FANGLIAO, Taiwan — Lin Chun-lai bought his grouper farm in southern Taiwan about a decade ago with an eye on mainland China’s growing appetite for live fish. In just a few years, the former electrician made enough money to comfortably support his family of four and even open a small inn.
Then China abruptly banned all imports of grouper from the island, in an apparent attempt at turning the economic screws on Taiwan, a self-governed island that Beijing claims as its own territory. The move cut Mr. Lin and other farmers like him off from their main market, putting their livelihoods at risk and dealing a huge blow to a lucrative industry.
Taiwan’s unification with China is inevitable, but most of Taiwan’s 23 million people are in favor of maintaining the island’s de facto independence. As Beijing has ramped up pressure on the island, Taiwan has moved to strengthen economic and diplomatic ties with friendlier countries, including the United States, those in the European Union and Japan.
In recent years, Beijing has sent military aircraft toward the island almost daily. It has tried to isolate Taiwan, peeling off its few remaining diplomatic allies and blocking it from joining international organizations. It has also increasingly sought to restrict the island’s access to China’s vast consumer market, banning Taiwanese pineapples, then wax apples, last year after it said the fruits brought in pests.
their ties to forced labor practices could portend trouble for industries that depend on materials from China.
In recent days, Taiwanese agricultural authorities have contacted grouper farmers to discuss ways that the government can help, including by providing low-interest loans and feed subsidies and expanding access to domestic consumers and overseas markets. Another idea being floated is to include the fish in individually packaged meal boxes sold at train stations and on trains by Taiwan’s railway administration. Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency said on Tuesday that the agency would spend more than $13 million to support the grouper industry.
Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture has said it would consider filing a complaint about the grouper ban to the World Trade Organization. Lin Kuo-ping, the deputy director general of the official Fisheries Agency, said the government had reached out to their Chinese counterparts to discuss the inspection process but had not heard back. China’s General Administration of Customs did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Some grouper farmers said that if the ban was not lifted, they would have to settle for selling the fish on the domestic market at a huge loss. Until then, the fish will remain in the ponds. Mr. Lin, the grouper farmer, said he worried the groupers could die as a result of overcrowding.
He is now pinning his hopes on another kind of fish that he has been farming, the four-finger threadfin fish, which is also popular on the mainland. But he acknowledged that even this backup strategy was vulnerable to geopolitical shifts. Last year, Taiwan’s exports of the fish were worth nearly $40 million — and more than 70 percent went to China.
“Our biggest customer,” he said, “is still China.”
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–As energy prices soar and households seek to lower costs and maximize the value of their solar and storage systems, Lumin is partnering with energy market access provider Leap to offer Lumin Response, a program providing homeowners automated participation in the wholesale demand response (DR) market, with financial incentives for energy reduction during times when the local grid is stressed. Launching for select customers in California in July, Lumin Response is the integration of Lumin’s home energy management platform and smart circuit control technology with Leap’s distributed energy resource aggregation platform, reducing a home’s power usage by automatically turning off appliances when electricity prices are highest. Participants will then help balance the electrical grid and receive compensation for their energy reduction.
“Smart energy devices can make an important contribution to grid stability during periods of peak demand,” said Jason Michaels, Chief Commercial Officer at Leap, “Together, Leap and Lumin are making it possible for homeowners to unlock more value from their energy assets and become active participants in creating a more resilient, sustainable energy system.”
Users of Lumin Response will receive an in-app message or email notifying them they are eligible for financial incentives. Once they provide a simple set of preferences for when and how long their appliances can be turned off, participation is seamless and Lumin will automate the entire process.
Lumin’s technology connects the most energy-consuming circuits and various smart devices, including smart thermostats, connected appliances such as refrigerators, smart controllable plugs, and electric vehicle chargers. By interconnecting these devices on its platform, Lumin creates an ecosystem where energy consumption is synchronized and remotely accessible, and controllable, with the energy supply available to a household.
