orchestrated by a covert unit in the HUR, Ukraine’s military’s intelligence arm. The unit specializes in recruiting Russian fighters and running agents on Russian territory to carry out sabotage missions. Some soldiers from the unit have received specialized training from the C.I.A. on operating in hostile environments.

While the unit had been able to persuade individual Russians and sometimes small groups of soldiers to defect, Mr. Kuzminov’s daring flight — and the high value of what he delivered — was unprecedented, said a senior Ukrainian official with knowledge of the operation.

The success of Ukraine’s efforts to recruit defectors is difficult to quantify. Thousands of Russian citizens have joined volunteer units fighting with the Ukrainian military and at times crossed into Russian territory for lightning raids on border outposts. It does not appear, however, that they have shifted the balance of power in any significant way.

Mr. Kuzminov said in interviews that he became disillusioned after reading postings by Ukrainians on the internet.

“I understood who was on the side of good and who was on the side of truth,” he said in an interview with a Ukrainian blogger.

In the early evening of Aug. 9, 2023, Mr. Kuzminov took off in a military helicopter from an airfield in the Kursk region in western Russia for what was supposed to be a simple cargo delivery to another base in the country. With him in the cockpit were a technician named Nikita Kiryanov and a navigator, Khushbakht Tursunov. Neither soldier appeared to be aware of Mr. Kuzminov’s plans.

Shortly after takeoff, Mr. Kuzminov turned off the helicopter’s radio communications equipment and dove to an altitude of just under 20 feet to evade radar. Then he crossed into Ukraine.

In interviews with Ukrainian news media, Mr. Kuzminov was coy about what happened next. He said only that he had landed the helicopter at a prearranged rendezvous point in the Kharkiv region, just over 10 miles from the border, where he was met by HUR commandos.

“Everything went well,” he said in one interview.

The reality is more complicated. When he crossed into the country, Mr. Kuzminov surprised a group of Ukrainian fighters, who opened fire, according to another senior Ukrainian official. In the confusion, Mr. Kuzminov was shot in the leg.

What happened to his crewmates is less clear. A Russian television report about them, citing a medical examiner, claimed that the two had been shot and killed at close range and suggested that Mr. Kuzminov had killed them before landing. The senior Ukrainian official involved in the operation said this was not true.

“Our soldiers shot them,” the official said. “Otherwise they would have killed Kuzminov and could have escaped in that helicopter.”

In interviews, Mr. Kuzminov said his crewmates were unarmed but never explained how they died.

The HUR clearly considered the mission a major success. Shortly afterward, Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, announced that the operation would give confidence to other Russian soldiers who were considering defection. The intelligence agency even produced a documentary film about the operation to showcase its triumph.

Mr. Kuzminov went on a media tour, holding a news conference, giving interviews denouncing Russia’s war and calling on others to follow his example.

“You won’t regret it,” he said in the documentary. “You’ll be taken care of for the rest of your life.”

The Ukrainian government paid Mr. Kuzminov $500,000 and provided him a Ukrainian passport and a fake name: Ihor Shevchenko. They also offered him a chance to join them in fighting Russia.

Instead, Mr. Kuzminov left Ukraine in October and drove to Villajoyosa, a small town on the Mediterranean coast popular with British and Eastern European tourists. There, he settled on the ninth floor of a modest apartment building about a 10-minute walk from the beach.

It was a curious choice for someone so explicitly targeted by the Russian authorities for liquidation. The region is a well-known base of operation for Russian organized crime figures, some of whom maintain ties to the country’s intelligence services, the Spanish authorities say.

In 2020, the Spanish police arrested more than 20 people connected to Russian criminal groups, some of whom were operating out of Alicante, in the same province as Villajoyosa. The people were charged with laundering millions of dollars acquired through drug and human trafficking, extortion and contract killings, the Spanish authorities said.

Another Russian military defector who has settled in Spain and spoke on the condition of anonymity for safety reasons called the region where Mr. Kuzminov settled “a red zone” filled with Russian agents. “I’ll never go there,” he said.

On the morning of Feb. 13, a white Hyundai Tucson entered the garage under Mr. Kuzminov’s apartment building and parked in an empty spot between the elevators used by residents and the ramp leading to the street. Two men waited there for several hours, according to the senior Guardia Civil official.

Around 4:20 p.m., Mr. Kuzminov drove into the garage, parked and began walking toward the elevators. As he passed in front of the white Hyundai, the two assailants emerged, called out to him and opened fire. Though he was struck by six bullets, most of them in the torso, Mr. Kuzminov managed to sprint a short distance before collapsing on the ramp.

The two killers got back into the car and ran over Mr. Kuzminov’s body on their way out. The vehicle was found a few miles away, burned with the help of what investigators believe was a special accelerant. It took specialists a week to identify the make and model of the car and establish that it had been stolen — two days before the killing — in Murcia, a town about an hour away.

A special unit in the Guardia Civil is carrying out the investigation under strict secrecy rules. The authorities have not publicly confirmed that Mr. Kuzminov was the person killed. They have struggled to reach officials in Ukraine who might help them.

But among the community of Russian and Ukrainian expatriates living in Villajoyosa, there was no question of who was behind the death.

“Everyone thinks the services took him out,” said Ivan, 31, who fled his home city, Kherson, Ukraine, at the start of the war. “They’re everywhere.”

Spain’s annual report on national security threats, published this month, said Russia had revamped its intelligence operations in the country after the expulsion of 27 Russian diplomats over the war in Ukraine. Though fewer in number, the report said, Russian spies continued to seek out ways to “destabilize Spain’s support for NATO.”

