But it’s not clear how much of the crime is organized. Matthew Fernandez, 49, who works at a King Soopers in Broomfield, Colo., said he was stunned when he watched a thief walk out with a cart full of makeup, laundry detergent and meat and drive off in a Mercedes-Benz S.U.V.

“The ones you think are going to steal are not the ones doing it,” he said. “From high class to low class, they are all doing it.”

Ms. Barry often gives money to the homeless people who come into her store, so they can buy food. She also knows the financial pressures on people with lower incomes as the cost of living soars.

When people steal, she said, the company can write off the loss. But those losses mean less money for workers.

“That is part of my raise and benefits that is walking out the door,” she said. “That is money we deserve.”

Ella Koeze contributed reporting.

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What Happened on Day 99 of the War in Ukraine

As the war in Ukraine approaches its 100th day, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday that Russian forces now control one-fifth of the country, a blunt acknowledgment of the slow but substantial gains that Moscow has made in recent weeks.

Though battered, depleted and repulsed from their initial drive to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, Russian troops have used their superior artillery power to grind closer to their goal of taking over the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, known collectively as the Donbas, where Kremlin-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian troops since 2014.

Mr. Zelensky said Russia had expanded its control of Ukrainian territory from an area roughly the size of the Netherlands before the invasion began to an area now greater than the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg combined. Seizing that swath of land could give President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia huge leverage in any future talks to end the war, as well as a base of operations to launch further attacks inside Ukraine.

Yet momentum in the war can shift quickly and unpredictably. As Russia has pounded targets in the east, Ukrainian forces have regained control of 20 small towns and villages in a counteroffensive in the south of the country, a regional official, Hennadiy Lahuta, said on national television.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Fighting was raging, Mr. Zelensky said, along a roughly 620-mile-long, crescent-shaped front that stretches from around the northeastern city of Kharkiv to the outskirts of Mykolaiv, near the Black Sea, in the south.

“If you look at the entire front line, and it is, of course, not straight, this line is more than a thousand kilometers,” Mr. Zelensky said in a video address to the Parliament of Luxembourg. “Just imagine! Constant fighting, which stretched along the front line for more than a thousand kilometers.”

Amid intense battles and heavy losses suffered by both the Russian and Ukrainian armies, the arrival of more sophisticated and powerful weapons from Western nations could alter the dynamic on the battlefield.

President Biden this week promised to send Ukraine advanced rocket systems that can target enemy positions from nearly 50 miles away, and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany pledged to ship a sophisticated air defense system and a tracking radar capable of pinpointing Russian artillery.

For now, Moscow’s main military target is Sievierodonetsk, the last major city in the Luhansk region that is not in Russian hands. Russian forces have shelled the area for weeks, reducing much of the city to depopulated rubble.

Russia controls about 70 percent of the city, although a regional official said on Thursday that Ukrainian troops had forced Russian soldiers back from several streets amid fierce urban combat.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Russian forces have renewed assaults to the west of the city in an effort to sever a Ukrainian supply line along a highway and side roads that the Ukrainians have called the “road of life,” the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington research group, said in an assessment.

“The Russian army is trying to break through the defenses of the armed forces of Ukraine,” Serhiy Haidai, the military governor of the Ukrainian-controlled portions of the Luhansk region, wrote on Telegram.

“Now, the main goal for them is Sievierodonetsk, but they had no success overnight,” he wrote.

Military analysts have viewed the Ukrainian army’s decision to hold out in the city as a risky maneuver. It allows the Ukrainians to inflict casualties on Russian troops but could also result in heavy losses for Ukrainian soldiers, who have been besieged by relentless artillery fire.

Mr. Zelensky said that more than 14,000 Ukrainian civilians and service members had been killed in conflict with Russia since 2014, when it seized Crimea. More than 8 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced since Russia’s invasion in February, and more than 6.5 million have fled to other countries as refugees, according to the United Nations.

In his nightly address to the nation Thursday, Mr. Zelensky said that more than 200,000 children had been deported since the invasion began. He called the deportations “one of Russia’s most heinous war crimes.”

“These are orphans from orphanages. Children with parents. Children separated from their families,” Mr. Zelensky said. “The Russian state disperses these people on its territory, settles our citizens, in particular, in remote regions. The purpose of this criminal policy is not just to steal people, but to make deportees forget about Ukraine and not be able to return.”

Credit…Maciek Nabrdalik for The New York Times

Russia has denied that people are being forced to leave Ukraine, saying that the 1.5 million Ukrainians now in Russia were evacuated for their own safety. On Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that over the past 24 hours, 18,886 people had been evacuated from eastern Ukraine, including 2,663 children.

American officials have rejected Russia’s claims that it has been offering Ukrainians humanitarian relief by moving them to Kremlin-controlled territory.

“As many eyewitness accounts have described in detail, Russia is subjecting many of these civilians to brutal interrogations in so-called filtration camps,” Michael Carpenter, the United States ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said in a speech this month in Vienna.

Raising the issue again this week, he said: “Local residents who try to escape Russia’s reign of fear and brutality risk abduction and forced deportation to Russia or Russia-held areas.”

Russia has not released casualty figures for its troops since late March, when it said 1,351 soldiers had died. Mr. Zelensky said Ukrainian officials believe that at least 30,000 Russian troops have been killed. In late March, NATO estimated that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian troops had been killed.

In an effort to isolate and punish Mr. Putin and his allies for having launched the invasion, the Biden administration on Thursday announced a new set of sanctions aimed at freezing the shadowy network of international assets that Mr. Putin and members of his inner circle use to hide their wealth.

Among the targets were four yachts linked to the Russian leader: the Shellest, the Nega, the Graceful and the Olympia. Mr. Putin has used some of the vessels for ocean excursions, including one outing last year on the Black Sea with Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the strongman leader of Belarus, who has supported the invasion of Ukraine, the administration said.

Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times

The sanctions also targeted several prominent members of the Russian elite, including Sergei Roldugin, a cellist, conductor and artistic director of the St. Petersburg Music House, whom the administration called a close Putin associate, godfather to one of Mr. Putin’s daughters and custodian of the Russian president’s offshore wealth.

Mr. Roldugin was added to the European Union’s sanctions list in late February, days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He has been described as “Putin’s wallet.”

Following a drop in Russian oil exports caused in part by Western sanctions, a group of oil-producing nations known as OPEC Plus agreed on Thursday to raise production levels in July and August. The agreement followed months of lobbying by the White House, but analysts said it was too slight to ease high gas prices that have posed a political challenge for Democrats in the midterm elections.

OPEC Plus, which includes Russia, Saudi Arabia and other major oil producers, announced the plan to increase production just days after the European Union agreed to ban most imports of Russian oil, imposing a harsh penalty on Moscow that also threatened to drive European energy costs higher.

