The New York Times 2024-06-11 18:25:30


Middle East Crisis: Blinken Says Fate of Cease-Fire Proposal Is Up to Hamas

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After the U.N. Security Council backed a cease-fire, Blinken said the plan’s fate ‘is down to one person,’ referring to Hamas’s leader.

A day after the United Nations Security Council endorsed a U.S.-backed cease-fire proposal for Gaza, the world is waiting for Hamas’s leader to respond, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Tuesday.

Putting the onus directly on Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, Mr. Blinken, speaking to reporters in Tel Aviv, asked whether the group would act in the best interests of the Palestinian people by accepting the deal. At least, he said, it would pause the fighting and allow more humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza.

Alternately, he said, Hamas could be “looking after one guy,” Mr. Sinwar, “who may be for now safe, I don’t know, 10 stories underground somewhere in Gaza, while the people that he purports to represent continue to suffer in the crossfire of his own making.”

Though President Biden has described the U.S.-backed cease-fire plan as one originally proposed by Israel last month, Israeli officials have not publicly endorsed it, and they have not said whether they would abide by the deal if Hamas accepts it.

After meeting on Monday with senior Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “I think there’s a strong consensus, again, behind moving forward the proposal,” Mr. Blinken said.

“But it really is down to one person at this point,” he added, referring to Mr. Sinwar.

Mr. Blinken said he received an explicit assurance from Mr. Netanyahu that he continued to support the proposal, despite doubts the Israeli leader sowed last week when he called the idea of a negotiated permanent cease-fire — which Hamas has called essential — a “nonstarter.”

Asked how that difference might be reconciled, Mr. Blinken emphasized the value of achieving an immediate cease-fire in the first phase of the proposed three-phase agreement. “The commitment in agreeing to the proposal is to seek that enduring cease-fire,” he said. “But that has to be negotiated.”

Along with the immediate cease-fire, the first phase of the agreement calls for the release of all hostages being held in Gaza in exchange for a larger number of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons, the return of displaced Gazans to their homes and the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from the territory.

The second phase calls for a permanent cease-fire with the agreement of both parties. The third phase would consist of a multiyear reconstruction plan for Gaza and the return of the remains of deceased hostages.

Mr. Blinken spoke on the patio of a seaside hotel in Tel Aviv as several relatives of Israeli hostages held in Gaza, with whom he had just met briefly, looking on. Several held signs with photos of their loved ones reading, “Bring Them Home.”

On the second day of his eighth visit to the Middle East since the Hamas-led attack on Israel on Oct. 7, Mr. Blinken called Monday’s unanimous Security Council vote a sign that Hamas will be isolated if it does not agree to the proposed deal, which President Biden endorsed in a speech on May 31.

“The United Nations Security Council, in effect speaking for the entire international community, made it as clear as it possibly could be that this is what the world is looking for,” Mr. Blinken said.

In a statement on Monday, Hamas said it “welcomes what is included in the Security Council resolution that affirmed the permanent cease-fire in Gaza, the complete withdrawal, the prisoners’ exchange, the reconstruction, the return of the displaced to their areas of residence, the rejection of any demographic change or reduction in the area of the Gaza Strip, and the delivery of needed aid to our people in the strip.”

Mr. Blinken called that statement “a hopeful sign.” But he added that what matters “is the word of the Hamas leadership in Gaza” — namely Mr. Sinwar.

Mr. Blinken spoke to reporters before leaving for Amman, Jordan, where he was scheduled to attend a conference on humanitarian aid for Gaza. He also met on Tuesday morning with Israel’s opposition leader, Yair Lapid, and with Benny Gantz, who pulled his centrist party out of Israel’s emergency wartime government on Sunday in protest of Mr. Netanyahu’s handling of the war.

Israel’s Parliament revives a bill on drafting ultra-Orthodox men into the military.

Israel’s Parliament on Tuesday voted to revive a bill that would enable ultra-Orthodox men to be drafted into the military, a divisive issue that has become especially contentious since the war in Gaza began last October.

The vote, which passed 63-57, was a procedural step aimed at keeping the hot-button issue in the hands of legislators instead of judges, who have repeatedly determined that the exemption, dating to the founding of Israel, should not stand.

Many secular Israelis have long lamented the draft exemptions for the most religious members of society. The issue has taken new prominence since the Hamas-led attack in Israel on Oct. 7 set off a war that has prompted repeated call-ups of reserve soldiers.

The bill, which revives a proposal made in 2022, would limit the exemption for young ultra-Orthodox men enrolled in religious study, establish recruitment quotas for them and provide alternative service options, among other changes. Some critics contend, however, that the proposal would not significantly increase military service among the ultra-Orthodox, known in Hebrew as Haredim.

The bill was advanced in May by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an apparent effort to deter Israel’s Supreme Court from taking the lead on the matter. The justices are currently considering whether the government must immediately begin drafting the ultra-Orthodox, following the expiration of a law last year that was temporarily extended and has expired again.

The vote on Tuesday was widely seen as intended to send a signal to the court that the Knesset was addressing the issue. The court ordered the government to address it long ago, but years of legislative efforts have failed to produce meaningful change.

Some members of Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party said that they would support the bill’s revival in order to speed up the legislative process, but they promised to demand changes before it advanced.

The Israeli attorney general, Gali Baharav-Miara, has pressed for immediate conscription of the country’s ultra-Orthodox, arguing that the government’s inability to pass new legislation did not excuse the failure to begin drafting the Haredim after the expiration of the previous exemption law.

The dispute is rooted in decisions made in the years surrounding Israel’s founding, when the country’s secular leadership promised autonomy and privileges to the ultra-Orthodox minority in exchange for their support in creating a largely secular state. Along with being exempted from the draft, the Haredim are allowed to run their own education system.

When the numbers of the Haredim were relatively small, their privileges mattered less to the Israeli mainstream. But they are Israel’s fastest-growing population, now numbering more than one million, or roughly 13 percent of the population, up from 40,000, or 5 percent, in 1948. They are expected to make up about 16 percent of the nation by 2030.

If the Supreme Court can be persuaded that Mr. Netanyahu’s government is making a serious effort to address the issue, the justices may give the Knesset time to pass a law. If not, the court may decide to order immediate action, and that could lead to a crisis for Mr. Netanyahu, whose coalition relies on the support of the ultra-Orthodox.

As the War in Gaza Drags on, Palestinians in the West Bank Have ‘Reached Rock Bottom’

As the war in Gaza enters its eighth month, Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank continue to face onerous restrictions, economic difficulties and an increased military presence — changes that some worry may become the new normal.

Throughout the West Bank, daily life — restricted before Oct. 7 — has been further complicated by a myriad of factors. These include regular raids and arrests conducted by Israeli forces, emboldened settlers and regulations that have hampered the economy, such as the cancellation of permits to work in Israel and an increase in internal checkpoints and roadblocks, complicating movement throughout the territory.

The Israeli military said there has been a “significant increase” in terrorist attacks in the West Bank since the beginning of war, and told The New York Times that arrests of suspected “terrorist operatives,” as well as the strategic placement of security forces were necessary “to improve the safety of all residents of the sector.”

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Buoyed by Election, Meloni Basks in the Spotlight as Italy Hosts the G7

Five years ago, when her party won 6 percent of the vote in elections for the European Parliament, Giorgia Meloni tried to pop a bottle of sparkling wine, but the cork awkwardly flopped among some supporters.

This week Ms. Meloni, now Italy’s prime minister, emerged as a big winner in the elections, and she and dozens of members of her Brothers of Italy party celebrated at a five-star hotel in Rome where waiters carried the wine bottles in silver basins filled with ice. The hard-right party took nearly 29 percent of the vote. The victory was all the more significant because Ms. Meloni was the only leader of a major Western European country to emerge reinforced from the balloting.

For Ms. Meloni, the lift could hardly have come at a better time. All eyes are on Italy this week as Ms. Meloni prepares to host a summit of the Group of 7 major economies for three days starting on Thursday. It’s another opportunity to cast herself as a legitimate member of the club of the world’s most influential leaders.

“This nation goes to the G7 and to Europe with the strongest government of all,” she told supporters early on Monday after the results came in. “They could not stop us.”

The European elections marked a rightward shift not just for the European Parliament, but for European politics. Ms. Meloni made herself a figurehead for that movement, working to lead the hard right into the mainstream.

When she became prime minister in 2022, it sent shivers throughout the European establishment because of her far-right, euroskeptic credentials and her post-fascist roots. That establishment now regards her as a pragmatic partner on key international issues.

Ms. Meloni’s approach is serving as something of a model for other far-right leaders looking to make inroads to the mainstream.

In France, Marine Le Pen has softened her own stance on important issues and polished her image. Her National Rally party finished so strongly in the European elections, with more than 30 percent of the vote, that President Emmanuel Macron dissolved the National Assembly and called new parliamentary elections.

“Giorgia Meloni’s government positively contaminated Europe,” said Giovanni Donzelli, a Brothers of Italy lawmaker on Sunday night. “A wall went down in all of Europe — they realized the right can govern well.”

In recent months, Ms. Meloni has been courted both by the European center right as a potential ally and by parties even further to her right as they attempt to create a united nationalist front.

While the center held in the new European Parliament, Ms. Meloni may yet emerge as a key figure on individual votes, including most immediately the re-election of Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, who needs the approval of the legislature to secure a second term.

Ms. Meloni, experts said, may decide to support Ms. von der Leyen as a way to exert more influence in Brussels.

“Meloni is going to be a major player in Europe,” said Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at the Eurasia Group consultancy. “As Meloni leans into the center and is constructive she is going to take lots of rewards.”

On the broader international stage, Ms. Meloni has also made herself a critical player on issues like support for Ukraine, something that has distinguished her from other parts of the hard right that tend to be more pro-Russian.

That has put her in good stead with the cohort of Western leaders who will gather this week in the southern Italian region of Apulia, especially in the wake of the election.

“All the lights are on her,” said Roberto D’Alimonte, a political scientist at the LUISS Guido Carli university in Rome. “Her image is even more boosted.”

The G7 attendees are to include President Biden, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, Rishi Sunak of Britain, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan. Ms. von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, also planned to attend.

Ms. Meloni has also invited Pope Francis; President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine; India’s newly re-elected prime minister, Narendra Modi; and Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, among others, including several African leaders. She has vowed to focus the summit in part on her plan of development and cooperation with Africa.

The meeting will take place in Borgo Egnazia, a luxury resort with gleaming swimming pools surrounded with rosemary bushes and olive trees. Its stone townhouses and villas are filled with baskets of almonds and lemons, and its narrow alleys are lined with rusty bicycles and wooden chariots, bearing the signs of time.

Except that the whole place was built in the early 2000s on land razed by Mussolini to build an air base. The resort reproduces an ancient Apulian town and farmhouse in a project that some locals have likened to a Mediterranean Potemkin village.

The world leaders will follow in the wake of guests such as Madonna, the Beckhams, and Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, who were married at the resort.

“Meloni wanted to make a terrific impression, and I am sure she will,” said Romeo Di Bari, 41, a shop owner in the town of Alberobello, which the leaders’ partners are scheduled to visit, and where on a recent afternoon, boyfriends knelt on the cobblestones to photograph their girlfriends pirouetting among the area’s distinctive pointy trulli huts.

Nearby, in the city of Bari, locals praised Ms. Meloni for bringing new prestige to their region and their country.

“Our nation is at the forefront,” said Giovanni Pirlo, 68, a retired surveyor. “Our nation was always sidelined; now with Meloni something is changing.”

Ms. Meloni has played a delicate balancing act by joining the European establishment on international issues while pleasing her base at home with hard-line positions on abortion or L.G.B.T. rights that cost her little in Europe (and in cash).

She has also juggled her roles as a woman of the people and as an international stateswoman. She has insisted on being on a first-name basis with Italians, urging them to write “Giorgia” on their ballots, and she has asserted that she has defended Italy’s interests in Brussels by helping to pass conservative policies on immigration and the environment.

At home, Ms. Meloni is presiding over a stable coalition, supported by two weaker parties that desperately need her to stay in power. Forza Italia, whose founder Silvio Berlusconi died last year, got about 10 percent of the vote in the European Parliament election after it ran a seance-like campaign with Mr. Berlusconi’s name and picture on billboards. Matteo Salvini’s League party, which appealed to the right flank of Ms. Meloni’s electorate, dropped to 9 percent of the vote this year from 34 percent in 2019.

What remained the biggest challenge of Italy’s nationalist leader was perhaps her very nation, experts said.

Italy’s productivity has lagged compared with the European Union’s, and wages are largely stagnant. While employment has grown, youth unemployment remains rampant in the South, and tens of thousands of young Italians leave the country every year.

In the town of Savelletri, around the corner from the resort hosting the G7, locals killed time at a cafe near two newly built heliports as military trucks patrolled.

Stefano Martellotta, a 51-year-old fisherman, said he did not care much about what he called the G7 “show.” What he worried about was that his two sons, 22 and 27, had to move to the Netherlands to work in restaurant kitchens because in Italy “nobody gives them a dignified salary,” he said.

“It’s dramatic for us, our youth leaving us,” said Annamaria Santorsola, 75, a mother and grandmother, adding that her region needed “jobs, not the G7.”

Rescuers Comb Dense Forest in Malawi for Vice President’s Missing Plane

Rescuers combed through dense forest in northern Malawi for a second day on Tuesday, searching for an aircraft carrying the country’s vice president, Saulos Chilima, that disappeared in bad weather.

The Malawian military aircraft carrying Mr. Chilima and nine others took off at 9:17 a.m. on Monday from the capital, Lilongwe. It was bound for Mzuzu, less than an hour’s flight away, according to the government.

The plane was unable to land because of poor visibility caused by bad weather, President Lazarus Chakwera said in a televised address late on Monday. The pilot was instructed to turn back, but within minutes, the aircraft disappeared from radar.

The Malawian authorities began a massive rescue operation that continued through the night in the Chikangawa forest, an uninhabited reserve that covers roughly 443 square miles.

On Tuesday morning, Gen. Paul Phiri of the Malawi Defense Force said that nearly 200 soldiers were involved in the search, which has been hindered by thick fog. Police officers, park rangers and Civil Aviation Authority employees were also participating in the effort, he said at a news conference.

“Our troops were on the ground throughout the night and despite these challenges they are soldiering on,” General Phiri said.

Malawi’s authorities have also turned to other governments for assistance. The U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe said it had lent a C-12 aircraft to aid in the search, while Mr. Chakwera said he had asked neighboring countries, along with Britain, Norway and Israel, for technological support. On Tuesday morning, the Malawi Red Cross joined the search effort.

Mr. Chilima, 51, is expected to run for president in the 2025 election.

He entered Malawi’s political scene a decade ago, leaving his role as head of one of the country’s largest telecommunications companies in a successful campaign for office in the presidential elections as the running mate for Peter Mutharika in 2014.

The two had a falling out in 2019, with Mr. Chilima accusing Mr. Mutharika of corruption and going on to start his own political party, the United Transformation Movement.

Once political rivals, Mr. Chakwera and Mr. Chilima formed a coalition that year after losing an election marred by irregularities. The two candidates successfully challenged the result, and, after a judicial panel ruled in their favor, the two men won a second vote that was carried out in 2020 on the same ticket.

In late 2022, Mr. Chilima was arrested by the country’s Anti-Corruption Bureau over accusations that he received kickbacks from a businessman in exchange for government contracts. He denied any wrongdoing.

The Malawian authorities abandoned the case and withdrew all charges against Mr. Chilima last month, but the scandal has nevertheless tarnished his image as a politician who had sworn to clean up corruption.

4 Instructors From Iowa College Are Attacked in Public Park in China

Four instructors from an Iowa college who were teaching in China as part of a partnership with a local university were attacked and injured in a public park there on Monday, according to Chinese and college officials.

Jonathan Brand, the president of Cornell College, a private liberal arts college in the city of Mount Vernon, said the instructors had been “injured in a serious incident” while visiting the park. He said in a statement that they were with a member of the faculty of Beihua University, Cornell’s partner in Jilin City in northeastern China, when the attack occurred.

“We have been in contact with all four instructors and are assisting them during this time,” Mr. Brand said.

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As His Political Alliance Breaks Up, Netanyahu Faces a Battle at Home

Still fighting Israel’s outside enemies on multiple fronts, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu woke up on Monday to a new political battlefield at home.

The departure this weekend of Benny Gantz and his centrist National Unity party from Israel’s emergency wartime government is unlikely to immediately sever Mr. Netanyahu’s grip on power. The prime minister’s governing coalition still commands a narrow majority of 64 seats in the 120-seat Parliament.

But Mr. Gantz’s move means that Mr. Netanyahu is now totally dependent on his far-right and ultra-Orthodox coalition partners as he prosecutes the war in Gaza in the face of mounting international opprobrium, leaving him increasingly isolated and exposed at home and abroad.

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Sunny Days in Moscow

In One Image Sunny Days
In Moscow By Nanna Heitmann

The storm blew in with these Russian military students. They had come to take in their country’s victories.

Yes, that is a U.S. flag on the tank, which was seized on the battlefields of Ukraine.

The students were on a class trip to Victory Park in Moscow to see the captured NATO equipment.

The patches are from the Moscow Aviation Center. Its graduates can enter the armed forces as junior officers, not as low-level conscripts.

The statue honors World War I soldiers, but today, Russians are being bombarded with stories of a new generation of heroes.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has not gone as quickly as the Kremlin once predicted, but a recent visit by a group of military students to a park in Moscow was a much speedier affair.

Hit by a sudden blast of early May snow, their instructor moved his young charges quickly along, the sooner to get somewhere warm. But they did take the time to stop for photos in front of the captured enemy armaments on display.

Among the biggest trophies were M1 Abrams and Leopard tanks. Ukraine had hoped that the vaunted American- and German-made war machines would help turn its fortunes on the battlefield.

They have not.

Now, after two years of war, with the Kremlin’s early military stumbles in Ukraine receding in memory, the mood in Russia is increasingly upbeat.

“The word ‘victory’ is everywhere in Moscow these days,” a New York Times Russia correspondent, Valerie Hopkins, reported recently.

The students’ tour came just three days before Russia celebrated Victory Day, which commemorates the Nazi defeat in World War II. But they, like other Russians venturing out into the cold that day, were relishing their country’s more recent military successes.

Victory Park was originally built to commemorate the Russian defeat of Napoleon. It also displays military equipment from the Second World War.

The big draw when the students were visiting, however, were the NATO tanks captured in Ukraine. Many, including the Abrams, were seized in February, when Avdiivka, a longtime Ukrainian military stronghold, fell to the Russians.

“There has been so much talk about these Abrams, about these Leopards,” marveled one onlooker as he took in the neutered Western behemoths sitting idle in the Russian snow.

“They are all standing here,” he said. “We are looking at them.”

Written by Eric Nagourney.

Russia Releases Female Prison Inmates to Join Ukraine War

Russia released a group of women from a prison in late May to join the fighting in Ukraine, according to two former inmates who maintain contact with those still there, potentially signaling a new phase in the Kremlin’s use of criminals in its war effort.

Military recruiters collected several women from a prison outside St. Petersburg, said the former inmates, whose names are being withheld to protect them from possible retaliation. It is unclear if their release represents an isolated case, a pilot program or the start of a larger wave of recruitment of female inmates.

