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Foreign Experts Quit Inquiry of Hong Kong Police Over Lack of Powers


HONG KONG — A group of foreign experts hired to give more credibility to Hong Kong’s police watchdog while it investigated accusations of brutality has quit over the agency’s lack of powers, dealing a blow to the government.

The experts said in a statement they would “formally stand aside” after concluding that the city’s police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Council, had limited authority to conduct independent investigations.

The protest movement has called for a judge-led independent commission to review the police’s conduct, a demand that draws broad public support. Critics say the council, which is stacked with conservative figures and unable to summon witnesses, is toothless.

The government and the police force have rejected the protesters’ demand, saying the watchdog would suffice. The watchdog hired the international panel, which included policing experts from Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, in early September to try to give the probe more credibility.

The foreign experts said last month that the council needed the power to subpoena witnesses and verify the police’s version of events. The experts said on Wednesday that without such authority, the inquiry would not meet the public’s expectations “of a police watchdog operating in a society that values freedoms and rights.”

The watchdog had earlier rejected the foreign experts’ recommendations, with the council’s chairman, Anthony Neoh, saying in an interview with the Chinese news media that the experts did not understand Hong Kong’s laws.

Pro-democracy lawmakers said the panel’s decision to pull out of the investigation only served to support the public’s demands.

“The whole incident has become an international laughingstock,” Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy lawmaker, told reporters on Wednesday. She said the government thought seeking foreign expertise “could rationalize their irrational state of affairs, but now the opposite has happened.”

The council is expected to deliver a preliminary report on its findings in January. Tanya Chan, an opposition lawmaker, said the experts’ resignations amounted to a “vote of no confidence” on the investigation. She urged Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s beleaguered leader, to persuade Beijing to support an independent investigation when she meets with Chinese leaders this weekend.

The police have fired nearly 16,000 rounds of tear gas and 10,000 rubber bullets since the protests began in June over a now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extraditions to China. The heavy use of tear gas, including in densely populated residential neighborhoods, has prompted public health and environmental concerns. More than 6,000 people between the ages of 11 and 84 have been arrested in the continuing unrest.

The police have faced increasing condemnation after being accused of failing to quickly respond to a mob attack on antigovernment protesters in late July in the northern district of Yuen Long. In late August, riot police officers charged onto a subway train, fired pepper spray and beat people in the carriage, further tarnishing the force’s image.

Hundreds of thousands of people poured onto the streets on Sunday, six months into the movement, in one of the largest marches in weeks to pressure the government to meet demands for greater civil liberties and police accountability.

But Mrs. Lam has refused to make any further concessions, raising the prospect that the demonstrations could continue for the foreseeable future.

Tensions in Hong Kong eased somewhat after the pro-democracy camp scored a stunning victory in local elections last month, but the police say they are increasingly concerned about the threat of violence. The force said officers had found two homemade bombs containing about 22 pounds of explosives near a high school a day after Sunday’s protest.

Ezra Cheung contributed reporting.

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Donald Trump, Jersey City, New York Yankees: Your Wednesday Briefing


(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

Good morning.

We’re covering the latest news from Washington, a deadly gun battle in Jersey City and a blockbuster deal involving the New York Yankees. We’ve also published our collection of pictures of the year.

The House Judiciary Committee will meet today to consider two articles of impeachment against President Trump, after Democratic leaders formally called for his removal from office.

The articles, unveiled on Tuesday, accuse the president of “corruptly soliciting” Ukraine to assist his re-election campaign and obstructing Congress by stonewalling the impeachment inquiry. (Read the articles of impeachment here.)

The impeachment push is narrowly focused on Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, an effort to maintain unity among Democrats after moderates were concerned by the possibility of a broader set of charges.

From Opinion: Are Democrats taking the right approach, or should they be pursuing a broader case? Here’s what people are saying.

What’s next: The Judiciary Committee could vote by Thursday to recommend the charges to the full House for final approval. If the House impeaches Mr. Trump, he will stand trial in the Senate early next year.

“The Daily”: Today’s episode is about the articles of impeachment.

Another angle: Mr. Trump and Attorney General William Barr escalated their attacks on the F.B.I. after a report that found that the bureau was justified in opening its Trump campaign inquiry.

On the same day that Democrats accused President Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors, they also announced a deal with the White House over a revised North American trade agreement.

The new deal would strengthen labor, environmental, pharmaceutical and enforcement provisions in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, making it all but certain to become law.

Mr. Trump’s top trade adviser, Robert Lighthizer, called the deal “nothing short of a miracle.”

Closer look: The timing offers Mr. Trump an achievement to promote on the campaign trail and House Democrats proof that they’re able to legislate during their impeachment push. Lawmakers are also close to approving the largest military bill in the nation’s history, and they intend to pass legislation on lowering prescription drug costs, another priority for Mr. Trump.

A series of gunfights in Jersey City turned a residential neighborhood across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan into what seemed like a war zone on Tuesday.

The violence began at a cemetery, where a police officer was killed, and ended hours later at a kosher market, where five more people, including the two attackers, were slain.

A city official said there was “no indication” of terrorism, but Mayor Steven Fulop later said that the gunmen, who have not been identified, had “targeted the location.” He didn’t provide further explanation.

Closer look: The market caters to a small but growing number of ultra-Orthodox Jews who have moved to the area in recent years.

Quotable: “This is one of the biggest gunfights I’ve seen in a while,” a resident said, “and I’ve been in Vietnam.”

When the Russian Federation went to war in the rebellious region of Chechnya 25 years ago today, it expected a swift victory. Instead, tens of thousands of people were killed, and Russia was left humiliated. Above, the center of Grozny, the Chechen capital, in January 1995.

Our Moscow bureau chief looks back at how war became a turning point in Russia that enabled the ascent of Vladimir Putin.

Arctic worries: Temperatures in the region remained near record highs this year, according to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Things are getting worse,” said one of the report’s authors.

Defending Myanmar: The country’s de facto civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, said today that outsiders lacked an adequate understanding of her homeland’s ethnic makeup as she responded to accusations of genocide by Myanmar’s military during a hearing in The Hague.

Limits on Saudi students: The Pentagon has suspended operational training for all Saudi military students in the U.S. after a deadly shooting at a Navy base in Florida. About 900 students will be affected.

Targeting anti-Semitism: President Trump plans to sign an executive order today that would effectively define Judaism as a race or nationality, not just a religion, in an effort to compel colleges and universities to combat discrimination. Critics say such a policy could stifle free speech.

Pete Buttigieg’s clients: The Democratic presidential candidate released a list of nine clients from his time at McKinsey & Company, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and several federal agencies.

New volcano warning: A scientist in New Zealand said today that there was a strong chance of another eruption within 24 hours at the volcano where at least six people were killed.

Snapshot: Above, Abigail Anderson and Austin, an English setter, on a shuttle to the Westminster Dog Show in New York in February. The photograph is part of our collection of the year in pictures, which editors selected from more than 5.6 million images.

Record deal for Yankees: New York offered Gerrit Cole, formerly of the Houston Astros, a contract worth $324 million over nine years, the largest ever for a pitcher.