As E.U. negotiators finalized the details of the oil embargo and other sanctions against Russia, they made a change at the insistence of Hungary, removing from the sanctions list Patriarch Kirill I, the leader of the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church, who has been accused of offering spiritual cover for the invasion of Ukraine.

Reporting was contributed by Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Julian E. Barnes, Michael Forsythe, Stanley Reed and Andrew E. Kramer.

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Ukraine says Russian advances could force retreat in part of east

  • Russian forces advance in east, shifting momentum
  • EU eyes deal on banning oil shipments from Russia
  • Putin says food crisis can be solved by lifting sanctions

KYIV, May 28 (Reuters) – Ukrainian forces may have to retreat from their last pocket in the Luhansk region to avoid being captured, a Ukrainian official said, as Russian troops press an advance in the east that has shifted the momentum of the three-month-old war.

A withdrawal could bring Russian President Vladimir Putin closer to his goal of capturing eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions in full. His troops have gained ground in the two areas collectively known as the Donbas while blasting some towns to wastelands.

Luhansk’s governor, Serhiy Gaidai, said Russian troops had entered Sievierodonetsk, the largest Donbas city still held by Ukraine, after trying to trap Ukrainian forces there for days, though adding that Russian forces would not be able to capture the Luhansk region “as analysts have predicted”.

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“We will have enough strength and resources to defend ourselves. However, it is possible that in order not to be surrounded we will have to retreat,” Gaidai said on Telegram.

Gaidai said 90% of buildings in Sievierodonetsk were damaged with 14 high-rises destroyed in the latest shelling.

Speaking to Ukrainian television, Gaidai said there were some 10,000 Russian troops based in the region and they were “attempting to make gains in any direction they can”. read more

He said several dozen medical staff were staying on in Sievierodonetsk but that they faced difficulty just getting to hospitals because of the shelling.

Reuters could not independently verify the information.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine was protecting its land “as much as our current defence resources allow”. Ukraine’s military said it had repelled eight attacks in Donetsk and Luhansk on Friday, destroying tanks and armoured vehicles.

“If the occupiers think that Lyman and Sievierodonetsk will be theirs, they are wrong. Donbas will be Ukrainian,” Zelenskiy said in an address.

‘PERFORMED POORLY’

The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said on Saturday Ukrainian forces had repelled eight assaults in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the previous 24 hours. Russia’s attacks included artillery assaults in the Sievierodonetsk area “with no success”, it said.

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said while Russian forces had begun direct assaults on built-up areas of Sievierodonetsk, they would likely struggle to take ground in the city itself.

“Russian forces have performed poorly in operations in built-up urban terrain throughout the war,” they said.

Russian troops advanced after piercing Ukrainian lines last week in the city of Popasna, south of Sievierodonetsk. Russian ground forces have captured several villages northwest of Popasna, Britain’s defence ministry said.

Reached by Reuters journalists in Russian-held territory on Thursday, Popasna was in ruins. The bloated body of a dead man in combat uniform could be seen lying in a courtyard.

Resident Natalia Kovalenko had left the cellar where she was sheltering in the wreckage of her flat, its windows and balcony blasted away. She said a shell hit the courtyard, killing two people and wounding eight.

“We are tired of being so scared,” she said.

Russia’s eastern gains follow the withdrawal of its forces from approaches to the capital, Kyiv, and a Ukrainian counter-offensive that pushed its forces back from Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv.

Russian forces shelled parts of Kharkiv on Thursday for the first time in days killing nine people, authorities said. The Kremlin denies targeting civilians in what it calls its “special military operation”.

Ukraine’s General Staff said on Saturday while there was no new attack on the city, there were multiple Russian strikes on nearby communities and infrastructure.

In the south, where Moscow has seized a swath of territory since the Feb. 24 invasion, including the port of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials say Russia aims to impose permanent rule.

STRUGGLING TO LEAVE

In the Kherson region in the south, Russian forces were fortifying defences and shelling Ukraine-controlled areas, the region’s Ukrainian governor told media. Another official said Russian forces had shelled the town of Zelenodolsk.

On the diplomatic front, European Union officials said a deal might be reached by Sunday to ban deliveries of Russian oil by sea, accounting for about 75% of the bloc’s supply, but not by pipeline, a compromise to win over Hungary and clear the way for new sanctions. read more

Zelenskiy has accused the EU of dithering over a ban on Russian energy, saying the bloc was funding Russia’s war and delay “merely means more Ukrainians being killed”.

In a telephone call with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, Putin stuck to his line that a global food crisis caused by the conflict can be resolved only if the West lifts sanctions.

Nehammer said Putin expressed readiness to discuss a prisoner swap with Ukraine but added: “If he is really ready to negotiate is a complex question.”

Both Russia and Ukraine are major grain exporters, and Russia’s blockade of ports has halted shipments, driving up global prices. Russia accuses Ukraine of mining the ports.

Russia justified its assault in part on ensuring Ukraine does not join the U.S.-led NATO military alliance. But the war has pushed Sweden and Finland, both neutral throughout the Cold War, to apply to join NATO in one of the most significant changes in European security in decades.

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Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Conor Humphries, Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv, Vitaliy Hnidyi in Kharkiv and Reuters journalists in Popasna; Writing by Rami Ayyub and Robert Birsel; Editing by Grant McCool and William Mallard

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Exclusive: U.S. buys more Stingers after missiles’ success in Ukraine

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WASHINGTON, May 27 (Reuters) – The U.S. Army said on Friday it has awarded a contract worth $625 million to Raytheon Technologies Corp (RTX.N) for anti-aircraft Stinger missiles in order to replenish stocks sent to Ukraine.

The shoulder-fired anti-aircraft Stinger missiles made by Raytheon were in hot demand in Ukraine, where they have successfully stopped Russian assaults from the air, and in neighboring European countries which fear they may also need to beat back Russian forces.

U.S. troops have limited use for the current supply of Stingers – a lightweight, self-contained weapon that can be deployed quickly to defend against helicopters, airplanes, drones and even cruise missiles – but the United States needs to maintain its supply on hand while it develops the next generation of a “man-portable air defense system.” read more

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Since February, the United States has shipped about 1,400 Stingers to Ukraine. U.S. allies also want to restock the weapons they shipped to Ukraine in recent months.

The contract for up to 1,468 Stingers was awarded on Wednesday, according to a document reviewed by Reuters, and was worth up to $687 million with options added in. There was no timeline for completion of the work, but it was estimated delivery could take up to 30 months.

The president of Raytheon Missiles & Defense, Wes Kremer, said the order will help “fulfill our current foreign military sale order, while replenishing Stingers provided to Ukraine and accelerating production.”

Separately, the Pentagon is searching for Stinger missiles that are already in inventory, but need to be refurbished, according to the document.

On May 6 the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, Bill LaPlante, said he had aimed to sign a contract by the end of May and that the intent was to replace the Stinger missiles sent to Ukraine one-for-one.