About 30,000 women were serving time in Russia at the start of the invasion.

Military recruiters began touring prisons for women across the European part of Russia last fall, more than a year after the country’s forces started offering convicted men pardons and salaries in return for combat service. Until now, however, convicted women who had enlisted remained incarcerated without an official explanation, according to interviews with former and current inmates of four Russian prisons for women.

Tens of thousands of imprisoned Russian men have taken up the military’s call, replenishing the country’s invasion force at a crucial moment in the war and helping it regain its military advantage over Ukraine. Thousands of them have been killed in Ukraine. Some who survived their military services and were discharged have since committed serious crimes, including homicide.

The recruitment of female convicts comes as the Russian government has resorted to increasingly unorthodox schemes to attract volunteers from the margins of Russian society, trying to avoid another round of unpopular conscription. Apart from prison inmates, these recruitment schemes have targeted debtors, people accused of crimes and foreigners.

Russia’s defense ministry and prison service have in the past left unanswered all requests for comment on the country’s prison recruitment program.

It is also unknown what roles the recruited women would assume at the front. The military recruiters who visited their prison near St. Petersburg last year offered inmates contracts for serving as snipers, combat medics and frontline radio operators for one year, a significant departure from the largely auxiliary positions occupied by most Russian servicewomen. About 40 of the prison’s 400 inmates signed up at the time.

They were offered pardons and the equivalent of about $2,000 a month, about 10 times the national minimum wage.

Two women who witnessed the recruitment at the prison last year told The New York Times that fellow inmates signed up despite the dangers outlined by the visiting military officers.

The former inmates said the strict conditions in Russia’s prisons for women had contributed to the decision of some women to enlist. Inmates at the prison near St. Petersburg had to remain silent at all times, and spent up to 12 hours a day doing compulsory labor at the jail’s sawing workshop, even in subzero temperatures in winter, the women said.

Convict soldiers are also being used by Ukraine. After long deriding Russia’s prison recruitment, the government in Kyiv authorized a similar scheme last month amid increasingly acute troop shortages. Ukrainian officials have said that thousands of convicts have applied to enlist since.

Their City Has a Plaque From Putin. They Want Zelensky to Tear It Down.

A small copper plaque mounted across the piazza from the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy, pledges “friendship and cooperation” between the city and the Russian people. It is signed by someone who, for the past two years in Europe, has pursued anything but: President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The plaque is a replica of a letter Mr. Putin sent in 2003, nearly two decades before his invasion of Ukraine, and for years it drew little notice from Bari’s residents or the tens of thousands of pilgrims who visit the site annually to venerate the saint, whose remains are interred there. But a growing number of people now see it as sign of Mr. Putin’s hypocrisy — particularly among a diaspora of local Ukrainians who want it taken down.

The war will be among the most pressing issues that leaders of the world’s largest advanced economies and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine will discuss this week at an annual meeting of the Group of 7, which is being hosted by Italy and held just an hour down the road. For the many residents of Bari who have wanted the plaque removed since the war began, the gathering nearby is seen as a chance to enlist Mr. Putin’s fiercest international critics to their cause.

“Since Putin has been declared an international criminal, to have that plaque and to have his signature and his name on it, and display it proudly in front of the church, is offensive,” said Alessandro de Biase, a local businessman.

“If it was down to me, I would bring Zelensky here himself and ask him for help to take down the plaque,” Mr. de Biase said.

Bari has long maintained spiritual ties with Russia, Ukraine and other Slavic and Eastern Orthodox cultures through St. Nicholas, who is revered as a miracle worker, the patron saint of travelers and children and, among some, the original Santa Claus.

While St. Nicholas is originally from Myra, in modern-day Turkey, relics associated with him — primarily his bones — were moved to Bari in the late 11th century to protect them from tomb raiders. The relics are believed to have healing powers and to this day seem to excrete a watery liquid known as manna, and their transfer is celebrated each May by Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians alike.

After his 2003 letter, which accompanied a statue of St. Nicholas that he gave to the city, Mr. Putin personally paid homage to the relics, housed in the crypt of the Roman Catholic basilica, in 2007. Two years later, Bari officials returned the gesture by transferring to Russia ownership of a local Orthodox church, also named for St. Nicholas.

In the decade that followed, Bari and the surrounding, picturesque Puglia region, on the Adriatic Sea, became an increasingly popular destination for Russian tourists and vacation-home owners. Just five years ago, Russians were among the top 10 nationalities to visit Puglia annually, according to the region’s tourism board. They are now not even in the top 20, due to travel restrictions that officials said stemmed at first from the pandemic in 2020 and then from the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

At the same time, more Ukrainians have begun to move to Puglia — either to escape the war or to join family members who were already there, said Fortunato Fortunato, a state police inspector who has lived in Bari for most of his life. As of Jan. 1, about 3,200 residents of Puglia identified as Ukrainian, compared to 860 Russians, according to the Italian National Institute of Statistics.

And that, he said, has led to more people demanding that the copper plate bearing Mr. Putin’s name be removed.

“The voice has become bigger,” Mr. Fortunato said.

Previous campaigns to have the plaque removed have failed. Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, about 12,000 people signed an online petition to have it taken down, but were rebuffed. Part of the problem is that it is not clear even to some local officials who is responsible for making that decision, although the basilica’s rector, Giovanni Distante, said the piazza where the plaque is mounted “falls under the direct responsibility” of the city government.

Bari’s mayor, Antonio Decaro, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. In 2022, he defended the plaque, saying, “I’m not in favor of canceling a piece of history,” local news media reported at the time.

In an interview, Father Distante tried to navigate the dispute by instead focusing on the history of “promoting and re-establishing Christian unity” that St. Nicholas espoused, and pointedly noted that it was the Russian Orthodox church in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, that in 1095 established the commemoration of the relics now housed in Bari. It was a subtle acknowledgment of the rupture between the Orthodox Church in Ukraine and the traditional Russian patriarchy, led by an ally of Mr. Putin, that followed the 2022 invasion.

But, Father Distante said, St. Nicholas’s legacy of promoting “justice, truth, love, peace” also serves as an appropriate backdrop for the G7 meeting.

Last month, around 1,000 Orthodox pilgrims attended the annual services celebrating St. Nicholas at the Bari basilica, including some visitors from Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet states, but mostly from the local population. In years past, officials said, the celebration drew more than 10,000 people, about one-third of them from Russia.

Hosting the G7 gathering on the heels of what had long drawn Russian pilgrims to the area presents “two events that look sort of contradictory,” said Luigi Narbone, a former diplomat and geopolitics analyst at Luiss Guido Carli University in Rome. But, he said, Mr. Putin’s plaque was a symbol of an era of warmer diplomacy, and warned against anything that could upend Puglia’s place as “the bridge between the West and the East” among private citizens.

“It’s very important to keep those channels open,” Mr. Narbone said, “because the people-to-people dimension is what will make them facilitate, in the long run, resolutions to conflict when the right time comes.”

At the basilica, few of the pilgrims or other visitors during the Orthodox celebration last month noticed the plaque or stopped to look at it. But among those who did, many took pictures that focused tightly on Mr. Putin’s name in the lower right-hand corner.

Ivan Kristian Zheliznyak, 21, a Russian who lives in Germany and has family in Ukraine, said he was aware of the copper plate before he arrived, but thought little of it.

“Maybe they can divide us with ideas, but nobody can divide our souls,” he said. “Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian are one man, one soul. So they can do all the things they want, the elites, but nobody will destroy our souls.”

Father Distante said that the plaque’s message reflected “a tangible sign of hope and universal brotherhood.” The push to have it removed, he said, was “an opinion expressed by private individuals which, however respectable, still remains a personal opinion.”

“Do you know what is the virtue of the one who has the ecumenical responsibility?” he asked with a smile. “Patience.”

In Calling Elections in France, Macron Makes a Huge Gamble

On the face of it, there is little logic in calling an election from a position of great weakness. But that is what President Emmanuel Macron has done by calling a snap parliamentary election in France on the back of a humiliation by the far right.

After the National Rally of Marine Le Pen and her popular protégé Jordan Bardella handed him a crushing defeat on Sunday in elections for the European Parliament, Mr. Macron might have done nothing. He might also have reshuffled his government, or simply altered course through stricter controls on immigration and by renouncing contested plans to tighten rules on unemployment benefits.

Instead, Mr. Macron, who became president at 39 in 2017 by being a risk taker, chose to gamble that France, having voted one way on Sunday, will vote another in a few weeks.

“I am astonished, like almost everyone else,” said Alain Duhamel, the prominent author of “Emmanuel the Bold,” a book about Mr. Macron. “It’s not madness, it’s not despair, but it is a huge risk from an impetuous man who prefers taking the initiative to being subjected to events.”

Shock coursed through France on Monday. The stock market plunged. Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, a city that will host the Olympic Games in just over six weeks, said she was “stunned” by an “unsettling” decision. “A thunderbolt,” thundered Le Parisien, a daily newspaper, across its front page.

For Le Monde, it was “a jump in the void.” Raphaël Glucksmann, who guided the revived center-left socialists to third place among French parties in the European vote, accused Mr. Macron of “a dangerous game.”

France is always a mystery, its perennial discontent and restiveness at odds with its prosperity and beauty, but this was a surprise of unusual proportions. Mr. Macron, after a stinging defeat in which the National Rally won 31.37 percent of the vote to 14.6 percent for the coalition led by his Renaissance party, has in effect called his country’s bluff, asking if its apparent readiness for the extreme right in power is real or a mere letting-off of steam.

The risk is that about a month from now Mr. Macron would have to govern with Mr. Bardella, 28, who represents everything he abhors, as his prime minister. If the nationalist, anti-immigrant National Rally wins an absolute majority in the 577-member National Assembly, an unlikely scenario, or merely emerges as by far the strongest party, which is more plausible, Mr. Macron may be obliged to swallow hard and do that.

Ms. Le Pen, with her eye on winning the presidency in 2027, would almost certainly defer to Mr. Bardella, who led the party’s European election campaign, for the post of prime minister.

France would then be confronted with the consecration through high political office of the extreme right, an idea held unthinkable ever since the Vichy government ruled France in collaboration with the Nazis between 1940 and 1944.

Why play with fire in this way? “It’s not the same election, not the same form of ballot, and not the same stakes,” said Jean-Philippe Derosier, a professor of public law at the University of Lille. “Macron apparently feels it’s the least bad choice to have a possible National Rally prime minister under his control, rather than a Le Pen victory in 2027.”

In other words, Mr. Macron, who is term limited and will leave office in 2027, may be flirting with the notion that three years in office for the National Rally — turning it from a party of protest to a party with the onerous responsibilities of government — would stall its inexorable rise.

It is one thing to rail from the margins, quite another to run a heavily indebted and polarized country so angry over the level of immigration, crime and living costs that many French people seem driven by a sentiment that “enough is enough.”

As in other Western societies, including the United States, a widespread feeling of alienation, even invisibility, among people outside the wired cities of the knowledge economy has led to a broad feeling that the prevailing system needs blowing up.

Ms. Le Pen on Sunday announced the end of “the painful globalist parenthesis that has made so many people suffer in the world.” Given that mainstream pro-European parties won about 60 percent of the vote in the European Parliament election, despite the far-right surge, that appeared to be a bold prediction.

A “cohabitation,” as the French call it, between a president from one party and a prime minister from another, is not unknown — most recently, Jacques Chirac, a center-right Gaullist, governed with a Socialist prime minister, Lionel Jospin, between 1997 and 2002. France survived and Mr. Chirac was re-elected.

But never before has there been such an ideological gulf, going to the very conception of French values and the core importance of the European Union for the continent’s liberty, as there would be between Mr. Macron and a National Rally prime minister.

For Mr. Macron, a Europe already severely tested by the war in Ukraine will only count in the 21st century if it unites and pools its military and industrial resources. He considers this struggle existential for the continent, at a time when the Russian threat has grown.

For the National Rally, it is time for nations to reassert themselves against European federalism and against globalization. It wants to control frontiers strictly, resist the “punitive” ecological measures emanating from Brussels that it says drive up prices, and prevent what it sees as the dilution, or even disappearance, of nationhood through immigration.

Mr. Macron, in calling the election, made clear his view that France stands at a historic crossroads.

“To be French is to rise to the challenge of the epoch when necessary,” he said. “It is to know what a vote is worth and how liberty feels. To act, whatever the circumstances, with responsibility is fundamentally to write history rather than be its victim. That moment is now.”

These were ringing words with a distinct echo of Charles de Gaulle, who dissolved Parliament in 1968 after the civil unrest that coursed through the country in May of that year. De Gaulle emerged strengthened as the French people chose order.

But after seven years in power, during which he has practiced a highly centralized and hierarchical form of government, Mr. Macron, who is often criticized as aloof and who has shunned coalition-seeking in Parliament, looks isolated.

Both the center-right Republicans and the center-left Socialists have shown no inclination for now to join with Mr. Macron’s centrist Renaissance, even if such a coalition were to be the only way to keep the far right from power.

The Socialists are instead part of efforts to revive an alliance stretching to the extreme left for the election. Of course, in the breach, they may change their minds but Mr. Macron cannot count on this.

“France is a country of the discontented, but Mr. Macron has provoked an acute form of personal resentment,” Mr. Duhamel said. “He has given many French people the feeling of being inferior, and they detest that.”

Such is the animus that Mr. Macron may have encountered, he might well have been forced to dissolve a Parliament where he does not have an absolute majority in the fall anyway.

Standard & Poor’s, the American rating agency, downgraded France’s debt rating last month and the government is looking for more than $20 billion in budget cuts. Having raised the age of retirement to 64 from 62 last year over fierce protests, Mr. Macron now wants to rein in unemployment benefits. All of this would have provoked fierce resistance in Parliament.

Instead, after a debacle that was more than a defeat, Mr. Macron has seized the reins, forced all parties into a scramble to prepare for the two-round election on June 30 and July 7, dictated the agenda, disoriented everyone and made perhaps the biggest gamble of his political career.

He believes that a certain France is still unprepared to risk handing power to Ms. Le Pen. It was the French author Jean Cocteau who wrote: “Since these mysteries overtake us, let’s pretend to be their organizer.”

What to Know About France’s Snap Parliamentary Elections

President Emmanuel Macron threw French politics into disarray on Sunday when he unexpectedly called for snap elections.

The surprise move came after his party was battered by the far right in European Parliament elections. Mr. Macron dissolved the lower house of France’s Parliament and said the first round of legislative elections would be held on June 30.

France now finds itself in unpredictable territory, with the future of Mr. Macron’s second term potentially at stake. With less than a month to go before the poll, parties are now scrambling to field candidates, hone their messaging and, in some cases, forge alliances.

Here is what you need to know about the snap election.

  • What happened?

  • Why did he do it?

  • What’s at stake?

  • When is the vote?

  • How will the vote work?

  • What happens next?

France’s far-right, anti-immigrant National Rally party, led by Marine Le Pen and her wildly popular protégé, Jordan Bardella, surged to first place in elections for the European Parliament on Sunday with about 31.4 percent of the vote. The centrist coalition led by Mr. Macron’s Renaissance party came in a distant second with about 14.6 percent.

Mr. Macron acknowledged the crushing defeat in a televised broadcast to the nation that night.

“France needs a clear majority to move forward with serenity and harmony,” Mr. Macron said, explaining why he had decided to call for legislative elections.

That involved taking the extremely rare move of dissolving the 577-seat National Assembly, a presidential prerogative in France. Mr. Macron is the first president to do so since 1997.

When Mr. Macron was elected to a second term in 2022, his party failed to win an outright majority. The centrist coalition he formed has since governed with a slim majority — but struggled to pass certain bills without support from the opposition.

Mr. Macron was under no obligation to dissolve Parliament, even if the European vote left him a reduced figure with three years left in his presidential term. Analysts are still parsing through his motivations, although many suspect that he believed a dissolution had become inevitable — conservative lawmakers were threatening to topple his government in the autumn. Jolting the country with a sudden election could also be a way for Mr. Macron to prevent his opposition from organizing — and to present voters with a stark choice between him or the far right.

The move is seen as a gamble: If the National Rally repeats its performance in national elections, France could become nearly ungovernable, with Mr. Macron confronting a Parliament hostile to everything he believes in.

Ms. Le Pen welcomed the announcement of elections and expressed confidence that her party could muster a majority. “We are ready to turn the country around,” she told cheering supporters in Paris on Sunday evening.

The presidency is France’s most powerful political office, with broad abilities to govern by decree. But the approval of Parliament, and especially the National Assembly, is required on most big domestic policy changes and key pieces of legislation, like spending bills or amendments to the Constitution.

Unlike the Senate, France’s other house of Parliament, the National Assembly is elected directly by the people and can topple a French cabinet with a no-confidence vote. It also has more leeway to legislate and challenge the executive, and typically gets the final word if the two houses disagree on a bill.

Mr. Macron’s party and its centrist allies currently hold 250 seats in the National Assembly, short of the 289 required for an absolute majority. The National Rally party holds 88 seats, while the mainstream conservative Republicans have 61. A tenuous alliance of far-left, Socialist and Green lawmakers holds 149 seats. The remainder are held by smaller groups or lawmakers not affiliated with any party.

The elections for the 577 seats in the National Assembly will be held in two rounds — the first on June 30 and the second on July 7.

France’s 577 electoral districts — one for each seat — cover the mainland, overseas departments and territories, as well as French citizens living abroad. Unlike many of its European neighbors, France awards seats to candidates who get the most ballots in each district, not based on a proportion of the total vote across the country.

That means there will be 577 separate races, with local dynamics and quirks — unlike the European parliamentary elections where each party fielded a single, nationwide list of candidates.

Any number of candidates can compete in the first round in each district, but there are specific thresholds to reach the second round. While in most cases the runoff will feature the top two vote-getters, on rare occasions it might feature three or even four candidates. Whoever wins the most votes in that runoff wins the race. (Under some conditions, a candidate who gets more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round wins outright.)

Because the elections have just been announced, there is no reliable opinion polling yet.

Despite its triumph in the European elections, it is unclear whether the National Rally can capture a significantly larger number of seats in the lower house of the French Parliament.

“It’s hard to project the results of the European elections onto the legislative ones,” said Luc Rouban, a senior research fellow at the Center for Political Research at Sciences Po in Paris. “It’s not sure that the National Rally will have the same success.”

With little time to campaign, parties on the left are scrambling to unite like they did in 2022 by avoiding competing candidacies in each district. But unity on the French left can be elusive, and it is unclear whether the parties will be able to strike such a deal.

If Mr. Macron is unable to muster a strong parliamentary majority, he could find himself in a rare “cohabitation” scenario — where the presidency and the National Assembly are on opposing political sides.

In that scenario, Mr. Macron would be compelled to choose a prime minister of a different political party — which could potentially block much of his domestic agenda. Foreign policy, which is a presidential prerogative, would theoretically remain mostly untouched.

European Parliament Elections: Key Takeaways

Voters in the 27 European Union member states sent a stern warning to mainstream political powers, wreaking havoc on French and, to a lesser degree, German politics and rewarding hard-line nationalist parties in a number of countries.

Even so, the radical right-wing wave dreaded by the European political establishment did not fully materialize; the center of European Union politics held.

Here are the most important trends emerging from the elections.

The mainstream center-right group, the European People’s Party, performed strongly and finished first, not only maintaining its dominance in the European Parliament but adding a few seats to boot.

