A Campaign, a Murder, a Legacy: Robert F. Kennedy’s California Story


Fifty years after his death, friends, aides and journalists recall the senator’s last campaign in California, his assassination in Los Angeles and what came next for the city.

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The Paul Schrade Library at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, the complex that replaced the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. CreditRozette Rago for The New York Times

Reaching into jubilant crowds from atop the back seat of a slow-moving convertible, walking the streets of riot-torn Watts, sitting with Cesar Chavez in the Central Valley — these are the frozen moments of Robert F. Kennedy’s campaign for president in California in 1968.

There is another one, of course, a final one: lying on the kitchen floor of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, a busboy cradling his head.

The date was June 5, 1968.

Days earlier, Mr. Kennedy had flown into the city to campaign in the California primary, his presidential hopes hanging in the balance. He had just lost to Eugene McCarthy in the primary in Oregon, the first election loss ever for a Kennedy. But Oregon was mostly white; in California, Mr. Kennedy touched his natural constituency — impoverished African-Americans and disenfranchised farmworkers from Mexico.

And so in California, the promise of his candidacy rested: to heal a nation torn by the Vietnam War and divided by race and class. A big win there, his aides hoped, could convince Mr. McCarthy to drop from the race and the power brokers in the Democratic Party to back Mr. Kennedy, clearing a path to the nomination at the convention later that summer in Chicago.

“He said, ‘If I don’t win California I am withdrawing,’” recalled Jeff Greenfield, the former CBS newsman who at the time was a young speechwriter for Mr. Kennedy. “What do they say in the N.B.A.? Win or go home. That was it.”

On election night, word reached Mr. Kennedy at his fifth floor suite of the Ambassador Hotel, his campaign headquarters, that some polling sites in minority neighborhoods of Los Angeles had closed early. He dispatched campaign workers to find out what had happened. When the answer came back, it was good news for the Kennedy campaign: The early closings were because every single registered voter had already cast a ballot.

And then it was all over.

Moving through the pantry of the hotel, after giving his victory speech, Mr. Kennedy was gunned down. Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, said to be motivated by Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and his hatred of Mr. Kennedy for his support of Israel, was later convicted of the murder.

Mr. Kennedy died the next day, June 6. That day, wrote Richard Goodwin, a Kennedy confidant, “the sixties came to an end in a Los Angeles hospital.”

In the decades after the murder conspiracy theories flourished, the Ambassador fell into disrepair before it was bought by Donald J. Trump, and a long struggle ensued between the future president, conservationists and the Los Angeles school district over what should become of the place.

Finally, the hotel was razed and replaced with a complex of schools for underprivileged children, many of them Latino immigrants, named for Mr. Kennedy.

[Read more about how Mr. Kennedy’s assassination changed American politics.]

On the 50th anniversary of his death, we spoke to friends, aides and journalists who were there in those last days in Los Angeles. The interviews have been condensed and lightly edited.

The Robert F. Kennedy Inspiration Park along Wilshire Boulevard.CreditRozette Rago for The New York Times

We were so excited. The excitement in the Latino community was just infectious. I mean, people were just so excited he was running and people were voting for him.

Mr. Greenfield: For me he was more willing to mock the pieties of politics than anybody I have seen before or since. There’s this scene where he goes to Fresno. And they have a big mall in Fresno. And he said, people ask me why I decided to run for president. And I told them, you know, if I’m running for president, I’m going to go to California. And if I go to California I’m going to get to the Fresno mall. Because after you have seen the pyramids of Egypt and the Taj Mahal, what else is left but the Fresno mall?

Peter Edelman, a professor at Georgetown University’s law school who was a speechwriter for Mr. Kennedy: We get on the plane, it’s a private plane, there’s just four of us. Four chairs and four of us. And the plane takes off and he tells us he’s going to run for president.

‘A Great Perhaps, a Great Maybe’

In the moments before he left his suite to give his speech in the ballroom, Mr. Kennedy’s mood had lightened with the victory. The day before he had traveled 1,200 miles up and down the state, and nearly collapsed at his last stop, in San Diego.

Mr. Kennedy campaigning in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, circa 1968.CreditDavid Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

Mr. Greenfield: There was a degree of buoyancy he had never shown before. Like California freed him. He was free of his brother and became his own man.

Mr. Kennedy addressing a packed ballroom crowd shortly before he was shot. CreditGetty Images

Mr. Schrade: We ran down the stairs, from the fifth, and fortunately caught up with him before he got to the ballroom. Bob was slowly going through the kitchen. “Viva Kennedy! Viva Kennedy!” from the kitchen workers. And shaking hands, signing some autographs.

Mr. Hamill: I went down fairly early. Jimmy Breslin came down right after me. We were all placed at the back of the stage. Plimpton and all the other guys.

Ms. Huerta: I was just shocked by the fact that he didn’t have any security. I think he had one person. Cesar had a lot of death threats. So we always had a contingent of security with Cesar wherever he went. But I didn’t say anything. The moment was so jubilant. I didn’t want to spoil the moment.

Mr. Yaro: I was close enough to shout, ‘Bobby, give us a V!’

Mr. Hamill: Bang bang, bang bang bang. I heard five shots. Some heard six.

Mr. Schrade: I was about six or eight feet behind Bob at that point. Lights went on, and I started shaking violently, and fell. I didn’t know I’d been shot.