In the past, Russian officials have twisted themselves into knots trying to obfuscate the Kremlin’s connection to various assassinations around Europe, often in the face of clear evidence of state involvement. Mr. Kuzminov’s case is different. Senior Russian officials spoke of his death with barely disguised glee.

“This traitor and criminal became a moral corpse the moment he planned his dirty and terrible crime,” said Sergei Naryshkin, the director of Russia’s foreign intelligence service.

Dmitri A. Medvedev, the former Russian president who is now the deputy chairman of the country’s security council, said, “A dog gets a dog’s death.”

In contrast with the great fanfare that accompanied Mr. Kuzminov’s defection, the Ukrainian authorities have been mostly quiet about the killing. Senior officials worry that it could dissuade others from following his example.

“Who will cooperate with us after this?” said one of the senior officials.

“Russia will intensively spread propaganda — they’re already doing it — that they will find all traitors,” he said. “This is a hidden message to other citizens of Russia, especially military personnel, that we will find you if you betray us.”

Angry Farmers Are Reshaping Europe

Reporting from across rural France

Gazing out from his 265-acre farm to the silhouetted Jura mountains in the distance, Jean-Michel Sibelle expounded on the intricate secrets of soil, climate and breeding that have made his chickens — blue feet, white feathers, red combs in the colors of France — the royalty of poultry.

The “poulet de Bresse” is no ordinary chicken. It was recognized in 1957 with a designation of origin, similar to that accorded a great Bordeaux. Moving from a diet of meadow bugs and worms to a mash of corn flour and milk in its final sedentary weeks, this revered Gallic bird acquires a unique muscular succulence. “The mash adds a little fat and softens the muscles formed in the fields to make the flesh moist and tender,” Mr. Sibelle explained with evident satisfaction.

But if this farmer seemed passionate about his chickens, he is also drained by harsh realities. Mr. Sibelle, 59, is done. Squeezed by European Union and national environmental regulations, facing rising costs and unregulated competition, he sees no further point in laboring 70 hours a week.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Amid Health Concerns, Pope Delivers Strong Easter Message Calling for Gaza Cease-Fire

Amid renewed concerns about his health, Pope Francis presided over Easter Sunday Mass, and with a hoarse but strong voice, he delivered a major annual message that touched on conflicts across the globe, with explicit appeals for peace in Israel, Gaza and Ukraine.

The appearance came after the pope decided to reduce his participation in two major Holy Week events, seemingly at the last minute.

Those decisions seemed to represent a new phase in a more than 11-year papacy throughout which Francis has made the acceptance of the limits that challenge and shape humanity a constant theme. Now, he seems to have entered a period in which he is himself scaling back to observe, and highlight, the limits imposed by his own health constraints, and to conserve strength for the most critical moments.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

At Stake in the Istanbul Mayoral Race: Turkey’s Political Future

The contest to run city hall in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and economic dynamo, is in many ways between one man who is on the ballot and another who is not.

The first is the incumbent, Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, a rising star in the political opposition who won in a surprise victory in 2019 and is widely seen as a potential contender for the presidency.

The second is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who served as Istanbul’s mayor decades ago and has wanted to return his hometown to the control of his governing Justice and Development Party since Mr. Imamoglu’s win.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

India’s Silicon Valley Faces a Water Crisis That Software Cannot Solve

Reporting from Bengaluru, India

The water tankers seeking to fill their bellies bounced past the dry lakes of India’s booming technology capital. Their bleary-eyed drivers waited in line to suck what they could from wells dug a mile deep into dusty lots between app offices and apartment towers named for bougainvillea — all built before sewage and water lines could reach them.

At one well, where neighbors lamented the loss of a mango grove, a handwritten logbook listed the water runs of a crisis: 3:15 and 4:10 one morning; 12:58, 2:27 and 3:29 the next.

“I get 50 calls a day,” said Prakash Chudegowda, a tanker driver in south Bengaluru, also known as Bangalore, as he connected a hose to the well. “I can only get to 15.”

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

In Yemen, Renewed Conflict and Rising Hunger Stalk a Lean Ramadan

In the years before war and hunger upended daily life in Yemen, Mohammed Abdullah Yousef used to sit down after a long day of fasting during Ramadan to a rich spread of food. His family would dine on meat, falafel, beans, savory fried pastries and occasionally store-bought crème caramel.

This year, the Islamic holy month looks different for Mr. Yousef, 52, a social studies teacher in the coastal city of Al Mukalla. He, his wife and their five children break their fast with bread, soup and vegetables. Earning the equivalent of $66 a month, he frets that his salary sometimes slips from his hands in less than two weeks, much of it to pay grocery bills.

“I’m fighting to make ends meet,” Mr. Yousef said in an interview, describing how even before Ramadan he had begun skipping meals to stretch his meager paychecks, yet could barely afford bus fare to his job at a primary school.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

King Charles, Hoping to Reassure Public, Attends Easter Service

King Charles III walked into the Easter church service on Sunday at Windsor Castle with Queen Camilla, pausing to wave to well-wishers in his first significant public appearance since disclosing last month that he has cancer.

Charles, 75, has continued to work while undergoing treatment, greeting visitors and holding his weekly meetings with the British prime minister, Rishi Sunak. But he has suspended public engagements on the advice of his doctors.