The Pentagon and Raytheon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Stinger production line was closed in December 2020, the Pentagon has said. In July 2021, Raytheon won a contract to manufacture more Stingers, but mainly for international governments, according to the U.S. Army. read more

Raytheon Chief Executive Greg Hayes told analysts during an April 26 conference call that the U.S. Department of Defense has not purchased a Stinger in 18 years.

“Some of the components are no longer commercially available, and so we’re going to have to go out and redesign some of the electronics in the missile of the seeker head. That’s going to take us a little bit of time.”

The sole Stinger facility, in Arizona, only produces at a low rate.

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Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Live Updates: Taking on Russia With West’s Arms, Ukraine Goes on Offense

KRAKOW, Poland — Ukrainian troops, emboldened by sophisticated weapons and long-range artillery supplied by the West, went on the offensive Friday against Russian forces in the northeast, seeking to drive them back from two key cities as the war plunged more deeply into a grinding, town-for-town battle.

After weeks of intense fighting along a 300-mile-long front, neither side has been able to achieve a major breakthrough, with one army taking a few villages one day, only to lose just as many in the following days. In its latest effort to reclaim territory, the Ukrainian military said that “fierce battles” were being waged as it fought to retake Russia-controlled areas around Kharkiv in the northeast and Izium in the east.

The stepped-up combat came as the White House announced on Friday that President Biden would meet virtually on Sunday with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and the leaders of the G7, which includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

Additionally, President Biden is sending a new security package to Ukraine worth $150 million, according to an administration official, who says it will include 25,000 artillery rounds, counter-artillery radars, jamming equipment and other field equipment.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, noted that the leaders would convene as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia prepares to celebrate the annual holiday of Victory Day on Monday with military parades and speeches commemorating the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany.

The holiday has intensified fears in Ukraine and some Western capitals that Mr. Putin could exploit the occasion to expand his Feb. 24 invasion, after his initial drive failed to rout the Ukrainian military and topple the government.

“While he expected to be marching through the streets of Kyiv, that’s actually not what is going to happen,” Ms. Psaki said. She called the G7 meeting “an opportunity to not only show how unified the West is in confronting the aggression and the invasion by President Putin, but also to show that unity requires work.”

Ukraine on Friday urged civilians to brace for heavier assaults ahead of Victory Day in Russia, warning them to avoid large gatherings and putting in place new curfews from Ivano-Frankivsk in the west to Zaporizhzhia in the southeast.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Ukrainian police forces were also placed on heightened alert ahead of the holiday, which will be commemorated in Russia with military parades in Moscow and hundreds of other cities.

Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, warned civilians that they could risk their lives by gathering in crowded places.

“We all remember what happened at the train station in Kramatorsk,” Mr. Denysenko said on Telegram, referring to a devastating missile strike in that eastern city last month, which killed dozens of people as they crowded on railway platforms, trying the flee the invasion.

“Be vigilant,” Mr. Denysenko said. “This is the most important thing.”

The regional governor of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, Sergei Haidai, warned that Russian forces were preparing for a “major offensive” in the next few days against a pair of eastern cities, Severodonetsk and Popsana. He assailed what he called “continued horror” in the region, where he said that the latest Russian shelling had killed two people and destroyed dozens of houses.

The pace of Russian missile strikes across Ukraine has been intensifying in recent days as Moscow tries to slow the flow of Western arms across the country. But as with so many aspects of the war, uncertainty about Mr. Putin’s intentions runs deep.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

There is rampant speculation that he might use the upcoming holiday to convert what he calls a “special military operation” into an all-out war, which would create a justification for a mass mobilization of Russian troops and set the stage for a more broad-ranging conflict. Kremlin officials have denied any such plans. But they also had denied plans to invade Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials have said that a military draft in Russia could provoke a backlash among its citizens, many of whom, polls show, still view the war as a largely distant conflict filtered through the convoluted and sometimes conflicting narratives provided by state-controlled media.

“General mobilization in Russia is beneficial to us,” Oleksei Arestovych, an adviser to Mr. Zelensky’s chief of staff, said during an interview on Ukrainian television this week. “It can lead to a revolution.”

Some Western analysts speculate that Mr. Putin may instead point to the territory that Moscow has already seized in eastern Ukraine to bolster his false claims that Russia is liberating the region from Nazis.

The Pentagon, for its part, has avoided stoking speculation about Mr. Putin’s Victory Day plans.

“What they plan to do or say on Victory Day, that’s really up to them,” John F. Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said on Thursday. “I don’t think we have a perfect sense.”

Fears that Russia could intensify its assault came as the United Nations Security Council adopted a statement on Friday supporting efforts by the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, to broker a diplomatic resolution to the war.

The statement, initiated by Mexico and Norway, was the first action regarding Ukraine that the council had unanimously approved since the invasion began. Russia supported the statement, which did not call the conflict a “war,” a term the Kremlin forbids.

Mr. Zelensky insisted on Friday that peace talks cannot resume until Russian forces pull back to where they were before the invasion. Still, he did not foreclose the possibility of a negotiated settlement.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

“Not all the bridges are destroyed,” he said, speaking remotely at a virtual event held by Chatham House, a British research organization.

Alexey Zaitsev, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on Friday that talks between Russia and Ukraine were “in a state of stagnation,” Russian state media reported.

Mr. Zaitsev blamed NATO countries for prolonging the war by shipping billions of dollars in arms to Ukraine, even as those countries have urged Mr. Putin to withdraw his troops.

“This leads to an extension of hostilities, more destruction of civilian infrastructure and civilian casualties,” he said.

Mr. Zelensky said that Russian propagandists had spent years fueling “hatred” that had driven Russian soldiers to “hunt” civilians, destroy cities and commit the kind of atrocities seen in the besieged southern port of Mariupol. Much of the city, once home to more than 400,000 people, has been leveled, and it has become a potent symbol of the devastation wrought by Russia in Ukraine.

Mr. Zelensky said Russia’s determination to destroy the last Ukrainian fighters holed up with desperate civilians in bunkers beneath the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol only underscored the “cruelty” that has defined the invasion.

“This is terrorism and hatred,” he said.

On Friday, about 50 women, children and elderly people who had been trapped beneath the Azovstal plant in Mariupol were evacuated in a humanitarian convoy, according to a high-ranking Ukrainian official and Russian state media. The official, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereschuk, said the evacuation had been “extremely slow” because Russian troops violated a cease-fire.

Nearly 500 people have managed to leave the Azovstal plant, Mariupol and surrounding areas in recent days with help from United Nations and the Red Cross, according to Mr. Guterres.

As the fighting drags on, concerns are growing that the war could exacerbate a global hunger crisis.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

The United Nations said on Friday that there was mounting evidence that Russian troops had looted tons of Ukrainian grain and destroyed grain storage facilities, adding to a disruption in exports that has already caused a surge in global prices, with devastating consequences for poor countries.

