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The Root of Haiti’s Misery: Reparations to Enslavers

In 1789, before the slave rebellion, the marquis bought 21 recently kidnapped Africans before leaving for France. But he didn’t indicate where they were put to work, so the commission valued them at an average rate, down to the cent: 3,366.66 francs.

In the end, it awarded Cocherel’s daughter, a newly married marquise, average annual payments of 1,450 francs, or about $280 in the 1860s, for dozens of years, according to government publications of the commission’s decisions.

By contrast, coffee farmers in Haiti were earning about $76 a year in 1863, Edmond Paul, a Haitian economist and politician, wrote at the time — barely enough to cover one meal a day of “the least substantive foods.”

It was reminiscent, he said, of slavery.

The Haitian government ran out of money right away. To finish its first payment, it emptied its state coffers, sending it all to France on a French ship, sealed in bags inside nailed crates reinforced with iron bands. That left no money for public services.

The French government threatened war to collect the rest.

“An army of 500,000 men is ready to fight,” wrote the French foreign minister in 1831 to his consul in Haiti, “and behind this imposing force, a reserve of two million.”

In response, President Boyer passed a law commanding every Haitian to be ready to defend the country. He built the leafy suburb of Pétionville, now the bastion of the Haitian elite, up the hill from the harbor — out of range of cannon fire.

Even French diplomats recognized their threats had prompted the Haitian government to pour money into its military, rather than send it to France.

“The fear of France, which naturally wants to be paid, does not allow it to reduce its military state,” reads a 1832 letter by one French diplomat.

In late 1837, two French envoys arrived in Port-au-Prince with orders to negotiate a new treaty and get the payments flowing again. The so-called independence debt was reduced to 90 million francs, and in 1838, another warship returned to France with Haiti’s second payment, which swallowed much of Haiti’s revenues once again.

The military sucked up another large chunk, according to the French abolitionist writer and politician Victor Schœlcher. After that, there was very little left for hospitals, public works and other aspects of public welfare. Education had been assigned a mere 15,816 gourdes — less than 1 percent of the budget.

From the very beginning, French officials knew how disastrous the payments would be for Haiti. But they kept insisting on getting paid, and for decades — with some exceptions, notably during periods of political upheaval — Haiti came up with the money.

The Times tracked each payment Haiti made over the course of 64 years, drawing from thousands of pages of archival records in France and Haiti, along with dozens of articles and books from the 19th and early 20th centuries, including by the Haitian finance minister Frédéric Marcelin.

Credit…Cannaday Chapman

In some years, Haiti’s payments to France soaked up more than 40 percent of the government’s total revenues.

“They don’t know which way to turn,” a French captain wrote to the Baron of Mackau in 1826 after collecting a shipment of gold from Haiti.

“After trying domestic loans, patriotic subscriptions, forced donations, sales of public property, they have finally settled on the worst of all options,” the captain wrote: 10 years of exorbitant taxes that were “so out of all proportion to the achievable resources of the country, that when each one sells all that he possesses, and then sells himself, not even half of the sums demanded will be collected.”

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How Jack Welch’s Reign at G.E. Gave Us Elon Musk’s Twitter Feed

When Jack Welch died on March 1, 2020, tributes poured in for the longtime chief executive of General Electric, whom many revered as the greatest chief executive of all time.

David Zaslav, the C.E.O. of Warner Bros. Discovery and a Welch disciple, remembered him as an almost godlike figure. “Jack set the path. He saw the whole world. He was above the whole world,” Mr. Zaslav said. “What he created at G.E. became the way companies now operate.”

Mr. Zaslav’s words were meant as unequivocal praise. During Mr. Welch’s two decades in power — from 1981 to 2001 — he turned G.E. into the most valuable company in the world, groomed a flock of protégés who went on to run major companies of their own, and set the standard by which other C.E.O.s were measured.