The king’s appearance in a familiar setting, St. George’s Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle, was calculated to restore a semblance of normalcy to a royal family that has been thrown badly off balance by multiple health crises this year. Catherine, Princess of Wales, announced just over a week ago that she, too, had been diagnosed with cancer.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Middle East Crisis: Truce Talks Expected to Resume in Egypt

Cease-fire negotiations are set to resume in Cairo.

An Israeli delegation was scheduled to arrive in Cairo on Sunday to participate in talks for a cease-fire in the war in the Gaza Strip and the release of hostages held by militants there, according to a senior Israeli official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters.

An Egyptian state-owned TV channel, Al Qahera News, had reported on Saturday that the talks would resume on Sunday, citing an Egyptian security official.

The resumption of negotiations comes as the devastating war nears the end of its sixth month and as humanitarian officials are warning that only a cease-fire would allow aid groups to transport enough food and other aid into Gaza to avert a looming famine.

More than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed over the course of the war between Israel and Hamas, according to Gazan health officials, and negotiations to stop the fighting and release hostages held in Gaza have been stalled.

Hamas said last Monday that it had rejected an Israeli counterproposal. Talks have been at an impasse because of disagreements over the return of displaced Gazans to their homes, the permanency of any cease-fire and an Israeli withdrawal, among other points.

The senior Israeli official said that the nation’s war cabinet would convene on Sunday to discuss several issues related to the negotiations, including the question of displaced Palestinians returning to their homes in northern Gaza.

In an interview, Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, said Israel was refusing to allow Gazans to go back to the north en masse, and was insisting that they do so under “strict conditions and a few at a time.” He did not elaborate.

Many Palestinians living in temporary camps and shelters in southern and central Gaza have been hoping for months to return to their homes in the north, but Israeli soldiers have prevented them from doing so.

Egypt, Qatar and the United States, Israel’s staunch ally, have played the role of mediators in previous rounds of negotiations, with the two Arab nations serving as go-betweens with Hamas leaders. So far, however, a workable agreement has eluded all sides.

The mediators had pushed hard to secure a cease-fire before the start of Ramadan, but the Muslim holy month is more than half over.

Last Monday, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.” In a shift from its previous ironclad support for Israel, which has argued a cease-fire would allow Hamas to remain in power, the United States abstained from the vote and let the measure pass.

Talks have been held in Cairo and Doha, Qatar, where Hamas leaders have a presence, and the top mediators and Israel have met in Paris at least twice.

Netanyahu will undergo hernia surgery at a critical moment.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel will undergo surgery on Sunday night to treat a hernia, his office said in a statement.

The operation comes at a time when Mr. Netanyahu is under mounting pressure as the war in Gaza drags on and international calls for a cease-fire grow louder.

Mr. Netanyahu’s office said on Sunday that he had been diagnosed with a hernia during a “routine examination” on Saturday night. The prime minister decided in consultation with his doctors to have an operation, it said in a statement, adding that the surgery would take place on Sunday evening “under full anesthesia.”

“Justice Minister Yariv Levin will be temporarily taking over his duties,” the statement said. Mr. Levin is a longtime stalwart in the prime minister’s Likud party.

Mr. Netanyahu — who also underwent surgery for a hernia in 2013 — has come under increasing criticism both on the world stage and at home over how Israel is prosecuting the war in the Gaza Strip. Key allies like the United States have criticized the high civilian death toll and have called on Israel to urgently allow more aid into the enclave.

In Israel, protesters have been demanding that Mr. Netanyahu prioritize the release of hostages held in Gaza and strike a deal for a cease-fire. Israel’s war cabinet is expected to convene later on Sunday to discuss issues around the latest cease-fire negotiations; it was not immediately clear if Mr. Netanyahu would be able to attend.

But just hours before his scheduled surgery, Mr. Netanyahu met in Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon with families of soldiers held captive in Gaza, according to his office.

Mr. Netanyahu is also facing sharp criticism from his far-right coalition partners over any indication that he is hesitating in the war against Hamas or in the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Advertisement

SKIP ADVERTISEMENT

In a strong Easter message, the pope calls for a cease-fire in Gaza.

In a major annual message during Easter Sunday Mass, Pope Francis touched on conflicts across the globe and called for “an immediate cease-fire” in Gaza.

“My thoughts go especially to the victims of the many conflicts worldwide, beginning with those in Israel and Palestine, and in Ukraine,” he said to the tens of thousands of faithful, dignitaries, Swiss Guards and clergy filling St. Peter’s Square.

“I appeal once again that access to humanitarian aid be ensured to Gaza, and call once more for the prompt release of the hostages seized on 7 October last and for an immediate cease-fire in the Strip,” he added.

The pope also spoke about the continuing suffering in Syria because of “a long and devastating war.” He expressed concern for Lebanese people affected by hostilities on their country’s border with Israel. He prayed for an end to the violence in Haiti, an easing of the humanitarian crisis afflicting the Rohingya ethnic minority persecuted in Myanmar, and an end to the suffering in Sudan and in the Sahel region of Africa.

And in Gaza, he said, the eyes of suffering children ask: “Why? Why all this death?”

‘Replace him’: Thousands rally against Netanyahu’s government in Tel Aviv.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday night in one of the largest demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government since October, when the Hamas-led attack on Israel ignited a war.

Tel Aviv has been the scene of weekly demonstrations calling on the government to strike a cease-fire deal to free the hostages who have been held in Gaza since October. Those protests have been growing in size as the war has dragged on and anger at Mr. Netanyahu’s government has mounted.