Mr. Yaro: I’m sure I was scared to death. I realized I hadn’t taken a picture, of Sirhan taking the life of Kennedy. It dawned on me that I had my camera with me.

Mr. Hamill: I think about it still. I was so happy that I knew the guy. And so sad that in the end it was a great perhaps, a great maybe, that didn’t happen.

Rumors and conspiracy theories flourished over Mr. Kennedy’s assassination.CreditBoris Yaro/Los Angeles Times, via Associated Press

Conspiracy Theories and Missing Evidence

By the mid-1970s, a national feeling of mistrust toward government grew in the wake of the Vietnam War and Watergate. In Washington, lawmakers were holding new hearings on the J.F.K. and M.L.K. assassinations, and looking into abuses of power by the C.I.A. Conspiracy theories flourished. In Los Angeles, some were beginning to doubt that Mr. Sirhan acted alone.

Leading efforts to reopen the case was Mr. Schrade. He thought there might have been a second gunman, and when it emerged that the Los Angeles Police Department had destroyed some evidence, those suspicions grew.

Mr. Schrade — now 93 and still fighting to reopen the case — convinced a young Los Angeles city councilman at the time, Zev Yaroslavsky, to hold hearings on the L.A.P.D.’s role in the investigation. Mr. Yaroslavsky found no basis to support a theory that Mr. Sirhan was not the sole shooter, but it was clear the police had destroyed evidence. His hearings were a rare challenge to the authority of the Los Angeles police, then the pre-eminent power in city politics.

The original entrance to the Ambassador Hotel remains, with the still functioning clock.CreditRozette Rago for The New York Times
Memorabilia from the Ambassador Hotel on display at the school complex.CreditRozette Rago for The New York Times

In Journalist’s Murder, a Test for Malta, and the European Union


The search for her killers posed a test for Malta, its political parties and institutions, and for the European Union, of which the country is a member. It is a test the family claims the country is failing. Three men the police call career criminals were arrested in December and charged with planting and detonating the bomb. But questions about who was behind them and why they wanted Ms. Caruana Galizia dead remain unanswered.

“The brutal assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia was aimed at instilling fear in everyone,” a European Parliament delegation to Malta said in a report released in January, “especially those involved in investigating and prosecuting cases of money laundering and corruption.”

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Daphne Caruana Galizia in April 2016.

Credit
Jon Borg/Associated Press

After her death, 45 journalists from 18 news organizations agreed to work together to pursue leads from her work on corruption and international money-laundering networks, as well as look into the circumstances surrounding her death. Forbidden Stories, an investigative nonprofit in Paris devoted to completing the work of jailed and murdered journalists, coordinated the collaboration, in which The New York Times took part.

Today, the once-barren field where the burning wreck of Ms. Caruana Galizia’s car came to rest has sprouted green and lush, dotted with yellow and red spring wildflowers. The men charged with the killing — the brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, and Vincent Muscat, no relation to the prime minister, who shares the surname — have pleaded not guilty but have otherwise refused to talk, and they remain in custody.

But the police say the three men were tipped off to their imminent arrest, according to evidence gathered in the investigation. Among the allegations the victim’s family passed to investigators is that Mr. Cardona, the economy minister, and two of the suspects in the killing were regulars at the same out-of-the-way bar.

In a written response, Mr. Cardona said that the bar, Ferdinand’s, “welcomes patrons from all walks of life, including other politicians.” He added, “I do not, however, recall having any discussions with any of these individuals, and have definitely never had any meetings with them.”

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Malta’s economy minister, Christian Cardona. Ms. Caruana Galizia wrote an article about him reportedly visiting a brothel in Germany while traveling on official business. He denied the accusation and sued for libel.

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Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

Mr. Cardona said that he had not been interviewed in connection with the case. The police have chosen to work their way up from the evidence at the crime scene rather than look for motives in the journalist’s reporting. A person with knowledge of the investigation who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter confirmed that the police were not actively looking into whether the crime had been motivated by Ms. Caruana Galizia’s reporting on politicians. They still have a dozen investigators working on the case — half of them full time — while other authorities are combing financial and communications records to try to find links to the killers.

Ms. Caruana Galizia’s family says that the police are content to let the three suspects in custody take the fall without investigating deeper and potentially uncovering wrongdoing by the governing party. They fear that with time, the urgency to uncover why she was killed, and who was behind the attack, has already begun to recede. Six months after her death, neither the bomb maker nor the person or people who wanted her dead have been found.

“There is now a sense of impunity, a culture of impunity,” said Simon Busuttil, the former leader of the opposition Nationalist Party. “So everyone thinks they can get away with murder,” he added, “perhaps even literally.”

Underscoring the point, a Russian woman identified as one of Ms. Caruana Galizia’s sources has applied for political asylum in Greece, where she fled in fear for her life after the assassination, and she is fighting extradition.

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A suspect being escorted out of a courthouse in Valletta, Malta, in December after being charged with the murder of Ms. Caruana Galizia. Two others were also charged.

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Matthew Mirabelli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In her years as a muckraking journalist, Ms. Caruana Galizia angered countless people on this island, not to mention an Iranian-born banker, drug-trafficking syndicates and the president of Azerbaijan. Ms. Caruana Galizia was no stranger to threats. In 1995, someone slit her dog’s throat and laid its body on her doorstep. In 2006, unidentified perpetrators stacked five large tires filled with bottles of gasoline against the back of her home and set them ablaze.