Yet a closer examination of the Welch legacy reveals that he was not simply the “Manager of the Century,” as Fortune magazine crowned him upon his retirement.

broken up for good.

the fateful decision to redesign the 737 — a plane introduced in the 1960s — once more, rather than lose out on a crucial order with American Airlines. That decision set in motion the flawed development of the 737 Max, which crashed twice in five months, killing 346 people. And while a number of factors contributed to those tragedies, they were ultimately the product of a corporate culture that cut corners in pursuit of short-term financial gains.

Even today Boeing is run by a Welch disciple. Dave Calhoun, the current C.E.O., was a dark horse candidate to succeed Mr. Welch in 2001, and he was on the Boeing board during the rollout of the Max and the botched response to the crashes.

When Mr. Calhoun took over the company in 2020, he set up his office not in Seattle (Boeing’s spiritual home) or Chicago (its official headquarters), but outside St. Louis at the Boeing Leadership Center, an internal training center explicitly built in the image of Crotonville. He said he hoped to channel Mr. Welch, whom he called his “forever mentor.”

The “Manager of the Century” was unbowed in retirement, barreling through the twilight of his life with the same bombast that defined his tenure as C.E.O.

He refashioned himself as a management guru and created a $50,000 online M.B.A. in an effort to instill his tough-nosed tactics in a new generation of business leaders. (The school boasts that “more than two out of three students receive a raise or promotion while enrolled.”) He cheered on the political rise of Mr. Trump, then advised him when he won the White House.

In his waning days, Mr. Welch emerged as a trafficker of conspiracy theories. He called climate change “mass neurosis” and “the attack on capitalism that socialism couldn’t bring.” He called for President Trump to appoint Rudy Giuliani attorney general and investigate his political enemies.

The most telling example of Mr. Welch’s foray into political commentary, and the beliefs it revealed, came in 2012. That’s when he took to Twitter and accused the Obama administration of fabricating the monthly jobs report numbers for political gain. The accusation was rich with irony. After decades during which G.E. massaged its own earnings reports, Mr. Welch was effectively accusing the White House of doing the same thing.

While Mr. Welch’s claim was baseless, conservative pundits picked up on the conspiracy theory and amplified it on cable news and Twitter. Even Mr. Trump, then merely a reality television star, joined the chorus, calling Mr. Welch’s bogus accusation “100 percent correct” and accusing the Obama administration of “monkeying around” with the numbers. It was one of the first lies to go viral on social media, and it had come from one of the most revered figures in the history of business.

When Mr. Welch died, few of his eulogists paused to consider the entirety of his legacy. They didn’t dwell on the downsizing, the manipulated earnings, the Twitter antics.

And there was no consideration of the ways in which the economy had been shaped by Mr. Welch over the previous 40 years, creating a world where manufacturing jobs have evaporated as C.E.O. pay soars, where buybacks and dividends are plentiful as corporate tax rates plunge.

By glossing over this reality, his allies helped perpetuate the myth of his sainthood, adding their own spin on one of the most enduring bits of disinformation of all: the notion that Jack Welch was the greatest C.E.O. of all time.

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Lessor AerCap books $2.7 billion charge on stranded Russian jets

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AerCap logo is seen displayed in front of the model of an airplane and a Russian flag in this illustration taken, May 4, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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  • Irish lessor had largest Russia exposure
  • AerCap submitted $3.5 bln insurance claim in March
  • Plans to vigorously pursue all claims

May 17 (Reuters) – The world’s top aircraft lessor AerCap (AER.N) said on Tuesday it booked a pretax charge of $2.7 billion in the first quarter as it recognised a loss on its more than 100 jets that remain stranded in Russia.

AerCap is the latest leasing company to take an immediate hit on its Russian exposure, something the firms had previously been expected to defer until they had more clarity over the amount that could be reclaimed from insurers. read more

But with lessors and insurers gearing up for an historic battle over record potential claims worth an estimated $10 billion, industry executives said some lessors had been advised by lawyers to take writedowns as soon as possible to buttress claims that could drag through the courts for years. read more

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Dublin-based AerCap had the largest exposure of any lessor, accounting for 5% of its fleet by value. It submitted a $3.5 billion insurance claim in March and said on Tuesday it had not recognized any receivables relating to the claims. read more

“We have filed insurance claims related to these assets and will vigorously pursue all available remedies to recover our losses,” AerCap Chief Executive Officer Aengus Kelly said in a statement, describing the Russian hit as an undoubted setback, but a manageable one.