At the same time, the organization’s anti-hunger agency, the World Food Program, called for the reopening of ports in the Odesa area of southern Ukraine so that food produced in the war-torn country can flow freely to the rest of the world. Ukraine, a leading grain grower, had some 14 million tons in storage available for export, but Russia’s blockade of the country’s Black Sea ports has prevented distribution.

“Right now, Ukraine’s grain silos are full,” said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, while “44 million people around the world are marching towards starvation.”

Marc Santora and Cora Engelbrecht reported from Krakow, and Michael Levenson from New York. Reporting was contributed by Dan Bilefsky from Montreal, Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva, Rick Gladstone from Eastham, Mass., Zolan Kanno-Youngs from Washington, and Farnaz Fassihi from New York.

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Live Updates: As Diplomacy Hopes Dim, U.S. Marshals Allies for Long-Term Military Aid to Ukraine

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The United States marshaled 40 allies on Tuesday to furnish Ukraine with long-term military aid in what could become a protracted battle against the Russian invasion, and Germany said it would send dozens of armored antiaircraft vehicles. It was a major policy shift for a country that had wavered over fear of provoking Russia.

The announcement by Germany, Europe’s biggest economy and one of Russia’s most important Western trading partners, was among many signals on Tuesday pointing to further escalation in the war and disappointment for diplomacy.

Germany’s shift on weapons also was seen as a strong affirmation of a toughened message by the Biden administration, which has said it wants to see Russia not only defeated in Ukraine but seriously weakened from the conflict that President Vladimir V. Putin began two months ago.

The increasing flow of Western weapons into Ukraine — including howitzers, armed drones, tanks and ammunition — also amounted to another sign that a war Mr. Putin had expected would divide his Western adversaries had instead drawn them much closer together.

“Putin never imagined that the world would rally behind Ukraine so swiftly and surely,” the American defense secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III, said on Tuesday to uniformed and civilian officials at the U.S. air base in Ramstein, Germany, where he convened defense officials from 40 allied countries.

“Nobody is fooled” by Mr. Putin’s “phony claims on Donbas,” Mr. Austin said, referring to the eastern region of Ukraine, where Russia recently refocused its assaults. “Russia’s invasion is indefensible and so are Russian atrocities,” he said.

Credit…Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said on Tuesday that the influx of heavy weapons from Western countries was effectively pushing Ukraine to sabotage peace talks with Moscow, which have shown no concrete signs of progress.

“They will continue that line by filling Ukraine with weapons,” Mr. Lavrov said after meeting in Moscow with the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, who was undertaking his most active effort yet at diplomacy to halt the war. “If that continues, negotiations won’t yield any result.”

On Monday, Mr. Lavrov resurrected the specter of nuclear war, as Mr. Putin has done at least twice before. Mr. Lavrov said that while such a possibility would be “unacceptable” to Russia, the risks had increased because NATO had “engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and arming that proxy.”

“The risks are quite considerable,” he said in an interview with Channel One, Russia’s state-run TV network.

“I don’t want them to be blown out of proportion,” he said. But “the danger is serious, real — it must not be underestimated.”

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, called Mr. Lavrov’s remarks a sign that “Moscow senses defeat in Ukraine.” John F. Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, called them “obviously unhelpful, not constructive.”

“A nuclear war cannot be won and it shouldn’t be fought,” he said. “There’s no reason for the current conflict in Ukraine to get to that level at all.”

Credit…Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters

Mr. Austin said the defense officials who had gathered at Ramstein Air Base — from Australia, Belgium, Britain, Italy, Israel and other countries — had agreed to form what he called the Ukraine Contact Group and to meet monthly to ensure they “strengthen Ukraine’s military for the long haul.”

“We are going to keep moving heaven and earth,” to bolster the Ukrainian military, Mr. Austin said.

Germany’s defense minister, Christine Lambrecht, announced at the meeting that Berlin would send Ukraine up to 50 armed vehicles, called Flakpanzer Gepard, designed to shoot down aircraft but also fire at targets on the ground.

Although no longer used by Germany, they have been acquired by Jordan, Qatar, Romania and Brazil, where they have been deployed to defend soccer stadiums from potential drone attacks during international tournaments, according to the manufacturer, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.

The German government had previously cited a range of reasons to avoid shipping such heavy arms to Ukraine, including that none were readily available, that training Ukrainian soldiers to operate them was time-consuming and that Russia could be provoked into a wider conflict.

But German officials changed course under growing pressure from the conservative opposition in Berlin, and from members of the governing coalition. Germany has also supplied Ukraine with shoulder-launched antitank rockets and surface-to-air defensive missiles, some from old East German stockpiles.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, who traveled with Mr. Austin to Ukraine this past weekend, affirmed on Tuesday that the United States would support the Ukrainian military in pushing Russian forces out of eastern Ukraine if that is what President Volodymyr Zelensky aims to do.

“If that is how they define their objectives as a sovereign, democratic, independent country, that’s what we’ll support,” Mr. Blinken said at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

After meeting with Mr. Putin in the Kremlin, Mr. Guterres said he had secured an agreement “in principle” to allow the United Nations and the Red Cross to evacuate civilians from a sprawling steel plant besieged by Russia in the southern Ukrainian port of Mariupol, where they have been holed up for days with Ukrainian fighters. But there was no evidence that the meeting had produced any advances in diplomacy to end the war.

Before the meeting, Mr. Putin asserted that Mr. Guterres had been “misled” about the situation in Mariupol, and he insisted that Russia had been operating workable humanitarian corridors out of the city — an assertion denied by Ukrainian officials, who say their attempts to ferry civilians out of the city have collapsed in the face of threats by Russian forces.

Mr. Putin told Mr. Guterres that he hoped continuing peace talks with Ukraine would bring “some positive result,” according to the Kremlin. But Mr. Putin said Russia would not sign a security guarantee agreement with Ukraine without a resolution to the territorial questions in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and in Donbas, where Russia has recognized two separatist regions as independent.

In an escalation of the East-West economic conflict from the war, Poland’s state-owned gas company said on Tuesday that Russia’s state gas company had announced the “complete suspension” of natural gas deliveries to Poland through a major pipeline.

Credit…Vladimir Astapkovich/Sputnik, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Poland, a NATO member and key conduit for Western arms into Ukraine, gets more than 45 percent of its natural gas from Russia, and cutting off that supply could impair its ability to heat homes and run businesses.

In addition to spreading suffering and death across Ukraine, the invasion has set off the largest exodus of European refugees since World War II.

More than five million people, 90 percent of them women and children, have already left Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, according to the United Nations. A further 7.7 million have been driven from their homes by the conflict, but remain in the country.

On Tuesday, the United Nations projected that the number of refugees could rise to 8.3 million by year’s end, and it asked donors for an additional $1.25 billion to finance soaring humanitarian needs in Ukraine.