In an interview she gave to a researcher from the Council of Europe shortly before her death, Ms. Caruana Galizia, 53, described “a climate of fear” in Malta, a country where people were afraid of the consequences of speaking out.

“There have been periods where literally I would feel like, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to get a stomach ulcer,’” she said. “That churning, churning nerves all the time. Because you’re living under it constantly, you know?”

Ms. Caruana Galizia dedicated herself to uncovering what she saw as a web of corruption in the country, on her blog, Running Commentary, where her reporting veered from tabloid to investigative to partisan and back again — sometimes in a single article. Hated by many but read by all, her post about Mr. Cardona had 547,146 page views; Malta has 460,000 people.

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Prime Minister Joseph Muscat casting his vote in June. He called the elections after Ms. Caruana Galizia accused his wife of benefiting from a secret Panamanian shell company. He won a second term.

Credit
Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

But she also reported on how Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s chief of staff and energy minister had used the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca to set up shell companies there shortly after the Labor Party came to power in 2013, which they have acknowledged was true. She said that a third company that had been set up belonged to Mr. Muscat’s wife, Michelle, which the couple vehemently denied. The Muscats demanded a formal inquiry to clear their name, and it is still underway.

Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, a former lawmaker who switched from the Nationalist Party to the Labor Party and who was a regular subject of Ms. Caruana Galizia’s blog, shared a view expressed by many here: that Ms. Caruana Galizia engaged in loosely sourced personal attacks rather than in sober, careful journalism.

“It’s not exactly what’s called a journalistic gem,” he said. “Most of it is mainly insults and denigrating any opponent to her clique.”

Mr. Orlando also pointed out that Labor, which won elections called after her disclosures about the offshore accounts, had nothing to gain from her death, as it would bring only renewed criticism and attention. “No one in the political sector of Malta had any interest in her death,” he said.

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Investigators at the scene of the car bombing near Bidnija that killed Ms. Caruana Galizia in October, at age 53.

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Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

After the murder, foreign law-enforcement experts arrived to help with the investigation. A team from the Netherlands assisted with forensics at the crime scene. The F.B.I. sent a team to analyze cellphone data. Europol, the European Union law-enforcement agency, had people on the ground working with its Maltese counterparts out of a command center set up at Police Headquarters.

Significant evidence was gathered from cellphones used to coordinate the bombing, and from surveillance videos linking the three suspects to the killing. But little progress has been made in discovering who was behind them.

The inquiry has been hampered by the family’s distrust of the police, which means that investigators have not had the chance to examine her laptop, which might contain clues to who might have betrayed her, or had an interest in silencing her.

“Daphne would never have handed over her laptop,” Corinne Vella, Ms. Caruana Galizia’s sister, said in a statement on Monday. “She always said, ‘If anything happens, if the police ever come to the house, I will throw my laptop into a well,’ and she meant it.”

She added: “It was about protecting her sources. She knew that whatever information the police got hold of would go straight to the same people in government she was investigating.”

Continue reading the main story

When Robert F. Kennedy Told an Indianapolis Crowd of King’s Assassination


The authorities in Indiana had warned Kennedy not to address the crowd. But he did.

50 Years Later, Remembering King, and the Battles That Outlived Him

In his last years, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was grappling with many issues: workers’ rights, a sprawling protest movement, persistent segregation and poverty. We inherited them all.


The audience gasped and wailed in anguish at the news that King had been killed. Then, in an emotionally frank speech, Kennedy eulogized the civil rights leader, called for an end to violence and social injustice and addressed, for the first time in public, the assassination of his brother President John F. Kennedy five years earlier.

[Read and listen: Robert F. Kennedy’s speech in Indianapolis.]

“For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling,” Kennedy said. “I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.”

Robert F. Kennedy’s Martin Luther King Jr. Assassination Speech Video by Frankie Warren

Kennedy’s speech on the death of King has been credited with defusing tensions in Indianapolis, which was one of the American cities that did not see riots that night.

“Look at all those other cities,” William Crawford, a member of the Black Radical Action Project who was there, told The Indianapolis Star in 2015. “I believe it would have gone that way had not Bobby Kennedy given those remarks.”

“The sincerity of Bobby Kennedy’s words just resonated especially when he talked about his brother,” he said.

The speech has also been hailed as one of the great political orations of the late 20th century, as much for what Kennedy said as for the tense environment in which he said it.

“It was really that he went there, that’s the most remarkable thing,” said David Margolick, the author of “The Promise and the Dream: the Interrupted Lives of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.”

“There was no other American politician remotely in sight who could have done that,” Mr. Margolick said. “He was the only white man who had the credibility and the courage to go into the black community and talk about Martin Luther King and acknowledge what he represented and mourn for him.”

[Read more: How The Times covered Kennedy’s speech on King’s death.]

Kennedy’s progressive politics and history of personal tragedy were the source of that credibility. Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, said Kennedy’s rare reference to his brother “helped give him standing to then deliver this powerful message of racial reconciliation.”

Kennedy’s speech that night was a plea for compassion and a rallying cry against the spiral of enmity and violence that had torn at the country for much of that decade, but its impact was limited.

Indianapolis remained calm that night, but riots tore through dozens of other cities. Those in Washington, D.C., devastated large parts of downtown, which remained damaged for decades.