Word of the year: Merriam-Webster said “they” was its word of the year, as use of the plural pronoun expands to refer to nonbinary individuals.

52 Places traveler: In his latest dispatch, our columnist visits Perth and the Northern Rivers region of Australia.

Late-night comedy: “The good news for Trump is that he’s only facing two charges,” Trevor Noah said. “Although in a way, that’s also kind of sad for him, because Nixon had three articles brought against him, Bill Clinton had four and Andrew Johnson had 11.”

What we’re reading: This Guardian Q. and A. with Lucy Ellmann, the author of the novel “Ducks, Newburyport.” She discusses, among other things, “when resilience appalls her” and how thankless and enraging parenthood is, says Andrew LaVallee, an editor on our Books desk.

Cook: These gingery brownie cookies can be ready to eat within 30 minutes. (And here are 11 more stunning cookies.)

Watch: It took months for FKA twigs to perfect the title track for her new album. See how she got it right in the latest episode of Diary of a Song.

Eat: Our critic Pete Wells names his top 10 new restaurants in New York, including a food hall at Hudson Yards and a taco truck. He also picked the city’s top 10 dishes. (Your briefing writer has only the second-best job at The Times.)

Smarter Living: Keep your emails concise and clear, and remember: Put people who aren’t expected to reply in the “CC” field, not the “to” field. Read our tips for digital etiquette.

Pull one thread of the news, and you can find a tapestry of history that leads up to the present.

For instance: The Trump impeachment inquiry has focused on his administration’s delay of aid meant to help Ukraine deal with an assault by Russia-backed separatists.

Some say the delay violated a 25-year-old agreement, the Budapest Memorandum. In it, Ukraine got reassurances of territorial sovereignty from Russia, the U.S. and Britain in exchange for giving up the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal — its inheritance from the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its proxy war in eastern Ukraine are considered violations of the memorandum, but repercussions were limited.

Still, the memorandum removed the final obstacle to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, a global limit on nuclear weapons. In practice, it kept the remains of the former Soviet arsenal in Russian control. At the time, that seemed safer than leaving them spread out.

Back to the present: The START treaty is set to lapse in 2020, and Russia and the U.S. have been discussing an extension, most recently on Tuesday, when President Trump met Russia’s foreign minister at the White House.

That’s it for this briefing. (So I’m free, Pete, if you need a lunch date.)

See you next time.

— Chris

Thank youMark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford provided the break from the news. Will Dudding, an assistant in the Standards department, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about the articles of impeachment.• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: The “B” in KB, MB or GB (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here. • Lynsey Addario, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Times photographer, wrote about one of the most emotional assignments — and friendships — of her life: covering the Belgian Paralympic athlete Marieke Vervoort over three years, as she prepared to die by choice.

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Who Keeps Europe’s Farm Billions Flowing? Often, Those Who Benefit


BRUSSELS — One morning this spring, lawmakers crowded into a committee room filled with staffers, lobbyists and environmentalists to vote on a flurry of bills that would set the course for the European Union’s $65-billion-a-year farm policy.

For critics of the subsidy system, one item was of special interest. It was known as the “Babis Amendment,” after Andrej Babis, the billionaire agriculturalist and prime minister of the Czech Republic. It was designed to prohibit politicians who hand out European Union farm subsidies from receiving the funds themselves.

Mr. Babis is Exhibit A of how the system benefits the wealthy and connected. His government shapes agricultural subsidy policies in the Czech Republic. It also gave $42 million in European subsidies last year to his domestic companies, according to a New York Times analysis. His holdings in Germany, Hungary and Slovakia received another $7 million.

“The vote is open,” the agricultural committee chairman declared.

Eleven seconds passed.

Then the chairman simply said: “Rejected.”

Nobody read the proposal aloud. There was no debate. And nobody mentioned one relevant fact: that half of the 46 committee members had ties to the farm industry. Several lawmakers received thousands of dollars in subsidies. The Babis Amendment could have jeopardized their money, too.

The European Union’s farm program is one of the largest subsidy schemes in the world. It represents 40 percent of the European budget — money that is meant to support farmers and sustain rural communities.

Yet it is opaque in key areas, with gaping shortcomings in accountability. In November, a New York Times investigation revealed that the subsidies underwrite oligarchs, mobsters and far-right populists. The Times also showed that some national leaders use the money to enrich friends, political allies and family members.

Such abuses succeed in part because of a system in Brussels that favors those who earn the most from the subsidies. Not only do they play an outsized role in setting policies, they also benefit from murky conflict-of-interest rules, weak lobbying-disclosure laws and a haphazard accountability system in which cases can drag on for years even when outright fraud is discovered.

Agricultural lobbyists, among the most influential in Europe, have exclusive, closed-door access to government leaders. Conflict-of-interest laws do not apply to the ministers who vote on legislation. And members of the European Parliament are not prohibited from writing the laws for the very subsidies they receive.

“The powerful people who have land and the powerful people in government work together,” said Maria Noichl, a German member of the European Parliament who sponsored the Babis Amendment. “They both benefit from the program, and most people don’t know how it works.”

Renewing the seven-year farm bill is one of the top priorities on the European agenda. Debate will intensify next year when the European Parliament and council consider whether to grant national leaders like Mr. Babis greater flexibility over how the money is spent.

Internal auditors have criticized that proposal, only to face lambasting in the Parliament.

For years, European leaders have been warned that the subsidies encourage corruption, harm the environment and underwrite land-grabbing. Yet major change remains difficult when so many lobbyists, lawmakers and farm officials want to keep the system intact.

Andrej Babis became prime minister of the Czech Republic promising to run the state like a business. But he is often accused of running the state as if it were his business.

After the end of the Cold War, Mr. Babis was among the former communists who bought up what remained of the old order. He built his empire through a relentless acquisition of farms, fertilizer companies, tractor suppliers and silos. In an industry dominated by big players, his company, Agrofert, is the biggest.

“I made it from nothing,” Mr. Babis said in an interview in New York.

But his companies also have benefited from policies approved by governments that he has led or served in, prompting years of investigations over conflicts of interest, even as Agrofert continued to collect subsidies.

When Mr. Babis was finance minister and deputy prime minister from 2014 to 2017, small farmers complained that they lost influence on a board that monitors and helps guide national policies for handing out farm subsidies.

“So you can imagine what kind of a decision process takes place there,” said Jan Stefl, a 59-year-old Czech farmer. “It always favors the big farmers.”

Journalists then revealed that Mr. Babis had created a shell company that collected $2 million in European agricultural grants intended for small businesses. In 2017, European investigators and the Czech police recommended that he be prosecuted for fraud.

But soon after that recommendation, Mr. Babis was elected prime minister. Prosecutors said they would review the investigative file. Two years later, they dropped the case. Last week, they reopened it.

That is common because European fraud investigators must work with local authorities to conduct most investigations. They can recommend charges but cannot file those charges themselves. And national prosecutors act on those recommendations only 36 percent of the time, officials said this year.

