Your Friday Briefing: MH17 Convictions

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A Dutch court sentenced three men to life in prison yesterday in the 2014 case of a passenger jet that was shot down over a separatist region of eastern Ukraine. The men, who have ties to the Russian security services, were tried in absentia. A fourth man was acquitted.

The verdict offered a bare measure of justice for the 298 people killed in the downing of the jet, a Malaysia Airlines flight traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, known as MH17. (Here’s a timeline of the tragedy.)

The trial opened more than two years ago in an attempt to assign responsibility for what had long seemed a crime without punishment. On July 17, 2014, an antiaircraft missile provided to separatist forces by the Russian military shot down MH17.

The war in Ukraine has given the case a new significance. Support for separatists in eastern Ukraine was a key part of Vladimir Putin’s pretext for Russia’s full-scale invasion. The verdict may also set an example for possible prosecutions of Russian crimes during the war.

Russian denial: Russia has repeatedly denied any responsibility, despite extensive evidence. The court said the Russian version of events belonged to the “realm of fantasy.”

Other updates:

South Korean officials ignored warnings or missed crucial chances to prevent the crowd crush that left 158 people dead last month, a Times analysis found.

The authorities had known for years that Halloween weekends in Itaewon, a popular nightlife district in Seoul, attracted large crowds. The police had warned of possible “crush deaths” in 2020.

This year’s gathering, the first since the end of Covid restrictions, promised to be big. But before 8 p.m. that day, only 11 officers were on duty, according to an opposition lawmaker who reviewed police records. On the same day, 4,700 officers were deployed nearby to monitor tens of thousands of protesters​ frustrated with the president’s leadership.

Desperate calls started coming in at 6:34 p.m. The first call was dismissed as nothing serious, according to a senior official from the National Police Agency. The dispatchers did not follow up closely on subsequent calls.

Finally at 10:42 p.m., more than four hours after the initial report, firefighters reported their first official contact with victims. “We are performing CPR on 15 people but we don’t have enough hands,” one said, according to transcripts.

Details: An estimated 130,000 people were in Itaewon that night. Most of the victims were in their 20s.

Sources: The Times analysis was based on witness accounts, investigators’ findings, parliamentary testimony and official documents released to lawmakers.

Nancy Pelosi, who has led Democrats in the House of Representatives for two decades and is the first woman to serve as speaker, announced yesterday that she would leave the leadership post in January.

Her departure follows election losses that cost Democrats their majority. Republicans will assume control of the House in January with a slender majority, ushering in a divided government in Washington.

Pelosi, 82, announced her plans in a speech on the House floor, saying that “the hour’s come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus.” She will remain in Congress, but will not seek the role of minority leader.

What’s next: Pelosi’s announcement set off a shift in the top ranks of Democratic leadership — now dominated by a trio of octogenarians — toward a younger group that has been waiting in the wings. Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, 52, is widely regarded as Pelosi’s likeliest successor.

In her new book, Marie Kondo takes tidying to a new level through kurashi, which means lifestyle. “Tidying up means dealing with all the ‘things’ in your life,” Kondo writes. “So, what do you really want to put in order?”

As world leaders discuss how to address climate change at the COP27 conference in Egypt, the people of Madagascar are figuring out how to adapt with little means. On a recent reporting trip across the Indian Ocean island, the photographer Joao Silva, the Malagasy journalist Lova Andrianaivomanana and I met people whose lives have been upended and saw the heavy price that many are paying.

We met subsistence farmers living in a camp for climate refugees. On the east coast, where successive cyclones flooded vanilla fields, we met communities who have found new ways to build homes to weather these storms. We visited a village where dozens of babies were born severely malnourished. In the country’s east, months after the storms, health workers at a still roofless district hospital were treating patients in tents. In the hilly capital, Antananarivo, flooding and mudslides are threatening historic buildings.

Madagascar, the fourth poorest country in the world, shows how developing countries are bearing the brunt of climate change. The destruction of forests for farmland or charcoal has only made Madagascar more vulnerable. As a local activist and economist told me, the first way to safeguard against climate change is to invest in communities.

Read the full story on how Madagascar is adapting to climate change. — Lynsey Chutel, Briefings writer based in Johannesburg


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