The drumbeat of unrest continued unabated for the rest of the year. Just 68 days after King’s death, Kennedy himself was shot by an assassin in Los Angeles soon after winning the California Democratic primary. He died the next day, on June 6, 1968.

King’s assassination was a shocking blow to the country and, coupled with the murder of Kennedy just two months later, was seen by many as a violent end to an idealistic time.

“When the two of them were assassinated we lost leaders who were articulating a very different path for American liberalism and for America as a whole,” Mr. Kahlenberg said. He said both leaders had argued that “we should look for common ground among black and white people who are struggling economically.”

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Coretta Scott King, the widow of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and her son Martin Luther King III, left, looked on another son, Dexter King, placed a wreath at King’s tomb in Atlanta on Jan. 15, 1985.

Credit
Ric Feld/Associated Press

King was buried in Atlanta and his remains were moved to a tomb on the grounds of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, a memorial and nonprofit education center founded in 1968 by his widow, Coretta.

Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery near his brother. A memorial installed on the site in 1971 includes passages from his improvised speech in Indianapolis on the night that King was killed:

Aeschylus wrote: “In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black …

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.

Continue reading the main story

When Robert F. Kennedy Told an Indianapolis Crowd of King’s Assassination


The authorities in Indiana had warned Kennedy not to address the crowd. But he did.

50 Years Later, Remembering King, and the Battles That Outlived Him

In his last years, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was grappling with many issues: workers’ rights, a sprawling protest movement, persistent segregation and poverty. We inherited them all.


The audience gasped and wailed in anguish at the news that King had been killed. Then, in an emotionally frank speech, Kennedy eulogized the civil rights leader, called for an end to violence and social injustice and addressed, for the first time in public, the assassination of his brother President John F. Kennedy five years earlier.

[Read and listen: Robert F. Kennedy’s speech in Indianapolis.]

“For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling,” Kennedy said. “I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.”

Robert F. Kennedy’s Martin Luther King Jr. Assassination Speech Video by Frankie Warren

Kennedy’s speech on the death of King has been credited with defusing tensions in Indianapolis, which was one of the American cities that did not see riots that night.

“Look at all those other cities,” William Crawford, a member of the Black Radical Action Project who was there, told The Indianapolis Star in 2015. “I believe it would have gone that way had not Bobby Kennedy given those remarks.”

“The sincerity of Bobby Kennedy’s words just resonated especially when he talked about his brother,” he said.

The speech has also been hailed as one of the great political orations of the late 20th century, as much for what Kennedy said as for the tense environment in which he said it.

“It was really that he went there, that’s the most remarkable thing,” said David Margolick, the author of “The Promise and the Dream: the Interrupted Lives of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.”

“There was no other American politician remotely in sight who could have done that,” Mr. Margolick said. “He was the only white man who had the credibility and the courage to go into the black community and talk about Martin Luther King and acknowledge what he represented and mourn for him.”

[Read more: How The Times covered Kennedy’s speech on King’s death.]

Kennedy’s progressive politics and history of personal tragedy were the source of that credibility. Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, said Kennedy’s rare reference to his brother “helped give him standing to then deliver this powerful message of racial reconciliation.”

Kennedy’s speech that night was a plea for compassion and a rallying cry against the spiral of enmity and violence that had torn at the country for much of that decade, but its impact was limited.

Indianapolis remained calm that night, but riots tore through dozens of other cities. Those in Washington, D.C., devastated large parts of downtown, which remained damaged for decades.

The drumbeat of unrest continued unabated for the rest of the year. Just 68 days after King’s death, Kennedy himself was shot by an assassin in Los Angeles soon after winning the California Democratic primary. He died the next day, on June 6, 1968.

King’s assassination was a shocking blow to the country and, coupled with the murder of Kennedy just two months later, was seen by many as a violent end to an idealistic time.

“When the two of them were assassinated we lost leaders who were articulating a very different path for American liberalism and for America as a whole,” Mr. Kahlenberg said. He said both leaders had argued that “we should look for common ground among black and white people who are struggling economically.”

Photo

Coretta Scott King, the widow of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and her son Martin Luther King III, left, looked on another son, Dexter King, placed a wreath at King’s tomb in Atlanta on Jan. 15, 1985.

Credit
Ric Feld/Associated Press

King was buried in Atlanta and his remains were moved to a tomb on the grounds of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, a memorial and nonprofit education center founded in 1968 by his widow, Coretta.

Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery near his brother. A memorial installed on the site in 1971 includes passages from his improvised speech in Indianapolis on the night that King was killed:

Aeschylus wrote: “In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black …

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.

Continue reading the main story

‘Like a Dream’: Malala Makes an Emotional Visit to Her Pakistani Hometown


On Saturday morning, Ms. Yousafzai flew in a government helicopter from the capital, Islamabad, to the Swat Valley accompanied by her parents, two brothers and Marriyum Aurangzeb, the Pakistani state minister for information. They briefly visited the rental house in Mingora where the family once lived and were warmly welcomed by the new residents. Ms. Yousafzai was in tears when she entered the house.

“So much joy seeing my family home, visiting friends and putting my feet on this soil again,” she said in a Twitter post along with a photo of her family standing in the garden of their old home. She also posted pictures of the scenic Swat Valley taken from the helicopter as it approached Mingora.

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Ms. Yousafzai with her father, Ziauddin, second from left, and her brother Atal, left, at a college near the city of Mingora.