“We are doing everything from our part,” a European Union spokeswoman, Mina Andreeva, said. “We’re not here to replace every single government in the E.U.”

A European prosecutor’s office is being created next year to take up such cases, though some countries opted not to participate. That includes Hungary, where the prime minister’s family and friends have reaped millions in farm subsidies.

In the Czech Republic, Mr. Babis has benefited from national laws that channel more European money to his companies. One rule that purports to limit runaway subsidy spending has instead created clear advantages for his company. The rule limits farmers to one grant application a year. But a company like Agrofert, which has at least 100 domestic subsidiaries, can apply many times.

Mr. Babis said in the interview that he had nothing to do with those rule changes. He said the Czech government, regardless of political party, had for years supported large-scale farming.

The European Union introduced stricter conflict-of-interest rules last year, but it is still unclear whether they cover heads of government like Mr. Babis.

When a Czech politician asked for clarification last year, Europe’s top budget official replied that the answer required “a case-by-case analysis.”

Using a Czech conflict-of-interest law, though, European investigators audited grants paid to Mr. Babis’s business this year. They found that even though Mr. Babis had put Agrofert into two trusts, he still controlled the company and therefore violated Czech law. The auditors ordered the Czech government to return all the money paid to Agrofert from European regional development and social funds, according to a leaked report obtained by the Czech news organization Denik N and shared with The Times.

Mr. Babis said that he intended to return to Agrofert once he is out of office. So, if Agrofert benefits from his government’s policies, he ultimately stands to profit. But he assailed the audits, calling them “an attack on the Czech Republic” and labeling their authors incompetent.

The appeals process is expected to take months. In the meantime, Mr. Babis is scheduled to join other elected national leaders on the European Council, which will meet in secret to set the European Union budget in the coming months. Czech opposition leaders have called for Mr. Babis to be excluded from that vote. One senator, Lukas Wagenknecht, urged European officials to stop paying “an East-European oligarch to establish a nondemocratic autocracy.”

Mr. Babis is confident that he will be exonerated.

“Nobody can corrupt me,” he said. “I’m quite a rich guy.”

The defeat of the Babis Amendment barely registered with the most important lobbyists in the room. They had their eyes on the bigger picture: keeping the subsidy system intact, with as much money as possible.

As long as there has been farm money, Copa-Cogeca, Europe’s largest organization for farmers, has swayed where it goes. European leaders have historically treated the group not as mere recipients of government money, but as partners in policymaking.

Much has changed in recent decades: Environmental concerns have become a priority and farming has shrunk to 1 percent of Europe’s economy. Yet even today, Copa-Cogeca enjoys special access that would make others swoon.

“On the subsidies, they are more powerful than anyone,” said Gérard Choplin, an agricultural policy expert and former lobbyist.

Before meetings of European farm ministers, for example, the council president grants a private audience to Copa-Cogeca. That lets farm lobbyists — and only farm lobbyists — make their views heard before key decisions are made.

When environmental groups requested similar access last year, they were rebuffed. A council representative told them that Copa’s meeting was a matter of tradition, “to facilitate an exchange of information.”

Lobbyists are not required to register in Brussels and the capital is filled with events bringing them together with policymakers. Staff members from Copa-Cogeca, the agricultural company Bayer and the European Commission formed a group called the Young Food Policy Network, which hosts happy hours for government and business officials. This is not lobbying, staffers said, just people having drinks.

Copa-Cogeca draws its influence largely from the national farm unions, which can cause political headaches. This year in France, farmers blockaded roads and dumped tons of manure outside the office of a member of Parliament in a protest over a trade deal.

Copa-Cogeca officials make no apologies for being advocates for their industry. They say farmers are expected to hold down food prices, keep quality high and fight climate change — all while dealing with a panoply of regulations and a shrinking farm budget. They say they have accepted years of reforms but will not accept anything that hurts the industry’s bottom line.

“We cannot be green if we are in the red,” Pekka Pesonen, the group’s secretary general, said this year.

Lawmakers hear that message often. Lobbyists in Brussels are free to roam the committee room floor, and Ms. Noichl of Germany said she hesitated to talk to her colleagues there. “There’s too many people listening,” she said.

Soon after defeating the Babis Amendment, the committee prepared to vote on the full subsidy bill. It gave leaders like Mr. Babis new spending flexibility. Most important, it declared that the subsidy budget should not be cut.

Before opening the vote, the committee chairman, Czeslaw Siekierski of Poland, paused for a reminder.

“European farmers are watching us very closely,” he told his colleagues. “And we must make sure that we can deliver.”

The vote passed.

To many, Mr. Babis has become a symbol of conflict-of-interest in the subsidy system. But lesser-known government officials also have a stake in the policies they vote on.

Among the lawmakers who killed the Babis Amendment were Mairead McGuinness of Ireland, whose family received $28,000 in subsidies last year; Peter Jahr of Germany, who received $15,600; and John Stuart Agnew of Britain, who disclosed receiving between $13,000 and $66,000 from a company that is paid subsidies.

Lawmakers said they saw no problem with their vote. Ms. McGuinness said the bill would have unfairly punished farmers whose family members entered politics. Mr. Jahr noted that all lawmakers are affected by some laws, like taxes. “To a certain extent, it is inherent to the system,” he said.

If the European Parliament disagrees, nobody is saying so. Its conflict-of-interest rule is vague and leaders have taken no position on whether members can vote on and receive subsidies. The responsibility for identifying conflicts, a Parliament spokeswoman said, “lies primarily with the member.”

So reports about lawmakers receiving subsidies become background noise. “They vote on the money, and they and their families get the money,” Ms. Noichl said.

And the members of another governing body, the Council of the European Union, are not subject to a conflict-of-interest policy at all. It comprises ministers from all 28 countries, who vote on legislation. Members of the Council are presumed to be representing their national governments, not themselves.

This means that Mr. Babis’ farm minister, Miroslav Toman, can vote on subsidy policy even though his brother and father run an agricultural company that was among the biggest Czech subsidy recipients last year.

“Everyone has a stake in keeping the status quo,” said Alan Matthews, a farm policy expert at Trinity College Dublin.

Experts agree that one way to curtail abuses and address inequities would be to limit how much each person receives. Another would be to reconsider a formula that pays farmers based on how much land they hold.

Franz Fischler, a former European agricultural commissioner, said he had tried more than 15 years ago to accomplish both. But Britain, where aristocrats own huge tracts of land, opposed the idea, Mr. Fischler said. So did Germany, home to large Soviet-style farms in what was once East Germany.

When his proposal died, Mr. Fischler warned that as the European Union expanded, the subsidies would widen the gap between rich and poor. “This is exactly where we are now,” he said.

Even today, 23 of the 28 agricultural ministers who will vote on the farm bill have said they oppose a cap.

“There is no real change,” said Ms. Noichl, the German lawmaker. “Not in Europe. In Europe it’s always the same.”

The European Union can and does claw back misspent money. But veteran investigators ruefully joke that often the only penalty for stealing is having to return the money.