On Saturday night, the sounds of whistles, horns and drums filled the air along with chants from the crowds, video from The Associated Press showed. Protesters waved flags and carried pictures of the Israeli hostages with signs reading “Hostage deal now.” Other banners made clear the anger directed at Mr. Netanyahu over the plight of the hostages, with one reading “Replace him, save them.”

“We demand our government to sign a deal now, no matter what is the cost,” Lee Hoffmann Agiv, who attended the protest, told The A.P. “It’s a life or death situation — we will not forgive our government if another hostage dies in captivity.”

As the night wore on, some scuffles broke out. The police said that while the demonstration was largely peaceful, “several hundred protesters” had violated public order by lighting bonfires, blocking a highway and confronting the police. Officers used a water cannon to disperse some protesters from a highway and made 16 arrests, according to the police.

Advertisement

SKIP ADVERTISEMENT

Aid is slow to enter Gaza, despite a top U.N. court ruling demanding ‘unhindered’ access.

When Christopher Lockyear, the secretary general of the aid group Doctors Without Borders, visited the Gaza Strip for five days this month, he took note of the miles of trucks waiting to deliver aid into the devastated enclave despite mounting international pressure to increase shipments.

On Thursday, the International Court of Justice in The Hague reacted to the continuing problems by ordering Israel to ensure the “provision of unhindered aid” into Gaza, using some of its strongest language yet. Israel has rejected accusations that it is responsible for delays in delivering aid, and it did so again this past week.

The amount of aid reaching Gaza has fallen sharply since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas. Months of bombs and street fighting have devastated entire neighborhoods, and experts continue to warn that Gazans unable to escape the war are facing a looming famine.

“It’s not just about the number of trucks coming in the border,” Mr. Lockyear said in an interview on Saturday. “It’s about what happens after that point. It is about the delivery. It is about sustained health care. It is about clean water.”

In its ruling on Thursday, the I.C.J., the United Nations’ highest court, called on Israel to increase the number of land crossings for aid and demanded that it ensure its military doesn’t violate Palestinians’ rights under the Genocide Convention, “including by preventing, through any action, the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry responded by saying that Israel had gone to great lengths to mitigate harm to civilians and to facilitate the flow of aid into Gaza, “including in particular food, water, shelter equipment and medicines.”

On Oct. 9 — two days after the Hamas attack into southern Israel and the start of Israel’s war in Gaza — Israel imposed what it called a “complete siege” of the territory. Since then, aid has been allowed into Gaza only under restrictive measures that Israel controls; those rules also apply to aid sent by the United Nations and groups like Doctors Without Borders, which is known by its French acronym, M.S.F.

This past week, Mr. Lockyear said, an M.S.F. truck carrying medical supplies and equipment was prevented from entering Gaza because it was carrying metal devices that are used to help set broken bones. “These items, which were formerly approved to go in, we have got them into Gaza previously,” Mr. Lockyear said. This time, he said, “the whole truck was turned around because these items were there, and we don’t know why.”

A spokeswoman for the Israeli authority responsible for allowing aid into Gaza said the authority could find no record or information about an M.S.F. truck being rejected or refused.

Israel has previously said that it prevents or restricts entry of what it calls “dual-use” items — materials or items that it says Hamas could use for military purposes.

Mr. Lockyear said his five-day visit to Gaza, both in the southern city of Rafah as well as Deir al Balah in the central part of the territory, underscored for him the crucial importance of not only ensuring that sufficient aid gets into Gaza and is properly and safely distributed, but also the need to end the conflict itself.

The compounding effects of the humanitarian disaster and the continued military operations came into focus, he said, during a visit to Al Aqsa Hospital in Deir al Balah on March 19, the morning after the area endured another heavy bombardment.

The wards and corridors were full of wounded victims with burns, shrapnel wounds and crushed limbs, including some in need of amputation. Meanwhile, a steady stream of weak and bony children suffering from malnutrition was being brought in.

“One of the most shocking things there is the decision that the medical teams there were having to make, in terms of: Do they give beds to trauma patients, or do they give beds to malnourished kids?” he said.

On Saturday, the director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called for increased evacuations out of Gaza. With battered hospitals struggling to care for the sick and injured, he wrote in a post on X, “around 9,000 patients urgently need to be evacuated abroad for lifesaving health services, including treatment for cancer, injuries from bombardments, kidneys dialysis and other chronic conditions.”

He urged Israel to approve more evacuations, saying, “Every moment matters.”

A second boat carrying aid to Gaza departs Cyprus.

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.

Police Raid Peruvian President’s Home, Looking for Rolex Watches

The police and prosecutors in Peru carried out a surprise raid at the home of President Dina Boluarte and the presidential palace early Saturday as part of an “unlawful enrichment” investigation into news reports that she had been seen wearing Rolex watches since taking office.

The raid, which came as Peruvians were celebrating the Holy Week holiday, shocked many people, even in a country that has grown accustomed over the past two decades to politicians investigated for alleged corruption.

Before midnight on Good Friday, the police used a battering ram to force their way into Ms. Boluarte’s home in Lima, according to live coverage on Latina Noticias. Prosecutors and the police then searched Ms. Boluarte’s office and residence in the presidential palace.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.


Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

The Japanese Sensei Bringing Baseball to Brazil

Reporting from Rio de Janeiro

Leer en español

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.”

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Leer en español

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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

Reporting from Belmopan, Belize

Leer en español

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.

The capital of Central America’s only English-speaking nation can feel jarringly different from the frenetic capitals of neighboring countries. In terms of its origins and design, Belmopan has more in common with the capitals of other former British colonies, especially in Africa.