It was a sign that its strategy over the past two years, to integrate more right-leaning policies in order to stop voters from abandoning for further-right rivals, delivered.

Over the past five years, the political group spearheaded the Green Deal, one of the world’s most ambitious climate change policies. But more recently, under pressure from farmers who represent an important constituency, it watered down some of the policies adopted at the E.U. level.

It also led a significant tightening of the European Union’s migration policy, going some, but not all the way, in assuaging concerns of voters who want to put a quick stop to irregular migration.

The conservatives’ thunder was somewhat stolen by a blockbuster performance by Marine Le Pen’s ultranationalist National Rally in France. They scored twice the support of a centrist coalition led by President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party, prompting him to dissolve the National Assembly and call for snap legislative elections.

The Alternative for Germany, or AfD, an ultranationalist party that has been designated a “suspected” extremist group by the German authorities, soared to second place in the polls there, although trailing far behind the winner, the conservatives. It trumped Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, leaving him further weakened as he continues to struggle at the head of a shaky coalition.

The center-right’s strong performance was not replicated in the two other major European Parliament centrist groups. The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, traditionally the second-biggest power in the house, maintained its strength and, more or less, the number of its seats. But the Liberals lost big, weakening the informal centrist coalition of pro-European Union powers that generally underpins the passage of legislation in the European Parliament, despite their differences.

Together, the three will control more than 400 seats in the new Parliament, which will be inaugurated on July 16. That seems a comfortable majority, but discipline in political group voting can at times be weak, and tactical alliances may be necessary down the line to ensure laws are passed. The first test of the new, weaker parliamentary majority, will be the confirmation of the European Commission president, the bloc’s top official, penciled in for July 18.

From a policy perspective, the electoral resilience of the centrist powers will translate into some continuity, particularly in preserving the European Union’s support of Ukraine.

The Greens were the night’s biggest losers: having performed well in 2019 and emerged as an important progressive power in the Parliament, they lost a quarter of their seats in the new elections.

This was largely foreseen: Voters switched out of the environmentally focused party for two key reasons. Environmentally minded voters found that the Green agenda had been, to a high degree, integrated in other bigger mainstream parties. In a way, the Greens had lost their unique selling point.

But other voters felt that the green agenda in Europe has gone too far, hurting farmers and more broadly rural voters.

Even so, the Greens could emerge as a reserve pool of support for the three centrists, despite their diminished seats.

The conservatives had, before the elections, floated the idea of roping in the European Conservatives and Reformists, a further right-wing group dominated by Italy’s prime minister, Giorgia Meloni. This would have been a big no-no for the conservatives’ other centrist allies, especially those on the left and center left who view the group and Ms. Meloni as radicals in mainstream clothes.

With the centrist majority holding, the need to turn to Ms. Meloni and the members of European Parliament she controls, seems to have mostly evaporated for now. While the conservatives may still need to partner with this group in Parliament on a tactical basis, it appears unlikely that they will need to rely on them.

That said, Ms. Meloni remains a key European Union member state leader, with an outsize presence that has influenced the political landscape and already pulled many policies her way. She performed very well at home, quite unlike the leaders of the other major E.U. countries, reasserting her dominance.

In Germany, Far-Right Party Rises to 2nd Place in E.U. Election

The right-wing Alternative for Germany party won a record number of votes in European Parliament elections on Sunday, in a sharp rebuke to Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s governing three-party coalition in Germany and a sign of the rightward political shift across the continent.

The party, known as AfD, captured 16 percent of the vote, placing second behind Germany’s conservative Christian Democrats, which won 30 percent. AfD performed nearly five percentage points better than it did in the 2019 elections and drew more voters than each of Germany’s three coalition parties. It was AfD’s strongest showing in a nationwide election, and it came as Mr. Scholz’s coalition has reached record-low levels of popularity in the country, according to polls.

On Monday, Alice Weidel, one of the AfD’s two leaders, demanded that Mr. Scholz call new parliamentary elections, just as President Emmanuel Macron of France did after his party’s dismal results. A spokesman for Mr. Scholz has ruled out early elections.

Describing her party’s showing a “major success,” Ms. Weidel said at a news conference in Berlin that the government was working against, not for, Germany. “People are tired of it,” she said.

The election results could have far-reaching consequences. Europe’s sweeping plans for a series of environmental initiatives called the Green Deal may lose traction, and adversaries of Mr. Scholz have already begun to question the legitimacy of his government. If the results of the E.U. elections are borne out, they argue, it could indicate that just a third of Germans support his three-way governing partnership.

Once a fringe group, the AfD is being watched by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency on suspicion of being “extremist.” Three-quarters of Germans say they believe that the party poses a threat to democracy. But outrage over the recent killing of a police officer in Mannheim, Germany, just days before the E.U. election, and the arrest of an Afghan immigrant suspected in the stabbing may have reignited the fears on which the AfD routinely capitalizes.

The AfD also had stronger results than in the past despite its two top candidates for E.U. posts having been forbidden to campaign after a series of public scandals. On top of that, millions of people took to the streets this year to protest the party’s anti-immigration stance, which includes a meeting attended by AfD members that discussed the mass deportation of immigrants.

“It’s remarkable that the party sort of rose again from the ashes,” said Sudha David-Wilp, regional director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund. But discontent with the government, a robust base in eastern Germany (the AfD took the lead in all five states there in the E.U. vote) and the recent attack on the officer most likely propelled AfD forward, Ms. David-Wilp said.

“They’re not disappearing anytime soon from the German political landscape,” she added.

Though the numbers fell short of the polling highs predicted months ago, when it seemed that the party might capture close to 25 percent, AfD members celebrated the results on Sunday night.

Ms. Weidel attributed the outcome to disgust with the status quo. “People are fed up with the amount of bureaucracy they get from Brussels,” she told a German public broadcaster after the first projected results were announced on Sunday night.

As the results rolled in on Sunday evening, Mr. Scholz made an appearance at his Social Democratic Party headquarters in Berlin. But when asked by reporters if he wanted to comment, he responded, “Nope,” according to the German magazine Der Spiegel.

The AfD’s fortunes seemed to have risen in concert with the fall of those of the Greens, an environmentally focused party for which Germany was once a stronghold. The Greens saw their vote share drop by nearly half, to about 12 percent, according to the preliminary results, from a high of more than 20 percent in the 2019 elections.

Emilia Fester, a Green party member of Parliament who is one of its youngest elected officials, said in an email: “Although the AfD has made gains, it is also clear that few young people have switched from us Greens to the AfD. Instead, many have voted for smaller parties that often have programs close to the Greens and are more focused on individual issues,” she said. “This gives me hope.”

This election was also the first time that 16- and 17-year-old Germans were permitted to vote, and AfD had major wins in the under-30 demographic, increasing its share of that electorate by 10 percentage points, results showed. The Greens, once supercharged by the activist Greta Thunberg and student protesters against climate change, saw an 18-point drop-off among those voters.

“Younger voters tended to be more left-leaning and progressive in the past,” Florian Stoeckel, a professor of political science at the University of Exeter in England, said in an email. “However, this time, they turned right.”

He added that the AfD’s recent push to market itself on TikTok might have played a role.

“This is in line with recent findings that younger people, and especially younger men, across Europe tend to take more right-leaning positions,” Mr. Stoeckel said.

Ultimately, the results could be more of a symbolic victory for the AfD than one that will change the dynamics of the European Parliament. Last month, the party was expelled by the Identity and Democracy Party, a far-right group in the European Parliament, after Maximilian Krah, the AfD’s top E.U. candidate, made comments in May equivocating on just how evil the Nazi SS were.

On Monday, AfD members voted to oust Mr. Krah from its E.U. delegation. In the end, the party will send 14 people to Brussels — up from nine — whose power will be limited, excised as they are from any other far-right bloc in the Parliament.

Tatiana Firsova contributed reporting.

A Reporter’s Work Helped Topple Presidents. Now He Is Being Investigated.

One of Latin America’s most celebrated journalists, whose work has toppled presidents and set off criminal investigations into government wrongdoing, was recovering from an aggressive bout of chemotherapy when he got more bad news: A Peruvian prosecutor was investigating him for bribery.

The journalist, Gustavo Gorriti, 76, the top editor at an investigative news media organization in Peru, is no stranger to trouble.

In the 1990s, he was kidnapped by members of a secret death squad that Peruvian investigators later determined was headed by former President Alberto Fujimori. Mr. Gorriti had spent years reporting on corruption and human rights violations by the Fujimori’s government.

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For the First French Town Liberated on D-Day, History Is Personal

Reporting from Ste.-Mère-Église, France

American soldiers in uniforms spill out from the bars and cafes all around June 6 Square, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes.

Phil Collins blares from loudspeakers. American flags flutter from chimneys and windows, on overhead lines and even from around the neck of a golden retriever trotting by with her owner.

Is this really France?

“This is the 53rd state,” Philippe Nekrassoff, a local deputy mayor, said as he made his way across the square, with its Roman milestone and medieval church, while U.S. paratroopers wearing maroon berets played soccer with a group of local teenagers. “Americans are at home here.”

Here is Ste.-Mère-Église, a slip of a town in northwest Normandy with one main street. About 3,000 residents live in the town and its surrounding region, with its fields of cows and towering hedges.

Hundreds of U.S. paratroopers landed in the immediate area in the early hours of June 6, 1944. Four hours later — even before the world’s largest armada arrived to the nearby Normandy beaches — one of those soldiers hauled down the Nazi flag and hoisted an American one up over city hall.

“This was the first town to be liberated on the western front,” read two marble plaques, one in French and one in English, in front of the building.


The story of that liberation is now deeply threaded into the town’s identity.

While most villages across Normandy hold annual D-Day commemorations, little Ste.-Mère-Église hosts six parades, 10 ceremonies, 11 concerts and a parachute jump by current U.S. paratroopers.

Statues, plaques and historical panels dot many street corners. Shops have names like D-Day, Bistrot 44 and Hair’born salon. There’s a mannequin of John Steele, the American paratrooper immortalized in the 1962 film “The Longest Day,” hanging from the church steeple as he did on June 6, 1944, his parachute billowing.

At first blush, the town seems, well, too unabashedly and in-your-face American for a country that revels in self-criticism and understatement.

But stick around a bit, and the town reveals a relationship with U.S. paratroopers that is deep, sincere and disarmingly beautiful.

“There is a sense of welcome here that’s nothing like anything else in the region,” said Jacques Villain, a photographer who has documented the village’s celebration for 25 years and was the driving force behind the just-published bilingual book “Ste.-Mère-Église: We Will Remember Them.”

The town’s first D-Day commemoration was small and took place two months later, while the war in Europe was still raging, he pointed out. On the first anniversary of D-Day, Maj. Gen. James Gavin, by then the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, sent 30 soldiers back from Germany for the ceremonies.

Just after midnight on June 6, 1944, wave after wave of low-flying airplanes roared over Ste.-Mère-Église and the surrounding area. Spilling from them were thousands of parachutes, flitting across the sky like confetti.

One parachute floated right down into a trench dug in Georgette Flais’ backyard, where she was huddled with her parents and a neighbor. Attached to it was Cliff Maughan. Ms. Flais refers to him as “our American.”

“He represented, for me, something extraordinary — liberation,” said Ms. Flais, now 96.

She recalled how the German soldier billeted in her house burst into view, his rifle pointed into the trench. Ms. Flais’ father jumped up and begged the German not to shoot. Miraculously, he agreed.

Soon after, the German soldier realized the Americans had taken the town and surrendered to Mr. Maughan, who Ms. Flais described as preternaturally calm, handing out chewing gum, chocolate and cigarettes. He curled up on his parachute for a quick nap before heading out at dawn to fight.

“We kissed him warmly goodbye,” Ms. Flais said. “A friendship was born.”

As the first place to be liberated, Ste.-Mère-Église quickly became the place where fallen American soldiers were first buried — 13,800 in three fields turned cemeteries around the village. Local men dug the graves.

“It was just a little village of 1,300 inhabitants,” said Marc Lefèvre, the town’s mayor for 30 years who left office in 2014. “They were witness to the price of sacrifice, with all those trucks of coffins. That left a huge impact.”

One of the graves was for Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who died of a heart attack five weeks after landing on Utah Beach. He was the eldest son of Theodore Roosevelt, the former U.S. president.

Simone Renaud, the mayor’s wife, was captured laying flowers on his tomb by a Life magazine photographer.

The reaction from grieving mothers in the United States was immediate. Hundreds sent Ms. Renaud letters, pleading for her to visit their son’s graves and send back photos. She complied.

Henri-Jean Renaud, 89, recently flipped through albums of carefully sorted letters to his mother, written in longhand, from 80 years ago.

Some of the women later came to visit the graves themselves. They ate dinner with the Renauds and sometimes stayed in their home. “I am still in touch with a family that had a kid my age,” Mr. Renaud said.

He still visits the grave of one soldier “from time to time, to say a little hello to him,” he said.

Years later, American veterans began to make pilgrimages to Ste.-Mère-Église for its annual D-Day commemorations.

The town had only one hotel, since renamed after Mr. Steele. So Ms. Renaud, who died in 1988, formed the Friends of American Veterans association, and many locals joined and hosted the visitors in their homes.

Volunteers spent afternoons driving around, trying to help the veterans find the exact spot in a field or marsh or tree where they first landed.

“For most of them, it was there they had their first losses, their first powerful emotions, the first friend killed, the first wounded,” Mr. Renaud said. “Those are things that mark you for life. So they were always trying to find that beginning.”

By 1984, Ms. Flais was teaching Greek and Latin in a high school in Alençon, about 140 miles away. On June 6 of that year, she was watching television when she saw on the screen an American soldier who had come back to Ste.-Mère-Église. He was broader, and wore a baseball hat instead of a helmet. But he had that same laid-back demeanor. She jumped in the car and rushed back to her childhood town.

“It was my American,” she said. “We fell into one another’s arms.”

Today, 80 years later, there are few veterans left. Their successors now crowd the town square, where Mr. Steele and his fellow World War II parachutists are celebrated and remembered as veritable gods.

They are joined by the thousands of re-enactment enthusiasts, tourists and French citizens who come to pay their respects.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Jonathan Smith, 43, whose trip here was a retirement present after 18 and a half years of service with the 82nd Airborne Division. “I didn’t make it 10 paces this morning without kids stopping me to ask for a photo and shake my hand.”

.

The local tourism office is expecting one million people to come into town over the 10 days of commemorations and celebrations this year.

Among them are the children and grandchildren of the Americans who were in charge on D-Day, from General Roosevelt Jr. to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the commander in chief of the Allied forces.

“I find I need to be here and be a part of it,” said Chloe Gavin, the daughter of General Gavin, who himself came back regularly before he died.

On a recent night, local families welcomed more than 200 American soldiers into their homes for dinner.

Across the street from city hall, where the American flag that soldiers hung up in 1944 now hangs framed on a wall, three generations of the Auvray family sat in their garden with three U.S. paratroopers from Puerto Rico. The family matriarch, Andrée Auvray, regaled them with her memories of D-Day.

She was nine months pregnant and living on a horse farm just outside town that had been requisitioned by a battalion of soldiers with the German army. Just days before the Allies’ landing, the soldiers departed for Cherbourg, France, convinced the Allies would attack there, she said.

“We were so lucky,” said Ms. Auvray, now 97 and a great-grandmother of 13. “It would have been a blood bath.”

Three American paratroopers landed in her garden.

An American military hospital was quickly erected next door. Her farm became the health clinic and a temporary home for civilians, fleeing the battle that ensued after German troops tried to retake Ste.-Mère-Église. They fed 120 people for a month. She gave birth to her son, Michel-Yves, on a camp bed because her bed had been given to the injured.

Michel-Yves will turn 80 soon.

Ms. Auvray described the missiles exploding nearby, the gnawing fear that the Germans would retake the town and her gratitude that they did not.

“We lived through such anguish together,” she said of the American soldiers and French residents. “That’s why we have such a precious relationship.”

In the West Bank, Guns and a Locked Gate Signal a Town’s New Residents

Ben Hubbard reported from two towns in the occupied West Bank, the Arab-Palestinian community of Tuqu and the Jewish-Israeli settlement of Tekoa.

From the outskirts of his town in the West Bank, the mayor surveyed the rocky hills stretching toward the Dead Sea where Palestinians had long farmed and herded, and pointed out the new features of the landscape.

New guard posts manned by Israeli soldiers. New roads patrolled by Israeli settlers. And, most tellingly, a new metal gate blocking the town’s sole road to those areas, installed and locked by the Israeli army to keep Palestinians out.

“Anyone who goes to the gate, they either arrest him or kill him,” said the mayor, Moussa al-Shaer, of the town of Tuqu.


Map locates the West Bank villages of Tuqu and Tekoa.

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‘Not Everything Was Bad’: Saluting the Mercedes of Eastern Europe and a Communist Past

As the beige car bounced up to the former Soviet barracks, the rattling of its half-century-old motor overpowered the din of people setting up for the day’s festivities at a temporary fairground.

A man dressed in the dark green uniform of a 1950s traffic cop, replete with an old-fashioned leather cap, blew his whistle sharply and waved the car — a well-maintained 1980 Wartburg, a classic despite the engine’s clatter — through to the parking lot.

The driver of the little sedan, once considered the Mercedes of Eastern Europe, slipped the clutch, jolting the car forward. The lapse earned a rebuke from a costumed parking attendant.

“You are entering the G.D.R. now,” he yelled with mock anger, referring to the extinct East German state. “Leave your Western manners behind!”

For more than a decade, the G.D.R. Museum Pirna has played host to a May Day event in Pirna, just a few miles from the Czech border in Germany’s east, where people can celebrate cars emblematic of the communist era.

Built after the war in state-owned factories, the cars are smaller, less powerful and less showy than most Western cars from the same era. But to the excited visitors in Pirna, who often dress in contemporaneous garb to match the vehicles they arrived in, the polished and pampered cars embody a local pride.

The hundreds of motorcycles, buses, trucks, cars and farming vehicles on display exuded the nostalgia that many here feel for a vanished country that — despite its oppressive dictatorship — was home for decades.

“As a proud Easterner, I’m happy to help revive this iconic car,” said Tom Grossmann, standing in front of his lime green 1985 Trabant, best remembered for a chassis made of a material similar to reinforced cardboard. “If it means that there are more of these cars on German roads, all the better.”

Born in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell, Mr. Grossmann expressed a sentiment typical at the scene in Pirna.

For years, he had been dismissive of the old Eastern-built cars, but in middle age, his view changed. In part, he was drawn by the community that had developed among people who own the cars.

When he bought his sedan five years ago, he paid 3,000 euros, about $3,250, but then spent more than twice that refurbishing his ride, adding a sunroof, wider tires and custom upholstery.

Uwe Röckler, 23, neatly dressed in a G.D.R. police uniform from the 1980s, paraded past the lineup of cars giving out fake parking tickets and posing for photos with passers-by. Mr. Röckler is a stickler for details: The tickets he carefully filled out and pinned under wipers were written on an exact reproduction of the form used by East German police in the 1980s.

“It starts with a belt buckle that you find at a flea market,” he said. “And pretty soon, you’re wearing a full uniform,” he added, noting he had several spares hanging in his home closet.