For example, European investigators say they unraveled a scheme involving a Brussels-based company that received millions of dollars to promote Bulgarian agricultural products. The firm colluded with Bulgarian companies, inflated invoices and laundered money through shell companies, according to documents and current and former officials.

The authorities identified a European official, Georgios Malliaris, who received cash from the scheme, according to the officials. Mr. Malliaris did not respond to repeated messages.

Investigators recommended charges two years ago against the companies and Mr. Malliaris. European officials are working to recover the money from Bulgaria, but the authorities have not prosecuted any of the companies.

A sealed criminal case against Mr. Malliaris and others is winding through the Belgian judicial system, current and former officials said. Until that case is resolved, European Union officials cannot take action against Mr. Malliaris.

So he remains employed and has been moved to an archiving job.

Hana de Goeij contributed reporting from Prague.

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India Defends Divisive Citizenship Bill as It Nears New Vote


All residents of the state of Assam, along the Bangladesh border, had to produce documentary proof that they or their ancestors had lived in India since 1971. Around 2 million of Assam’s population of 33 million — a mix of Hindus and Muslims — failed to pass the test, and these people now risk being rendered stateless. Huge new prisons are being built to incarcerate anyone determined to be an illegal immigrant.

Some of those already arrested have lived in India for generations.

The citizenship bill would allow Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsees or Jains who have migrated from Bangladesh, Pakistan or Afghanistan a clear path to naturalization in India.

Migrants who are Muslim — and this might include people who have lived in India for generations but were unable to produce an old property deed or birth certificate to prove it — would not be afforded the same protection.

The bill excludes Muslim members of religious minorities from neighboring countries, such as the Rohingya who have been persecuted ruthlessly in neighboring Myanmar.

International organizations have seized on that in criticizing the legislation.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal body, called the measure a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction” and said that the United States should consider sanctions against India if the bill passes.

Indian officials and other supporters of the bill cite attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, all of which are predominantly Muslim, and the shrinking Hindu populations in those countries.

Kanwal Sibal, a former foreign secretary and a supporter of Mr. Modi’s foreign policy, said the bill “certainly expresses a pro-Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist sentiment for objective reasons as they are a beleaguered community with no other option.’’

But, he said, the citizenship bill has “nothing to do with the Muslims of India. It relates to foreign Muslims who have infiltrated into India over the years.’’

But the big question many Muslims in India are now asking is: Who will be considered an Indian citizen? And who will be considered an illegal foreigner?

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Aung San Suu Kyi Leads Defense Against Rohingya Genocide Accusations


THE HAGUE — As still as a statue, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had listened for nearly three hours as human rights lawyers and experts at the world’s highest court in The Hague described some of the horrors inflicted upon the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar: veils ripped off girls before their rapes, babies thrown to their deaths, hundreds of villages turned into kindling.

The testimony on Tuesday was perhaps the first time that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader, had heard such a full description of the atrocities that have landed her nation at the International Court of Justice to face accusations of genocide.

Now, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to take the stand on Wednesday to answer those accusations and defend her country in a landmark lawsuit filed by the West African nation of Gambia on behalf of a group of Islamic countries. Gambia’s case relies on voluminous witness and human-rights expert testimony, along with reporting from a United Nations fact-finding mission on Myanmar.

What she will say — or not say — on Day 2 of the proceedings will be keenly watched. Since army-led pogroms against the Rohingya minority intensified in August 2017, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who spent years locked up by Myanmar’s military dictatorship, has declined to criticize the generals with whom she now shares power.

On Wednesday, U Myo Nyunt, the spokesman for Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy, described the testimony presented to the court the day before as “he said, she said.”

“We have already prepared to rebut these accusations,” Mr. Myo Nyunt said. “The fact-finding mission report is from respected persons from the international community but their report is not complete because of a lack of evidence.”

Members of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s office have dismissed as fake news the crimes against the Rohingya that United Nations officials say were committed with genocidal intent. Only two isolated cases have been the subject of legal inquiries within Myanmar.

Diplomats who have tried to bring up the situation in Rakhine State, where the Rohingya are from, say Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi routinely cut them off. In some cases, she refused any further one-on-one meetings, two envoys said.

Bill Richardson, a former American ambassador to the United Nations who was asked by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi to participate in one of several commissions on Rakhine that she assembled, quit in disgust last year after he said she “exploded” in anger at his criticism. “She might have hit me, she was so furious,” he recalled then.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s muted response to the Rohingya’s plight has earned the condemnation of some of her fellow Nobel Peace laureates, eight of whom sent her an open letter this week accusing her of “actively denying that these atrocities even occurred” and urging that she “be held criminally accountable, along with her army commanders, for crimes committed.”

Ms Aung San Suu Kyi is not a defendant at the International Court of Justice, which does not try individuals and instead settles disputes between nations over questions of international law. But her unexpected decision last month to lead Myanmar’s defense, beginning with three days of hearings this week, have placed her in the spotlight.

The great hall of the International Court of Justice, a place of chandeliers and stained glass windows, was packed Tuesday with diplomats, activists, lawyers and reporters vying for a glimpse of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi. She sat impassively while Justice Minister Abubacarr M. Tambadou of Gambia opened his country’s case by urging the court to tell Myanmar “to stop this genocide of its own people.”

“It is indeed sad for our generation that 75 years after humankind committed itself to the words ‘never again,’ another genocide is unfolding right before our eyes,” he said. “Yet we do nothing to stop it.”

Outside the turreted palace that is home to the court, demonstrators held up Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s portrait with the words “shame on you” and “agent of the military.”

Paul Reichler, an American who is the lead lawyer for Gambia’s legal team, addressed the question of whether Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi bore personal responsibility for the deaths of thousands of Rohingya. Her supporters say she is constrained by the military’s continuing grip on some of the most important levers of power in Myanmar.

But Mr. Reichler showed the court a picture of large billboards that have appeared in Myanmar in recent days, showing her superimposed in front of three smiling generals with the caption: “We stand with you.”

“This shows, in fact it can only have been intended to show, that they are all in it together, and that Myanmar has no intention of holding its emboldened military leadership accountable,” Mr. Reichler said.

Mr. Myo Nyunt, the National League for Democracy spokesman, said that the billboards did not mean Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and the military were united.

“It just means they are in the same cabinet,” he said. “This case is very delicate and we need to handle the problem gently.”

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party is facing elections next year, which many believe was one motivation for her to personally lobby the international court.

“Unfortunately she has totally taken sides, and she is now whipping up nationalism simply to become more popular,” said U Maung Tun Khin, a Rohingya who traveled to The Hague from London to witness the hearings.

Ma Thinzar Shunlei Yi, a youth activist in Myanmar, said the International Court of Justice case had allowed the National League for Democracy to rally support at time when ethnic strife and a struggling economy have dented support for the ruling party.

“We can see that the divided political forces inside Myanmar have united to face a lawsuit from a foreign country that is seen as a common enemy,” Ms. Thinzar Shunlei Yi said.

People in Myanmar, she added, were not willing to “trade the reputation of their leader for the sake of minorities, especially the Rohingya.”