In another worrisome sign of possible spillover from the war, explosions rattled Transnistria, a small Moscow-backed breakaway republic in Ukraine’s southwest neighbor, Moldova, for the second consecutive day.

It remained unclear who was behind the explosions. The authorities in Transnistria blamed Ukraine, while Ukraine accused Russia of having orchestrated the blasts.

Moldova’s president, Maia Sandu, told reporters that there were “tensions between different forces within the regions, interested in destabilizing the situation.”

At least 12,000 Russian troops are stationed in Transnistria, just 25 miles from Ukraine’s major port, Odesa. Western officials have expressed concerns that Mr. Putin might create a pretext to order more troops into the territory, just as he did before Russian forces moved into Crimea and Donbas.

Credit…Yasuyoshi Chiba/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

John Ismay reported from Ramstein Air Base, Christopher F. Schuetze from Berlin and Michael Levenson from New York. Reporting was contributed by Ivan Nechepurenko from Tblisi, Georgia, Michael Schwirtz from Orikhiv, Ukraine, Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva, Michael Crowley and Edward Wong from Washington, Matthew Mpoke Bigg from London and Cora Engelbrecht from Krakow, Poland.

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Russia Embarks on a New, More Cautious Phase of Ukraine War

KHARKIV, Ukraine — Russia plunged into a new chapter of the Ukraine war on Tuesday, intent on capturing the eastern part of the country and crushing Ukrainian defenses without the same blunders that badly damaged Russian forces in the conflict’s initial weeks.

“Another phase of this operation is starting now,” Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia said, as the Russian Defense Ministry announced that its missile and artillery forces had struck hundreds of Ukrainian military targets overnight.

The strikes mainly hit the eastern region known as Donbas, Ukraine’s industrial heartland, where pro-Moscow separatists have battled Ukrainian forces since Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.

The Donbas has now become the stated territorial objective of Russia’s redeployed invasion force along a front that stretches roughly 300 miles, from an area near the northern city of Kharkiv to the besieged southern port of Mariupol, where die-hard Ukrainian defenders ensconced in a sprawling steel plant have repeatedly defied Russian demands to surrender.

rushing to send longer-range weapons including howitzers, antiaircraft systems, anti-ship missiles, armed drones and even tanks — arms that American officials said were designed to thwart the Russian offensive.

Western military experts said the offensive promised to be much more methodical than the blitz-like operation the Kremlin launched Feb. 24 to subjugate Ukraine, which was marked by rapid and ultimately unsuccessful advances of tanks and helicopter assaults deep inside the former Soviet republic.

left thousands of civilians dead or wounded, caused Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II, deeply isolated Russia economically because of Western sanctions and turned President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia into a pariah who has been described as a war criminal in the United States and Europe.

While there have not yet been any large offensives in the Donbas region, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said in a statement Tuesday that Russian forces were laying the groundwork for a future push: more surface-to-air missile systems have been shuttled to the front to protect important positions and more artillery positions have appeared.

were trapped at a large steel factory in Mariupol along with Ukrainian forces that are waging what appears to be the last defense of the city. Russia is seeking to take the city as part of a strategically important “land bridge” to occupied Crimea.

The Donbas battle, on wide-open terrain, will look significantly different from the urban warfare around Kyiv, where the Russian military tried and failed to advance.

This does not mean that Ukraine no longer needs the anti-tank and air-defense systems that have been so effective so far, military analysts said. In addition, the Ukrainians will need powerful arms to enable a counteroffensive of their own.

The $800 million military aid package to Ukraine that President Biden announced last week for the first time included more sophisticated artillery weaponry as well as 200 armored personnel carriers. In a conference call with allies on Tuesday, Mr. Biden promised more artillery for Ukraine’s forces.

Atlantic Council analysis last week.

“This phase of the conflict will be distinct from phase one, with a greater focus on offensives against dug-in combatants as opposed to Ukrainian defense against a large attacking force,” Colonels Wetzel and Barranco wrote. “The campaign is likely to become a bloody war of attrition with limited territorial gains on either side.”

Capturing the besieged city of Mariupol is a key part of the Russian campaign. The fall of the city, which has come to symbolize the death and devastation wrought by the invasion, would allow Russia to complete a land bridge between Russian-held territory and the Crimean peninsula.

A sprawling Soviet-era steel factory in Mariupol, which its designers have said was built to withstand a nuclear attack, has been sheltering thousands of soldiers and civilians and is the last Ukrainian redoubt there.

Russian commanders said Tuesday they were beginning their final assault on the factory, the Azovstal steel plant, after the defenders had rejected ultimatums to surrender. A Ukrainian officer in Mariupol, Maj. Sergiy Volyna, wrote on a Telegram channel that “we are ready to fight to the last drop of blood.”

Thomas Gibbons-Neff reported from Kharkiv, Michael Schwirtz from Dnipro, Ukraine, and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Reporting was contributed byNatalia Yermak and Tyler Hicks from Kharkiv. Katie Rogers from Washington and Rick Gladstone from New York.

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Ukraine Live Updates: In Congress and at U.N., Votes to Further Isolate Moscow

BRUSSELS — Western nations on Thursday escalated their pressure on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, with the European Union approving a ban on Russian coal and the United States moving to strip Russia’s trading privileges and prohibit its energy sales in the American market.

The new punishments came as the United Nations General Assembly took a symbolically important vote to penalize Russia by suspending it from the Human Rights Council, the 47-member U.N. body that can investigate rights abuses. Western diplomats called the suspension a barometer of global outrage over the war and the growing evidence of atrocities committed by Russian forces.

That evidence includes newly revealed radio transmissions intercepted by German intelligence in which Russian forces discussed carrying out indiscriminate killings north of Kyiv, the capital, according to two officials briefed on an intelligence report. Russia has denied any responsibility for atrocities.

Together, the steps announced Thursday represented a significant increase in efforts led by Western nations to isolate and inflict greater economic pain on Russia as its troops regroup for a wave of attacks in eastern Ukraine, prompting urgent calls by Ukrainian officials for civilians there to flee.

“These next few days may be your last chance to leave!” the regional governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Haidai, declared in a video on Facebook. “The enemy is trying to cut off all possible ways to leave. Do not delay — evacuate.”

But the Western penalties were unlikely to persuade Russia to stop the war, and they revealed how the allies were trying to minimize their own economic pain and prevent themselves from becoming entangled in a direct armed conflict with Moscow.

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

In some ways, the efforts underscored internal tensions among Russia’s critics over how best to manage the next stage of the conflict, which has created the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. The war is also indirectly worsening humanitarian and economic problems far from Ukraine, including rising food and energy prices that are exacerbating hunger and inflation, particularly in developing nations.