Over 400 leased planes worth almost $10 billion remained in Russia after a March 28 deadline to cancel the contracts in line with Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

AerCap’s charge comprised of an impairment loss and complete write off of flight equipment that remains in Russia. It removed 22 aircraft and three engines that were based outside of Russia when the sanctions were announced, but has 113 aircraft and 11 engines still stuck in the country.

The charge was partially offset by $210 million in payments from letters of credit related to the Russian-based assets. AerCap said it had initiated legal proceedings against one financial institution which rejected its payment demands.

AerCap said that excluding the charge, its first quarter net income was $540 million and Kelly said he expected to see demand for travel continue to grow as a broad-based recovery progresses.

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Reporting by Nathan Gomes in Bengaluru, Padraic Halpin in Dublin and Tim Hepher in Paris
Editing by Maju Samuel and Mark Potter

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Another Firing Among Google’s A.I. Brain Trust, and More Discord

Less than two years after Google dismissed two researchers who criticized the biases built into artificial intelligence systems, the company has fired a researcher who questioned a paper it published on the abilities of a specialized type of artificial intelligence used in making computer chips.

The researcher, Satrajit Chatterjee, led a team of scientists in challenging the celebrated research paper, which appeared last year in the scientific journal Nature and said computers were able to design certain parts of a computer chip faster and better than human beings.

Dr. Chatterjee, 43, was fired in March, shortly after Google told his team that it would not publish a paper that rebutted some of the claims made in Nature, said four people familiar with the situation who were not permitted to speak openly on the matter. Google confirmed in a written statement that Dr. Chatterjee had been “terminated with cause.”

Google declined to elaborate about Dr. Chatterjee’s dismissal, but it offered a full-throated defense of the research he criticized and of its unwillingness to publish his assessment.

a similar paper a year earlier. Around that time, Google asked Dr. Chatterjee, who has a doctorate in computer science from the University of California, Berkeley, and had worked as a research scientist at Intel, to see if the approach could be sold or licensed to a chip design company, the people familiar with the matter said.

A.I. principles, including upholding high standards of scientific excellence. Soon after, Dr. Chatterjee was informed that he was no longer an employee, the people said.

Ms. Goldie said that Dr. Chatterjee had asked to manage their project in 2019 and that they had declined. When he later criticized it, she said, he could not substantiate his complaints and ignored the evidence they presented in response.

“Sat Chatterjee has waged a campaign of misinformation against me and Azalia for over two years now,” Ms. Goldie said in a written statement.

She said the work had been peer-reviewed by Nature, one of the most prestigious scientific publications. And she added that Google had used their methods to build new chips and that these chips were currently used in Google’s computer data centers.

Laurie M. Burgess, Dr. Chatterjee’s lawyer, said it was disappointing that “certain authors of the Nature paper are trying to shut down scientific discussion by defaming and attacking Dr. Chatterjee for simply seeking scientific transparency.” Ms. Burgess also questioned the leadership of Dr. Dean, who was one of 20 co-authors of the Nature paper.

“Jeff Dean’s actions to repress the release of all relevant experimental data, not just data that supports his favored hypothesis, should be deeply troubling both to the scientific community and the broader community that consumes Google services and products,” Ms. Burgess said.

Dr. Dean did not respond to a request for comment.

After the rebuttal paper was shared with academics and other experts outside Google, the controversy spread throughout the global community of researchers who specialize in chip design.

The chip maker Nvidia says it has used methods for chip design that are similar to Google’s, but some experts are unsure what Google’s research means for the larger tech industry.