“This partnership presents the first true example of automated value stacking for individual homes in the demand response space, beyond battery participation in virtual power plants,” explained Alex Bazhinov, Founder and CEO of Lumin. “We are thrilled to work with Leap to help modernize residential power loads and provide more flexibility and options for homeowners. Designed to work well for individuals who may or may not have an energy storage system in place, we deliver value from multiple streams.”
Demand response (DR) is a short-term, voluntary decrease in electrical consumption that is usually triggered by compromised grid reliability or high wholesale market prices. While many U.S. utilities offer their customers some DR options, the Lumin-Leap partnership provides a unique, automated DR solution for any appliance connected to a Lumin Energy Platform. In addition, participants can receive direct, performance-based payments for their DR participation rather than an annual credit through their utility or a points system.
“As many municipalities move to enact standards for energy-saving measures in homes, smart appliances that integrate seamlessly with renewable energy systems will become more important as we continue to see energy strain on the grid, and this is why Lumin’s user-friendly, automated system is so valuable,” added Keegan Campanelli, Product Manager at Lumin. “And thanks to our partnership with Leap for wholesale demand response, we can now help homeowners save money at the same time. Lumin Response is a big win for everyone.”
Leap’s software platform makes it easy for smart energy technologies to generate revenue by providing flexibility and support to the grid. The company has dispatched over 10,000 MWh of clean energy to electric grids, reducing over 1,000 metric tons of CO2 and offsetting the equivalent of 3,500 hours from gas-powered peaker plants. Combined with the UL-certified Lumin® Energy Management Platform, users can maximize their energy and the return on investment for their residential solar systems.
Lumin® is the pioneer and market leader for responsive load management, adding exceptional value to residential microgrids by balancing home energy supply and demand. Lumin helps homeowners automatically or manually control their personal microgrid and enhance and protect their investment in solar PV and energy storage. Learn more at luminsmart.com.
Leap is the leading global platform for integrating flexible energy resources into global electricity markets. Leap supplies the grid with zero carbon, price-competitive alternatives to fossil-fueled power plants by creating virtual power plants (VPPs) from its partners’ batteries, electric vehicles, smart thermostats, HVAC systems, and industrial facilities. Leap performs all the heavy lifting to operate and stay compliant across wholesale energy markets, enabling partners to unlock hidden revenue, increase customer engagement, and achieve sustainability goals.
DONETSK REGION, Ukraine — Nearly four months after Russia invaded, the Ukrainian military is running low on ammunition for its Soviet-era artillery and has not received enough supplies from its allies to keep the Russians at bay, Ukrainian officials and artillery officers in the field say.
The shortage has put Ukrainian troops at a growing disadvantage in the artillery-driven war of attrition in the country’s east, with Russia’s batteries now firing several times as many rounds as Ukraine’s. While the West is sending in weapons, they are not arriving fast enough or in sufficient numbers to make up for Ukraine’s dwindling arsenal.
The Western weapons, heavy, long-range artillery pieces and multiple-launch rocket systems, are more accurate and highly mobile, but it takes time to deploy them and train soldiers to use them. In the meantime, Ukraine is running out of ammunition for the older weapons.
The Guardian newspaper that Ukraine was losing the artillery battle with Russia on the front lines because of the shortage of artillery shells for its older guns. He said Ukraine was firing 5,000 to 6,000 artillery rounds a day and had “almost used up all of our ammunition.”
By contrast, Russian forces are firing about 60,000 artillery shells and rockets each day in the Donbas fighting, according to a senior adviser to the Ukrainian military command who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at CNA, a research institute in Arlington, Va., said ammunition supplies would be critical to the final outcome in the battle for eastern Ukraine.
“This war is far more about attrition by artillery than maneuver, which means one of the deciding factors is who has more ammunition,” he said.
That Ukraine was running low on ammunition has hardly been a secret. Ukrainian officials flagged the problem months ago. On the front lines, commanders watched, alarmed, as stocks dwindled mid-battle. Soldiers say requests for artillery support go unanswered, for lack of shells.
Vadym Mischuk, 32, a Ukrainian soldier who had just rotated off the frontline near the eastern city of Bakhmut, said Thursday that there is so much Russian artillery fire that “we don’t even hear ours.” One soldier, who declined to provide his name for security reasons, estimated that for every one Ukrainian shell fired, the Russians fired 10.