But Belmopan is also, perhaps, a prism through which to view the development of Belize, which has emerged as something of an exception in Central America. In a region where rulers are embracing authoritarian tactics, Belize has developed into a relatively stable (albeit young) parliamentary democracy with a history of peaceful transitions of power.

The capital, serenely calm at times, boasts a reputation for safety and quality of life. In a sparsely populated country with fewer than half a million people, Belmopan’s welcoming vibe also showcases Belize’s extraordinary ethnic diversity, and its propensity to absorb migrants from other parts of Central America.

Consider the open-air market where many residents buy their food. Peddlers greet customers in Belize’s official language, English, or Kriol, the patois formed centuries ago when Britons brought enslaved Africans to what is now Belize.

Other vendors speak Mayan languages such as Kekchí, Mopán and Yucatec, spotlighting the Indigenous peoples who have long lived in Belize or who moved to the country from Guatemala or Mexico. Reflecting different migration waves, others ply their trade in Spanish, Chinese or Plautdietsch, an archaic Germanic language influenced by Dutch.

Like many others in Belmopan, Johan Guenther, 71, a Mennonite farmer, came from somewhere else. He was born in Mexico’s Chihuahua State, the site of large Mennonite communities, and came to Belize at 16.

He then tried his luck in Bolivia for a while but decided he preferred Belize’s mellower lifestyle. He lives with his wife in a small farming settlement outside Belmopan, coming into the capital to sell cheese, butter, cream and honey at the market.

“I’m not a city man, but I like Belmopan,” Mr. Guenther said in a mixture of English, Plautdietsch and Spanish. “It’s calm, good for selling my production, easy to get in and easy to get out.”

Making Belmopan a linchpin for agricultural development in Belize’s interior, and a haven from natural disasters, was top of mind when British colonialists developed plans to build the city after Hurricane Hattie in 1961 laid waste to the old capital, Belize City, leaving hundreds dead.

At the time, planned cities were popping up in various parts of the world, a trend turbocharged by the inauguration in 1960 of Brazil’s futuristic capital, Brasília. In Britain’s disintegrating empire, especially in Africa, the new capitals included Dodoma, in Tanzania; Gaborone, in Botswana; and Lilongwe, in Malawi. Designers largely envisioned them, like Belmopan, as “garden cities” with ample open spaces, parks and pedestrian walkways.

Political tensions shaped the city’s plans. George Price, the architect of Belizean independence, viewed Belmopan’s construction as a way to forge a sense of national identity transcending ethnic differences. And with Guatemala laying claim to Belize in a territorial dispute persisting to this day, Belize’s colonial rulers chose a site about midway between Belize City and the Guatemalan border, in a bid to populate to the interior.

Sturdy concrete government buildings like the National Assembly evoke the pyramidal design of a Maya temple, perched on an artificial mound where breezes could cool the structure. They were designed to be both hurricane proof and economical, at the time avoiding the need for air conditioning.

At the same time, the authorities tried to lure public employees to Belmopan by offering them homes, essentially in the form of concrete shells, on streets where people from different economic backgrounds were intended to live.

“Belmopan is a social experiment,” said John Milton Arana, 51, a Belizean architect whose family moved here in 1975. Noting the footpaths still connecting residential areas to Belmopan’s concrete-laden core, he added, “The pedestrian was the priority of this vision.”

Still, Mr. Arana said the notably slow-paced city can also be disorienting with its traffic circles, ring road and dearth of teeming commercial areas. “People visit and ask me, ‘Where’s downtown?’” Mr. Arana said. “I tell them, ‘You just passed it.’”

Not everyone is sold on Belmopan. Tourists tend to neglect the city, preferring the snorkeling near remote islands or stunning Maya archaeological sites. When Belmopan was inaugurated in 1970, it was forecast to grow quickly to a population of 30,000 — a figure it has still not reached more than five decades later.

Some attribute that slow growth to perennial budgetary restrictions giving Belmopan a perpetually unfinished look. The fortresslike structures where many civil servants toil are showing their age, adorned with noisy air-conditioning units; airy new buildings like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a gift from Taiwan’s government replete with hanging gardens, show how the authorities have moved on from Belmopan’s spartan origins.

Mr. Arana, the architect, said that departures from Belmopan’s original designs were changing the city for the worse. Ramshackle development outside central areas, he said, particularly where Spanish-speaking migrants from neighboring El Salvador and Guatemala have settled, underscore problems like substandard housing and untreated sewage.

Among diplomats, views on Belmopan are divided. Countries like Panama and Guatemala, along with the self-governing island of Taiwan, maintain their embassies in Belize City, which has more than double Belmopan’s population. Even after Belize gained full independence in 1981, the United States took 25 years to move its embassy to Belmopan.

Michelle Kwan, the United States ambassador to Belize and a decorated Olympic figure skater, said she had grown fond of Belmopan after relocating from Los Angeles. She compared life here to her days training in Lake Arrowhead, a small resort community in California’s San Bernardino Mountains, where she could “really focus on what I had to do.”

“It’s no different here,” Ms. Kwan said. “This is where we focus and where we work.”

Others in Belmopan suggest the city has helped forge a multicultural Belizean identity incorporating Maya peoples and newer Latino immigrants that is distinct from that of Belize City, known more as a bastion of Kriols, people of African and British descent.

“Belmopan made our cultural divides less pronounced,” said Kimberly Stuart, 49, an education lecturer at the University of Belize, whose main campus is in the capital.