“If this is really working well, it would be a really great thing,” said Jens Lienig, a professor at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany, referring to the A.I. technology described in Google’s paper. “But it is not clear if it is working.”

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Live Updates: Russia Says Focus Is Shifting Away From Kyiv, Toward Eastern Ukraine

Russia signaled a possible recalibration of its war aims in Ukraine on Friday as the Kremlin faced spreading global ostracism for the brutal invasion, hardened Western economic punishments and a determined Ukrainian resistance that appeared to be making some gains on the ground.

A statement by Russia’s Defense Ministry said the goals of the “first stage of the operation” had been “mainly accomplished,” with Ukraine’s combat capabilities “significantly reduced,” and that it would now focus on securing Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, where Russia-backed separatists have been fighting for eight years.

The Defense Ministry statement was ambiguous about further possible Russian territorial ambitions in Ukraine, where its ground forces have been mostly stymied by the unexpectedly strong Ukrainian military response.

But on a day when President Biden was visiting U.S. soldiers in Poland near the Ukrainian border, the statement suggested the possibility that the Russians were looking for a way to salvage some kind of achievement before the costs of the war they launched a month ago became impossibly onerous.

While Russia “does not exclude” that its forces will storm major Ukrainian cities such as Chernihiv, Mykolaiv and the capital, Kyiv, the Defense Ministry statement said that taking them over was not the primary objective.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

“As individual units carry out their tasks — and they are being solved successfully — our forces and means will be concentrated on the main thing: the complete liberation of the Donbas,” Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, a senior Russian military commander, said in the statement, his first since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24.

Whether General Rudskoi’s statement was sincere or simply strategic misdirection was difficult to assess. But the statement amounted to the most direct acknowledgment yet that Russia may be unable to take full control of Ukraine and would instead target the Donbas region, where Russia has recognized the independence of two Kremlin-backed separatist areas that it calls the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the “Luhansk People’s Republic.”

Russia has also insisted that Ukraine recognize its control of Crimea, which President Vladimir V. Putin’s forces seized from Ukraine in 2014.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has ruled out ceding those regions to stop the war.

Pavel Luzin, a Russian military analyst, cautioned that the public pronouncements of Russian military commanders should be regarded skeptically. While Russia could indeed be narrowing its war aims, he said, General Rudskoi’s statement could also be a feint as Russia regroups for a new offensive.

Credit…Natalia Kolesnikova/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“We could say that this is a signal that we’re no longer insisting on dismantling Ukrainian statehood,” Mr. Luzin said. “But I would rather see it as a distracting maneuver.”

General Rudskoi’s statement came as Ukraine acknowledged that Russian forces had been “partially successful” in achieving one of their key objectives — securing a land corridor from Russia to the Crimean Peninsula.

While Russia already controlled much of the area, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said the route allowed Russian troops and supplies to flow between Crimea and Russia.

But some Ukrainian officials said the significance of such a route might be overstated. Oleksandr Danylyuk, a former secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine under Mr. Zelensky, described the land bridge as a minor Russian victory and said the Kremlin was moving to secure Donetsk and Luhansk to “sell to the Russian public as a potential victory.”

In Moscow, Mr. Putin, who has made any criticism of the war a potential crime, used a televised videoconference with the winners of a presidential arts prize on Friday to deliver a diatribe about “cancel culture” that made no mention of the war in Ukraine.

In embracing a term that has become a favorite of the American political right to reprise his contention that the West is trying to erase Russian culture and history, Mr. Putin cited J.K. Rowling, author of the “Harry Potter” books, whose comments about transgender women have been criticized as transphobic.

Credit…Pool photo by Mikhail Klimentyev

“Not so long ago, the children’s writer J.K. Rowling was also ‘canceled’ for the fact that she — the author of books that have sold hundreds of millions of copies around the world — did not please fans of so-called gender freedoms,” Mr. Putin said.

