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The Arms Merchant in the Sights of Russia’s Elite Assassination Squad

For a major arms merchant, Emilian Gebrev cuts the modest figure of a bemused grandfather, preferring soccer jerseys and polo shirts to suits and ties, driving his own car and insisting that he is of little importance outside his native Bulgaria.

But this week it became clear just how significant Mr. Gebrev is, at least to an elite squad of Russian operatives within the Kremlin’s military intelligence service.

Days after the Czech authorities accused the assassination team, known as Unit 29155, of being behind a series of 2014 explosions at weapons depots that killed two people, Mr. Gebrev acknowledged that his supplies were stored at the depots. And according to Czech officials, Mr. Gebrev’s stocks were the target.

The revelation is a new and startling development, given that the authorities say the group also twice tried to kill Mr. Gebrev. In 2015, the Bulgarian authorities say that officers with the unit traveled to Bulgaria and poisoned him with a substance resembling the same Novichok nerve agent used against former spies and obstinate critics of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. After the first attempt failed to kill him, they returned and poisoned him again.

many as 60 Russian diplomats on top of the 18 it had already kicked out of the country in response to the explosions, potentially dismantling Russia’s diplomatic presence in the country. Russia has vowed to respond accordingly, and has already expelled 20 officials from the Czech Embassy in Moscow.

impose sanctions as punishment for a huge breach of U.S. government computers systems that the White House blamed on Russia’s foreign intelligence agency. It also coincided with Russia massing troops on the Ukraine border, only to partly pull back this week.

For years, Unit 29155 operated in Europe before Western intelligence agencies even discovered it. A 2019 investigation by The New York Times revealed the purpose of the unit and showed that its officers had carried out the attempted assassination a year earlier of a former Russian spy named Sergei V. Skripal, who was poisoned in Salisbury, England.

Numerous other examples of the unit’s handiwork have since been exposed. Last year, the Times revealed a C.I.A. assessment that officers from the unit may have carried out a secret operation to pay bounties to a network of criminal militants in Afghanistan in exchange for attacks on U.S. and coalition troops.

Bulgarian prosecutors charged three officers from Unit 29155 with poisoning Mr. Gebrev in January 2020 and issued warrants for their arrest. They also released surveillance video of one of the assailants apparently smearing poison on the door handles of cars belonging to Mr. Gebrev, his son and a senior manager in a garage near their offices in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital.

But Mr. Gebrev questions whether the unit acted alone, suggesting that even if Russian assassins were responsible for his poisoning, they were likely in cahoots with his enemies in Bulgaria.

Bellingcat determined that Maj. Gen. Andrei V. Averyanov, the commander of Unit 29155, traveled undercover to Vienna days before the explosions and possibly drove into the Czech Republic to the town of Ostrava where, according to the Czech authorities, the men using the names Petrov and Boshirov stayed during the operation.

That Russian spies would carryout military-style sabotage operations outside wartime has shaken many in Europe.

“I think for public opinion, not only in the Czech Republic, but for others in the European Union, this is shocking,” said David Stulik, a senior analyst at the Prague-based European Values Center for Security Policy. “It sheds light on how Russia is treating our countries.”

Boryana Dzhambazova contributed reporting from Sofia, Bulgaria, and Hana de Goeij from Prague.

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How Working From Home Changed Wardrobes Around the World

Have months of self-isolation, lockdown and working from home irrevocably changed what we will put on once we go out again? For a long time, the assumption was yes. Now, as restrictions ease and the opening up of offices and travel is dangled like a promise, that expectation is more like a qualified “maybe.” But not every country’s experience of the last year was the same, nor were the clothes that dominated local wardrobes. Before we can predict what’s next, we need to understand what was. Here, eight New York Times correspondents in seven different countries share dispatches from a year of dressing.

Italian Vogue called “a luxury version of classic two-piece sweats.”

Fabio Pietrella, the president of Confartigianato Moda, the fashion arm of the association of artisans and small businesses, said that while consumer trends indicated a shift from “a business look to comfort,” it was “not too much comfort.” Italian women, he said, had eschewed sportswear for “quality knitwear” that guarantees freedom of movement but with “a minimum of elegance.”

flyest city on the planet.