Others bemoan certain aspects of life in Belmopan. While garish new homes and flashy new office buildings are altering the capital’s small-town feel, restaurants and bars are still few in number, and tend to close early.

Some in Belmopan say it is downright boring — but they like it that way. Raj Karki, 52, a Nepalese immigrant who moved to Belize to work on a hydroelectric project, liked the relaxed city so much that he decided to stay and open a restaurant offering South Asian food near government buildings.

“You can come to Belmopan from any place in the world,” Mr. Karki said. “In a short time you are welcomed and they say, ‘Help us build the future.’”

Our best offer. Sale ends todayA$0.50 a week for your first year.

save on all of the times
original price:   A$6.25sale price:   A$0.50/week

Learn more

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.

But all of these security gadgets, Mr. Wilson is convinced, will do no more than delay what seems inevitable: Toronto’s seasoned auto thieves won’t be deterred by the defensive gear, and they’ll make off with this Honda SUV just as they did with its predecessor — and its insurance replacement, which they returned to steal.

“By no means do I think that I’ve stopped them,” Mr. Wilson said. “All I’ve done is made it take an extra 10 minutes to steal my car.”

While there has been a surge in car thefts across Canada — up 24 percent in 2022, the most recent year nationwide statistics were available — the scourge has hit the Toronto area particularly hard, creating a mix of paranoia, vigilance and resentment.

So pervasive are car thefts in Canada’s largest city, up 150 percent in the past six years, that the issue has become something of a common bond among vehicle owners. If not a victim themselves of a theft, or thefts, many people seem to know someone whose car was swiped, and just about everyone can instantly recall one of the car theft headlines that news outlets have had plenty of opportunity to publish.

Social media groups have formed to crowdsource help for car sightings. But the comments are filled with people telling owners to resign themselves to the fact that their car is probably already in a shipping container headed overseas.

“Organized crime is becoming more brazen, and the international black market for the stolen cars is expanding,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking this month in Ottawa at a hastily convened auto theft summit.

The meeting was intended to reassure Canadians that the government was aware of the issue and that it was considering a number of responses, including increasing penalties for auto thieves, investing in the border agency and banning imports of key fob hacking devices.

The government is not only aware of the problem, it also hasn’t been spared: Two government-issued Toyota Highlanders were stolen three times in Ottawa from the current and previous justice ministers.

Pierre Poilievre, the leader of the Conservative Party, has repeatedly criticized Mr. Trudeau on the issue, calling the government excessively lenient in bail and sentencing for offenders.

The police have received new funding, including for better surveillance equipment, but the profit motive for thieves — as much as 20,000 Canadian dollars, or $14,800 per car — has, so far, made the problem intractable.

Car thefts have escalated to “national crisis” levels, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, an industry group, which said insurers paid out a record 1.2 billion Canadian dollars, or about $890 million, in theft claims in 2022.

For victims, it’s a dizzying, and sometimes traumatizing, experience.

“I was not able to digest the truth that the car had been stolen,” said Kamran Hussain, whose leased 2022 Toyota Highlander was stolen in January. Mr. Hussain’s work as a telecom field sales representative requires him to have access to a car. He’s borrowing one from a friend while he weighs what to do next.

“Either I have to buy a new car or I have to switch jobs,” he said. “I have no other choice.”

Demand for vehicle tracking from insurers in Ontario has about doubled business at Tag Tracking, a Montreal-based company, in the past two years, said Freddy Marcantonio, its vice president. Quebec insurers often require the Tag system for high-risk cars in the province, which for decades has grappled with auto thefts largely because many thieves favor Montreal’s port for getting their hot wheels quickly out of the country.

Thanks in part to the well-known prevalence of tracking systems in Quebec, thieves have turned to Toronto for easier pickings.

“It’s like getting a credit card and telling a kid to go in a candy store and buy whatever you want, and that’s why they moved to Ontario,” Mr. Marcantonio said. “It’s a free market for them there.”

But as criminals have adapted their behavior — “I like to say they have Ph.D.s in cars theft,” Mr. Marcantonio said — so have Toronto’s car owners, with many motivated to take a step as simple as clearing the junk out of their garages so they can stow their cars at night.

Homeowners are increasingly looking for solutions to protect their driveways, too, with some winning the praise of the police for installing bollards, as Mr. Wilson has done.

Last year, Achoy Ladrick founded Bollard Boys GTA — for Greater Toronto Area, an acronym unfortunately shared with the popular video game Grand Theft Auto.

“With this company, I’ve been able to bring that confidence back, bring that peace of mind back to people,” said Mr. Ladrick, 23, adding that one client installed four bollards after three Range Rover thefts.

The bread and butter of thieves are the most prosaic cars, like Mr. Wilson’s Honda CR-V, or Ford F-150 trucks. Luxury cars are trophies.

Some wealthy collectors store their cars in secret locations with round-the-clock security and dogs at night, but thieves can still win out.

Nick Elworthy wanted to get every last detail exactly right on his Ferrari, from the stitching down to the unique color, a candy-apple red slightly deeper than the sports car’s signature shade. He got to drive it only a few times before it was stolen last summer.

But the police in Ottawa stumbled on it when an officer noticed a Range Rover being backed into a shipping container on a rural property. A second car in the container was Mr. Elworthy’s Ferrari.

“I was absolutely ecstatic when I got the call from that officer,” he said. “I was literally jumping up and down.”

Most drivers discover they’ve become victims when confronted with the initially baffling sight of an empty parking space.