Rohingya Muslims have been persecuted for decades in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, gradually losing rights to education, health care and even citizenship. Half a million Rohingya still live in Rakhine, but they have been herded into internment camps or prevented from leaving their villages, even to farm or collect firewood.

About a million more have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, where they are crowded into the world’s largest refugee camp.

The three days of hearings this week are for Gambia to ask the court to issue a temporary injunction ordering Myanmar to protect those Rohingya who remain in the country. A United Nations rapporteur recently warned that “crimes with genocidal intent” were continuing and intensifying in Rakhine.

Gambia, a small Muslim-majority country, accuses Myanmar of violating the Genocide Convention, which both Gambia and Myanmar have signed. Another case is working its way through another United Nations court but that effort is hampered by the fact that Myanmar is not party to that court’s convention.

Abdul Malik Mujahid, the American chair of a rights coalition called Burma Task Force U.S.A., traveled to The Hague from Chicago. (Myanmar was formerly known as Burma.) Mr. Mujahid, who is also an imam, said he believed that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s presence at the court would backfire by giving renewed exposure to the continuing plight of the Rohingya.

“I’m sure she is doing a disservice to her government and her cause by showing up,” he said. “The world will pay attention to her, and also to the facts in a legal case that might otherwise get little attention. She is providing infamous star power to the case.”

Marlise Simons reported from The Hague, and Hannah Beech from Bangkok. Saw Nang contributed reporting from Mandalay, Myanmar.

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Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times


It’s happening: Democrats on Tuesday formally called for President Trump’s removal from office, charging him with abusing his power and obstructing Congress.

The impeachment articles accuse Mr. Trump of “corruptly soliciting” election assistance from the government of Ukraine in the form of investigations that would smear his domestic political rivals in the 2020 presidential election. Democrats say he used two “official acts” as leverage: $391 million in security assistance for the country, and a White House meeting for Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Response: The president has said there was no “quid pro quo” linking the meeting or the aid to his demand that Ukraine announce the investigations. His press secretary accused Democrats on Tuesday of “forcing unfounded accusations down the throats of the American people.”

Catch up: We explain the impeachment process and how the U.S. Constitution defines impeachable offenses.

What’s next: The House Judiciary Committee could vote by Thursday to recommend the charges to the full chamber for final approval. If the House follows through next week, as expected, Mr. Trump could stand trial in the Senate early in the new year.

Tomorrow’s British election — one of the most important in a generation — comes as the bitterly divided country sits on the precipice of a decisive break with the European Union.

National polls show the governing Conservative Party with a tight and narrowing lead, and the opposition Labour Party gaining more support. Yet predictions are perilous: Narrow swings in voter preferences can produce major shifts in places where victory margins will be small.

As the campaign hurdles to a finish, we’re chasing these threads:

Health care: Strains on Britain’s beloved National Health Service — and the question of whether Brexit would exacerbate them — have jolted the national conversation at the last minute. The N.H.S. has deteriorated in recent years under the Conservatives’ watch, and Labour argues that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan would undermine the system further.

Disinformation: The campaign is awash in doctored videos, dodgy websites and manipulated Twitter accounts. Some of the material comes not only from shadowy groups or Russian operatives, but also the political parties and candidates themselves, particularly the Conservatives.

Sick boy scandal: During a television interview on Monday, Mr. Johnson at first refused to look at a picture of a 4-year-old boy lying on the floor of an overcrowded Yorkshire hospital. The picture and the boy’s story — first reported by a local newspaper — were real. But Mr. Johnson’s interview spawned a social media campaign to discredit the boy’s family.

On the seventh day, they listened.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government is set to roll out the details today of a planned pension overhaul that has already incited six days of nationwide demonstrations, starting with one that drew hundreds of thousands of people.

How the crisis ends is anyone’s guess. Union leaders have vowed to continue marching until the government withdraws its plan. But on Tuesday, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe offered no public hint that Mr. Macron might back down. (And in private, he warned his party’s lawmakers that there would be “no magic announcements” to stop the strikes.)

Looking back: France’s labor movement hopes to achieve a repeat of the general strike of 1995 that forced the government to suspend a planned pension overhaul — a concession that Mr. Macron wants to avoid making.

Opinion: Mr. Macron “may not be able to avoid being loathed by a large portion of the French public,” a writer on French politics argues, but if he outlasts the current strikes he could be the strongest contender in France’s 2022 elections.

When the Russian Federation first went to war in the rebellious region of Chechnya 25 years ago today, it expected a swift victory.

Instead, Russia was humiliated, and tens of thousands of people were killed.

We look back at how war became a turning point that left Russia open to the ascent of Vladimir Putin, a former K.G.B. agent who vowed to restore order and avenge the defeat.

Obituary: Yuri Luzhkov, a pugnacious politician who died on Tuesday in Munich, served as Moscow’s mayor from 1992 to 2010. He transformed the city into a gleaming modern metropolis, but was accused of creating a post-Soviet model of authoritarianism that was later imposed on the rest of Russia.

As the year draws to a close, our critics A.O. Scott and Wesley Morris discussed the onscreen performances that they found captivating, challenging, shocking and inspiring.

Among the featured actors: Antonio Banderas, above, who plays a Spanish filmmaker in “Pain and Glory,” a film by the Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar. Our roundup is part of The New York Times Magazine’s annual Great Performers issue, with photographs by Jack Davison.

Czech Republic: In the country’s deadliest shooting since 2015, a gunman killed six people on Tuesday in a hospital waiting room in the eastern city of Ostrava.

New Zealand: The question of why visitors were allowed to tour the mouth of an active volcano that erupted on Monday, killing at least six people, is at the center of a criminal investigation.

Finland: Sanna Marin, 34, was sworn into office on Tuesday, becoming the world’s youngest prime minister. She’s been a rising star ever since she entered Parliament in 2015.

Libya: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, the last significant patron of the beleaguered Tripoli government, raised the possibility that he might send troops to counter a tightening siege by the Russian-backed forces closing in on the capital.

Snapshot: Above, a 30-foot-tall Weihnachtspyramide (German for Christmas pyramid) on display in Cullman, Alabama. The town of 16,000 people was founded by a German immigrant in 1873.

In memoriam: Marie Fredriksson, the lead singer of the hugely successful Swedish pop duo Roxette, died on Monday. She was 61.

What we’re reading: This Guardian Q. and A. with Lucy Ellmann, the British-American author of the novel “Ducks, Newburyport.” She discusses, among other things, “when resilience appalls her” and how thankless and enraging parenthood is, says Andrew LaVallee, an editor on our Books desk.

Cook: You can be eating these gingery brownie cookies 30 minutes after you start measuring the cocoa powder. (And here are 11 more stunning cookies that will impress everyone you know.)

Read: In a new book, the founders of the private intelligence firm Fusion GPS recount the genesis and afterlife of the so-called Steele dossier — salacious, unverified information about President Trump that was compiled by a British former spy contracted by the firm.