It took two days of protracted talks in Brussels for the European Union to approve a fifth round of sanctions against Russia that included its first ban on a Russian energy source, coal. But the measures were softened by several caveats, highlighting Europe’s diminishing appetite to absorb further economic fallout from the war.

The ban would be phased in over four months, instead of three as originally proposed, according to E.U. diplomats. Germany had been pushing for a longer transition period to wind down existing contracts, even though Russian coal is easier to replace with purchases from other suppliers, compared with oil and gas.

European diplomats also agreed to ban Russian-flagged vessels from E.U. ports, block trucks from Russia and its ally, Belarus, from E.U. roads, and stop the import of Russian seafood, cement, wood and liquor and the export to Russia of quantum computers and advanced semiconductors.

Ukrainian officials had urged Western nations to go further and completely cut off purchases of Russian oil and gas, contending that existing sanctions would not cripple Russia’s economy quickly or severely enough to affect President Vladimir V. Putin’s campaign to subjugate Ukraine by force.

“As long as the West continues buying Russian gas and oil, it is supporting Ukraine with one hand while supporting the Russian war machine with the other hand,” Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said Thursday at NATO headquarters in Brussels, where he urged members of the alliance to accelerate promised help to Ukraine’s outgunned military.

The NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said the alliance would “further strengthen and sustain our support to Ukraine, so that Ukraine prevails in the face of Russia’s invasion.” But he did not offer details.

Credit…Olivier Matthys/Associated Press

At the United Nations, the General Assembly’s resolution suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council, a step advocated by the United States and its allies, was the strongest measure the organization has taken to castigate the Kremlin.

Although the decision carries little practical impact, Russia’s suspension, approved on a 93 to 24 vote, with 58 countries abstaining, was still a diplomatic slap that Russia, one of the United Nations’ founding members, had hoped to avoid.

“The country that’s perpetrating gross and systematic violations of human rights should not sit on a body whose job it is to protect those rights,” Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state, said at NATO headquarters.

Russia, which resigned its seat on the Human Rights Council in protest, denounced the vote as “an attempt by the U.S. to maintain its domination and total control” and to “use human rights colonialism in international relations.”

China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Syria and Vietnam were among the countries that joined Russia in opposing the measure, while India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico were among those that abstained. Some of those countries argued the move could worsen the war, and called for further investigation of reports of Russian atrocities.

The last country to lose its seat on the panel was Libya in 2011, after President Moammar al-Qaddafi launched a ferocious crackdown on antigovernment protesters.

Russia remains one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council with a veto power that it has already used to block a resolution calling on it to stop the war and withdraw its forces.

Credit…Andrew Kelly/Reuters

As U.N. members were deliberating, the United States Senate voted unanimously to strip Moscow of its preferential trade status and to ban the import of Russian energy into the United States. The legislation would allow the United States to impose higher tariffs on Russian goods. Russian energy, however, represents only a small fraction of American imports, and Moscow is already having trouble exporting its oil.

The House approved the bills later on Thursday, sending them to President Biden, who was expected to sign them.

The latest efforts to punish Russia over the Feb. 24 invasion were energized partly by international outrage over the discovery of many dead civilians by Ukrainian soldiers who reclaimed areas north of Kyiv that had been vacated by retreating Russian forces.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has said hundreds of bodies including children were found, many of them in the suburb of Bucha, and that many victims had been bound, tortured and shot in the head.

Mr. Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, was asked at NATO headquarters about reports of atrocities that may have been committed by Ukrainian troops.

He said he had heard about, but not seen, a video showing a group of Ukrainian soldiers killing captured Russian troops outside a village west of Kyiv. The video has been verified by The New York Times.

Mr. Kuleba said his country’s military observes the rules of warfare and would investigate any “isolated incidents” of atrocities.

“You don’t understand how it feels that Russian soldiers rape children,” he said. “This is not an excuse to those who violate the rules of warfare on either side of the front line. But there are some things which you simply can’t understand. I’m sorry.”

Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Blinken spoke with disgust about the atrocities attributed to Russian soldiers, saying “the sickening images and accounts coming out of Bucha and other parts of Ukraine have only strengthened our collective resolve.”

“The revulsion against what the Russian government is doing is palpable,” he said.

Russia has described evidence of the Bucha killings by Russian forces — including satellite images verified by The New York Times that show bodies on streets while still under Russian occupation — as fabricated.

Mr. Kuleba said the expected Russian assaults on the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk made it more urgent that NATO members expedite delivery of weapons to help Ukraine defend itself.

“The discussion is not about the list of weapons,” Mr. Kuleba said. “The discussion is about the timeline. When do we get them?”

Mr. Blinken did not offer any new details on military assistance.

He noted that the United States had supplied Ukraine with arms for months, totaling more than $1.7 billion since Russia’s invasion began. That aid includes an additional $100 million worth of Javelin anti-tank missiles that the Biden administration approved for shipment this week.

Mr. Blinken expressed skepticism about the peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, saying he had “heard nothing from the Russians suggesting that they’re serious” about a negotiated settlement.

The mayor of the eastern city of Sloviansk, Vadim Lyakh, said it was “preparing for the worst” and stocking bomb shelters and hospitals with medical supplies and food.

“We have been watching closely how the Russians have encircled and seized nearby cities like Mariupol and Izium,” he said referring to two Ukrainian cities devastated by Russian attacks. “It’s clear that these cities were not evacuated in time, but in Sloviansk we have some notice, and that’s why we are actively pushing people to leave.”

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels and Michael Levenson from New York. Reporting was contributed by Jane Arraf from Lviv, Ukraine, Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kharkiv, Ukraine, Cora Engelbrecht and Megan Specia from Krakow, Poland, Ivan Nechepurenko from Istanbul, Catie Edmondson from Washington, Michael Crowley from Brussels, Farnaz Fassihi from New York and Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva.

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Ukraine Live Updates: 3,000 Civilians Escape Mariupol

The most ambitious effort yet to evacuate desperate civilians from Ukraine’s devastated port of Mariupol, besieged by Russian forces for weeks, was upended by disruptions Friday, with thousands of residents managing to flee but many more still stuck after the Red Cross judged the exodus too dangerous.

The suspended Red Cross evacuation in Mariupol, a city that has come to symbolize the horrors of the war in Ukraine, was among several developments painting a mixed picture on Friday as one of the biggest armed conflicts to convulse Europe in decades rumbled into its sixth week.

New signs emerged that Russian forces, stymied by their own botched planning and fierce Ukrainian resistance, were retreating from areas outside of Kyiv, the capital, and moving north. Ukrainians asserted that they had retaken control of more than two dozen suburban towns and hamlets.

Ukrainian helicopter gunships struck an oil terminal inside Russia, Russian officials said — which, if confirmed, would be the first known Ukrainian airstrike in Russian territory since the Feb. 24 invasion.

Such an attack would be both embarrassing and potentially provocative to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in his troubled military campaign to subjugate Ukraine. Ukrainian officials gave conflicting accounts on whether Ukraine was responsible.