To Mr. Röckler, whose parents toiled under the communist regime, the era holds a fascination. “Not everything was bad, it was just everyday life,” he said. Of the East German police, which many see as one of the most obvious manifestations of a repressive state, he said: “They were actually pretty good criminalists — in many ways equal to those in West.”

May 1 — formally known as the “International Day of Struggle of the Working Class and the Oppressed Peoples of the World” — was one of the most important dates on the socialist calendar. Though it was a public holiday and nobody had to work, attendance at state-organized parades was mandatory, and civilian brigades of factory workers, socialist youth groups and politicians were expected to march with signs celebrating progress and socialism.

Waiting in line to board a carefully maintained bus from 1958 that would take him on a tour of Pirna, Thomas Herzog, 62, remembers the requirements of that era well. “I’m here because no one is forcing me to be here,” he said with a laugh.

Among those in Pirna celebrating this May Day, 35 years after East Germans last celebrated it in a functioning communist state, many said the era had been rife with problems, including restrictions on speech and travel, with citizens living under the yoke of one of the most restrictive state security systems behind the Iron Curtain.

But as that time recedes into the past, memories of the communist country have become more attractive for many, especially as discontent with the current system grows.

According to a poll from December, 82 percent of Germans nationwide are at least somewhat unsatisfied with the government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Given that level of discontent, it’s unsurprising some people are looking backward.

In eastern Germany, where the disaffection is often more pronounced, many look toward the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, for solutions. In Pirna’s state, Saxony, where voters head to the polls in September, the AfD polls at 30 percent, more than any other party on the ballot.

Conny Kaden, 60, the founder of the G.D.R. Museum, said that despite the benefits reunification brought, there were downsides.

The socialist state, he noted, in addition to offering jobs at state-run enterprises, had fostered a sense of community through mandatory meetings in youth, worker and community clubs. “I’m not saying this is about raising the G.D.R. flag,” Mr. Kaden said. “But we lost something, we lost the cohesion.”

Mr. Kaden built his museum dedicated to all things G.D.R. in 2005 and said ticket sales have been trending up.

The May Day car meet has also become more popular. This year, he estimated he had welcomed up to 3,500 visitors and hundreds of cars, likely breaking last year’s record.

The meet featured some Western cars, too. Two custom stretch limousine Volvos, used by the East German regime’s leaders, were parked in a prominent corner. Over the enormous radio inside of one, a tape of police chatter illegally recorded in 1989 played on a loop.

Mr. Röckler, who played the fake policeman handing out fake tickets, grew up in what had been West Germany, where his family moved after they had lost their jobs following reunification. As an adult, he returned to the former East Germany, in part because he said his hobby of dressing up as a Communist policeman was misunderstood in the West.

He was not sure it would have been completely understood by his late father, either.

Gesturing to his carefully pressed suit, he said, “I wonder what my dad would say if he could see me wearing this.”

Amateur Historians Heard Tales of a Lost Tudor Palace. Then, They Dug It Up.

For generations, residents of Collyweston — a village in central England snuggled up against the River Welland — passed down stories of a grand Tudor palace, of royal processions through the valley below, of the mother of a king who had called it home.

Over hundreds of years, the stories persisted, even as memory of the palace’s whereabouts faded. But the lore suddenly came to life when a handful of amateur historians unearthed portions of the long-lost palace, buried under a few feet of soil. Historians from the University of York have verified their findings.

“We are a small village with a small group of enthusiasts, and what we’ve basically achieved here is nothing short of a miracle,” said Chris Close, 49, the chairman of the Collyweston Historical and Preservation Society. “You know, it’s not every day you get to dig up a part of your country’s past.”

Mr. Close, soft-spoken and warm with a dimpled smile, was raised in Collyweston, with family roots that go back 400 years here. He remembers hearing stories of the palace as a young boy. It belonged to Lady Margaret Beaufort, who played a major role in the Wars of the Roses, a series of civil wars for the English throne. She acquired it in 1487, two years after her son was crowned king as Henry VII. He, his son Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I all walked the palace halls.

After the Tudor era, which ended in 1603, the palace fell into disrepair. Its contents were sold, portions knocked down or repurposed, and new buildings went up. The palace slowly faded into history, disappearing into the dirt. Almost.

Fast forward to 2017, when Mr. Close became chairman of the historical society — somewhat by chance. History had never been his passion, but he had promised his great-uncle, who once led the group, to help keep it going. A year after his great-uncle’s death, he made good on his promise.

Mr. Close — who, by day, works for a British company that builds new homes — took over the top job at the society at a precarious time. The group’s membership, then mostly retirees, had dwindled, and it had just 500 pounds, about $635, in the bank. Meetings were spent poring over old Collyweston records with little mission, and the few members were considering wrapping things up. Mr. Close knew he needed to inject some energy into the proceedings.

He shifted the society’s newsletter to email, from print. He set up social media accounts. And crucially, he asked members what they really wanted to focus on. The response was clear: They wanted to find the Tudor palace.

The villagers suspected that remnants were hidden under the soil, but with limited expertise and even less money, they did not have much to go on.

“It was our naiveté that’s kind of got us through this, really,” Mr. Close said with a chuckle.

First, they relied on what little they did know about the palace’s history — including local lore that had percolated for years.

Nowadays, Collyweston, population 564, is little more than a few pretty stone houses with picturesque views over sprawling fields. But glimpses of the royal history were visible to anyone who looked carefully, said Sandra Johnson, 68, a retired real estate agent who now does research full time for the historical society — as well as helping take care of her grandchildren.

She noted that local residents had long referred to a walled garden in the area as the “palace gardens,” and that some terraces and fish ponds could still be seen carved into the landscape.

“We knew it was here,” she said, a broad smile growing on her face. “It was just a question of getting the evidence to prove it.”

Over several months, the group trawled through old maps and records. That took them only so far.

Around that time, the group connected with Rachel Delman, now a historian at the University of Oxford who was then doing research on the palace. Her work provided detailed descriptions of palace buildings that she had found in various historical archives.

The research was “a little bit of a light that got shone into the project,” Mr. Close said.

But the amateur historians soon realized that archaeology had become a high-tech pursuit and that they needed to embrace technology, too. They applied for grants and got enough money to hire a company to do a drone survey and geophysical scan of the village. The growing buzz in Collyweston around their activities helped attract new members.

The real breakthrough came from ground-penetrating radar scans in 2021 and 2022 that revealed human-made material under the soil. This guided them on where to dig.

Last May, they found the first evidence of the palace walls: portions of the clearly defined base of a thick wall and a foundation that experts later verified.

The goal is to eventually find enough artifacts to analyze and date. The group hopes to create a digital model of the palace to be displayed in a tiny museum that Ms. Johnson curates in the nave of the village church.

While finds from this era are not particularly unusual in Britain, historians have hailed the discovery because of the significant role the palace played in its time — and because it was found by an amateur group.

Prof. Kate Giles, a historian at the University of York, pointed out that Britain has a wealth of local history societies but that in the case of Collyweston, “the fact that it has a Tudor palace on the doorstep makes its work particularly interesting and exciting.”

Dr. Delman, whose research helped kick-start the hunt, said the discovery had the potential to enrich public knowledge about a onetime royal power base, commissioned by a Tudor woman, “making it a site that is nationally and internationally significant.”

In early February, volunteers took out their shovels for a two-day dig, one of several planned this year, to better understand what the palace looked like.

Down a lane on a small patch of grass, a dozen residents — including young professionals, parents, a former prison guard and several retirees — dug in four small roped-off trenches under the watchful eye of Jennifer Browning, 50, an archaeologist from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services who was hired to lead the dig that day.

In one trench, dirt was carefully brushed from what appeared to be a flagstone floor and foundation stones. In another, part of a wall had begun to emerge.

“We just don’t know exactly what it is, but they are meant to be there,” Ms. Browning said, standing over a 3-foot-by-5-foot trench and pointing at three large stones in a neat line about two feet down. “The problem is, in a small trench like this, you only ever get a little snapshot.”

The excavations so far have been on private land, and although the site is considered a historical monument, under English law that doesn’t give the public a right to gain access to it. The group had permission from the property owners to explore with trenches and then refill, but they had a tight weekend-long window because the owners planned to soon pave over this grassy stretch.

“It’s just interesting to see how this will all piece together,” said James Mabbitt, 42, a volunteer who has lived in Collyweston for the past decade, as he stood in a trench, measuring stones possibly from Tudor times.

His wife, Melissa, 43, and their young daughter wandered by, along with other villagers curious about the work. “For a tiny place, it’s got this amazing history,” Ms. Mabbitt said, excitement in her voice. She noted that ancient Roman ruins had also recently been found nearby. “I think it has captured the local community spirit.”

By late afternoon, the volunteers paused for snacks and cups of tea as they chatted about their finds. Mr. Close congratulated them on uncovering the “clearest evidence to date” of palace buildings.

“I’ve been asked, ‘Why do you get involved in something like this?’” he said. “Look, one day, when everybody departs this world, you can say that you helped to find a Tudor palace.”

When a Tale of Migration Is Not Just Fiction

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Reporting from a movie screening in Guédiawaye, a suburb of Dakar, Senegal.

The two teenagers on the screen trudging through the endless dunes of the Sahara on their way to Europe were actors. So were the fellow migrants tortured in a bloodstained Libyan prison.

But to the young man watching the movie one recent evening in a suburb of Dakar, Senegal’s capital, the cinematic ordeal felt all too real. His two brothers had undertaken the same journey years ago.

“This is why they refused to send me money to take that route,” said Ahmadou Diallo, 18, a street cleaner. “Because they had seen firsthand how dangerous it is.”

Critics in the West have praised the film “Io Capitano” — nominated for the 2024 Academy Award for best international feature film — noting its visceral yet tender look at migration to Europe from Africa. It is now showing in African countries, and is hitting close to home in Senegal. That’s where the two main characters in the movie embark on an odyssey that epitomizes the dreams and hardships of countless more hoping to make it abroad.

Last month, the film’s crew and its director, Matteo Garrone, took “Io Capitano” to a dozen places in Senegal where migration isn’t fiction. They screened it in youth centers, in schools, even on a basketball court turned outdoor movie theater in Guédiawaye, a suburb of Dakar, where Mr. Diallo and hundreds of others watched it at sunset on a big screen.

“Io Capitano” tells the story of Seydou and Moussa, two endearing cousins who leave Dakar after months of planning, spending all of the savings they earned through straining work on a construction site.

But what begins as an exciting road trip quickly turns into a perilous expedition as the teenagers find themselves in the hands of careless smugglers, then under the control of armed robbers and cruel jailers, before they reach the deadliest step of their travels, the crossing of the Mediterranean.

Seydou, the lead character, ends up captaining the ship taking them and hundreds of other migrants to Italy. The movie never shows them reaching the shore, but when a helicopter from the Italian coast guard hovers over the boat, the viewer is tempted to believe that they will be rescued and that part of their troubles are over.

On the basketball court, some gasped in horror when bandits opened fire on a group of migrants on the screen. Others hid their eyes with their head scarves during scenes of torture.

“People know there’s a risk to lose their lives” in seeking to migrate to Europe, Mr. Garrone said. “But they haven’t seen what it’s like.”

Senegal’s youth make up the majority of its 17 million people, but its fast-growing economy has struggled to offer them jobs with decent pay. Thousands leave every year through the Sahara and the Atlantic Ocean, and deadly accidents are frequent. Increasingly, those who can afford it fly to Central America, hoping to reach the United States that way.

Senegal’s new president, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, has promised to improve the economy by financing small businesses and strengthening traineeships in farming, fishing and industrial jobs. Natural gas and oil reserves are expected to turn the tiny coastal country into a hydrocarbon power in Africa.

But in Guédiawaye, where newly built houses sit on sandy streets next to crumbling shelters filled with flies and no access to running water, many young men said they weren’t expecting major changes.

Mr. Diallo, the street cleaner, said he wanted to join his brothers in Paris. He showed videos on his phone of himself and dozens of others in the Atlantic last summer, during one of his two previous — and unsuccessful — attempts to reach Europe.

A few feet away, Barra Gassama, 18, watched “Io Capitano” with sometimes teary eyes. A decade ago, he said, he picked up the phone at home to hear from a stranger that his older brother had died on his way to Spain. “That call changed our lives,” he said in a whisper. “This reminds me so much of him,” he added, staring at the screen.

Despite his brother’s death, Mr. Gassama’s mother later encouraged him to try to leave, too. But he said he had instead chosen to try to make it at home, working hard as a baker, earning up to $6 a day, six days a week.

In the movie, Seydou and Moussa leave Dakar without telling their families. But some of those watching the film said they were having open conversations with their relatives about migration.

Pape Alioune Ngom, 18, a welder, said a few hours before the screening that he was trying to persuade his parents to let him go to Europe. He swore that he wouldn’t leave without their blessing. “What’s there for us here?” he asked. “We all have migration in mind.”

Studies have shown that people aspiring to migrate often ignore warnings about the dangers of trying to enter countries illegally. But Mr. Garrone, the director, said the movie wasn’t intended to persuade people not to undertake the trip.

“I’m mostly hoping to help young people in Senegal realize that once they’ve left their home, they become part of a system that they can’t really get out of,” he said.

To depict the system of smugglers and exploitation, Mr. Garrone worked with Mamadou Kouassi, a social worker now working with migrants in Italy, who spent three and a half years trying to reach Europe from his native Ivory Coast. Mr. Kouassi’s experiences inspired most of Seydou’s and Moussa’s story line in the movie.

Mr. Kouassi also attended the screening, where he stared at the spectators who were laughing at the two young heroes trying to hide cash inside their bodies before beginning their trek through the Sahara.

“They have no idea how Europe and Italy are treating us on the other side,” Mr. Kouassi said.

The first tragedy in the movie followed shortly after, when a migrant fell off a pickup truck and the driver kept racing in the desert, to the horror of the other passengers grabbing onto wooden sticks to avoid meeting the same fate.

The audience fell silent.

Seydou Sarr, 19, and Moustapha Fall, 20, the two actors who play the cousins in the movie, have been touring film festivals in the West, wearing designer clothes at the Oscars and chilling in luxury hotels across Europe, a world away from the lives in Senegal they themselves left a few years ago. Their journey was a little different; they were cast in the film in Dakar, and later moved to Italy, where Mr. Garrone lives.

Mr. Sarr, who won the best young actor award at the Venice Film Festival, said he wanted to continue acting.

For now, they both live in Rome with Mr. Garrone’s mother, and Mr. Garrone said he worried about them. “They get up at 3 p.m., and my mother does the cooking and everything for them,” he said. “They’re kids.”

After the screening, Ndeye Khady Sy, the actress starring as Seydou’s mother, urged the audience to stay in Senegal. “You can succeed here,” she said.

But Mr. Ngom, the welder, had left the basketball grounds.

So had Mr. Diallo, the street cleaner, who said he would try reaching Europe for the third time this summer.

Ukrainian Activist Traces Roots of War in ‘Centuries of Russian Colonization’

On a recent afternoon in Kyiv, a professor of literature and a stand-up comedian ​got together to talk about Russian colonialism, a subject that has become ​a preoccupation among Ukrainian activists, cultural figures and bookstore owners.

​The moderator of the discussion, which was recorded for a new podcast for Ukraine’s national public broadcaster, was Mariam Naiem, a graphic designer and former philosophy student who has become an unlikely expert on the topic.

“This war is just the continuation of centuries of Russian colonization,” said Ms. Naiem, 32, ​referring to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. “It’s the same playbook.”

Russia’s long cultural and political domination of Ukraine, first through its empire and then the Soviet Union, had left an indelible mark, the podcast guests agreed, as they lamented being more fluent in Russian poems and films than in their own nation’s cultural treasures.

The goal of the podcast, Ms. Naiem said, was to solve this problem and “talk about our personal and social path of decolonization.”

It may have seemed an odd moment of cultural introspection in a war-battered country with urgent problems like how to repel Russian troops advancing along the front line.

But Ms. Naiem and many Ukrainians say that to understand Russia’s war in Ukraine — and its trail of razed cities, displaced children and looted museums — it is crucial to examine how Russia has long exerted its influence over their country.

The daughter of a Ukrainian mother and an Afghan father, Ms. Naiem is emblematic of a new generation of Ukrainians who, since Moscow invaded in February 2022, have been trying to rebuild their identity free of Russian influence. Much of this effort has focused on examining Russia’s history in Ukraine and highlighting its colonial imprint.

They have read famous theorists of decolonization like Edward Said and Frantz Fanon, talked of “decolonizing Ukraine” in Harvard lecture halls and gone on book tours around Europe to press their case.

Ms. Naiem has emerged as a leading voice in this movement. She studied philosophy at the Kyiv-based Taras Shevchenko National University and has also done a stint as a researcher with Jason Stanley, a professor of philosophy at Yale University.

Last year, she hosted an award-winning podcast on the theoretical foundations of Russian colonialism. In addition to the new podcast she is currently recording, she is now writing a book to help Ukrainians “decolonize” themselves, she said.

“She has seriously influenced me intellectually,” Mr. Stanley told Babel.ua, a Ukrainian online news outlet, last year. He added that she convinced him that Ukraine’s post-colonial history was not being studied enough and that “it should be changed.”

That is not an easy task. To call Russia a colonial empire is to challenge decades of scholarship that has shied away from viewing Russia’s history through a colonial prism. Russia’s shared history with Ukraine is complex and less marked by relations of racial hierarchy and economic subjugation typical of colonialism, many scholars have argued.

But Ms. Naiem and others say Russia’s centuries-long efforts to impose its language on Ukraine, occupy its territory with settlers and rewrite its history from Moscow’s perspective are all hallmarks of colonialism.

Ms. Naiem said it took the war for Ukrainians to take stock of this legacy and finally begin to “decolonize” themselves. She cited the example of the many people who have switched from speaking Russian to Ukrainian.

“This is exactly a decolonial act,” she said.

While many Ukrainians have devoted their time to raising money for the army or rebuilding destroyed houses, Ms. Naiem’s activism has been more intellectual, focused on deconstructing Russian influences, including those that shaped her.

She was born into a Russian-speaking family in Kyiv in 1992. Her father was a former education minister in Afghanistan who left Kabul after the Soviet invasion in 1979. She has two brothers, Mustafa, a leading figure of Ukraine’s 2014 Maidan revolution, and Masi, who lost an eye fighting Russian troops in 2022.

When she grew up in a newly independent Ukraine in the 1990s, the country’s cultural scene was dominated by Russian music, TV shows and books.

At school, classes were in Ukrainian, but “it wasn’t cool” to speak it in the playground, she said. Russian literature was also “cooler” than Ukrainian literature, she recalled thinking, “more mysterious, more complicated.” Some of the novels she read belittled Ukrainians as uneducated people.

“Turgenev pushed me to consider myself more Russian than Ukrainian,” Ms. Naiem wrote on Instagram two years ago, referring to the 19th-century Russian novelist. “Because I didn’t want to be that funny Ukrainian.”

It took Ms. Naiem many years, and many new books, to shake off these views.

During the pandemic, she buried herself in “Imperial Knowledge: Russian Literature and Colonialism,” a book by the Polish American scholar Ewa Thompson that argues that writers like Pushkin and Tolstoy helped legitimized Russia’s colonial ambitions.

“I realized that centuries of colonialism had seeped into my mind,” Ms. Naiem said.