Go: A Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at Paris’s Musée du Louvre has spawned celebratory exhibitions in several Italian cities.

Smarter Living: Keep your emails concise and clear, and don’t forget the CC rule: People who are expected to reply go in the “to” field, and people not expected to reply in the “CC” field. Read our tips for digital etiquette.

Pull one thread of the news, and you can find a tapestry of history that leads right back to the present.

For instance: The U.S. impeachment inquiry has focused on the Trump administration’s delay of aid meant to help Ukraine deal with an assault by Russian militias in its east.

Some say the delay violated a 25-year-old agreement, the Budapest Memorandum. In it, Ukraine got reassurances of territorial sovereignty from Russia, the U.S. and Britain in exchange for giving up the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal — its inheritance from the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its proxy war in eastern Ukraine are also considered violations of the memorandum, but repercussions were limited.

Still, the memorandum removed the final obstacle to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, a global limit on nuclear weapons. In practice, it kept the remains of the former Soviet arsenal in Russian control. At the time, that seemed safer than leaving them spread out.

Back to the present: The START treaty is set to lapse in 2020, and Russia and the U.S. have been discussing an extension, most recently on Tuesday, when President Trump met the Russian foreign minister at the White House.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Mike

Thank youTo Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Will Dudding, an assistant in the Standards department, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about China’s crackdown on Uighur Muslims.• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Actor Willem (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here. • Lynsey Addario, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Times photographer, wrote about one of the most emotional assignments — and friendships — of her life: covering the Belgian Paralympic athlete Marieke Vervoort over three years, as she prepared to die by choice.

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Trump and Pompeo Spoke to Russian Official About U.S. Elections. Did Only One Deliver a Warning?


WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Moscow not to interfere in American elections while meeting on Tuesday with Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister. But Mr. Lavrov denounced accusations of election interference and said the Trump administration still had not unveiled proof of nefarious Russian activity.

And after the White House issued a statement that President Trump had also warned against election meddling, Mr. Lavrov further complicated the picture by seeming to contradict that assertion.

At an evening news conference at the Russian Embassy, American reporters asked Mr. Lavrov twice whether Mr. Trump had warned Russia not to interfere in American elections, citing the official White House description of their meeting in the Oval Office.

Mr. Lavrov suggested that Mr. Trump had not delivered such a warning — although the foreign minister also contradicted himself in his two responses. In his first reply, he said the two had “not discussed elections.” In his second reply, he said he had raised with Mr. Trump what Mr. Pompeo had said at an earlier State Department news conference about election interference and his own public rebuttal to Mr. Pompeo.

The confusion and contradictions have become typical for discussions of Russia’s well-documented 2016 election interference, and it was not the first time American and Russian accounts of conversations had differed.

Standing next to Mr. Lavrov at the news conference at the State Department, Mr. Pompeo said he had reiterated the American government’s disapproval of Russia’s interference efforts.

“On the question of interference in our domestic affairs, I was clear it’s unacceptable, and I made our expectations of Russia clear,” Mr. Pompeo said.

American intelligence agencies say Russian intelligence services and the military carried out an organized interference campaign during the 2016 election and may do so again in 2020. The Justice Department indicted 12 Russian hackers last year for electronic intrusion into the Democratic National Committee and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Trump, though, has dismissed those conclusions and has stressed in recent weeks, without presenting evidence, that he thinks Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election and hacked into the Democrats’ operations.

“We have highlighted once again that all speculations about our alleged interference in domestic processes in the United States are baseless,” Mr. Lavrov said. “There are no facts that would support that. We did not see these facts. No one has given us this proof because, simply, it does not exist.”

Asked about the recent assertions by Mr. Trump and his allies that Ukraine, a rival neighboring power of Russia, had interfered in 2016, Mr. Lavrov said: “It has nothing to do with us. That is an issue for two sovereign states.”

Officials at American intelligence agencies and Fiona Hill, a Russia expert who recently left Mr. Trump’s National Security Council, have said the idea that Ukraine organized interference in the 2016 election was part of a disinformation campaign started by Russia in early 2017.

Republican lawmakers have embraced the conspiracy theory about Ukrainian interference to defend Mr. Trump in the impeachment inquiry, which is being led by House Democrats and centers on Ukraine policy and political favors. Mr. Pompeo himself, a stalwart Trump ally, has said in recent weeks that the United States should look into potential interference by Ukraine.

But on Tuesday, Mr. Pompeo emphasized an earlier position he had taken, when he was the C.I.A. director: that it was Russia that had run an interference campaign in 2016. “We don’t think there’s any mistake about what really transpired there,” he said.

Andrew S. Weiss, a Russia and Ukraine expert who is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Mr. Lavrov’s visit was most interesting because it happened soon after the foreign minister came from a meeting among several nations in Paris, including Russia but not the United States, to discuss the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

“The optics couldn’t be any worse,” said Mr. Weiss, who has held several government national security posts.

“The U.S.-Ukraine relationship has basically imploded” amid the impeachment storm in Washington and questions about Mr. Trump’s commitment to the country’s security, he said. “The Russians surely arranged the Lavrov visit to capitalize on of all of this and to send a message to the Ukrainians that they’re basically on their own now and need to cut the best deal they can since the U.S. backstop is largely inoperative.”

Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Lavrov also discussed arms control and a potential extension of the Obama-era New Start treaty, which limits the number of nuclear weapons deployed by the two nations. Mr. Trump has criticized conditions of the treaty, which expires in February 2021. Last week, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia offered to extend it with no preconditions, and Mr. Lavrov said on Tuesday that Moscow was ready to act on that.

But Mr. Pompeo sounded cool to the idea, stressing the administration position that the United States would agree to a new treaty only if China was part of it. The White House said Mr. Trump delivered the same message. Chinese officials have balked at any such suggestion, since China’s nuclear arsenal is a small fraction of the size of those of the United States and Russia.

If the United States and Russia do successfully negotiate an extension of the nuclear treaty, Mr. Trump would be able to advertise a significant diplomatic win while campaigning for re-election in 2020.

Mr. Pompeo said the two sides spoke about sanctions enforcement on North Korea, which has recently threatened to resume testing of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles. Mr. Lavrov said he hoped that Washington and Pyongyang would restart diplomacy. He added that dialogue must be based on “reciprocal steps,” saying, “You cannot demand that North Korea do everything.”

Since the start of his presidency in early 2017, Mr. Trump has been dogged by accusations that his public affection for Mr. Putin and efforts to create warmer ties between the two nations undermine the national security interests of the United States. American intelligence agencies agree that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, a conclusion backed up by the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, even though he did not find a conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

The Justice Department inspector general released a report on Monday saying the F.B.I. had sufficient reason to open an investigation in 2016 into links between Russia and Trump campaign aides — a precursor to the Mueller investigation.

In the long, labyrinthine narrative of Mr. Trump and Russia, Mr. Lavrov’s last visit to the White House, in May 2017, was a signature moment and was scrutinized in the Mueller investigation. That visit occurred on May 10, the day after Mr. Trump fired James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director who was overseeing the bureau’s inquiry into Russia and the Trump campaign. After firing Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump told Mr. Lavrov and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time: “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

In that same meeting, Mr. Trump revealed classified information that undermined an Israeli counterterrorism operation in the Middle East and angered Israeli officials.