Ms. Rowling responded on Twitter that, “Critiques of Western cancel culture are possibly not best made by those currently slaughtering civilians for the crime of resistance, or who jail and poison their critics.” She added the hashtag #IStandWithUkraine.

As Mr. Putin spoke, there were indications that Ukrainian forces were making some progress in the second week of their counteroffensive. A senior Pentagon official said that Russian forces no longer had full control of the southern port of Kherson and that the city, the first major urban center to be captured in the Russian invasion, was now “contested territory.”

The Pentagon assessment contradicted General Rudskoi’s claim on Friday that the Kherson region was “under full control.”

In another sign of the bloody stalemate in Ukraine, Russian soldiers have adopted “defensive positions” near Kyiv, the Pentagon official said, adding that Russia appeared to be “prioritizing” the fight in eastern Ukraine, as General Rudskoi had indicated.

“Clearly, they overestimated their ability to take Kyiv and overestimated their ability to take any population center,” the Pentagon official said.

Mr. Biden, on the second day of his three-day visit to Europe because of the Ukraine crisis, traveled to Rzeszow, Poland, about 50 miles from the Ukrainian border, where he met with members of the 82nd Airborne Division who are serving as part of NATO’s efforts to protect Poland and other member states from Russian aggression.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Greeting American service members who were eating pizza in a cafeteria, Mr. Biden called them “the finest fighting force in the history of the world,” and added, “I personally thank you for what you do.”

Later, Mr. Biden met with President Andrzej Duda of Poland and officials managing the humanitarian response to the more than two million Ukrainian refugees who have fled to Poland to escape the shelling and deprivation.

Mr. Biden also announced a deal to increase U.S. shipments of natural gas to help wean Europe off Russian energy. But it remained unclear exactly how the administration would achieve its goals.

The deal calls for the United States to send an additional 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas — roughly 10 to 12 percent of current annual U.S. exports to all countries. But it does not address the lack of port capacity to ship and receive more gas on both sides of the Atlantic.

Still, American gas executives welcomed a renewed emphasis on exports as a sign that the Biden administration was now seeking to promote the U.S. oil and gas industry rather than punish it for contributions to climate change.

“I have no idea how they are going to do this, but I don’t want to criticize them because for the first time they are trying to do the right thing,” said Charif Souki, executive chairman of Tellurian, a U.S. gas producer that is planning to build an export terminal in Louisiana.

Robert Habeck, the vice chancellor and economic minister of Germany, said his country expected to halve imports of Russian oil by midsummer and nearly end them by year’s end — sooner than many thought possible. He estimated that Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, could be free of Russian gas by mid-2024.

Images and videos from Ukraine that emerged on Friday underscored the escalating death toll and destruction.

Newly surfaced security camera footage, verified by The New York Times, showed an attack on people in line for emergency aid outside a post office and shopping center in the battered northeastern city of Kharkiv on Thursday. Oleg Sinegubov, the head of the regional government there, said that at least six civilians had been killed and 15 wounded.

Credit…Felipe Dana/Associated Press

Photographs out of Kharkiv on Friday also showed a large fireball and nearby cars and buildings on fire, as residents fled on foot and bicycle, carrying whatever belongings they could grab in the aftermath of the attack.

In the central city of Dnipro, Russian missile strikes on a military facility destroyed buildings late Thursday night, according to Ukrainian officials, who said that casualties were still being assessed.

And in Mariupol, the southern port savaged by Russian attacks, Ukrainian officials said that an estimated 300 people had been killed in a March 16 strike on a theater used as a bomb shelter.

It was unclear how officials had arrived at that estimate. Ukrainian officials have said that about 130 people were rescued from the theater, which was attacked even though “children” had been written in giant letters on the pavement on both sides of the building.

The United Nations said on Friday that more than 1,000 civilians have been killed, including 93 children, since Russia’s invasion began, many in what appeared to have been indiscriminate bombardments that could constitute war crimes.

The United Nations cautioned that it had not been able to verify the death toll in areas of intense conflict, including Mariupol, and said the actual number of injured and dead was likely to be considerably higher.