When Myra White couldn’t find a 2021 Jeep Wrangler that she was sure she had parked at a residential corner in downtown Toronto, she first doubted her memory before she realized it had been stolen. To her surprise, the police found it in a rail yard, with a smashed rear passenger window.

“I’m trying to think of what we’re going to do with the car when we get it back because I don’t want, of course, for it to happen again,” said Ms. White, an executive at a Toronto logistics company. “It’s something endemic in the city.”

For the exasperated Mr. Wilson, there has been one recent consolation to being a Toronto car owner: This year’s mild winter means he hasn’t often had to pull out his heat gun or de-icer spray to unfreeze his multiple locks.

Given that he bikes to work — and given all that is required for him to try to fend off the thieves who hanker for his Honda — he said his mind is made up on what his next move will be if he is victimized again.

“If they steal this car, I think I’m done,” he said, adding, “When they come with their antenna and they put it by the window, the only two fobs they’re going to pick up are the two cars that they’ve already stolen. I left those for them.”

Our best offer. Sale ends todayA$0.50 a week for your first year.

save on all of the times
original price:   A$6.25sale price:   A$0.50/week

Learn more

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.”

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.”

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.”

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

‘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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

‘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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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

Reporting from Mexico City and León, Mexico

Leer en español

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

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

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”.

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

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

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

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

¿Quién podría influir en el resultado de las elecciones de EE. UU.? El presidente de México

Natalie KitroeffZolan Kanno-Youngs y

Natalie Kitroeff reportó desde Ciudad de México, Zolan Kanno-Youngs desde Washington y Paulina Villegas desde Tijuana.

Read in English

Las personas cruzaban la frontera sur de Estados Unidos en cantidades históricas, los puentes ferroviarios internacionales fueron clausurados de manera abrupta y los puertos de entrada oficiales se cerraron.

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

En diciembre, desesperado por conseguir ayuda, el presidente de Estados Unidos, Joe Biden, llamó a su homólogo mexicano, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, quien le dijo que enviara con rapidez a una delegación a la capital mexicana, según varios funcionarios estadounidenses.

La Casa Blanca así lo hizo. Poco después, México reforzó la vigilancia. Ya para enero, los cruces fronterizos no autorizados hacia Estados Unidos se habían desplomado.

Mientras el tema migratorio se pone al centro de la campaña presidencial estadounidense, México ha surgido como un actor indispensable en un tema que tiene el potencial de influir en las elecciones de EE. UU., y la Casa Blanca ha trabajado duro para mantener la cooperación de López Obrador.

El gobierno estadounidense afirma públicamente que su diplomacia ha sido un éxito.

Pero en privado, algunos altos funcionarios de Biden han comenzado a ver a López Obrador como un socio impredecible, quien, en sus palabras, no ha hecho lo suficiente para controlar de forma consistente su propia frontera sur o vigilar las rutas que utilizan los traficantes para ingresar millones de migrantes a Estados Unidos, según varios funcionarios mexicanos y estadounidenses. Todos solicitaron hablar bajo condición de anonimato, para poder discutir relaciones diplomáticas delicadas.

“No estamos obteniendo la cooperación que deberíamos tener”, dijo John Feeley, exsubdirector de una misión en México de 2009 a 2012. Feeley dijo que los dos países realizaron más patrullajes e investigaciones conjuntas para asegurar la frontera durante el gobierno de Barack Obama.

“Sé cómo se ve cuando existe una cooperación genuina”, dijo Feeley, “a diferencia de lo que tenemos actualmente, que se promociona como una gran cooperación, pero que en realidad creo es una minucia”.

Mientras estuvo en el cargo, Donald Trump utilizó la amenaza de aranceles para forzar a López Obrador a implementar sus medidas duras contra la migración.

Biden necesita a México de la misma forma, pero ha adoptado una estrategia distinta, enfocándose en evitar un conflicto con el poderoso y en ocasiones volátil líder mexicano, con la esperanza de que eso conservará su cooperación.

“AMLO ha determinado correctamente su ventaja y ha reconocido que estamos usando la nuestra”, dijo Juan Gonzalez, quien fue el principal asesor de Biden en asuntos latinoamericanos, utilizando el apodo de López Obrador.

Liz Sherwood-Randall, asesora de seguridad nacional de Estados Unidos, dijo que la Casa Blanca trabaja “en colaboración al más alto nivel con el gobierno de México”, y agregó: “El presidente López Obrador ha sido un socio de importancia crítica para el presidente Biden”.

Desde 2022, México ha añadido cientos de puntos de control migratorios y ha incrementado por una decena de veces el personal de las fuerzas del orden, según cifras proporcionadas por el Departamento de Estado de Estados Unidos. México también está arrestando más migrantes que en cualquier otro momento de la historia reciente.

Sin embargo, la cantidad de migrantes que llegan a la frontera sur sigue siendo persistentemente alta. Hubo más de dos millones de cruces migratorios ilegales en cada uno de los últimos dos años fiscales, el doble de los que hubo en 2019, el año con mayor cantidad de detenciones del gobierno de Trump.

El declive a principios de este año siguió siendo uno de los meses de enero con mayor número de cruces ilegales registrados, según datos federales de Estados Unidos. Las detenciones volvieron a aumentar en febrero.

En México, las autoridades afirmaron que habían llegado al límite de lo que eran capaces de lograr frente un flujo extraordinario de migrantes que también ha abrumado a su país.

López Obrador ha presionado a la Casa Blanca para que se comprometa a una mayor ayuda para el desarrollo de los países latinoamericanos, y así abordar los problemas que causan que los migrantes huyan de sus naciones en un principio.