After the Russian invasion, she wrote about her research on her Instagram page, which is followed by 22,000 people, arguing that Russia’s efforts to erase Ukrainian culture and identity are rooted in a long history of colonialism.

Her posts attracted attention and persuaded her to spread the word further. In addition to her podcasting, she has given interviews to Ukrainian media on colonialism and filled her Instagram page with more posts, questioning, for example, the place of Mikhail Bulgakov, a Kyiv-born Soviet writer who ridiculed Ukrainians, in Ukrainian school curricula.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

On a recent afternoon at a music festival in Kyiv, a passer-by thanked her for her efforts, one of several people that day who told her they had learned a lot from her podcasts.

Still, much of her time remains spent trying to convince people that talking of Russian colonialism is relevant.

Volodymyr Yermolenko, a Ukrainian philosopher, said the topic had long been viewed with skepticism.

Unlike Western colonies, which were often far-distant, overseas places, Russian colonies were adjacent territories, he said. Russian colonialism also never made racial exclusion a core policy, he added. Instead, it was based on the no-less violent “idea of sameness,” meaning that the colonized should surrender their identity and adopt the norms of the colonizer.

Mr. Yermolenko said colonial motives were evident in President Vladimir V. Putin’s claim that Ukrainians and Russians were “one people.”

“People long didn’t want to hear about Russian colonialism,” Mr. Yermolenko said. “Only now are we kind of seeing the first steps of intellectual debunking.”

Since Russia’s invasion began, some scholars have described it as a “colonial war” or one of recolonization. President Emmanuel Macron, who himself has had to confront the legacy of French colonialism, has accused Russia of being “one of the last colonial imperial powers.”

Ukrainian authorities have also launched efforts to break free of Russian influences, such as toppling Soviet-era statues and banning Russian place names. But they have stopped short of calling it a process of “decolonization,” to Ms. Naiem’s frustration.

“We’re doing the cake without the recipe,” she said. “We need the recipe.”

Still, she is pleased that a discussion about Russian colonialism has taken root.

On a recent afternoon in central Kyiv, Ms. Naiem stepped into a large bookstore and stared at a long table covered with recently published books.

“Let’s see how many are about colonialism,” she said.

“This one, this one,” she said, as she grabbed book after book — one on Russia’s dominance of Ukrainian cultural life, another about rebellious Ukrainian writers of the 1960s — and piled them up on a corner of the table.

After a few minutes, the pile had grown to 21 books.

From the I.R.A. to the Principal’s Office, a Life’s Evolution Echoes Belfast’s

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Jim McCann, the vice principal of St. Joseph’s Primary School, made his way through the hallways, pointing like a proud father to the colorful paper butterflies crafted by his students that hung from the ceiling.

He cheerfully greeted each child by name as he passed them. Then he stuck his head into a classroom, where the students addressed him in unison, “Good afternoon, Mr. McCann!”

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Meet the One Man Everyone Trusts on U.K. Election Nights

When Britain votes in a general election on July 4, one person will likely know the outcome before anyone else.

John Curtice, a professor of political science at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, will spend Election Day with his team, honing the findings of a national exit poll. At 10 p.m., before any results have been counted, he will make a big, bold prediction that will be announced on national television: the winner.

“The lovely thing about the period between 10 o’clock and 11.30 p.m. is that nobody knows!” said Professor Curtice with a grin, raising his hands into the air. “It’s that moment when we don’t really have a government.”

While he is right that no one will know the final tally until results roll in from Britain’s 650 constituencies, in the past six general elections his team’s exit poll has proved strikingly accurate, correctly predicting the largest party every time. In five of the six, the margin of error for that forecast was five parliamentary seats or fewer.

That record is part of what has made this 70-year-old professor, with his formidable intellect, unruly tufts of white hair and infectious enthusiasm, an unlikely media star. But his beloved status in Britain goes deeper. He’s frank and scrupulously nonpartisan, making him a rarity in an age of polarization — a trusted source of information across the political spectrum.

“I try to speak in human. I am trying to speak in ways that the general public will understand,” he told The New York Times over a frugal tuna sandwich lunch in the atrium beneath the BBC’s Westminster studios.

“Sometimes I kick one party and other times I kick the other,” he said. “And usually I kick both of them.”

In February, as broadcasters awaited the results of special elections in two parliamentary districts, Professor Curtice was in front of the TV lights at 10 p.m. as a BBC News producer adjusted his earpiece.

His analysis was characteristically fluent, as were the 20 or so other interviews he completed through a night of TV appearances that stretched into breakfast time the following day.

Fueled by coffee and a bowl of porridge consumed around 6 a.m. in the BBC cafeteria, he then strode off to the broadcaster’s radio studios, continuing a media blitz that ended at 4 p.m. It was an exhausting, exhilarating stint of 18 hours.

“You don’t have time to think about going to sleep — it’s adrenaline, it’s intellectual excitement, it’s an intellectual challenge,” he said.

He comes prepared, however, his laptop brimming with data from previous elections, records that may or may not be broken, and his thinking for how he can summarize the most likely scenarios.

Professor Curtice’s first political memory is of the election of Harold Wilson as leader of the opposition Labour Party in 1963. He was 9 years old. A year later, he was allowed to stay up late on general election night, when Mr. Wilson won a small majority, bringing Labour to power for the first time in 13 years.

“Don’t ask me why, I just found it interesting,” he said.

He was raised in Cornwall, on the rugged coastline of southwest England. His father worked in construction, his mother a part-time market researcher and the family was prosperous enough to own a detached house with a large garden (but no central heating).

At Oxford University, where he studied politics, philosophy and economics, Professor Curtice was a contemporary of Tony Blair, who went on to become prime minister, but their paths did not cross. While Mr. Blair played in a rock band called Ugly Rumours, a young Professor Curtice was a choral scholar who spent two hours a day at evensong.

As a postgraduate, he was urged to become “statistically literate” by his mentor, David Butler, a towering figure in British political science who ran the nation’s first exit poll in 1970.

His first TV election night appearance was in 1979, the night Margaret Thatcher came to power. Armed with a calculator he had programmed himself, he provided Professor Butler with statistical backup in case the BBC’s mainframe computer went down.

It was exit polls, however, that really made Prof. Curtice’s name. His first involvement was in 1992, which he later told The Guardian was “not a happy experience” because the poll predicted a hung Parliament instead of the modest majority of 21 that John Major won for the Conservatives.

Since 2001, a new model he created with David Firth, another academic, has improved the accuracy of the forecasts, sometimes to the discomfort of politicians. In 2015, Paddy Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader, promised to eat his hat if the exit poll prediction that his party would retain only 10 of its nearly 60 seats proved correct. In fact it won fewer. On a TV show the following night, Mr. Ashdown was handed a hat-shaped chocolate cake.

These days, the exit poll is jointly commissioned by three national broadcasters — the BBC, ITV and Sky News. On July 4, tens of thousands of voters around the country will be handed a mock ballot paper on their way out of polling stations and asked to mark in private how they voted.

In 2017, the poll correctly predicted that, instead of increasing her majority in Parliament, as she and many analysts expected, Theresa May had lost it. In 2019, the projected size of Boris Johnson’s majority was off by just three seats.

Professor Curtice is not complacent, however, and notes that upsets are always possible — as in 2015, when the exit poll projected a hung Parliament, but David Cameron scraped a thin majority. “People think there is some magic, but we are only as good as the data,” Professor Curtice said.

Exit polls are trickiest when elections are close. This time, the Conservative Party, which has held power for 14 years, has lagged the opposition Labour Party in opinion polls by about 20 points for 18 months. While such leads usually narrow in the final weeks of a campaign, the Conservatives would need to make modern electoral history to win.

Professor Curtice puts their chances of forming the next government at less than 5 percent — “the point at which statisticians go: it’s very, very highly improbable.” He adds that this is partly because, even if the Conservatives beat expectations and the outcome is a hung Parliament, they lack allies who would keep them in power as a minority government.

Honored with a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in 2017, Professor Curtice is now famous enough that strangers greet him in the street. His name trends on social media on election nights, and there’s a tribute account on X dedicated to tracking his media appearances called, “Is Sir John Curtice On TV?” (Right now, the answer is often “Yes.”)

Could this be his last general election TV appearance? That, he said, is something he will consider after the vote. “If the next election is in five years, I will be 75, and who knows?”

He has other interests: a passion for classical music, church, family and tending a community garden in Glasgow.

But for now, the country needs him. “There are a lot of experts who know a lot but can’t translate that in a way that is clear to the audience,” said BBC News anchor Nicky Schiller after interviewing Professor Curtice on the night of the February special elections. And, he added, “He’s a joy to work with.”

The Architect Who Made Singapore’s Public Housing the Envy of the World

The high-rise apartments — some with panoramic views of Singapore’s tropical cityscape — are airy, light-filled and spacious enough to comfortably raise a family. They are also public housing units, and for decades, were emphatically affordable, giving Singapore an enviable rate of homeownership.

Now, however, at least a few of the apartments are being sold at a price that would have been unthinkable not long ago: more than $1 million.

“I’m sad to see that — because public housing must equal affordability,” said Liu Thai Ker, the urban planner who gets much of the credit for creating the country’s widely lauded approach to housing its citizens.

Now 86, Mr. Liu is considered the architect of modern Singapore because of his role overseeing the development of about half of the more than one million apartments that make up public housing in the small and exceptionally prosperous city-state of 5.6 million people.

But in the 1960s, the country’s economic standing was starkly different. Three out of four residents lived in overcrowded and filthy slums, in ramshackle houses with tin walls known as “squatters.”

At that time, Mr. Liu was working in the New York office of the architect I.M. Pei. He had recently graduated from Yale University with a master’s degree in city planning.

“After four years, I felt that America really did not need me, they had way too many architects,” he said. “So I started thinking about coming back.”

He returned in 1969, accepting a job as head of the design and research unit at Singapore’s Housing and Development Board.

One of his main jobs was to create “new towns,” or planned urban centers, for Singapore, even though no could explain how that would look. So he had to figure it out.

With some research, he decided the new Singapore would include highly self-sufficient neighborhoods with schools, shops, outdoor food stalls and playgrounds.

Mr. Liu also wanted to avoid the kind of public housing he had seen in the United States and Europe, where apartments face one another with a central corridor with little light. People with low incomes were living cheek by jowl, creating what he called “ a concentration of poverty.”

He also wanted to spur a sense of community among residents. To figure out how to do that, he asked sociologists to estimate how many families should live in proximity to maximize social interactions. Six to eight was the answer, so each corridor would share six to eight units; that way, neighbors could mingle.

As the public housing following his vision began to be built — and its success to be recognized — Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime minister, gave Mr. Liu an ambitious goal: resettle everyone still living in the slums by 1982.

By 1985, virtually every Singaporean had a home.

“He used to tell me that the symptoms of a backward city are: one, homeless people; two, traffic jams; three, flooding; and four, polluted air,” Mr. Liu said of Mr. Lee, Singapore’s founding father.

In the Singapore led by Mr. Lee — who was both criticized for suppressing freedoms and celebrated for transforming the country into a global economic power — public housing was about furthering his government’s agenda, as well as putting a roof over people’s heads.

The government linked these affordable flats to its pro-family policies; to support for the ruling People’s Action Party; and to further integration.

In 1989, a year before he stepped down as prime minister, Mr. Lee’s government enacted a policy requiring each block or neighborhood to have a balanced mix of the main ethnic groups in the city — Chinese, Malay and Indian. The goal was to prevent racial enclaves.

Mr. Liu said he supported the idea of integration because of the violent racial conflicts that had occurred around the time Singapore became independent, in 1965.

“In the West, the experts condemned it as social engineering because you’re interfering with the freedom of individuals,” Mr. Liu said. “But we did that — and succeeded.”

Mr. Liu was 6 when he arrived in Singapore in 1944 from Malaysia. His father, Liu Kang, was an accomplished artist in Shanghai who fled to Malaysia during World War II.

After his mother asked him to study architecture to help the family earn money, Mr. Liu obtained a scholarship and enrolled in a part-time course at the University of New South Wales in Australia, where he worked and studied at the same time. He graduated with first-class honors.

Mr. Liu then headed to Yale, where after graduation he was offered a choice to go to Harvard to further study urban design or to work with I.M. Pei. He chose the latter.

It was a crucial milestone in his life. From Mr. Pei, Mr. Liu learned the importance of “flow” and “harmony” in designing buildings, he said, concepts that he put into practice in Singapore.

From 1989 to 1992, Mr. Liu was chief executive and chief planner of Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority. In 1991, he created the “Concept Plan,” dividing Singapore into five regions, making each one a small city unto its own, so people didn’t have to leave an area to go shopping or see a doctor.

“The level of convenience that we experience in Singapore today is largely due to Dr. Liu and his team,” said Heng Chye Kiang, the provost’s professor at the College of Design and Engineering at the National University of Singapore.

After leaving the public sector, Mr. Liu did urban planning work in roughly 60 Chinese cities, including Fuzhou, where he met the highest ranking local official, a man by the name of Xi Jinping. Mr. Xi asked him to design the Fuzhou airport, a project that Mr. Liu initially turned down because he had not done an airport before.

Several months later, Mr. Xi, China’s future leader, came to Singapore and asked Mr. Liu to reconsider, according to Mr. Liu. This time, he agreed.

At 79, Mr. Liu started his own consultancy and is now advising Fiji and the governments of Sichuan and Guangdong in China on urban planning. He works five days a week, which, he says, “slows down the aging process of my brain and my body.”

Mr. Liu said one of his main tasks when working for the government on public housing was ensuring that prices would “rise, but slowly,” so homeowners felt they were “in possession of something with commercial value.” But he also wanted to make sure that prices not rise too fast to “make public housing unaffordable.”

Even though record prices on the secondary market have heightened anxiety about the rising costs of living in Singapore, one of the world’s most expensive cities, public housing remains broadly affordable — at least for those who qualify for government subsidies to buy units.

Today, close to 80 percent of Singapore’s residents live in public housing, and about 90 percent of the units are owned on a 99-year lease.

In a statement, Singapore’s Housing and Development Board said: “The government remains committed to ensuring that public housing remains affordable to Singaporeans.” The million-dollar apartments sold on the secondary market, government officials have said, make up a minuscule fraction of total transactions; as of May, 54 such apartments have sold for more than $1 million.

Families buying in the secondary market are given housing grants of up to roughly $140,000 but they have to meet an income ceiling.

Starting in the second half of this year, singles 35 and older will be eligible to buy a one-bedroom apartment from the government in any location; before the new rule, they had been restricted to certain areas.

Mr. Liu said Singapore’s model could be replicated in other countries, but he acknowledged that his path was smoothed by the government enforcing a law allowing it to buy land at market prices, which made it easier for him to obtain plots for development.

“Most other democratic countries will have difficulty to do that because the landowners will protest,” Mr. Liu said.

Asked about any regrets, Mr. Liu mentioned two: He should have created bicycle paths for the city, he said, and “preserved a few hectares of the squatter huts with the dirt roads and so on for the younger generation to see.”

He added: “Then they would really know how far we’ve traveled.”

First, He Conquered Paris. Now, a Japanese Chef Wants to Become a Brand.

In cooking, timing is everything. So much so that if the chef Kei Kobayashi spots diners heading to the restroom as he sends a dish out from the kitchen, he stops them. Nature’s call can wait; his culinary offerings should be tasted at peak flavor.

Such imperiousness and exactitude align with what Mr. Kobayashi, the first Japanese chef to earn three Michelin stars for a restaurant in Paris, said he had learned from one of his earliest mentors in France: The chef is king.

“Unless you commit to your worldview to this extent, you won’t be able to be a chef,” Mr. Kobayashi, 46, said during a recent interview in Tokyo.

Having earned his third star — the maximum — for his Restaurant Kei in Paris in 2020, he has now expanded his ambitions back to Japan, where he has opened four restaurants over the past two years.

The goal, Mr. Kobayashi said, is to become a brand. In that sense he seems to be emulating Alain Ducasse, at whose now-closed Paris restaurant, Plaza Athénée, Mr. Kobayashi worked before opening his own in 2011.

He also joins a line of creative Japanese — including the artists Yayoi Kusama and Takashi Murakami — who first found fame outside their homeland.

Mastering the art of French cooking has become something of a Japanese specialty. In Tokyo, which has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world, four of the dozen restaurants awarded three stars feature French cuisine.

Mr. Kobayashi wants to show how French food can evolve with seasonal Japanese ingredients, he said in the interview, just hours before the official opening of Kei Collection Paris, his new restaurant on the top floor of the Toranomon Hills Station Tower in Tokyo.

At Kei Collection, he has sneaked some classic Japanese comfort dishes onto the menu, including curry and breaded beef cutlet, alongside fancier items like butter-roasted large clams, smoked bonito with white cheese foam, or delicate hand rolls of tuna and caviar.

Scenes from Kei Collection Paris. Clockwise, from top left, snow crab; preparing a place setting; smoked blue lobster; and Akagi wagyu fillet. Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times

For the restaurant’s opening, Mr. Kobayashi, his hair dyed platinum blonde, wore a traditional chef’s double-breasted white coat embroidered with three Michelin stars over black trousers and green suede New Balance sneakers. An Audemars Piguet watch was strapped to his wrist.

He spoke modestly, rejecting descriptors like “first class” or “genius” and saying he never allowed himself to think he had reached the pinnacle of cooking. But Mr. Kobayashi appeared coiled and a little aloof, belying his humble words.

His uncompromising approach is embodied by what he said was his favorite French phrase: “aller plus loin” — go further.

“If you make a compromise, or think ‘OK, this is good,’ then it is time to quit,” he said.

His attention to detail extends beyond the food. “He cares about the furniture selection and the interior, the softness of the sofa,” said Tadashi Nobira, manager of Esprit C. Kei Ginza, another one of Mr. Kobayashi’s new restaurants in Tokyo. “He cares to the last centimeter.”

Just minutes before a guest arrived for a solo lunch with the chef on opening day at Kei Collection earlier this spring, Mr. Kobayashi was adjusting the volume of a curated jazz collection playing in the dining room.

Mr. Kobayashi grew up in Nagano in central Japan, where his father worked as a chef. His mother cooked homemade meals every night, including his favorite, curry rice. But Mr. Kobayashi said he did not learn to cook from either of them.

Instead it was a documentary about the French chef Alain Chapel that first captivated Mr. Kobayashi, who envied the chef’s crisp white jacket. Forgoing high school, he took a job at a local French restaurant, where, as he recalled, he spent four years in which “the chef just kept getting mad at me.”

At 19, Mr. Kobayashi moved to Tokyo to work for Ikuo Shimizu, a mostly self-taught chef who gave his apprentice basic training in how to work with meat and fish.

“He was very mischievous, but he had a strong backbone,” Mr. Shimizu said in an interview at his eight-seat restaurant in a quiet neighborhood in Tokyo, where he serves rustic French meals. “I thought he was really an artisan. He was particular about the details, like the shape of the knives and how to sharpen them.”

Having fixated on French cuisine, Mr. Kobayashi decided he needed to move to France. An acquaintance helped him land a job at Auberge du Vieux Puits in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, where he worked for four years under the tutelage of the chef Gilles Goujon, who has also earned three Michelin stars.

In a video interview, Mr. Goujon said he was immediately struck by the young cook with bleached hair.