Credit…Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

And in Chernobyl, the toxic defunct nuclear site in northwest Ukraine, which Russia seized in the war’s early days, Russian vehicles apparently stirred up radiation dust as they departed, the United Nations’ top nuclear official said. Whether Russian soldiers or others there suffered radiation poisoning remained unclear.

There had been some early optimism that an organized large-scale evacuation of Mariupol — a thriving port of 450,000 that has been obliterated by Russian shelling and bombs — could be undertaken Friday under the auspices of the Red Cross, after Russia’s Defense Ministry approved a temporary cease-fire.

Many thousands of civilians have been trapped in the city for weeks under constant Russian bombardment with limited access to food, water and electricity. Previous attempts at humanitarian pauses in fighting have repeatedly collapsed.

By some estimates, three-quarters of Mariupol’s population has fled and roughly 100,000 people remain.

A team from the Red Cross that had been en route to Mariupol on Friday to escort out buses and cars carrying civilians had to turn back because it was not guaranteed conditions to ensure safe passage, the organization said in a statement. It said the team, made up of three vehicles and nine personnel, would try again on Saturday.

“For the operation to succeed, it is critical that the parties respect the agreements and provide the necessary conditions and security guarantees,” the Red Cross statement said.

Credit…Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

The Red Cross had expected about 54 buses, along with an unknown number of private vehicles, to take part in an evacuation convoy carrying thousands of people.

While the larger convoy failed on Friday, smaller groups of people have been able to leave the city in cars, according to local officials. On Friday afternoon, Iryna Vereshchuk, the deputy prime minister, confirmed in a statement on her Telegram page that a corridor had opened from Mariupol to the city of Zaporizhzhia by private transport.

Around noon on Friday, Pyotr Andryuschenko, the Mariupol mayor’s adviser, said that some buses had left for nearby Berdyansk.

By day’s end, it remained unclear exactly how many people from Mariupol had been able to leave. But Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a top aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, said on his Telegram account that roughly 3,000 people had managed to escape on Friday, and that more than 3,000 had been evacuated from other cities.

The Russians signaled a week ago that they might be pulling forces back from Kyiv and other areas in northern Ukraine and recalibrating their aims in the war, as it became increasingly clear that their military was performing poorly and Kremlin expectations of a quick victory were wrong.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Western officials and analysts were initially skeptical, suspecting the Russians were simply repositioning and resupplying for new attacks. While that may still be true, the Russian pullback from the Kyiv area after more than a week of Ukrainian counterattacks appeared to be real, these officials and analysts said, based on Ukrainian military accounts of retaken towns and other signs, including social media videos and satellite images, pointing to a Russian retreat.

“The counterattacks probably prompted the Russian decision to give up on Kyiv,” said Frederick W. Kagan, a military expert with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “The counterattacks demonstrated that the Russians were actually not going to be able to hold the positions they occupied anyway.”

The early-morning helicopter assault on Russian territory took place in Belgorod, part of a staging area for the Russian invasion about 20 miles from the eastern Ukrainian border. Ukraine’s military previously had managed to hit Russian territory only with ground-launched missiles, and Russia had boasted that the Ukrainian Air Force had been “practically destroyed” in Russian assaults.

Video posted to VKontakte, a Russian social media site, and verified by The New York Times showed two helicopters firing at the oil depot on the eastern edge of the city. Although it was not possible to determine the nationality of the aircraft, the footage confirmed that an airstrike caused a fire at the site. Other video of the aftermath showed the depot burning well into the daylight hours.

Credit…Russian Emergencies Ministry, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ukrainian officials were initially evasive about whether Ukraine’s forces had carried out the assault, but a top security aide, Oleksiy Danilov, issued what amounted to a denial by saying, “This does not correspond with reality.”

Whether or how Russia intended to respond remained unclear late Friday, but the attack did not appear to bode well for diplomacy to halt the war. Russia’s deputy permanent representative at the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, told reporters that such attacks “reflect the real intentions of the Ukrainian side and real intentions toward peace talks.”

Concerns about possible radiation exposure from the Russian seizure of Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear plant, where a 1986 meltdown caused the worst radiation accident in history, surfaced again on Friday in remarks by Rafael Mariano Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear monitor. The Russians took control of the Chernobyl area last month and withdrew this week.

While Mr. Grossi told a news conference at the agency’s headquarters in Vienna that radiation levels had not changed at the plant, he said heavy military vehicles had stirred up contaminated ground when Russian forces first invaded the area, “and apparently this might have been the case again on the way out.”

Mr. Grossi said that he was aware of reports that some Russian military personnel had been poisoned by radiation while they held the Chernobyl plant but that the subject had not been discussed during talks he held in Russia with nuclear officials.

“We heard about the possibility of some personnel being contaminated, but we do not have any confirmation,” he said.

Credit…Bulent Kilic/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Outside Ukraine, nations that have sought to penalize Russia by banning purchases of Russian oil took further steps Friday to help insulate themselves from the economic shock of higher oil prices caused by the reduced supply.

The International Energy Agency, a 31-member group of oil-consuming nations, said they had agreed to a new release of emergency oil reserves in what is turning into a historic, wide-reaching effort to calm global markets.

The move came a day after the Biden administration announced a 180-million-barrel release over six months from the strategic reserve held by the United States.

Megan Specia reported from Krakow, Poland, Anton Troianovski from Istanbul, Matthew Mpoke Bigg from London and Julian E. Barnes from Washington. Reporting was contributed by Carlotta Gall from Kyiv, Ukraine; Ivan Nechepurenko from Istanbul; Josh Holder and Stanley Reed from London; Lazaro Gamio from Washington; and Denise Lu from New York.

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Ukraine Live Updates: U.S. to Send More Arms to Kyiv as Russia Flattens Parts of Cities

LVIV, Ukraine — Russian forces stepped up their campaign of bombardments aimed at devastating Ukraine’s cities and towns on Saturday, as the White House announced it was sending an additional $200 million in arms and equipment to help Ukraine, defying Moscow.

Soldiers fought street-by-street battles in a leafy suburb of Kyiv, the nation’s capital, and some residents wept as they dragged belongings across a destroyed bridge, trying to escape the violence. Russian forces detained the mayor of a captured city, an act that prompted hundreds of outraged residents to pour into the streets in protest.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine accused Moscow of terrorizing the country in an attempt to break the will of the people. “A war of annihilation,” he called it.

He said an estimated 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the war, the first time the government had offered the number of its own soldiers killed.

Mr. Zelensky denounced what he called the kidnapping of the mayor — who had refused to cooperate with Russian troops after they seized his city — as “a new stage of terror, when they are trying to physically eliminate representatives of the legitimate local Ukrainian authorities.”