“Queremos que se atiendan las causas raíz”, le dijo a 60 Minutes, de CBS, durante una entrevista que salió al aire el domingo. Cuando se le preguntó si continuaría asegurando la frontera incluso si Estados Unidos no hiciera lo que le solicitó, López Obrador respondió que sí.

La migración ha aumentado debido a factores que son complicados de controlar para cualquier gobierno: pobreza persistente, auge de la violencia, los efectos del cambio climático y el impacto duradero de la pandemia de coronavirus que han dejado a las personas desesperadas por cualquier posibilidad de supervivencia.

Sin embargo, las autoridades mexicanas también culpan a las políticas estadounidenses, y afirmaron que los migrantes tenían un incentivo para ir a Estados Unidos ya que el sistema de asilo tenía tantos retrasos que los migrantes tenían una buena probabilidad de permanecer en el país por años hasta que sus casos obtuvieran una resolución.

En una entrevista, Enrique Lucero, director municipal de atención al migrante del ayuntamiento de Tijuana, dijo que esta situación era responsabilidad de Estados Unidos, “no nuestra”, refiriéndose a la crisis migratoria.

Afirmó que el gobierno estadounidense debería cambiar su sistema migratorio y de asilo, así como el marco legal. De lo contrario, dijo, México terminaría “haciendo el trabajo sucio”.

En meses recientes, las autoridades en Tijuana han allanado hoteles y refugios, incrementado la seguridad en cruces fronterizos oficiales e instalado nuevos puntos de control a lo largo de una sección de la frontera que solía estar desierta cerca de la ciudad, donde los migrantes pasaban por un hueco en el muro.

Nada de esto funcionó por mucho tiempo.

Según las organizaciones de ayuda, la medidas severas de las autoridades solo han puesto a los migrantes en un mayor peligro, pues ha llevado a los traficantes a guiar a las personas por rutas más peligrosas en el vasto desierto, donde muchas veces se pierden y son encontrados con síntomas de deshidratación.

Una noche de febrero, un contrabandista dejó a un grupo de 18 personas a kilómetros de la frontera, y les dijo que encontrarían con rapidez un hueco en el muro. En medio de la oscuridad, el grupo se perdió y caminó por horas hasta que finalmente cruzó a California y llegó a un campamento improvisado donde los migrantes a menudo se apretujan en baños portátiles para refugiarse.

Denver Gonzalez, de 2 años, no paraba de llorar.

“Tengo frío, quiero dormir”, gritó el niño varias veces, mientras su padre envolvía su pequeño cuerpo en mantas donadas por un voluntario local.

David Pérez Tejada, titular de la oficina del Instituto Nacional de Migración en Baja California, refiriéndose a los contrabandistas, dijo que si presionas un punto fronterizo, encontrarán otro sitio.

La Casa Blanca ha presionado al gobierno mexicano para que aumente las deportaciones, implemente restricciones de visa a más países para dificultar que entren a México y refuerce las fuerzas de seguridad en la frontera sur.

Desde 2022, el gobierno mexicano ha añadido cientos de puestos de control migratorios, ha reforzado la seguridad a lo largo de las rutas ferroviarias utilizadas por los migrantes para viajar hacia el norte y ha incrementado diez veces el personal de las fuerzas del orden, según cifras proporcionadas por el Departamento de Estado de Estados Unidos. México también está deteniendo más migrantes que en cualquier otro momento de la historia reciente.

Sin embargo, camiones llenos de migrantes continúan atravesando el país, en parte porque los contrabandistas suelen sobornar a las autoridades de los puestos de control, afirmaron funcionarios estadounidenses.

El gobierno de Biden quiere que México aumente la cantidad de deportaciones. La Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores de México declaró la semana pasada que había llegado a un acuerdo con Venezuela para deportar migrantes y ayudarlos a conseguir empleos.

Pero los vuelos de repatriación son costosos, y México tiene obstáculos legales para deportar personas de forma masiva. El año pasado, la Suprema Corte de Justicia de México determinó que los migrantes solo podían ser detenidos por 36 horas.

Muchos países piden un aviso de al menos 72 horas antes de aceptar vuelos con sus ciudadanos, afirmó un alto funcionario mexicano que no estaba autorizado a hablar públicamente del tema. Eso significa que el gobierno a menudo tiene que liberar a los migrantes antes de poder negociar su regreso. Las deportaciones desde México se redujeron a más de la mitad el año pasado, según mostraron datos del gobierno mexicano.

La Casa Blanca también ha presionado a México para que haga más de lo que algunos funcionarios llaman “descompresión”, que implica transportar personas lejos de la frontera a algún lugar más al centro del país.

“Las autoridades mexicanas están deteniendo a personas y enviándolas a ciudades aleatorias en el sur”, dijo Erika Pinheiro, directora ejecutiva de Al Otro Lado, una organización humanitaria. “Obligarlos a que hagan de nuevo el viaje al norte, paguen sobornos a las autoridades y corran todos esos riesgos otra vez es inhumano”.

Emiliano Rodríguez Mega colaboró con este reportaje desde Ciudad de México y Aline Corpus desde Tijuana.

Natalie Kitroeff es la jefa de la corresponsalía del Times para México, Centroamérica y el Caribe. Más de Natalie Kitroeff

Zolan Kanno-Youngs es corresponsal de la Casa Blanca, y cubre la gestión de Biden. Más de Zolan Kanno-Youngs