Credit
Abdul Majeed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Urooj, a former schoolmate and neighbor who would only give her first name, said meeting Ms. Yousafzai left her friends with mixed emotions. “It was a moment of joy and sadness both,” she said, “because she came for a visit but was leaving as well.”

Ms. Yousafzai also visited a local hotel and a college near Mingora. “My first visit to Swat Valley after five and a half years since the attack,” she wrote in the visitors’ book at the school, where she made a brief speech. “I have felt so happy. I am proud of my land and culture.”

Swat was once a stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban, who ruled by terror, public hangings and suicide attacks on security forces. The militants and their leader, Mullah Fazlullah, were driven out after a fierce military campaign in 2009, and the valley has since returned to a more normal life.

But the security situation is still far from ideal, local residents say. The military maintains a large presence in the region and local residents have been protesting in recent months against the cumbersome security checks and barriers. The secrecy surrounding the visit was a testament to the lingering dangers in Swat. There was a heavy security presence in Mingora as the Yousafzais met with friends and family members, and a military helicopter hovered overhead.

But for the residents and Ms. Yousafzai, the fact that the Taliban are no longer visible and schools remain open were enough assurance that peace had returned to the region.

During her visit, Ms. Yousafzai praised the Pakistani Army for forcing the Taliban out of Swat and giving her medical treatment.

Although she has gained worldwide acclaim and recognition, Ms. Yousafzai is still viewed by many in Pakistan’s conservative society in a critical light, and some portray her as a Western stooge. On Friday in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore and in several other cities, an association of private schools observed “I Am Not Malala Day,” with schoolchildren and teachers holding placards opposing her.

Ms. Yousafzai brushed off the criticism and said she could not understand why people had turned against her when she merely wanted girls to get an education, have careers and enjoy a better life. She says she plans to return to live in Pakistan after completing her education in Britain and will continue to advocate for girls’ education and women’s empowerment.

Ms. Yousafzai plans to return to the Britain on Monday.

Continue reading the main story

Britain Signals Harder Look at Wealthy Russians and Russian Wealth


Lawmakers on the left and the right have demanded a hard line after British officials said Novichok, a military grade chemical weapon, was used against the Skripals in Salisbury, England, where Mr. Skripal lived, and the government blamed the Kremlin.

Officials said the attack left residues around the town, endangering hundreds of people, though none are known to have shown symptoms. A police officer was sickened after coming into contact with the substance, which the authorities say they believe was put on the front door of Mr. Skripal’s house, but he is no longer hospitalized.

The primary action so far by Britain and its allies has been the expulsion of more than 150 Russian government officials, many of them suspected spies.

Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain promised measures to punish Mr. Putin and his circle financially. She offered few details, but said that they could include freezing Russian assets in Britain and passing a version of the Magnitsky Act, the American law that prohibits a list of powerful Russians from entering the United States or using its banking system.

[Read more about Britain’s options in retaliating against Russia here.]

Vladimir L. Ashurkov, the executive director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, a group based in Moscow, said he had heard promises of reform before, but they were always undercut by a lack of urgency and inadequate resources for financial regulators and law enforcement.

“There is no real political will to go after corrupt money flows,” said Mr. Ashurkov, a Putin critic who now lives in Britain. “Maybe it will change in the current political situation.”

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A picture of Yulia Skripal obtained from her Facebook account. She “continues to receive expert clinical care 24 hours a day,” a hospital statement said.

Credit
via Associated Press

Governments of both British major parties have contributed to the permissive approach to foreign wealth, but Mrs. May and her Conservative government are under particular pressure to act, given the enormous international attention given to the use of a chemical weapon against people in Britain.

The Skripal attack has revived criticism that Conservative governments were not aggressive enough in investigating the Litvinenko murder and other suspicious deaths of Putin foes in Britain. In the wake of the nerve agent poisoning, the government has said it will re-examine those deaths.

Conservative lawmakers have also come under scrutiny for raising campaign money from wealthy Russians living in Britain and their associates.

Britain has some of Europe’s loosest rules for allowing foreign money into its banking system and for putting assets into corporations without disclosing corporate ownership — conditions that anticorruption groups say have attracted hundreds of billions of dollars in questionable money, invested in financial markets and real estate.

Britain has also been permissive about granting “investor visas” to people to live in the country if they bring millions of dollars with them, without careful examination of their wealth, though those rules were tightened in 2015.

“We’ve had a light-touch regulation approach, which means that money has come in — we have no idea really what money is crossing the border,” said Tom Keatinge, director of the center for financial crime at the Royal United Services Institute, a security studies group. Britain needs not just tougher rules, but also better enforcement of existing rules, he said, and “the political will to engage with those ideas.”

Yvette Cooper, a Labour member of Parliament, has called on the government to investigate the 700 Russians who obtained investor visas between 2008 and 2015. In a hearing on Wednesday, Amber Rudd, the home secretary in the Conservative government, said her department was reviewing the program, including looking at people who entered under the old rules, “to see if there’s any action that needs to be taken.”

Tom Tugendhat, a Conservative member of Parliament, has been one of the most insistent advocates of tough economic measures, repeatedly calling on the government to ban the Russian government from raising money on British markets by selling bonds. He said corrupt Russian state-controlled businesses that are already banned by sanctions from British markets had gotten around that by having their government, indirectly, borrow for them.