In a sign that diplomatic efforts were struggling, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, rejected comments by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who had suggested that Ukraine was open to concessions in four key areas.

In an interview released Friday, Mr. Erdogan, who is hosting talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations, said that Ukraine was willing to drop its bid for NATO membership, accept Russian as an official language, make “certain concessions” about disarmament and agree to “collective security.”

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

But Mr. Kuleba said the negotiations had proved “very difficult” and that Ukraine had “taken a strong position and does not relinquish its demands.”

“We insist, first of all, on a cease-fire, security guarantees and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” he said, adding that there was “no consensus with Russia on the four points mentioned by the president of Turkey.”

“In particular,” he said, “the Ukrainian language is and will be the only one state language in Ukraine.”

Anton Troianovski reported from Istanbul, Michael D. Shear from Warsaw and Michael Levenson from New York. Reporting was contributed by Helene Cooper from Washington, Ivan Nechepurenko from Istanbul, Valerie Hopkins from Lviv, Ukraine, Andrew E. Kramer from Kyiv, Megan Specia from Krakow, Poland, Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva and Clifford Krauss from Houston.

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Ukraine Live Updates: Civilians Caught in Escalating Russian Attacks

One of the paradoxical things about Vladimir V. Putin’s increasingly authoritarian rule of Russia was how relatively open society always remained.

For all the state’s control of media, people could read or watch what they wanted, including foreign newscasts like BBC and CNN. The internet was largely unfettered, a portal to the rest of the world. Unlike, say, China, you could criticize the president with some assurance that the police would not knock at the door.

Until now.

As the war in Ukraine grinds on, Mr. Putin has strangled the vestiges of a free press to justify an invasion that has been almost universally condemned — and with that moved closer to the stultifying orthodoxy of the Soviet Union. The result will be to isolate the country, as Mr. Putin has isolated himself, leaving it with a one-sided view of the world no longer subject to debate.

Two of the remaining flagships of the country’s own independent media — Ekho Moskvy, the liberal radio station, and TV Dozhd, or Rain, a digital upstart — went off the air last week, hounded by the authorities for reporting accurately on Ukraine. Access to Facebook, Twitter and TikTok, platforms pulsing with opposition to Mr. Putin’s war, have been blocked, as have other online sites in Russia.

Credit…The New York Times

Many foreign news organizations have withdrawn correspondents or stopped reporting in Russia after Mr. Putin on Friday signed into law a measure to punish anyone spreading “false information” with up to 15 years in prison.

“Just two weeks ago it was not possible to imagine how quickly most of it would get closed,” said Nina L. Khrushcheva, a professor of international affairs at the New School in New York City. “And yet it is.”

Beyond the immediate impact on Russians’ ability to learn about the war next door, Mr. Putin seems to have crossed a threshold in the country’s history. He is sequestering Russian society to a greater extent than at any time since the last Soviet leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, launched a policy in 1986 called glasnost, which became known as “openness” but more precisely means “the act of giving voice.”

Access to foreign news reporting and independent voices on social media have challenged the Kremlin’s monopoly on state media — as Mr. Gorbachev’s effort broke the Soviet monopoly on truth. Independent outlets have, at great risk to reporters’ personal safety, uncovered abuses during Russia’s war in Chechnya, repression of political and human rights, and the extraordinary wealth of people close to Mr. Putin — all taboo subjects in state media.

The impact of silencing them could be much broader and last much longer than the war, pushing the country from authoritarian rule to something worse.

Credit…The New York Times

“Putin is trying to turn Russia back into a totalitarian dictatorship of the pre-Gorbachev days,” said Michael McFaul, the former American ambassador to Russia who is director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. “He will eventually fail, but he will do great damage to Russian society in trying.”

The Kremlin’s propaganda and restrictions have already disconnected ordinary Russians from the horrific violence ravaging cities across Ukraine — even those with relatives on the ground telling them otherwise. They have covered up the Russian military’s difficulties, as well as the human costs to Ukrainians that Mr. Putin claims to be defending.