Russian forces have not achieved a major military victory since the first days of the invasion more than two weeks ago, and the assaults reinforced Moscow’s strategic turn toward increasingly indiscriminate shelling of civilian targets.

The American announcement of more arms for Ukraine’s military, including missiles for taking out warplanes and tanks, came just hours after Russia warned that convoys used for the “thoughtless transfer” of weapons to Ukraine would be “legitimate targets” for Russian forces.

Unable to mount a quick takeover of the country by air, land and sea, Russian troops have deployed missiles, rockets and bombs to destroy apartment buildings, schools, factories and hospitals, increasing civilian carnage and suffering, and leading more than 2.5 million people to flee the country.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

The suffering has been particularly devastating in the besieged city of Mariupol, which is experiencing “the worst humanitarian catastrophe on the planet,” according to Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba.

At least 1,582 civilians have died since the Russian siege of Mariupol began 12 days ago, he said, and residents are struggling to survive and have been forced to bury the dead in mass graves.

“There is no drinking water and any medication for more than one week, maybe even 10 days,” a staff member who works for Doctors Without Borders in Mariupol said in an audio recording released by the organization on Saturday.

“We saw people who died because of lack of medication, and there are a lot of such people inside Mariupol,” the staff member said.

During a 90-minute call with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France urged Mr. Putin to accept an immediate cease-fire, according to the French government, which described the talks as “frank” and “difficult.”

France said that Mr. Putin showed no willingness to stop the war, and said he “placed the responsibility for the conflict on Ukraine” and sounded “determined to attain his objectives.”

Credit…Maciek Nabrdalik for The New York Times

In its summary of the call, the Kremlin said Mr. Putin had discussed “several matters relating to agreements being drafted to meet the well-known Russian demands,” but did not specify those demands.

In the coming weeks, NATO, which has vowed to defend allied countries from any incursion by Russian forces, plans to gather 30,000 troops from 25 countries in Europe and North America in Norway to conduct live-fire drills and other cold-weather military exercises.

The exercises, which Norway hosts biannually, were announced more than eight months ago, NATO said, and are not linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which NATO said it was responding to with “preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory measures.”

But the training has taken on greater significance as Russia steps up its bombardment of Ukrainian population centers.

Around Kyiv, the capital, Russian forces have advanced into the suburbs but have been slowed by Ukrainian troops that have counterattacked with ambushes on armored columns. On Saturday, artillery fire intensified around Kyiv, with a low rumble heard in most parts of the city.

By Saturday, there were no indications of further efforts by the Russian army to move armored columns closer to the capital. Instead, soldiers appeared to be fighting for control of the towns along the highways that encircle it.

In Irpin, about three miles from Kyiv city limits, Ukrainian and Russian soldiers were fighting a street-by-street battle on Saturday, turning what was a quiet suburb just two weeks ago into a suburban battleground.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

“We are trying to push them back but we don’t control the town,” said Vitaly, a Ukrainian soldier who asked that his last name not be published for security reasons.

He had taken up a position outside what would once have been an unlikely spot for combat: a gas station mini-market, its windows blown out by shelling, on the city’s western edge. Irpin is his hometown, and he joined the volunteer forces called the Territorial Defense Forces to try to protect it just two weeks ago.

He described Irpin’s Unity Street as Ukrainian-controlled; Central Street as a no-man’s land, exposed to both Ukrainian and Russian forces; and University Street as taken by Russian forces.

But the situation was fluid. Ukrainian soldiers had a “little island” around a shopping center near the city center, he said, but otherwise it wasn’t always clear who was where.

In the southern city of Mykolaiv, residents awoke on Saturday morning to the sounds of a fierce battle hours after Russian shells hit several civilian areas, damaging a cancer hospital and sending residents fleeing into bomb shelters.

The early-morning fight was concentrated in the north of the city, said Col. Sviatoslav Stetsenko of the Ukrainian Army’s 59th Brigade, who was stationed near the front lines.

“They are changing their tactics,” Vitaliy Kim, the governor of the Mykolaiv region, said. “They are deploying in the villages and lodging in village schools and homes. We cannot shoot back. There are no rules now. We will have to be more brutal with them.”

For nearly two weeks, Russian forces have been trying to surround Mykolaiv and cross the Southern Buh River, which flows through the city and is a natural defense against a Russian push toward the west and Odessa, the Black Sea port that appears to be a prime Russian objective.

Russian forces had not crossed the river as of Saturday morning, Colonel Stetsenko said, but “they are continuing to shell Mykolaiv.”

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

In Melitopol, Russian troops on Friday forced a hood over the mayor’s head and dragged him from a government building, according to Ukrainian officials, prompting hundreds of residents to demonstrate in the streets.

“Return the mayor!” the protesters shouted, according to witnesses and videos. “Free the mayor!”

But nearly as soon as the demonstrators gathered, Russian military personnel moved to shut them down, arresting a woman who they said had organized the protest, according to two witnesses and the woman’s Facebook account.

The episode was part of what Ukrainian officials said was an escalating pattern of intimidation and repression. It also illustrated a problem that Russia is likely to face even if it manages to pummel cities and towns into submission: In at least some of the few cities and towns that Russia has managed to seize — mostly in the south and east — they are facing popular unrest and revolt.

Mr. Zelensky sought to tap into public rage in an address to the nation overnight.

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

“The whole country saw that Melitopol did not surrender to the invaders,” he said. “Just as Kherson, Berdyansk and other cities where Russian troops managed to enter didn’t.” He said that popular resistance “will not be changed by putting pressure on mayors or kidnapping mayors.”

Melitopol’s mayor, Ivan Fyodorov, had remained stubbornly defiant even after Russian soldiers took over the city after a fierce assault on the first day of the invasion. “We are not cooperating with the Russians in any way,” he had said.

Last weekend, with Mr. Fyodorov’s encouragement, people waving Ukrainian flags took to the streets of Melitopol and other occupied cities. For the most part, Russian soldiers stood aside, even as protesters commandeered a Russian armored vehicle in one town and drove it through the streets.

Credit…Evgeniy Maloletka/Associated Press

While the protests in Melitopol were quickly put down, the Ukrainian government renewed efforts to bring aid to Mariupol, dispatching dozens of buses with food and medicine, Ukrainian officials said.

Similar relief efforts had failed in recent days as fighting raged around the city and land mines pocked roads in the area. In an overnight address, Mr. Zelensky said that the inability to bring aid to the city showed that Russian troops “continue to torture our people, our Mariupol residents.”

Still, he said, “We will try again.”

Marc Santora reported from Lviv, Ukraine, Michael Schwirtz from Mykolaiv, Ukraine, and Michael Levenson from New York. Reporting was contributed by Andrew E. Kramer in Kyiv, Ukraine; Eric Schmitt in Washington; Ivan Nechepurenko in Istanbul; Norimitsu Onishi in Paris; and Julie Turkewitz in Bogotá, Colombia.

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