“Surely we can do more to stop sanctions-busting when it’s done, effectively, by the Russian state,” he said in a hearing this week.

Mrs. May replied, “I understand the point that you’re making on this,” and promised to respond later in detail.

Last year, Parliament passed a law allowing the government to investigate “unexplained wealth” and to seize it if it appeared to stem from corruption. Experts say that is a powerful tool, but one the government has barely used so far.

Lawmakers have suggested other moves, like banning more Russian companies from British financial markets and revoking the broadcast license of RT, the Russian state-controlled television network.

Continue reading the main story

Yulia Skripal, Poisoned Daughter of Ex-Spy, Out of Critical Condition


Photo

A picture of Yulia Skripal obtained from her Facebook account. She “continues to receive expert clinical care 24 hours a day,” a hospital statement said.

Credit
via Associated Press

LONDON — Yulia Skripal, who was found poisoned on a park bench in a small English city this month along with her father, the former Russian spy Sergei V. Skripal, is showing improvement and is no longer in critical condition, the hospital that is treating her said on Thursday.

The British authorities have blamed Russia for the poisoning, which they say was carried out with a deadly nerve agent developed by Soviet scientists and known as a Novichok. The attack has significantly raised tensions between the West and Russia, which has denied any involvement.

“I’m pleased to be able to report an improvement in the condition of Yulia Skripal,” Dr. Christine Blanshard, the medical director for Salisbury District Hospital, said in a statement. “She has responded well to treatment but continues to receive expert clinical care 24 hours a day.”

Ms. Skripal’s father remains in critical but stable condition, the hospital said in a statement. Sgt. Nick Bailey, an emergency medical worker who was also exposed to the nerve agent, was released from the hospital a week ago; there was no further word on his condition.

The announcement came a day after the British authorities said that Ms. Skripal and her father, a former colonel for Russian military intelligence who was widely believed to have been a double agent, had been poisoned after the nerve agent was applied to the front door of their house, resolving one of the many mysteries in the case.

The Metropolitan Police said later on Thursday that the search for the source of the poisoning of the Skripals was now focused on the area around their home in the cathedral city of Salisbury, about 85 miles southwest of London.

To that end, the police placed a cordon around a children’s play area at a park near Mr. Skripal’s home, although they sought to allay fears that members of the public were at risk of being poisoned by describing the move as a precautionary measure.

“I would like to reiterate Public Health England’s advice that the risk to the public is low,” Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon said in a statement.

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A New Cold War With Russia? No, It’s Worse Than That


From the Kremlin’s perspective, it is the United States that first upended previous norms, when President George W. Bush withdrew the United States from the Antiballistic Missile accord, an important Cold War-era treaty, in 2002.

Russia, Mr. Kurilla said, does not like the rules of the American-dominated order that have prevailed since then, “and wants to change them.”

One rule that Russia has consistently embraced, however, is the principle of reciprocity, and the Kremlin made clear on Monday that it would, after assessing the scale of the damage to its diplomat corps overseas, respond with expulsions of Western diplomats from Russia.

The Russian Parliament also weighed in, with the deputy head of its foreign affairs committee, Aleksei Chepa, telling the Interfax news agency that Russia would not bow to the West’s diplomatic “war.” Russia, he said, “will not allow itself to be beaten up, the harder they try to intimidate us, the tougher our response will be.”

When Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats this month in response to the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, England, Moscow not only evicted an equal number of British diplomats, but ordered the closing of the British Council, an organization that promotes British culture and language.

While denying any part in the March 4 poisoning of Sergei V. Skripal, a former spy, and his daughter, Yulia, both still critically ill in the hospital, Russia in recent years has built up a long record of flouting international norms, notably with its 2014 annexation of Crimea, the first time since 1945 that European borders have been redrawn by force.

The attack on the Skripals was another first, at least according to Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, who denounced the action as the “first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War.”

Kadri Liik, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said she was mystified by the nerve agent attack. Ms. Liik said she had expected Mr. Putin, who won a fourth term by a lopsided margin on March 18, to back away from disruption during what, under the Constitution, should be his last six years in power.

Mr. Putin, she said, might not be predictable but usually follows what he considers fairly clear logic. “Putin does not do disruption just for fun, but because he is Putin and he can,” she said.

Each time Russia has been accused of having a hand in acts like the seizure of Ukrainian government buildings in Crimea or the 2014 shooting down of a Malaysian passenger plane over eastern Ukraine, in which nearly 300 people were killed, Moscow has responded with a mix of self-pity, fierce denials and florid conspiracy theories that put the blame elsewhere.

In the case of the poisoning in Salisbury, Russia’s denials became so baroque that even the state-run news media had a hard time keeping up.

Photo

Employees at the Russian Consulate in an adjacent driveway in New York on Monday.

Credit
Peter Foley/EPA, via Shutterstock

After officials denied any Russian role and insisted that neither Russia nor the Soviet Union had ever developed Novichok, the nerve agent identified by Britain as the substance used against the Skripals, a state-controlled news agency published an interview with a Russian scientist who said he had helped develop a system of chemical weapons called Novichok-5. The agency later amended the article, replacing the scientist’s mention of Novichok with an assertion that the “chemical weapons development program of the U.S.S.R. was not called ‘Novichok.’”