With a touch of stereotyping about Japanese prowess, Mr. Goujon first assigned Mr. Kobayashi to the fish station, instructing him with gestures and cookbook illustrations. Even on days off, “he wanted to come and work,” Mr. Goujon said. “So we had to lock the restaurant so he could go and rest.”

After two seasons at the fish station, Mr. Kobayashi tried to convince his boss that he had developed allergies and needed to switch to meat and game. Mr. Goujon was amused, and he eventually moved Mr. Kobayashi to the meat station to learn how to debone birds, deer and wild boar.

Mr. Kobayashi also worked briefly at a patisserie in Provence and at a restaurant in Brittany. The latter didn’t go well, he said. “At the time, there was a movement to make French cuisine more scientific, and I didn’t agree with that,” he said. “I went to learn Breton cuisine, not science.”

He worked at Mr. Ducasse’s Plaza Athénée for seven years before going out on his own, buying a restaurant whose chef was retiring.

“Maybe I was stupid,” he said, “but I figured the cooking would work itself out.” He was worried, however, about whether he could support the staff he was hiring, who “were putting their lives on the line.”

Within a year, he earned his first Michelin star; the second came five years later. After the third, he decided to make the move back to Japan.

In addition to Kei Collection Paris and Esprit C. Kei Ginza, Mr. Kobayashi has opened a restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Tokyo and one in Gotemba, near Mount Fuji. The Gotemba and Ginza restaurants are collaborations with Toraya, a centuries-old Japanese confectionary company.

With Mr. Kobayashi spending most of his time in Paris, he handpicked chefs to run the kitchens at the new Japanese restaurants, relying on them to develop dishes based on local ingredients.

Teruki Murashima, 50, the chef de cuisine at Héritage by Kei Kobayashi at the Ritz, said he talked frequently by phone with Mr. Kobayashi and sent him photos of dishes and lists of ingredients.

“We both may make completely different dishes with the same ingredients,” Mr. Murashima said in an interview at the Ritz. “But we know that about each other, and we respect each other.”

Still, Mr. Murashima said, Mr. Kobayashi is “very particular about certain things, and really gets quite angry if things don’t reach his standards.”

At times, Mr. Kobayashi is prone to remind customers of those standards. If a diner takes out a cellphone to snap a picture of a dish, said Mr. Nobira, the Ginza restaurant manager, Mr. Kobayashi might appear at the table, encouraging the customer to take a bite right away instead.

Is he, then, a king? “I might be close to one,” he said.

Ségolène Le Stradic contributed reporting from Paris.

The Capital of Women’s Soccer

A little more than an hour before the game begins, the gates outside the Johan Cruyff Stadium swing open and a thousand or so fans rush inside. Some scurry to the turnstiles. Others wait patiently at the merchandise stalls, anxious to buy a jersey, a scarf, a commemorative trinket.

The busiest and longest line, though, forms outside a booth offering fans the chance to have a photo taken with their heroes. Within a couple of minutes, it snakes all the way back to the entrance, populated by doting parents and spellbound preteens hoping they arrived in time.

They have come to see the most dominant women’s soccer team on the planet. Barcelona Femení has been Spanish champion every year since 2019. It has not lost a league game since last May, a run during which eight of its players also lifted the Women’s World Cup. On Saturday, the team can win its third Women’s Champions League title, which crowns the best professional team in Europe, in four seasons.

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The Premier League’s Asterisk Season

With five minutes left in his team’s penultimate game of the Premier League season, Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola found the tension just a little too much. As a rival striker bore down on his team’s goal, Guardiola — crouching on his haunches on the sideline — lost his balance and toppled over onto his back.

Lying on the grass and expecting the worst, he missed what may yet prove to be the pivotal moment in the Premier League’s most enthralling title race in a decade.

But the striker did not score. His effort was parried by goalkeeper Stefan Ortega, sending Manchester City above its title rival Arsenal in the standings and positioning it, if it can win again on Sunday, to become the first English team to win four consecutive championships.

“Ortega saved us,” Guardiola said afterward. “Otherwise, Arsenal is champion.”

That the destiny of the championship should have been determined only so late in the season seems fitting for what has, on the surface, been a vintage Premier League campaign.

All of that drama, though, comes with a figurative asterisk. This season’s Premier League has been defined as much by turbulence off the field — points deductions, internecine bickering, legal disputes, fraud accusations and the looming threat of government intervention — as it has been by City’s (eventual) smooth sailing through it.

For the first time, the Premier League this season was forced to strip points in the standings from two of its member clubs for breaches of financial regulations. One of them, Everton, was punished twice, prompting outrage from its fans. Appeals then kicked off a long, opaque legal process that left not just those teams but also their rivals mired in months of uncertainty.

Behind the scenes, the uneasy peace between the 20 clubs that act as the league’s owners and operators has essentially shattered, shaking the foundations that allowed the competition to grow so popular that it is now, arguably, Britain’s most powerful cultural export.

There have been fierce disagreements about financial rules, about how much of the Premier League’s wealth should be shared with the rest of English soccer, about the legitimacy of some teams’ commercial revenue.

That has led to growing intramural lawfare: Manchester City has threatened legal action over sponsorships by companies affiliated with the club’s Emirati owners, and Burnley has sought legal advice as it contemplates a claim for tens of millions of dollars in compensation for its costly relegation during the period when Everton was in breach of financial regulations.

More troubling still, to fans and clubs alike, is that it has been 15 months since Manchester City was accused of 115 violations of the league’s financial rules over a series of title-winning seasons.

Manchester City has always declined to discuss the Premier League’s charges, which it has labeled an “organized” attempt to smear its reputation, and has repeatedly said it has a “comprehensive body of irrefutable proof” of its innocence.

The Premier League declined to respond this week, pointing to its longstanding policy of not commenting on ongoing cases involving its members, but those fights have become an expensive endeavor: Its legal costs, for multiple cases, now run into the double-digit millions.

Casting a shadow above it all, at least as far as the Premier League is concerned, is an effort by the British government to introduce a soccer regulator to ensure that clubs are run sustainably by reliable, reputable owners.

When the idea was first proposed three years ago, in the aftermath of an attempt by some leading clubs to form a breakaway European Super League, the Premier League offered a cautious welcome. It engaged with lawmakers as they sought ideas on what form a regulator might take.

That stance has changed substantially. The league has lobbied consistently to try to limit the role of the regulator, advertising frequently in a suite of political newsletters. Richard Masters, the Premier League’s chief executive, recently suggested that any government regulation threatened to “undermine the Premier League’s global success” by deterring potential investors in the game.

In an open letter to The Times of London, he suggested that regulation might wound “the goose that provides English football’s golden egg.”

“The big fear is that investment will dry up,” said Christina Philippou, a lecturer in sports finance at the University of Portsmouth who has advised lawmakers drafting the regulator’s role. “A regulator does make a certain type of investment less likely. But making it more sustainable, limiting losses, makes another — maybe better — type of investment more likely.”

Whether the Premier League is sufficiently unified to meet all of the challenges it faces, though, is up for debate. The league is run as a collective: Each club has a single vote, regardless of its size or longevity, and for any motion to pass, it must attract the support of 14 of the 20 clubs.

For years, that led to what Dr. Philippou characterized as a “clear split” between the so-called Big Six — Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchesters City and United, and Tottenham, whose interests ordinarily aligned — and everyone else. The picture now is far more complex. “There are lots of cliques and a lot of tension,” she said.

Though the league has been able to reach unanimity on certain issues — the need for a new set of financial regulations and improvements to video refereeing — the atmosphere at its meetings is now more charged, according to several executives who attend the gatherings but declined to be named while discussing private conversations.

What were once relatively cordial rivalries have calcified into something more vitriolic, those executives said. The authority of the league itself, formerly absolute, is now frequently challenged. And some teams, they said, now routinely reserve one of the two seats each is assigned at the meetings for an in-house lawyer.

Most attribute that to the seismic, divisive issues the league has had to face in recent years, ranging from the coronavirus pandemic to a number of breakaway proposals and the spate of financial cases.

Others, though, believe that the shifting makeup of the league’s ownership group has played a role: Sovereign wealth funds and private equity groups are more willing to tolerate losses and less concerned with the overall health of the game than their predecessors.

“It will only get worse,” said Trevor East, a former television executive who was an architect of the original vision for the Premier League. “The integrity of the league is all-important, but they are going to be challenged at every opportunity in the future.”

The competitive spirit of the league has become a problem, too. Part of the controversy over the points deductions for Everton and another club, Nottingham Forest, was that the league did not have set penalties for financial offenses: Everton was initially stripped of 10 points, later reduced to six, but Forest only four.

That, though, was deliberate: In 2020, Premier League clubs voted not to enshrine specific tariffs in the league’s regulations, partly in the hope that uncertainty might act as a deterrent and partly out of a belief that certain teams would come to regard them merely as the cost of doing business.

That sort of short-term analysis, Dr. Philippou said, is typical of the thinking that has brought the Premier League to a point where the government can reasonably propose regulation. “It has always had a habit of concentrating on certain, immediate things,” she said of the league, “rather than looking at the actual problems and seeing what it needs to do to have competitive balance.”

That the league has shown itself willing to use its powers to punish its members can, to some executives, be seen as proof that the regulations have teeth: an administrative version of Voltaire’s observation that in England “it is good to kill an admiral from time to time, to encourage the others.”

Speaking to lawmakers this week, Mr. Masters acknowledged that this “has been a difficult period for the league” and that seeing their teams punished has been difficult for fans. “But if we have financial rules, we have to enforce them,” he said.

Few in soccer worry that the Premier League’s troubles will dim its appeal. Even the specter that Manchester City’s achievements may be tarnished might, in time, become just another compelling story line in a global soap opera.

The turbulence, though, seems likely to continue. Last month, Leicester City was promoted back to the Premier League after a season away. The club has already been charged with breaching financial rules during its last stay. It, too, is in line for a points deduction.

Andrew Das contributed reporting from London.

Soccer’s Governing Body Delays Vote on Palestinian Call to Bar Israel

FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, on Friday postponed a decision to temporarily suspend Israel over its actions during the conflict in Gaza, and in the West Bank, saying it needed to solicit legal advice before taking up a motion submitted by the Palestinian Football Association.

The motion calling for Israel’s suspension referred to “international law violations committed by the Israeli occupation in Palestine, particularly in Gaza,” and cited violations of FIFA’s human rights and discrimination statutes.

Responding to emotionally charged addresses at FIFA’s annual congress by the head of the Palestinian soccer body, Jibril Rajoub, FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, said the urgency of the situation meant he would convene an extraordinary meeting of FIFA’s top board on July 25.

Before that meeting, he said, FIFA will ask experts to analyze whether Israel’s actions breach the governing body’s regulations. By contrast, in 2022, FIFA acted quickly to bar Russian teams and clubs from competitions after the country’s forces launched a full-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

Mr. Rajoub has for years pursued sanctions against Israel and its teams over a variety of issues, including freedom of movement for Palestinian players and for allowing teams based in territory overseen by the Palestinian soccer federation to play in Israel’s domestic leagues. Since Israeli forces invaded Gaza last October in retaliation for the Hamas-led attacks on Oct. 7, all soccer infrastructure in the territory, including a historic stadium, has been destroyed, Mr. Rajoub said.

Israel’s soccer chief, Moshe Zuares, called the Palestinian motion “cynical.” But the possibility of even a temporary ban on its teams could have immediate consequences: Israel is set to compete in the men’s tournament at the Paris Olympics around the time of the FIFA meeting in July, and to begin qualifying for the 2026 men’s World Cup later this year.

Both Israeli and Palestinian officials had used the run-up to Friday’s congress to lobby officials from other national federations. A day earlier, at a meeting of Asian soccer’s governing body, members were shown a video showing the effects of the war in Gaza and then unanimously approved a decision to back the Palestinian federation’s motion.

Palestinian officials addressed FIFA’s 211 members twice during Friday’s meeting, and were followed by an official from Jordan who demanded action from FIFA.

While acknowledging the urgency of the matter, Mr. Infantino declined to call a vote. Instead, he said, the organization’s 37-member governing council would decide what to do in two months.

“FIFA will mandate as of now an independent legal expertise to assess the three requests made by the Palestinian Football Association and make sure that the status and regulations of FIFA are applied in the correct way,” he said.

Scandal Brought Reforms to Soccer. Its Leaders Are Rolling Them Back.

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The 12-page report was intended to save soccer’s governing body, FIFA, in its moment of existential crisis.

Filled with reform proposals and drawn up by more than a dozen soccer insiders in December 2015, the report was FIFA’s best chance to show business partners, U.S. investigators and billions of fans that it could be trusted again after one of the biggest corruption scandals in sports history.

In bullet points and numbered sections, the report championed high-minded ideas like accountability and humility. It also proposed concrete and, for FIFA, revolutionary changes: transparency in how major decisions were reached; term limits for top leaders and new limits on presidential power; and the abolition of well-funded committees widely viewed as a system of institutional graft.

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Ahead of Olympics, World Anti-Doping Agency Faces a Trust Crisis

Two months before the Olympics are scheduled to begin in Paris, the global agency tasked with policing doping in sports is facing a growing crisis as it fends off allegations it helped cover up the positive tests of elite Chinese swimmers who went on to compete — and win medals — at the last Summer Games.

The allegations are particularly vexing for the World Anti-Doping Agency, which has long billed itself as the gold standard in the worldwide movement for clean sports, because they raise the specter that the agency — and by extension the entire system set up to try to keep the Olympics clean — cannot be trusted.

Athletes are openly questioning whether WADA can be relied upon to do its core job of ensuring there will be a level playing field in Paris, where some of the same Chinese swimmers are favorites to win more medals.

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En Perú, un periodista ayudó a derrocar presidentes. Ahora es investigado

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Uno de los más célebres periodistas latinoamericanos, cuyo trabajo ha derrocado presidentes y desencadenado investigaciones penales, estaba recuperándose de un agresivo periodo de quimioterapias cuando recibió otras malas noticias: un fiscal peruano lo estaba investigando por cohecho o soborno.

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

El periodista, Gustavo Gorriti, de 76 años, director y fundador de una organización de periodismo de investigación en Perú, no es ajeno a los problemas.

En los noventa, fue secuestrado por miembros de un escuadrón secreto de la muerte sobre el cual los investigadores peruanos determinaron que estaba dirigido por el expresidente Alberto Fujimori. Gorriti había pasado años reportando sobre corrupción y violaciones a los derechos humanos por parte del gobierno de Fujimori.

Más recientemente, ayudó a destapar un enorme escándalo de sobornos conocido como el caso Lava Jato, que ha llevado a la detención y dimisión de funcionarios de toda Latinoamérica.

Ahora, el propio Gorriti está enfrentando un posible encarcelamiento.

Un fiscal supremo de Perú lo ha acusado de soborno, alegando que Gorriti negoció filtraciones de investigaciones fiscales a cambio de coberturas periodísticas positivas. Gorriti ha negado los cargos.

Periodistas y defensores de la libertad de expresión dicen que la acusación está motivada políticamente, para castigar a Gorriti por sus anteriores investigaciones periodísticas.

Según grupos por la libertad de prensa, el caso en su contra se encuentra entre una serie de ataques a medios de comunicación independientes en Perú, y es parte de una amplia ola de esfuerzos para censurar a periodistas en un cada vez más grande número de países de América Central y del Sur.

“Más y más políticos están estigmatizando a periodistas y a los medios en sus discursos”, según Reporteros Sin Fronteras. “Los actores políticos utilizan las campañas de desinformación, acusaciones abusivas y propaganda estatal que abiertamente fomenta la desconfianza en la prensa y alienta la polarización”.

En Perú, la persecución a los periodistas refleja un amplio retroceso democrático, según los analistas.

Una coalición conservadora en el Congreso ha buscado consolidarse en el poder pasando por alto procedimientos legislativos para copar los tribunales del país, los organismos electorales y la Fiscalía de la Nación con sus aliados.

Los legisladores conservadores también han aprobado leyes que hacen más difícil investigar, procesar y castigar casos de corrupción y han modificado la constitución para incrementar el poder del Congreso.

Y, cada vez más, están usando su poder para perseguir a periodistas.

Paola Ugaz, una periodista que ha revelado años de abuso sexual a menores y corrupción en una influyente organización religiosa peruana, ha enfrentado varias investigaciones penales, que incluyen acusaciones de lavado de dinero.

Otros periodistas han sido condenados por difamación por reportar sobre políticos, organizaciones religiosas y funcionarios deportivos.

Organizaciones internacionales para la libertad de prensa coinciden en que Perú se ha convertido en un entorno cada vez más hostil para los periodistas. En los dos últimos años, la posición del país se ha desplomado en la clasificación mundial de la libertad de prensa de Reporteros Sin Fronteras. Descendió del puesto 77 al 125, la caída más grande entre cualquier país de América Latina.

Un estudio reciente de Freedom House, una organización de derechos humanos que evalúa los niveles de libertad en los países alrededor del mundo, bajó la calificación de Perú del año pasado de “libre” a “parcialmente libre”.

La organización dijo que el país había presenciado un “debilitamiento de la independencia judicial” y que “los escándalos de corrupción de alto nivel han socavado la confianza pública en el gobierno, mientras que divisiones irreconciliables al interior de una muy fragmentada clase política han producido agitación política en repetidas ocasiones”.

Gorriti es el director y fundador de IDL-Reporteros, un portal de periodismo de investigación conocido por sus reportajes sobre corrupción que involucran personajes poderosos.

Gorriti se inició investigando el auge del grupo subversivo Sendero Luminoso en los ochenta, y reveló los vínculos del narcotráfico con los altos funcionarios de inteligencia de Fujimori, quien, según las investigaciones, luego ordenó su secuestro.

El secuestro jugó un papel importante en una de las condenas de Fujimori por distintos crímenes, en 2009, por la que recibió una sentencia de 25 años de cárcel.

Gorriti se mudó a Panamá, donde expuso los vínculos entre los funcionarios del gobierno y narcotraficantes, para un diario panameño.

Sus reportajes han implicado en algún tipo de irregularidad a los cuatro presidentes peruanos que estuvieron en el poder entre 2001 y 2020. Uno de ellos, Alan García, murió cuando se disparó en la cabeza en su casa, luego de que las autoridades llegaron para detenerlo.

Gorriti dijo que a pesar de las décadas de lo que él describe como persecución, la investigación por soborno es lo más resaltante.

“En la época en que estaba Fujimori hubo peligro físico inminente”, dijo en una entrevista. Pero ahora, dijo, los actuales funcionarios del gobierno tienen el deseo de “convertir todo el sistema judicial en una herramienta adicional para ellos. Eso ha sido mucho más intenso ahora que en el pasado”.

Artur Romeu, el director de la oficina de América Latina de Reporteros Sin Fronteras, dijo que era “impresionante que se mueva un paso como ese en contra de uno de los periodistas más reconocidos”.

Luego de años del gobierno autoritario de Fujimori en Perú, las elecciones del 2000 marcaron el inicio de una era de democracia, crecimiento económico y fortalecimiento de la libertad de expresión.

Pero en los últimos años, la economía ha tambaleado y la confianza en el gobierno ha caído en picada. Cada vez se recurre más a los tribunales para silenciar a los críticos.

Gorriti y otros periodistas también han enfrentado el acoso de los grupos de extrema derecha que se han manifestado afuera de sus oficinas y han arrojado excrementos en sus casas. Los canales de televisión de derecha frecuentemente esparcen desinformación sobre periodistas independientes, y han acusado a Gorriti de ser una mente criminal.