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As Rivals Fight for Control of Libya, Erdogan Says Turkey May Jump In


LONDON — The battle for control of Libya threatened to escalate further this week as Turkey said it might intervene to stop the Russian-backed forces now closing in on Tripoli, the capital.

In comments to Turkish television networks on Monday night and again on Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pointedly raised the possibility that Turkey might send troops to counter the Russians if the United Nations-recognized government headquartered in Tripoli formally requested it.

“In case of such an invitation, Turkey will decide itself about what kind of initiative to undertake,” Mr. Erdogan said Monday. On both Monday and Tuesday he referred explicitly to the possibility of “sending soldiers” or “our personnel.”

Mr. Erdogan, for commercial and political reasons, has emerged as the last significant patron of the beleaguered Tripoli government. His blunt talk of a new military intervention underscored the perilousness of the situation now facing the Tripoli government, which is under a tightening siege by Russian forces backing the militia leader Khalifa Hifter.

Officials of Tripoli’s so-called Government of National Accord quickly accepted Mr. Erdogan’s offer. “The G.N.A. welcomes ALL international support,” Mohamed Ali Abdullah, an adviser for United States affairs to the Tripoli government, wrote in a text message.

Libya is a strategic prize with vast oil reserves and a long Mediterranean coastline.

But eight years after a NATO intervention helped topple Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi during the Arab Spring revolt, the country remains mired in chaos. The bedlam has turned its beaches into a departure point for tens of thousands of Europe-bound migrants and its deserts into a haven for bands of militant extremists.

Over the last three months, Russia has transformed Libya’s simmering civil conflict by deploying large numbers of fighters in what increasingly appears to be a determined push to help Mr. Hifter capture the capital.

Mr. Hifter, 76, had been waging an on-again, off-again fight to take Tripoli for more than five years, with no success. His most recent assault, launched April 4, left his forces stalled for more than five months on the southern outskirts of the city.

Now, however, the heavy Russian support has enabled Mr. Hifter’s forces to renew their advance into the city. Over the weekend, they captured most of the neighborhood of Salah el-Deen, one of their biggest gains in months.

“The momentum has definitely shifted,” said Frederic Wehrey, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who recently returned from a visit to the front. He saw signs of exhaustion among some of the city’s defenders, he said.

“If morale snaps, it is a terrifying thing,” Mr. Wehrey said. “And who knows when it is going to give way?”

A collapse of the government would most likely mean a prolonged period of bloody street fighting inside the city, with years of insurgency by regional militias opposed to Mr. Hifter and now facing revenge. The turmoil would almost certainly set off new waves of internal and external migrants fleeing, analysts and diplomats say.

For Washington, Mr. Wehrey argued, allowing Russian forces to establish dominance in Libya, as they already have in Syria, would also “seriously damage whatever U.S. credibility is remaining in the Middle East.”

“Russia is basically pushing on a door that has been creaking open for a while,” he said. The United States has largely withdrawn from Libya while the European powers have been divided over how to approach it.

Since the United States began to pull back after the 2011 NATO intervention, an array of regional powers — all Western-armed American partners — have plunged into the vacuum, providing weapons and support to favored clients doing battle with one another. The United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and France eventually lined up behind Mr. Hifter, betting that his authoritarian style could restore stability.

Turkey, in part because of its rivalry with the Emirati-Egyptian-Saudi bloc in a regional cold war, has become the only significant military backer of the Tripoli government.

The United States, along with the other Western powers, also publicly supports the Tripoli government and a United Nations-sponsored peace process on the unity government, but only Turkey has provided military support.

Washington, in practice, has sent mixed signals.

United States officials, who say the Russian forces in Libya now include uniformed troops as well as mercenaries, have called their presence “incredibly destabilizing” and warned of “the specter of large-scale casualties among the civilian population.”

But the National Security Council official overseeing Libya, Victoria Coates, met with Mr. Hifter two weeks ago to discuss peace talks, granting him a new level of recognition from the White House.

When Mr. Hifter began his advance, in April, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement condemning the assault on Tripoli, but the White House released a statement days later saying President Trump had called Mr. Hifter to commend his fight against “terrorism.”

This week, United States military officials said that they believed a Russian air defense system installed in Libya had brought down an American surveillance drone. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, chief of the United States Africa Command, said in a statement on Monday that the forces that brought down the drone had not realized it was American.

“But they certainly know who it belongs to now,” he said, “and they are refusing to return it. They say they don’t know where it is, but I am not buying it.”

Before the Russian intervention this fall, the Libyan strife had consisted mainly of simmering, low-intensity warfare.

A total of a few hundred untrained fighters at any one time clashed in a handful of deserted districts on the edge of Tripoli, as armed drones fired down from above. Mr. Hifter’s forces flew Chinese-made drones furnished by the United Arab Emirates, and the Tripoli forces countered with less potent Turkish models.

But all that began to change as the Russian forces arrived earlier this fall.

By October, as many as two hundred Russian mercenaries had arrived, and within weeks the number grew to more than a thousand. They brought with them more advanced air power, better coordinated air support for ground troops, and guided artillery, as well as trained snipers.

With their help, Mr. Hifter’s forces now control the air. The Tripoli government’s Turkish drones seem to have disappeared from the sky, presumably damaged or destroyed by Mr. Hifter’s allies.

“The Tripoli forces have nothing in the air now,” said Wolfram Lacher, a scholar of Libya at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “Everyone is waiting for the new Turkish equipment to arrive.”

Mr. Erdogan spoke for years about avoiding conflicts in the region. But his talk of intervening in Libya follows a Turkish incursion into northern Syria two months ago, as Turkish troops moved against American-backed, Kurdish-led militias there and struck an accommodation with the Russian forces active in the country.

In the television interview on Monday night, Mr. Erdogan pledged to appeal personally to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia at a meeting in January.

Calling Mr. Hifter “an outlaw,” Mr. Erdogan said, “On the Hifter issue, I don’t want it to give birth to a new Syria in relations.”

He added, “I believe Russia will also review its existing stance toward Hifter.”

Mr. Erdogan has more at stake, though, than stability in Libya.

His comments about a possible military intervention come just days after Ankara signed a deal with the Tripoli government that would give Turkey drilling, pipeline and other maritime rights over an expanded portion of the Mediterranean Sea between the countries. That set off outrage from Greece and Europe, but gave Turkey a new financial stake in the Tripoli government.

The president’s statements, Mr. Lacher said, “suggest that this agreement is so important to the Turks that they are willing to do whatever it takes to stop Hifter from winning.”

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Yuri M. Luzhkov, 83, Dies; Mayor at Dawn of Post-Soviet Moscow


The destruction of hundreds of historic buildings or their transformation into gaudy edifices in the “Luzhkov style” drew criticism from some. Although he denied it, it was widely accepted that all architectural projects had to meet with his approval, and that he insisted on the use of ornate decorative elements, including spires.