The attempted murder of Mr. Skripal on British soil, however, “was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Vladislav Inozemtsev, a Russian scholar at the Polish Institute of Advanced Studies in Warsaw. “Western leaders finally decided that enough is enough” because Moscow has played the denial game so many times and showed no real interest in establishing the truth, he said.

Unlike Soviet leaders during the Cold War, he added, Mr. Putin follows no fixed ideology or rules but is ready to pursue any “predatory policies,” no matter how taboo, that might help “undermine the existing order in Europe,” while insisting that Russia is the victim, not the aggressor.

When the United Nations in 2015 proposed an international tribunal to investigate the MH-17 air disaster a year earlier over territory held by Russian-armed rebels in eastern Ukraine, Moscow used its veto in the United Nations Security Council to block the move, the only member of the Council to oppose the investigation.

Ian Bond, a former British diplomat in Moscow who is now director of foreign policy at the Center for European Reform in London, said Russia’s often implausible denials had made it “like the boy who cried wolf.”

“If you keep putting forward crazy conspiracy theories, eventually people are going to ask whether what you are saying is just another crazy Russian denial,” he said.

Mr. Bond said diplomacy during the Cold War, even when it involved hostile actions, tended to follow a relatively a calm and orderly routine. No longer is that the case, he added, noting that the Russian Embassy in London and the Foreign Ministry in Moscow have issued statements and tweets mocking Britain as an impotent has-been power and scoffing at the Salisbury poisoning as the “so-called Sergei Skripal case.”

President Putin, Mr. Bond added, “is not trying to foment international revolution, but he is the great disrupter” and revels in wrong-footing foreign governments by flouting established norms.

While Russia may have been surprised by the magnitude of the coordinated expulsions by Britain’s allies on Monday, it was clearly anticipating something. Hours before they were announced, it went on the offensive.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, posted a message on Facebook sneering at the European Union for showing solidarity with Britain at a time when London is negotiating its exit from the bloc. Britain, she wrote, is “exploiting the solidarity factor to impose on those that are remaining a deterioration in relations with Russia.”

While President Trump has expressed a curious affinity with Mr. Putin and raised expectations of improved relations, the Russian leader has always been more measured. The underlying mistrust seemed to be reinforced on Monday by Russia’s ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, who told the Interfax news agency that “what the United States of America is doing today is destroying whatever little is left in Russian-U.S. relations.”

Despite the unpredictability under Mr. Putin, the possibility of nuclear conflict between the Russians and the West, the most frightening aspect of the Cold War, does not appear to have increased. Arms control agreements reached since the 1970s are still honored — with the exception of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile accord, known as the ABM Treaty, which Mr. Bush abandoned 30 years later.

Mr. Bush’s decision, questioned by even some American allies, opened the way, in Moscow’s view, to a free-for-all in international relations that has left the United States and Russia struggling to recover the trust developed by President Ronald Reagan and the last Soviet leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, in the 1980s.

In a state of the nation address in February, President Putin unveiled what he described as a new generation of “invincible” long-range nuclear missiles but, speaking later in an interview with NBC, he blamed Washington for pushing Moscow into a new arms race by disregarding a Cold War status quo.

“If you speak about the arms race, it started when the U.S. withdrew from the ABM Treaty,” he said.

Confronted with Moscow’s disruptive actions in the 1920s, Britain and other European countries “did not know how to respond and took 10 years or more to figure out how to deal with Moscow,” said Mr. Kurilla, the St. Petersburg historian.

In the case of Britain, the leading power of the day and the first Western country to recognize the Soviet Union, the process had echoes of the present. It recognized the new Bolshevik government in 1924 but then expelled Soviet diplomats and shuttered their embassy three years later after the police uncovered what they said was a Soviet espionage ring bent on spreading mayhem.

Correction: March 26, 2018

An earlier version of this article misstated the timing of the American withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty. President George W. Bush announced that the United States was withdrawing from the treaty in 2001. The withdrawal was completed in 2002.

Continue reading the main story

A New Cold War With Russia? No, It’s Worse Than That


From the Kremlin’s perspective, it is the United States that first upended previous norms, when President George W. Bush withdrew the United States from the Antiballistic Missile accord, an important Cold War-era treaty, in 2002.

Russia, Mr. Kurilla said, does not like the rules of the American-dominated order that have prevailed since then, “and wants to change them.”

One rule that Russia has consistently embraced, however, is the principle of reciprocity, and the Kremlin made clear on Monday that it would, after assessing the scale of the damage to its diplomat corps overseas, respond with expulsions of Western diplomats from Russia.

The Russian Parliament also weighed in, with the deputy head of its foreign affairs committee, Aleksei Chepa, telling the Interfax news agency that Russia would not bow to the West’s diplomatic “war.” Russia, he said, “will not allow itself to be beaten up, the harder they try to intimidate us, the tougher our response will be.”

When Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats this month in response to the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, England, Moscow not only evicted an equal number of British diplomats, but ordered the closing of the British Council, an organization that promotes British culture and language.

While denying any part in the March 4 poisoning of Sergei V. Skripal, a former spy, and his daughter, Yulia, both still critically ill in the hospital, Russia in recent years has built up a long record of flouting international norms, notably with its 2014 annexation of Crimea, the first time since 1945 that European borders have been redrawn by force.

The attack on the Skripals was another first, at least according to Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, who denounced the action as the “first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War.”