Como parte de la investigación, los fiscales también han solicitado que Gorriti entregue los teléfonos que ha usado en su reportería y que revele sus fuentes. Gorriti se ha rehúsado a hacerlo.

El caso contra Gorriti ha hecho más difícil que otros periodistas realicen su trabajo, dijo Jonathan Castro, un periodista político y editor de un pódcast.

“Hay fuentes que ya no brindan información porque tienen miedo”, dijo.

En el pasado, la fiscalía ha llevado a cabo procesos de difamación en contra de periodistas, pero cada vez aplican cargos penales más serios.

Ugaz, la periodista acusada de lavado de dinero, dijo en una entrevista que ha enfrentado amenazas de muerte en las redes sociales y abusos verbales en las calles de Lima, la capital, como consecuencia de las campañas de desinformación en su contra. Esta desinformación incluye falsas acusaciones de que ella, junto con la familia del ganador del Premio Nobel Mario Vargas Llosa, contrabandeaban uranio y plutonio.

“No hay ningún filtro”, dijo. “Uno pensaría que todo es tan absurdo que nadie va a creerlo”.


La izquierda gana a lo grande en México. Los inversores están preocupados

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El conteo final de votos publicado el fin de semana sugiere que el partido político de izquierda que gobierna México y sus aliados obtendrían amplias mayorías en el Congreso, lo que podría permitir a la coalición aprobar cambios radicales en la Constitución.

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El conteo final de votos publicado el fin de semana sugiere que el partido político de izquierda que gobierna México y sus aliados obtendrían amplias mayorías en el Congreso, lo que podría permitir a la coalición aprobar cambios radicales en la Constitución.

El recuento oficial de las elecciones de la semana pasada mostró que el partido, Morena, y sus socios parecían en camino de conseguir una mayoría de dos tercios en la Cámara baja del Congreso.

En el Senado, parecía que la coalición no alcanzaría la supermayoría, pero por un pequeño número de escaños, según los analistas, lo que significa que probablemente solo necesitaría el apoyo de unos pocos legisladores de la oposición para modificar la Constitución. Construir esas alianzas “es relativamente fácil” de conseguir, dijo el presidente del partido, Mario Delgado, en una entrevista.

“Somos ahora una fuerza dominante”, añadió Delgado, “por decisión de la gente”.

La composición final de la legislatura aún no está clara porque una parte de los escaños del Congreso mexicano se designan mediante un sistema de representación proporcional en agosto. Las impugnaciones legales también podrían afectar al reparto de escaños.

Pero Morena se ha acercado lo suficiente al dominio total como para provocar una fuerte reacción de un sector que el partido no puede ignorar: los mercados financieros.

En los volátiles días que siguieron a la elección, la alarma de los inversores ha estado a flor de piel, con las acciones mexicanas golpeadas y el peso sufriendo su peor semana desde la pandemia.

La preocupación se centra en la posibilidad de que Morena utilice su amplio mandato para promulgar cambios constitucionales que, según los detractores, podrían eliminar los controles existentes sobre la autoridad presidencial, según los analistas financieros.

Las propuestas fueron presentadas por primera vez por Andrés Manuel López Obrador e incluyen planes para eliminar los reguladores independientes y nombrar a los jueces y funcionarios electorales a través del voto popular, lo que los críticos advierten que podría hacerlos más susceptibles a la presión política. Entre otras preocupaciones, los inversores temen que la alteración del poder judicial podría hacer que sea menos seguro que obtengan una audiencia justa en las disputas.

Los mercados sienten que “bajo la gestión del partido de Morena y, sobre todo, ante el antecedente de este plan pudiera generarse un cambio radical”, dijo Janneth Quiroz Zamora, directora de investigación económica de la casa de bolsa Monex. “El mayor temor tiene que ver con que se anulen otra vez los contrapesos que existen al poder ejecutivo”.

En lo que pareció ser un intento de calmar al mercado, la presidenta entrante, Claudia Sheinbaum, discípula de López Obrador, anunció el lunes pasado que el actual secretario de Hacienda, Rogelio Ramírez de la O, quien es visto como una fuerza estabilizadora, se quedaría en el puesto.

“Es un gran servidor público que da certeza del buen manejo financiero y económico”, dijo.

Sheinbaum ganó la presidencia con la mayor cantidad de votos en décadas y Morena también se llevó la mayoría de las gubernaturas.

Sus comentarios iniciales animaron a los inversores a pensar que “el gobierno era sensible a sus preocupaciones”, dijo Blanca Heredia, analista política residente en Ciudad de México. Eso fue por “la rapidez con la que reaccionó el gobierno”, dijo Heredia, señalando que la nueva presidenta “necesita y quiere crecimiento económico”.

Pero entonces, el jueves, el líder de Morena en la Cámara baja del Congreso, Ignacio Mier, pareció anunciar que el partido buscaría aprobar los cambios constitucionales en septiembre, antes de que López Obrador deje el cargo y Sheinbaum lo asuma.

El peso volvió a caer. Horas más tarde, Mier se retractó en una comparecencia radiofónica en la que dio a entender que los cambios no se aprobarían a toda prisa.

Sheinbaum dijo más tarde a los periodistas que las medidas se someterían a un amplio diálogo. También publicó una foto en la que aparecía reunida con un ejecutivo de la empresa de inversiones BlackRock. “Están comprometidos y entusiasmados con incrementar los proyectos de inversión en México”, escribió en las redes sociales.

Delgado, el presidente del partido, dijo que López Obrador y Sheinbaum tendrían que ponerse de acuerdo sobre cómo avanzar con los planes.

“Son reformas que finalmente tendrán que ser discutidas y su alcance, su versión final, se dará por el propio Congreso. Y el ritmo de su aprobación dependerá de la presidenta”, dijo, refiriéndose a Sheinbaum.

El resultado, según los analistas, es que en un sistema político en el que un partido tiene tanto control, el mercado podría emerger como una fuerza moderadora.

“Creo que esta reacción adversa al mercado va a generar que dentro de de que en septiembre se repiense muy bien qué van a aprobar y en qué forma lo van a aprobar”, dijo Joan Domene, economista principal para América Latina en Oxford Economics, una consultora económica con sede en Ciudad de México.

López Obrador, sin embargo, no parecía inmutarse. En su conferencia de prensa habitual en la mañana del viernes, el presidente reiteró su compromiso con los cambios y parecía minimizar las caídas del peso, diciendo: “la justicia está por encima de los mercados”.

Los mensajes contradictorios mostraron, según los analistas, que la influencia de los inversionistas dependerá de si las personas que dirigen Morena —incluido López Obrador— realmente los escuchan.

“Los mercados son una camisa de fuerza para la política”, dijo Domene. “Pero no para todos por igual”.

Emiliano Rodríguez Mega y Miriam Castillo colaboraron con reportería.


Natalie Kitroeff es la jefa del buró de redacción del Times en Ciudad de México, que lidera la cobertura de México, Centroamérica y el Caribe. Más de Natalie Kitroeff.

Donde ‘no’ no significa nada: escaladoras relatan historias de acoso sexual

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En su autobiografía, publicada en diciembre, la alpinista profesional y ex-Miss Finlandia Lotta Hintsa describe brevemente un incidente desagradable ocurrido con un “escalador muy famoso” al que no identificó.

En marzo de 2023, durante una conversación de negocios en la suite del hotel donde se hospedaba el escalador en Katmandú, Nepal, el hombre besó a Lotta “sin la menor advertencia”, señala el libro, cuyo título original en finés significa Las montañas de mi vida 2. “La situación fue absurda, irreal y desagradable”, escribió.

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Sin embargo, en entrevistas con The New York Times, Hintsa comentó que su experiencia fue aún más perturbadora de lo que describe en el libro. Su historia muestra una preocupación que las mujeres del mundo del alpinismo han comenzado a expresar más abiertamente.

Hintsa explicó que el hombre era Nirmal Purja, cuyo exitoso proyecto de 2019 para escalar los 14 picos de 8000 metros que hay en el mundo en un tiempo récord fue difundido en un popular documental de Netflix. La alpinista dice que la llevó a la habitación, le quitó la camisa, los shorts y la ropa interior especial, e intentó quitarle el sostén. Señaló que ella le dijo varias veces que no, ofreciendo excusas para que se detuviera sin agitarse. El episodio, dijo, terminó con él masturbándose junto a ella.

Hintsa, de 35 años, recuerda haber pensado en ese momento: “Tengo que salir de esta y hacer como si no hubiera pasado nada”.

A través de su abogado, Philip M. Kelly, Purja rechazó dar una entrevista. En una declaración escrita, Kelly afirmó que Purja “niega categóricamente las acusaciones de haber cometido alguna ofensa. Estas acusaciones son falsas y difamatorias”.

A medida que el montañismo de gran altitud ha ido ganando popularidad, las mujeres se han vuelto cada vez más visibles, y sobresalientes, en un deporte que sigue siendo dominado por los hombres. Las estadísticas del Everest reflejan esta tendencia: el año pasado, 65 mujeres alcanzaron la cima —alrededor del 10 por ciento de los escaladores que lo hicieron— frente a 45 en 2013 y solo 10 en 2003, según datos de Himalayan Database.

Sin embargo, en años recientes, la comunidad de escaladores ha reconocido que este deporte conlleva riesgos invisibles, especialmente para las mujeres. Cada vez más mujeres en el deporte (que incluye todo desde escalada en roca en interiores hasta ascender picos nevados) están alzando la voz para hablar sobre momentos que han descrito como inquietantes o peores.

En 2019, un grupo de escaladoras profesionales abrió una cuenta de Instagram “sobre las fotos, mensajes y solicitudes ridículas e inapropiadas que recibimos”, escribió una de ellas en una publicación. La cuenta, cuyas creadoras explican que fue cerrada por Instagram, compartía capturas de pantalla de mensajes de acoso enviados a mujeres que practican este deporte.

En febrero, un escalador de 39 años llamado Charles Barrett fue declarado culpable de tres cargos de abuso sexual por agredir repetidamente a una mujer que visitaba el Parque Nacional de Yosemite durante una excursión de fin de semana en 2016. El fiscal del Distrito Este de California afirmó en un comunicado que Barrett había “utilizado su renombre y presencia física como escalador para atraer e intimidar a las víctimas, que formaban parte de la comunidad de escaladores”.

Y en entrevistas con el Times, Hintsa y otra mujer (una antigua clienta de la empresa de guías de gran altitud de Purja) describieron experiencias ocurridas en años recientes en las que él las besó sin su consentimiento, les hizo insinuaciones agresivas o las tocó sexualmente en contra de sus deseos. Explicaron haber sentido impotencia, además de miedo de enfadar a Purja.

“No sabía qué hacer”, recuerda April Leonardo, una médica de Quincy, California. Ella cuenta que durante una expedición al K2, la segunda montaña más alta del mundo, Purja la sujetó, la besó y le hizo propuestas en repetidas oportunidades. “Estoy en una escalada loca. Él es mi guía. No quiero hacer nada que me ponga en peligro”.

La declaración del abogado de Purja también negaba categóricamente las acusaciones de Leonardo.

Poco después de los encuentros que las mujeres afirmaron que tuvieron con Purja, ellas compartieron sus historias con amigos y familiares y les enviaron mensajes de texto sobre sus experiencias. El Times examinó los mensajes de texto y confirmó las conversaciones con esas personas.

El mundo de las actividades recreativas al aire libre ha comenzado a abordar el acoso y el abuso sexual, aunque de manera vacilante. En 2018, como respuesta al movimiento #MeToo, miembros de la comunidad de escaladores de Estados Unidos crearon una iniciativa llamada #SafeOutside (a salvo al aire libre) para estudiar el alcance del problema en este deporte. Los organizadores encuestaron a más de 5000 escaladores de más de 60 países y descubrieron que el 47 por ciento de las mujeres y el 16 por ciento de los hombres afirmaron haber sido objeto de comportamientos sexuales no deseados mientras escalaban. Y hace unos meses, The Mountaineers, un grupo de recreación al aire libre del noroeste del Pacífico, creó un comité asesor de prevención del acoso y las agresiones sexuales para abordar el riesgo entre sus 15.000 miembros.

Pero, para las mujeres, sentirse agraviadas en este deporte no es nada nuevo.

“Es la posición más vulnerable en la que puedo imaginarme”, dijo Alison Levine, capitana de la primera expedición femenina estadounidense al Everest en 2002. Ella afirma haber sufrido abusos verbales y comportamientos amenazantes por parte de un guía durante ese viaje. Las alpinistas dieron media vuelta antes de llegar a la cumbre porque las condiciones meteorológicas empeoraron.

“Lo más desafiante, lo más aterrador y la mayor causa de ansiedad y miedo en esa montaña fue un ser humano, no el entorno”, continúa Levine. Ella no volvió a las grandes montañas durante otros cinco años, pero en 2010 regresó al Everest y esa vez alcanzó la cumbre.

“El propio entorno ya conlleva un enorme riesgo inherente”, dice. “Y es más aterrador cuando añades el riesgo generado por las relaciones interpersonales”.

El mes pasado, cientos de alpinistas ascendieron al Everest y otros picos del Himalaya. Por encima de los 8000 metros, los escaladores ingresan en lo que se conoce como “la zona de la muerte”, donde no hay oxígeno suficiente para sustentar la vida humana durante mucho tiempo y se exponen a peligros como la congelación, las cascadas de hielo, las grietas y los edemas pulmonares o cerebrales por la altitud. Dieciocho alpinistas murieron en el Everest durante la temporada de primavera de 2023; este año ya han fallecido cinco y se ha reportado la desaparición de tres.

Los clientes pagan decenas de miles de dólares para intentar realizar estos ascensos —las expediciones al Everest comienzan en unos 40.000 dólares, con experiencias más lujosas que pueden alcanzar montos de hasta seis cifras— y confían sus vidas a los guías.

Con más de dos millones de seguidores en Instagram, Purja, de 40 años, es una de las figuras más reconocidas e influyentes del alpinismo. Conocido como Nims, es ciudadano naturalizado del Reino Unido, donde vive con su esposa y su hija pequeña. En Nepal, donde nació, es venerado como el tipo de superestrella del alpinismo que el país no había visto desde que Tenzing Norgay completó la primera ascensión al Everest en 1953 junto a Sir Edmund Hillary.

Con su empresa de guías, Elite Exped, Purja ha contribuido a abrir paso a una nueva era de escalada comercial en los picos más altos del mundo. A través de las redes sociales ha animado a las mujeres a participar.

Purja ha guiado a clientas de alto perfil como Asma Al Thani, de la familia real catarí, y la modelo rusa Victoria Bonya. “Gracias por inspirarme a superar mis límites. Estoy agradecida por todo lo que me has enseñado”, publicó en el otoño pasado una escaladora suiza llamada Christine Vogondy en Instagram, junto con una foto de ella y Purja en la cima del Gasherbrum I en Pakistán.

Hintsa, quien se convirtió en escaladora profesional en 2018, se cruzó con Purja en los campamentos base de Nepal y Pakistán mientras hacía el circuito de escalada. Comenzaron a escribirse de manera intermitente, hablando sobre las expediciones que realizaban, y Purja la invitó a formar parte de su empresa como guía.

La revisión que el Times hizo reveló que Purja a menudo coqueteaba en esos mensajes de texto, y en sus conversaciones con Leonardo. Las mujeres a veces respondían con bromas, y Hintsa, quien es exmodelo de trajes de baño de Sports Illustrated, una vez le envió una foto suya de la revista. Sin embargo, a menudo cambiaban de tema o no respondían.

Hintsa y Purja acordaron reunirse en Katmandú en marzo de 2023 para hablar de la posibilidad de trabajar juntos en una expedición que Hintsa estaba organizando. La alpinista recuerda que Purja sugirió tomar un café en la suite del hotel donde se estaba alojando para evitar la atención que recibiría en el vestíbulo.

Hintsa explica que, dado el tono de algunos de los mensajes de texto que habían intercambiado anteriormente, ella trató de establecer límites claros. Dijo que le envió un mensaje de WhatsApp para aclararle que no se trataba de “un acostón” y que él estuvo de acuerdo. Hintsa ya no tiene estos mensajes, porque la aplicación de Purja estaba configurada para que desaparecieran después de siete días.

El 30 de marzo, en la suite que Purja tenía en el Marriott, Hintsa recordó haberse sentido “congelada” y “confundida” cuando él la llevó a la cama. Dijo que sintió como si estuviera teniendo una experiencia extracorpórea mientras él le quitaba la ropa aunque ella seguía negándose. Le dijo que tenía la regla, pero él no se detuvo. En cierto momento, le tocó la vagina.

“No puedo hacer que entienda. Está en un estado de extrema excitación en el que un ‘no’ no significa nada”, relata Hintsa. Comentó que tenía miedo de agitarlo debido a su fuerza y al entrenamiento que había recibido en el ejército británico, incluidas sus fuerzas especiales.

Dijo que Purja parecía frustrado porque ella no dejaba de negarse, y que pareció perder el interés cuando ella se resistió físicamente a que le quitara el sostén. Describió que se sintió aliviada cuando él empezó a masturbarse, con la esperanza de que el episodio terminara pronto.

A continuación, Purja se duchó, lo que le dio tiempo para tranquilizarse y vestirse. Salieron de la habitación y él le enseñó la tienda que tiene en el Marriott. Después pidió a un chófer que la llevara a su hotel. Él se comportaba como si no hubiera pasado nada.

Ese mismo día, Hintsa le envió un mensaje de texto a una amiga en el que le contaba su experiencia. El Times tuvo acceso a este mensaje. Más tarde, se lo contó en persona a su amiga Heidi Paananen, quien confirmó la conversación.

Krishna Bahadur Tamang, un chófer de Purja, afirmó en una declaración escrita facilitada por el abogado de Purja que esa mañana lo llevó al Marriott. Dijo que Purja volvió al vehículo “en menos de 20 minutos”. Hintsa recuerda haber estado en el hotel con Purja cerca de una hora, y aportó fotos con la hora marcada que tomó ese día mientras iba camino a encontrarse con él y en su tienda. Estas corroboraron la versión de ella.

Hintsa no hizo negocios con la empresa de Purja.

Los deportes al aire libre tienen factores de riesgo únicos para la conducta inapropiada y el acoso sexual, dijo Gina McClard, una abogada de Oregón especializada en la prevención de la violencia de género. En 2019, ella cofundó una consultoría llamada Respect Outside que trabaja con grupos de recreación al aire libre, como clubes de montañismo y servicios de guías, abordando temas como políticas, procedimientos y capacitaciones para prevenir el acoso sexual y la discriminación.

Estas actividades pueden involucrar expediciones de semanas a lugares remotos, donde los participantes viven y duermen en espacios reducidos. La cultura que rodea a los deportes al aire libre, que celebra la superación de los límites y glorifica a quien logra hazañas poco comunes, también puede crear situaciones en las que el comportamiento inapropiado no enfrente ninguna consecuencia, explicó.

“Gran parte del sector de las actividades al aire libre sigue girando en torno a un círculo de hombres influyentes”, dice McClard en un correo electrónico. “Si no te ajustas a cómo se hacen las cosas te pueden excluir, te dejan afuera del club”.