Some of Mr. Luzhkov’s policies have been controversial. Many Muscovites say he created the post-Soviet model of authoritarian government that was later imposed on the rest of Russia. He limited the flow of migrants into Moscow, especially from Central Asia, a policy that some viewed as racist. He refused to authorize gay pride parades in the city.

Mr. Luzhkov was widely praised, however, for his expansion of the city’s infrastructure. He improved Moscow’s old ring road, often called “the road of death” during Soviet times, and built another beltway road around central Moscow, earning him the nickname “Lord of the Rings.”

He also launched the construction of Moscow City, a collection of super-tall skyscrapers overlooking central Moscow. Wearing his trademark flat cap, he personally inspected construction sites around Moscow, underscoring his hands-on approach to governing.

But his critics pointed out that his construction efforts went hand in hand with the expansion of an investment and construction company, Inteko, run by his wife, Yelena N. Baturina. During her husband’s tenure, Ms. Baturina became the richest woman in Russia and one of the richest in the world. She and Mr. Luzhkov denied any improprieties. She sold her company shortly after President Dmitri A. Medvedev exercised his power to dismiss Mr. Luzhkov in 2010 over political differences.

Mr. Luzhkov “was one of those who laid the foundations of the current inhumane and Mafioso management system in Moscow and the country,” said Vladimir Milov, Russia’s former deputy energy minister and now a commentator.

But Nyuta Federmesser, an activist and proponent of palliative care, praised Mr. Luzhkov’s efforts to build hospices in Moscow, noting in a Facebook post that he had promised a hospice in “every Moscow district.”

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Iran Banks Burned, Then Customer Accounts Were Exposed Online


After demonstrators in Iran set fire to hundreds of bank branches last month in antigovernment protests, the authorities dealt with another less visible banking threat that is only now coming to fuller light: a security breach that exposed the information of millions of Iranian customer accounts.

As of Tuesday, details of 15 million bank debit cards in Iran had been published on social media in the aftermath of the protests, unnerving customers and forcing the government to acknowledge a problem. The exposure represented the most serious banking security breach in Iran, according to Iranian media and a law firm representing some of the victims.

The breach, which targeted customers of Iran’s three largest banks, was likely to further rattle an economy already reeling from the effects of American sanctions and came as Iran’s leadership was grappling with deep-seated anger over its deadly crackdown on the protests.

The number of affected accounts represents close to a fifth of the country’s population.

“This is the largest financial scam in Iran’s history,” reported Aftab News, a conservative media outlet. “Millions of Iranians are worried to find their names among the list of hacked accounts.”

Iran’s information and telecommunications minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, described the breach as data theft by a disgruntled contractor who had access to the accounts and had exposed them as part of an extortion attempt. He denied the banking system’s computers had been hacked.

But outside cyberexperts disputed that claim. They also said a breach of such magnitude was likely the work of a state entity aiming to stoke instability, not criminals whose objective is blackmail for financial gain.

Iran has been engaged in a cycle of hack and counterhack in a cyberwar against the United States and Israel. Both sides have targeted each other’s financial and sensitive government institutions through cyberattacks for years.

The banks affected — Mellat, Tejarat and Sarmayeh — had all been sanctioned more than a year ago by the United States Treasury, which accused them of having transferred money on behalf of blacklisted entities of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, part of the armed forces. The entire Revolutionary Guards organization was designated as a terrorist group by the Trump administration last April.

A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the Iran banking breach. A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said: “We do not respond to foreign reports.”

Analysts monitoring Iran said that regardless of who was responsible, the breach created another financial challenge for the Islamic Republic as it struggles to manage tough economic sanctions imposed by the United States, as well as unrest at home and a political backlash in the region over Iran’s influence.

The data exposure could have a long-term impact on the three banks if customers lose trust and withdraw their money.

Iran’s official silence for nearly two weeks on the exposure could reflect a reluctance by the leadership to acknowledge that its financial institutions are vulnerable, experts said. The bank card data first began to appear on Nov. 27, but it was not until Sunday that Mr. Azari Jahromi, the information minister, commented on the breach.

The persons or entity behind the attack and the motivation remain unclear. The account information was published on a channel called “Your banking cards” on Telegram, a popular mobile phone app used in Iran. The first message warned that “we will burn the reputation of their banks the same way we torched their banks,” referring to protesters across Iran who pillaged and burned about 730 bank branches.

The message on Telegram also stated that the perpetrators had demanded payment from the banks but their request had been ignored, and therefore they would be releasing the details on millions of bank cards. Within hours, they did.

The information uploaded on Telegram contains names of account holders and account numbers but the PIN codes appear obscured. The information also included directions on how to make homemade forgeries of cards containing the leaked information.

The banks sent clients text messages and Iran’s cyberpolice alerted them in an email titled, “Your bank account is in danger of illegal usage,” and asked customers to visit a bank branch and replace their cards, according to a copy of the email published in Iranian media.

None of the three banks have issued public statements acknowledging the breach.

ClearSky, a cybersecurity company that was among the first to issue warnings of the breach, said it had damaged the flow of financial transactions inside Iran and had harmed the reputation of the affected banks, with customers panicking about their personal information having been made public.

Boaz Dolev, the chief executive officer of ClearSky, said the scope of the breach indicated that whoever was responsible possessed “high technological capability, which is usually at the hand of state intelligence services.”

ClearSky issued a warning to Israeli credit card companies on Dec. 3 to be on alert in case of an Iranian counterattack if the authorities in Tehran concluded the banks had been compromised by hostile foreign powers.

The last major hacking targeting Iranian banks occurred in 2012 when hackers gained access to the account information of three million users across 22 banks. An information technology specialist, Khosrow Zare Farid, who formerly managed a company for electronic payments in Iran, claimed responsibility for the hack to prove security loopholes in Iran’s electronic banking system, according to media reports.

In the United States, the Justice Department accused Iran of major cyberattacks from 2011 to 2013 targeting several American banks including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, US Bank and PNC Bank. The hackers interrupted customer service and jammed websites. In 2016, seven Iranians were indicted on federal charges for cyberattacks on behalf of the Revolutionary Guards.

The Trump administration has given the United States military more power to launch pre-emptive cyberattacks on Iranian interests, reversing a directive under President Barack Obama that required the president’s permission for cyberattacks that could trigger “significant consequences.”

An Iranian organization that identifies itself as the Citizenship Protection Foundation has offered free legal consultations for Iranians affected by the data breach, according to its website and reports in Iranian media. The organization’s home page includes a link to “the hacking of 10 million accounts” and says that Iran’s intelligence officials are investigating.

Amir Rashidi, an Iranian internet expert who designed the cyberstructure of Iran’s state-owned petrochemical industry, said that although Iran’s state-sponsored hackers are sophisticated, the cybersecurity of most government entities and banks in the country “is in shambles.”

Many loopholes, he said, “make it easy and possible for state actors and criminals to hack the system.”

Mark Mazzetti contributed reporting.