Those who watch Russian television instead see the country’s troops taking part in a largely bloodless “special military operation,” to protect Ukrainian civilians from a neo-Nazi government. In this alternate reality, Russian troops are distributing aid to civilians or helping evacuate them to safety; Ukrainians are fabricating reports about Russian military setbacks — or even shelling their own cities.

The result has been to create a blinkered view of the war that few dare pierce. Not a single deputy in the State Duma, the lower house of Parliament, voted against the bill criminalizing “fake news.”

“There is less and less access to accurate information from the West amid the relentless pounding from increasingly hysterical state propaganda, which admittedly, is having its effect,” said Sergey Radchenko, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies Europe.

Credit… The New York Times

Mr. Putin was a lieutenant colonel in the K.G.B., serving in the former East Germany, when glasnost was introduced. He later said that he, too, recognized the need for the Soviet Union to become more open. Only up to a point, though.

From the start of his presidency in 2000, he understood that the media — especially television — had the power not only to shape his political image but also to help him govern. He moved quickly to regain control of the main television networks from two oligarchs, Vladimir A. Gusinsky and Boris A. Berezovsky, who championed agendas not always in line with the Kremlin.

But printed media faced less direct pressure, and the internet burst with new outlets, making Russian and foreign sources widely accessible. Independent media like Ekho Moskvy were mostly left alone, serving as quasi independent sources of news and debate, at least for the educated elite. The station was itself a child of glasnost, founded in 1990 by frustrated employees of state radio who wanted a platform for genuine political discussion.

Russians attributed the station’s survival to its savvy editor in chief, Aleksei A. Venediktov, and the Kremlin’s need for both a safety valve for liberal debate and a source of information separate from its own propaganda. It was there that opposition figures long barred from state television could give interviews, and anchors could debate the impact of Kremlin policies on regular people.

Credit…The New York Times

Before it closed last week, the outlet promoted voices critical of the war and of Mr. Putin himself. Russia’s prosecutor general accused it of spreading “deliberately false information.”

As in many spheres of Russian life, tolerance for contrary or unorthodox views in the media has been eroding for years. Maria Snegovaya, a visiting scholar at George Washington University and a fellow at the Center for New American Security in Washington, said there has been a “qualitative change” in Mr. Putin’s government.

She dated it to the protests that shook Mr. Putin’s ally in Belarus in 2020; the poisoning of the Kremlin’s arch critic, Aleksei A. Navalny, and his subsequent imprisonment; and the constitutional changes enacted last year allowing Mr. Putin, now 69, to extend his presidential terms to 2036.

All generated significant opposition in Russia that seeped into the public discourse, despite the Kremlin’s effort. Mr. Navalny became famous for investigations devoted to exposing corruption, including a 143-minute documentary on YouTube after his arrest that accused Mr. Putin of secretly building a palace on the Black Sea coast.

Credit…Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press

“I always refrained from calling Russia totalitarian, but I think the military situation, the war, has pushed the authorities toward that,” Ms. Snegovaya said from Bulgaria where she was assisting Russians who fled the country in recent days.

A more severe step would be creating an analog to China’s Great Firewall, which restricts access to foreign websites on the outside and strictly controls what is allowed inside. Russia calls its vision for a sovereign cyberspace the RuNet, though it has so far stopped short of imposing total control.

In today’s digitally connected world, Mr. Putin could have a difficult time cutting off Russia entirely. Even in the Soviet Union, information flowed back and forth over borders. Virtual private networks, or VPNs, that allow people to evade internet restrictions by disguising which country they are logging in from, can help spread information the way samizdat, illegal copies of censored books or articles, circulated clandestinely in Soviet times.

“It will be difficult for the Russian government to block all outside information,” Jamie Fly, the chief executive of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the U.S.-financed network founded during the Cold War, said after the announcement that it, too, was ceasing operations inside Russia. “History shows that people will go to great lengths to seek out the truth.”