In the Senegalese capital, at Africa’s westernmost tip, men in pointy yellow slippers and crisp white boubous — loosefitting long tunics — still glide down streets dredged with Saharan dust. Young women still sit in cafes sipping baobab juice in patterned leggings and jeweled hijabs. Everyone from consultants to greengrocers still wears gorgeous prints from head to toe.

Occasionally they now wear a matching mask.

While much of the world was shut up at home, many people in West Africa were working or going to school as normal. Lockdown in Senegal lasted just a few months. It was impossible for many people here to keep it up. They depend on going out to earn their living.

the poet and revolutionary Amílcar Cabral loved.

joint report by the Boston Consulting Group and Retailers Association of India.

While infections were low during the winter, the past few weeks have seen cases rising to staggering levels in many parts of the country. Right now, it looks as though many people will be working from home for most of 2021 too.

For Ritu Gorai, who runs a moms network in Mumbai, that means she has barely shopped at all, instead using accessories like scarves, jewelry and glasses to jazz up her look and add a little polish.

For Sanshe Bhatia, an elementary schoolteacher, it has meant trading her long kurtas or formal trousers and blouses for caftans and leggings. In order to encourage her class of 30 kids to get dressed in the morning rather than attending lessons in their pajamas, she takes care to look neat and makes sure her long hair is brushed properly.

into a tailspin,” interviews with a range of Parisians suggest a compromise of sorts had been reached.

When Xavier Romatet, the dean of the Institut Français de la Mode, France’s foremost fashion school, went back to work, he didn’t wear a suit, but he did wear a white shirt under a navy blue cashmere sweater and beige chinos, as he would at home. He paired his outfit with sneakers by Veja, a French eco-friendly brand.

Similarly, Anne Lhomme, the creative director of Saint Louis, the luxury tableware brand, dresses the same whether remotely or in person. A favorite look, she said, includes a camel-colored cashmere poncho “designed by a friend, Laurence Coudurier, for Poncho Gallery” and loosefitting plum silk pants. Also lipstick, earrings and four Swahili rings she found in Kenya.

light blue or white shirts, which I buy at Emile Lafaurie or online from Charles Tyrwhitt, with a round-collar sweater if it’s cold” — and, from the waist down, “Uniqlo pants in stretch fabric.”

And Sophie Fontanel, a writer and former fashion editor at Elle, said, “I am often barefoot at home, alone, wearing a very pretty dress.”

Daphné Anglès

Fifth, as well as high-fashion labels, have focused on bright satin, silk and linen shirts with bow ties or stand-up collars, striped patterns or gathered sleeves. The trend for such showy tops has led to a boom in clothing subscription services.

One such platform, AirCloset, announced that 450,000 users had subscribed in October 2020, three times more than in the same period in 2019. Often users request tops only (one bottom item is usually included), and there is now a limit of three in any one order.

“Customers prefer brighter colors to basics such as navy or beige for online meetings, or they prefer asymmetric design tops,” said Mari Nakano, the AirCloset spokeswoman. About 40 percent of subscribers are working mothers for whom the subscription service saved time because they didn’t have to be bothered with washing. They just put the tops in a bag, return them and then wait for the next package to arrive with their new items.

Hisako Ueno

Ushatava, an independent label of sleek, geometrically tailored sleek designs in mostly muted natural colors. It was founded in Yekaterinburg, a city in the Ural Mountains that in the last few years has turned into a Russian fashion hub. 12Storeez, another rising brand from Yekaterinburg, saw its turnover balloon by 35 percent over the last year, even as the market overall shrank by a quarter, said Ivan Khokhlov, one of the founders.

Nastya Gritskova, the head of a P.R. agency in Moscow, said the effect of the pandemic was that for the first time in the Russian capital people stopped “paying attention at who wears what.” Yet last fall, when the government eased coronavirus-related restrictions, things started going back to normal.

“There isn’t a pandemic that can make Russian women stop thinking about how to look beautiful,” she said.

Ivan Nechepurenko


Elisabetta Povoledo, Ruth Maclean, Mady Camara, Flávia Milhorance, Shalini Venugopal Bhagat, Daphné Anglès, Hisako Ueno and Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting.

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