Kadri Liik, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said she was mystified by the nerve agent attack. Ms. Liik said she had expected Mr. Putin, who won a fourth term by a lopsided margin on March 18, to back away from disruption during what, under the Constitution, should be his last six years in power.

Mr. Putin, she said, might not be predictable but usually follows what he considers fairly clear logic. “Putin does not do disruption just for fun, but because he is Putin and he can,” she said.

Each time Russia has been accused of having a hand in acts like the seizure of Ukrainian government buildings in Crimea or the 2014 shooting down of a Malaysian passenger plane over eastern Ukraine, in which nearly 300 people were killed, Moscow has responded with a mix of self-pity, fierce denials and florid conspiracy theories that put the blame elsewhere.

In the case of the poisoning in Salisbury, Russia’s denials became so baroque that even the state-run news media had a hard time keeping up.

Photo

Employees at the Russian Consulate in an adjacent driveway in New York on Monday.

Credit
Peter Foley/EPA, via Shutterstock

After officials denied any Russian role and insisted that neither Russia nor the Soviet Union had ever developed Novichok, the nerve agent identified by Britain as the substance used against the Skripals, a state-controlled news agency published an interview with a Russian scientist who said he had helped develop a system of chemical weapons called Novichok-5. The agency later amended the article, replacing the scientist’s mention of Novichok with an assertion that the “chemical weapons development program of the U.S.S.R. was not called ‘Novichok.’”

The attempted murder of Mr. Skripal on British soil, however, “was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Vladislav Inozemtsev, a Russian scholar at the Polish Institute of Advanced Studies in Warsaw. “Western leaders finally decided that enough is enough” because Moscow has played the denial game so many times and showed no real interest in establishing the truth, he said.

Unlike Soviet leaders during the Cold War, he added, Mr. Putin follows no fixed ideology or rules but is ready to pursue any “predatory policies,” no matter how taboo, that might help “undermine the existing order in Europe,” while insisting that Russia is the victim, not the aggressor.

When the United Nations in 2015 proposed an international tribunal to investigate the MH-17 air disaster a year earlier over territory held by Russian-armed rebels in eastern Ukraine, Moscow used its veto in the United Nations Security Council to block the move, the only member of the Council to oppose the investigation.

Ian Bond, a former British diplomat in Moscow who is now director of foreign policy at the Center for European Reform in London, said Russia’s often implausible denials had made it “like the boy who cried wolf.”

“If you keep putting forward crazy conspiracy theories, eventually people are going to ask whether what you are saying is just another crazy Russian denial,” he said.

Mr. Bond said diplomacy during the Cold War, even when it involved hostile actions, tended to follow a relatively a calm and orderly routine. No longer is that the case, he added, noting that the Russian Embassy in London and the Foreign Ministry in Moscow have issued statements and tweets mocking Britain as an impotent has-been power and scoffing at the Salisbury poisoning as the “so-called Sergei Skripal case.”

President Putin, Mr. Bond added, “is not trying to foment international revolution, but he is the great disrupter” and revels in wrong-footing foreign governments by flouting established norms.

While Russia may have been surprised by the magnitude of the coordinated expulsions by Britain’s allies on Monday, it was clearly anticipating something. Hours before they were announced, it went on the offensive.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, posted a message on Facebook sneering at the European Union for showing solidarity with Britain at a time when London is negotiating its exit from the bloc. Britain, she wrote, is “exploiting the solidarity factor to impose on those that are remaining a deterioration in relations with Russia.”

While President Trump has expressed a curious affinity with Mr. Putin and raised expectations of improved relations, the Russian leader has always been more measured. The underlying mistrust seemed to be reinforced on Monday by Russia’s ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, who told the Interfax news agency that “what the United States of America is doing today is destroying whatever little is left in Russian-U.S. relations.”

Despite the unpredictability under Mr. Putin, the possibility of nuclear conflict between the Russians and the West, the most frightening aspect of the Cold War, does not appear to have increased. Arms control agreements reached since the 1970s are still honored — with the exception of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile accord, known as the ABM Treaty, which Mr. Bush abandoned 30 years later.

Mr. Bush’s decision, questioned by even some American allies, opened the way, in Moscow’s view, to a free-for-all in international relations that has left the United States and Russia struggling to recover the trust developed by President Ronald Reagan and the last Soviet leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, in the 1980s.

In a state of the nation address in February, President Putin unveiled what he described as a new generation of “invincible” long-range nuclear missiles but, speaking later in an interview with NBC, he blamed Washington for pushing Moscow into a new arms race by disregarding a Cold War status quo.

“If you speak about the arms race, it started when the U.S. withdrew from the ABM Treaty,” he said.

Confronted with Moscow’s disruptive actions in the 1920s, Britain and other European countries “did not know how to respond and took 10 years or more to figure out how to deal with Moscow,” said Mr. Kurilla, the St. Petersburg historian.

In the case of Britain, the leading power of the day and the first Western country to recognize the Soviet Union, the process had echoes of the present. It recognized the new Bolshevik government in 1924 but then expelled Soviet diplomats and shuttered their embassy three years later after the police uncovered what they said was a Soviet espionage ring bent on spreading mayhem.

Correction: March 26, 2018

An earlier version of this article misstated the timing of the American withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty. President George W. Bush announced that the United States was withdrawing from the treaty in 2001. The withdrawal was completed in 2002.

Continue reading the main story