Credit…The New York Times

Those who do so now will be a small minority. As Mr. Putin’s rule continues, critics fear he will take even stronger measures to maintain the Kremlin’s uncontested grip on power.

“We have a long way to go before we get to 1937,” Mr. Radchenko said, evoking the year of Stalin’s Great Terror, “but for the first time the road is clear. You can see far ahead, like on a cold, crisp winter morning, and there, in the distance, you can just about make out the outlines of the guillotines.”

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Germany’s Vaccine Mandate Forges Unlikely Coalition of Protestors

NUREMBERG, Germany — Maria Liebermann came wrapped in fairy lights and waved a peace flag featuring a white dove. Martin Schmidt carried a Germany flag with the word RESIST scrawled across it in capital letters.

She is a self-described “eco-leftist.” He votes for the far-right Alternative for Germany. They disagree on everything from immigration to climate change, but on a recent Monday they marched side by side against the prospect of a general Covid vaccine mandate, shouting “Freedom!”

At the start of the pandemic, Germany was widely lauded as a model of unity in combating the coronavirus. A general trust in government encouraged citizens to comply with lockdowns, mask guidance and social distancing restrictions.

But that confidence in the authorities has steadily waned as the pandemic enters its third year and the fight has shifted toward vaccines, exposing deep rifts in German society and setting back efforts to combat Covid cases.

death threats from vaccine opponents in recent weeks.

In western Germany, the picture is more complicated.

A well-established tradition of homeopathy and natural cures has meant that a certain distrust of science and medicine has long been widely accepted in Germany’s middle class. Homeopathic doctors are commonplace, their services reimbursed by public health insurers. Germany’s new age esoteric industry — books, crystals, courses and the like — brings in an estimated 20 billion euros in revenue a year. Bavaria has the highest number of certified healers in the country.

unlikely coalition of protesters that includes naturalists, neo-Nazis and ordinary citizens alike. In China, authorities said that the 13 million residents in Xi’an will be allowed to travel in and out of the city, ending a 32-day lockdown.

Sophia, a 22-year-old who described herself as an “energetic healer,” and who was chatting to friends about an hour before the Nuremberg march, lamented the lack of opposition coming from parties on the left like the Greens that had traditionally challenged the status quo.

“Now they’re all backing the vaccine mandate,” she said. In the recent German election, Sophia, who declined to give her last name, supported the Basis party, a newly founded anti-vax party that garnered less than 3 percent of the vote.

Sophia comes from a family of doctors, and both her parents and her older brother got fully vaccinated and have urged her to do the same. But she is concerned that the vaccine was developed too fast, and doesn’t trust the government to disclose any serious side effects.

“My body is telling me that this is not a good idea,” she said. “I have a pretty good connection to my body.”

Her friends concurred. “It’s not about keeping us healthy, it’s about giving us all a QR code,” said Stefan, a 35-year-old father of five who advocates civil disobedience and also did not want his full name used. “They rule with fear. It’s a kind of tyranny.”

“Mainstream science is a religion,” he added.

Distrust in “mainstream science,” and mainstream politics, is one thing esoterics and the far right can agree on, said Mr. Grande of the WZB.

“The common denominator is distrust,” he said. “What unites these two very different groups is an alienation from traditional parties, from science, from media.”

Mr. Grande said the high levels of trust in government shown by Germans early in the pandemic, when nine in 10 backed the coronavirus restrictions, began to erode after the first lockdown as weariness with the pandemic set in.

The danger now, Mr. Grande said, is that the weekly contact with the far right on the streets normalizes that group for those who belong to what he calls “the distrustful center.” Both camps share a belief in conspiracy theories, which have the power to radicalize the movement beyond the fringes.

The vaccine mandate, which will be debated in parliament at the end of the month, is the decisive driver of the protests. “The debate about vaccine mandate is oil into the fire of the radicalization,” Mr. Grande said.

“I fear we have a difficult political phase ahead of us in this pandemic,” he said.

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