Barrett, el escalador que este año fue condenado por abuso sexual, fue sentenciado a cadena perpetua el 28 de mayo. Según archivos judiciales difundidos por Outside Magazine, Barrett fue procesado, en parte, debido a la encuesta #SafeOutside de 2018. La mujer a la que había agredido respondió a esta encuesta diciendo que había sido violada por un “conocido escalador profesional de California” en un viaje a Yosemite; otra dijo que había sido agredida sexualmente por un huésped de un escalador profesional al que estaba visitando. Los organizadores de la encuesta las buscaron para averiguar más y las pusieron en contacto luego de que ambas identificaran a Barrett como el agresor. La excursionista de Yosemite denunció a Barrett a las autoridades en 2020.

Barrett era un personaje conocido entre la comunidad de escalada en roca de California. Había escrito guías sobre escalada tipo búlder en áreas populares del estado como Mammoth y Bishop y ascendió por rutas difíciles con el famoso escalador estadounidense Alex Honnold. Un perfil publicado en 2016 por Climbing Magazine que luego fue retirado de su sitio web― describía a Barrett como “un maestro de la escalada en California”.

En el momento de la agresión a la escaladora, él vivía y trabajaba en Yosemite. Según la fiscalía, Barrett la “violó violentamente” tras invitarla al bosque a ver una lluvia de meteoritos, además de agredirla durante una excursión y en la zona de alojamiento de los empleados. Otras tres mujeres, incluida la otra encuestada, declararon en el juicio que él las había agredido sexualmente. Esos incidentes ocurrieron fuera de la jurisdicción federal, y los fiscales estatales no presentaron cargos.

Basándose en su trabajo con grupos del sector de las actividades al aire libre, McClard explica que las políticas de las empresas generalmente se limitan a la seguridad física de clientes y empleados, excluyendo su seguridad psicológica o emocional. La mayoría de las pequeñas empresas de actividades al aire libre carecen de departamentos internos de recursos humanos, y las grandes empresas del sector no han invertido ni el tiempo ni el dinero que, en opinión de McClard, requiere este tema.

“No existe un movimiento que abarque todo el sector”, afirma. “Creo que estamos solas en lo que respecta al acoso sexual en el sector de las actividades al aire libre”.

Leonardo, la médica californiana de 41 años, conoció a Purja en 2021 en una casa de té de Nepal, antes de hacer cumbre en el Everest con otra empresa. Más tarde se enteró de que él estaba organizando una ascensión guiada al K2 para el verano siguiente. Atraída en parte por el peligro de la ascensión, se inscribió y pagó 55.000 dólares por el viaje de dos meses, que comenzó en junio de 2022.

Tras llegar al campamento base del K2, a más de 5000 metros de altura, el equipo realizó una puja, una ceremonia para presentarle sus respetos a la montaña y pedirle una ascensión segura. Relató que durante la celebración posterior, mientras buscaba una bolsa de basura, se encontró con Purja, quien la llevó a una tienda almacén para darle una. Cuando ella se dio la vuelta para marcharse, Purja la tomó del brazo, y la besó. Recuerda que Purja le dijo: “Serás mía”. Aturdida y sin saber qué hacer, se marchó.

“Siento que tengo que evadirlo y evitar que pase algo, pero tengo miedo de hacer o decir algo al respecto”, dijo Leonardo sobre lo que pensó en ese momento. Otro escalador que estaba en la montaña en ese momento dijo que Leonardo le contó que había tenido esa interacción con Purja, y le dijo que no quería estar a solas con él. Esta persona pidió no ser mencionada por temor a repercusiones profesionales o personales.

En otra ocasión, según Leonardo, Purja se presentó en su tienda sin haber sido invitado. Ella estaba en su saco de dormir, en camisa y ropa interior, recordó, y él se puso en cuclillas junto a ella y dijo que quería mirar su rodilla, que se había lesionado. Purja metió la mano en su saco de dormir; esto la hizo sentir pánico, por lo que rápidamente sacó la pierna. Afirmó que él la besó y que después tomó su mano y se la puso en la entrepierna, obligándola a sentir su pene erecto a través de los pantalones. Dijo sentirse atrapada en su saco de dormir, sin poder salir, porque no estaba vestida.

Según Leonardo, Purja le dijo que quería acostarse con ella, pero que tenía que esperar a que no hubiera nadie. Luego se marchó.

También dijo que, en otra ocasión, Purja la sujetó del brazo mientras caminaba sola por el campamento y le preguntó: “¿Cuándo puedo montarte?”. Él sugirió ir a su tienda, pero ella se excusó.

Durante el viaje, Leonardo le envió un mensaje de texto a su padre, Leon Leonardo, diciendo que Purja no dejaba de intentar tener sexo con ella. “No está bien”, escribió en el mensaje, que fue revisado por el Times.

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Dos empleados de Elite Exped presentes en la expedición al K2 de Leonardo, Chandra Bahadur Tamang, jefe de cocina, y Ramesh Gurung, guía principal, señalaron en declaraciones facilitadas por el abogado del Purja que ellos se encargaban de la seguridad de la tienda almacén porque había objetos de valor adentro, y que Purja nunca entró en ella durante la expedición. Leonardo dijo que a menudo había gente alrededor de la tienda, pero que cuando ella y Purja entraron no había nadie.

Otro guía, Pasang Tendi Sherpa, afirmó en una declaración que Purja “no estuvo en ningún entorno privado” con Leonardo durante el viaje. Esta declaración no explica cómo sabía esto, y él no respondió a las solicitudes de entrevista. Gurung no accedió a una entrevista. El Times no pudo contactar a Chandra Bahadur Tamang.

Durante varios meses después del viaje, Leonardo tuvo intercambios cordiales de mensajes de texto con Purja, en parte porque estaba esperando el reembolso de algo de equipo que se había perdido, dijo. No volvió a verlo.

Las mujeres que hablaron sobre Purja con el Times explicaron que no sabían qué recursos tenían. Elite Exped es una pequeña empresa dirigida por Purja, y ya que los incidentes ocurrieron fuera de sus países de origen, las mujeres no estaban seguras de qué hacer. No alertaron a la policía ni a otras autoridades.

Hintsa explicó que cuenta su historia con la esperanza de que el deporte del montañismo, dominado por los hombres, se vuelva más seguro para las mujeres. Solo con el tiempo ha llegado a comprender los efectos de su experiencia.

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“No estaba consciente de las cicatrices que me había dejado”, dijo. “Me ha hecho darme cuenta de que no solo la caída de rocas o las avalanchas son peligrosas para una escaladora”.

La carrera de Purja ha seguido en ascenso. Como rostro del montañismo de gran altitud, ha colaborado con grandes empresas como Red Bull y Nike, que el pasado invierno sacó a la venta una colección de ropa inspirada en Purja llamada 8K Peaks, y utilizó su imagen en una descomunal valla publicitaria de Manhattan. En diciembre recibió un doctorado honoris causa de la Universidad inglesa de Loughborough. Marcas de equipo para actividades al aire libre como Grivel, Osprey y Scarpa han trabajado con él en productos de marca compartida.

Leonardo dijo que el logro de hacer cumbre en el K2, se vio empañado por la experiencia que vivió. Ella espera que compartir su historia ayude a otras mujeres a evitar situaciones similares.

“No puedo permitir que siga ocurriendo”, dijo. Y agregó: “No quiero que otra mujer tenga que pasar por esto”.

Johanna Lemola y Bhadra Sharma colaboraron con reportería. Kitty Bennett colaboró con investigación.

Jenny Vrentas es reportera del Times especializada en dinero, poder e influencia en el deporte. Más sobre Jenny Vrentas

Así se desarrolló la operación israelí para rescatar a 4 rehenes en Gaza

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La misión del ejército israelí para rescatar a cuatro rehenes fue una operación poco habitual que requirió semanas de planificación y recibió el visto bueno final solo unos minutos antes de comenzar el sábado por la mañana, según funcionarios israelíes.

Las fuerzas especiales israelíes, respaldadas por el ejército, los servicios de inteligencia y la fuerza aérea, asaltaron dos edificios separados por varios cientos de metros en un barrio de Nuseirat, en el centro de Gaza. Trajeron a los cuatro rehenes —Noa Argamani, de 26 años; Almog Meir Jan, de 22; Andrey Kozlov, de 27; y Shlomi Ziv, de 41— vivos y en buen estado de salud de vuelta a casa. Un agente de policía, que formaba parte de la fuerza que dirigió la redada, resultó muerto.

Decenas de palestinos, entre ellos mujeres y niños, murieron durante la operación de rescate, según funcionarios de salud locales de Gaza. El ejército israelí dijo que había atacado a militantes que habían amenazado a sus fuerzas cuando intentaban extraer a los rehenes. Ni el ejército israelí ni las autoridades de salud palestinas facilitaron un desglose de los civiles y combatientes muertos en la operación.

Los soldados israelíes han arrasado gran parte de Gaza desde que comenzó la invasión terrestre a finales de octubre. Sin embargo, solo han logrado rescatar a siete rehenes vivos en tres operaciones militares distintas, y quedan unos 120 cautivos en Gaza. Varias misiones de rescate propuestas no siguieron adelante por temor a que los rehenes o las fuerzas militares murieran en el proceso, según dos funcionarios de defensa israelíes, que hablaron bajo condición de anonimato sobre la delicada operación.

En diciembre, las fuerzas especiales israelíes intentaron rescatar a un rehén del cautiverio de Hamás, según los dos funcionarios de defensa. Sahar Baruch, un rehén israelí, murió durante el intercambio de disparos y dos oficiales israelíes resultaron gravemente heridos.

Según uno de los funcionarios de defensa, los servicios de inteligencia israelíes supieron en un primer momento que Argamani estaba retenida en un edificio situado en la superficie, cerca de la zona del mercado de Nuseirat. Más información recibida posteriormente indicaba que otros tres rehenes se encontraban en otro edificio de la misma sección, añadió el funcionario.

El contralmirante Daniel Hagari, portavoz militar israelí, declaró que los oficiales israelíes habían trabajado durante semanas para reunir las piezas necesarias para la misión. Los soldados israelíes se entrenaron intensamente basándose en modelos de los edificios donde se creía que estaban los rehenes, añadió.

“Se trataba de una misión en el corazón de un barrio civil, donde Hamás se había escondido intencionadamente entre viviendas con civiles y terroristas armados custodiando a los rehenes”, dijo Hagari. “Y debemos actuar de forma que esos rehenes vuelvan a casa con vida”.

En las últimas tres semanas, hubo varias ocasiones en las que parecía posible llevar a cabo la operación, pero todos los intentos se cancelaron, antes de que las fuerzas israelíes se dispusieran a lanzar la misión, dijeron los dos funcionarios de defensa israelíes.

El jueves, el primer ministro de Israel, Benjamín Netanyahu, y el ministro de Defensa israelí, Yoav Gallant, volvieron a reunirse con altos funcionarios de Defensa para discutir los riesgos de la operación y los posibles escenarios, dijo un tercer funcionario israelí, quien habló bajo condición de anonimato.

Los líderes del país dieron luz verde a la misión de rescate esa noche, dijo el funcionario. Pero aún existía la posibilidad de que fuera cancelada en el último minuto, dijo Hagari.

El sábado por la mañana, Herzi Halevi, jefe del Estado Mayor, y Ronen Bar, director del servicio de inteligencia israelí Shin Bet, dieron el visto bueno final pocos minutos antes de que comenzara la operación, alrededor de las 11 a. m., explicó Hagari.

Añadió que optaron por actuar a la luz del día, enfilando hacia los dos edificios de Nuseirat, en un intento de tomar desprevenido a Hamás, ya que el grupo armado podría esperar que una operación de este tipo tuviera lugar por la noche.

El asalto comenzó simultáneamente en ambos edificios, donde los rehenes se encontraban en habitaciones cerradas rodeadas de guardias armados, según Hagari. En uno de los edificios, donde estaba retenida Argamani, los agentes consiguieron sorprender a sus captores de Hamás, explicó. En el otro, las fuerzas israelíes se enzarzaron en un difícil tiroteo antes de alcanzar a los tres rehenes restantes, añadió.

Mientras recuperaban a los cautivos, los oficiales anunciaron por radio que “los diamantes están en nuestras manos”, utilizando una palabra clave asignada, dijo Hagari.

Salieron de los edificios mientras los militantes de Hamás les disparaban y lanzaban granadas propulsadas por cohetes, explicó Hagari. Los oficiales cubrieron a los rehenes con sus cuerpos para intentar protegerlos, y la aviación israelí atacó la zona y sus alrededores, apuntando a los militantes, añadió.

Khalil Daqran, funcionario local del Hospital de los Mártires de al-Aqsa, en Deir al Balah, dijo a la prensa que muchos palestinos murieron y resultaron heridos durante los ataques cerca del mercado de Nuseirat, que, según él, estaba abarrotado de transeúntes.

Hagari dijo que le habían informado de que el ejército tenía conocimiento de bajas palestinas como consecuencia de la operación, y que no podía confirmar cuántas eran militantes. Añadió que Hamás había intentado disparar contra las fuerzas israelíes desde detrás de civiles.

Añadió que “la forma cínica en que Hamás está utilizando a la población también para disparar contra nuestras fuerzas” fue “trágica”.

Los rehenes fueron llevados en auto a dos helicópteros que los esperaban, dijo Hagari. Uno transportó a Argamani y a los oficiales de las fuerzas especiales. El segundo transportó a los tres rehenes restantes y a un comandante de policía lesionado, quien más tarde moriría a causa de sus heridas.

Hacia la 1:30 p. m., el gobierno israelí anunció que los cuatro rehenes estaban en casa.


Ronen Bergman es reportero de The New York Times Magazine y vive en Tel Aviv. Su libro más reciente es Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations, publicado por Random House. Más de Ronen Bergman

Aaron Boxerman es periodista becario del Times especializado en noticias internacionales. Más de Aaron Boxerman

Los efectos de la guerra en Ucrania en los pueblos fronterizos, en imágenes

Durante mucho tiempo, el área fronteriza de Ucrania ha sido un lugar donde las culturas se fusionan e intercambian. Hoy, nuevamente, es una zona de combate.

Tras pérdidas incesantes, se está transformando, posiblemente para siempre, en una zona gris peligrosa y abandonada.

Lo que solía ser un estilo de vida, y de fe, compartido, está mermando.

Para los pocos que quedan, conseguir incluso los insumos cotidianos para vivir es una tarea de riesgo.

Los efectos de la guerra en Ucrania en los pueblos fronterizos, en imágenes

David Guttenfelder viajó dos veces por la frontera noreste de Ucrania en los meses previos a que las tropas rusas volvieran a cruzar.

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Los invasores no habían regresado. No todavía. Pero a lo largo de los aproximadamente 960 kilómetros del territorio fronterizo del noreste de Ucrania que The New York Times visitó a finales del año pasado y de nuevo a principios de la primavera, la guerra nunca se ha ido.

Gran parte de esta zona, en las regiones de Járkov y Sumy, solía estar cubierta de tierras agrícolas. Ahora, una granja albergaba una unidad antisabotaje —compuesta por rusos anti-Putin, para evitar el envío de tropas ucranianas a Rusia— que se preparaba antes del amanecer para una incursión transfronteriza.

Los campos están demasiado expuestos al fuego ruso como para que alguien intente cosechar. En su lugar, están repletas de “dientes de dragón”, barreras antitanques de hormigón típicamente unidas con cables y enhebradas con alambre de púas.

En 2022, las tropas rusas invadieron esta zona y casi llegaron a las puertas de ciudades grandes como Járkov y Sumy. Luego, antes de finalizar ese año, las fuerzas ucranianas los obligaron a retroceder y a cruzar de nuevo la frontera a su país.

Los militares rusos comenzaron una nueva ofensiva en la región de Járkov el mes pasado. Pero estas localidades, que se encuentran a menos de 16 kilómetros de la frontera, siempre estuvieron al alcance del fuego de artillería.

Las alarmas no pueden dar suficiente tiempo de advertencia para un bombardeo desde tan cerca, y las defensas aéreas no pueden repelerlo. Los residentes dependen de las entregas de ayuda humanitaria, y la larga y fría espera por los suministros se produce bajo bombardeos casi diarios.

Los bombardeos y los ataques con drones ya se estaban intensificando antes incluso de la nueva ofensiva terrestre.

Además, las fuerzas militares ucranianas ya estaban transformando el entorno: nuevos laberintos de trincheras y búnkeres, más zonas restringidas y vastos campos y bosques repletos de minas terrestres. En los puestos de control, soldados nerviosos pilotaban drones para escanear las carreteras aledañas.

En poco tiempo, aseguró el alcalde de una aldea que se encuentra dentro del alcance de la artillería rusa, no habrá nada que fotografiar excepto perros callejeros y escombros.

El gobierno civil ha tenido problemas para proporcionar suministros y necesidades básicas o para convencer a los residentes de que evacúen por completo. Las escuelas enseñan de forma remota o en búnkeres subterráneos.

La guerra está provocando cambios radicales en una zona donde las familias suelen tener integrantes tanto en Rusia como en Ucrania y donde una fe y una cultura en común se extiende a través de la frontera. Incluso ahora, sigue abierto un cruce fronterizo para los civiles en la región de Sumy.

En la aldea de Richky, a unos 10 kilómetros de la frontera rusa en la región de Sumy, el padre Bohdan de la Iglesia ortodoxa ucraniana afirmó que tras un incremento de los ataques rusos, muy pocas personas podían asistir a la iglesia. Ahora “es solo en las festividades, como la Pascua, que la iglesia está llena”, dijo.

Sus dos hijos se mudaron a Polonia con sus familias antes de que empezara la guerra a gran escala en febrero de 2022. Bohdan y su esposa han resistido el impulso de mudarse al extranjero también.

“Es mi pueblo natal”, afirmó. “¿Cómo podría irme a otro lado?”.

En algunas ciudades y pueblos solo quedaban unas pocas personas, en su mayoría mujeres y personas mayores que no tenían adónde ir. Vovchansk, que se convirtió nuevamente en un campo de batalla en mayo después de que las fuerzas rusas cruzaron la frontera en la región de Járkov, tenía alrededor de 2000 residentes en diciembre, mucho menos que su población antes de la guerra de alrededor de 17.000. Se había deteriorado visiblemente en la primavera.

Las cicatrices de la invasión y los bombardeos habían hecho inhabitables algunos asentamientos recuperados.

La nueva ofensiva de Rusia en Járkov comenzó en el momento quizás más vulnerable de Ucrania desde el inicio de la guerra a gran escala: con sus fuerzas muy dispersas y sus reservas de armas y municiones agotadas después de meses de retraso por parte de su proveedor más importante, Estados Unidos.

Ahora, viene en camino más ayuda estadounidense y el Parlamento de Ucrania ha modificado las reglas de reclutamiento militar para intentar tener más soldados. Pero Rusia parece estar intensificando la presión.

Los funcionarios ucranianos, al mismo tiempo que su reciente petición de tener mayor libertad para disparar armas de fabricación estadounidense en territorio ruso, han señalado una mayor concentración de tropas, incluso justo enfrente de la región de Sumy.

Las zonas fronterizas de Ucrania podrían estar a punto de volverse aún más peligrosas.

Yurii Shyvala, Dzvinka Pinchuk y Oleksandr Chubko colaboraron con reportería.