The Ukrainian military has been honest about the shortfalls — something an army would not typically telegraph to the enemy in a war — perhaps because doing so adds a sense of urgency to appeals for more powerful Western weaponry.
“In early March we were already well aware that during intensive war with Russia our resources were depleting,” Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, wrote on Facebook on Thursday. He added, “Relying solely on Soviet weapons was definitely a losing strategy.”
Even before the invasion, Ukraine’s ammunition depots had been targets for saboteurs, regularly blowing up like gigantic, lethally dangerous fireworks displays.
Russia-Ukraine War: Key Developments
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Spies or drones dropping incendiary devices were blamed in many cases. Between 2015 and 2019, six ammunition depots blew up in Ukraine, burning about 210,000 tons of ammo, or three times more than the Ukrainian army expended in the same time span fighting Russian-backed separatists, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Following Russia’s invasion, NATO countries have stepped in to bolster Ukraine’s supply of ammunition, but the transfers have not always gone smoothly. Countries of the old Warsaw Pact and NATO countries used different calibers of ammunition — an enduring legacy that means much of Ukraine’s arsenal, built decades ago to Soviet specifications, cannot fire Western ammunition.
Ukraine’s newly acquired hoard of NATO’s 155-millimeter artillery shells is now larger than its entire artillery ammunition stockpile before the war started, Mr. Reznikov said. But the Ukrainian forces have too few guns at the front to fire the munitions, and are facing extensive logistics challenges not only to get them into the fight, but also to maintain them once there.
Some European countries have shipped so many of their own ammunition reserves to Ukraine — in some cases up to 30 percent — that they’re increasingly anxious about replenishing their stocks, European Union officials said.
Officials said that while there was still a relatively steady flow of military equipment from the E.U. and its allies, Ukraine was not receiving as much heavy artillery as it needs.
With artillery shells in short supply, Ukrainian forces have adjusted their tactics to compensate for the lack of artillery support. On Friday, for example, a tank unit in Donbas was using a Ukrainian T-64BV tank more like an artillery piece than a main battle tank.
Instead of attacking targets directly, the tank drove several kilometers toward the front, positioned itself in a tree line, and lobbed shells at Russian positions while a Ukrainian officer adjusted its aim over the radio and using a drone overhead — the procedure typically used with mortars or howitzers.
“It is a fact already that the tanks are used because there is not enough artillery,” said the artillery unit commander, who asked to go by his nom de guerre, Razor. His unit of 122-millimeter, self-propelled howitzers had run out of Ukrainian ammunition and was now using Czech-supplied shells.
But ammunition can be fickle. Decades-old ammunition can become unreliable if not stored properly over time, potentially leading to more duds. Another soldier, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that a batch of Czech-supplied rockets were faulty, with only three out of 40 firing.
Ukrainian soldiers wounded in combat have also voiced dismay about the paltry artillery support, which they blamed on a lack of ammunition.
“There is not an hour with a pause” in Russian bombardments, Lt. Oleksandr Kolesnikov, who was wounded late last month, said in an interview in an ambulance while being evacuated to a hospital to the west. “The artillery is very intense.” He said his commander called in artillery in response but received only one salvo.
The Russian artillery superiority has frightened soldiers, he said. “In war, everything is scary and we fear everything. Only idiots are not afraid.”
Reporting was contributed by Oleksandr Chubko from Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Maria Varenikova from Barvinkove, Ukraine, Matina Stevis-Gridneff from Brussels and Helene Cooper and John Ismay from Washington.
Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, plans to cut 10 percent of the electric carmaker’s salaried work force, he told staff in an email on Friday.
The job cuts will not apply to employees who build cars or batteries or who install solar panels, and the number of hourly employees will increase, Mr. Musk said in the email, a copy of which was reviewed by The New York Times. “Tesla will be reducing salaried head count by 10 percent, as we have become over staffed in many areas,” he said.
Reuters reported the news earlier, citing a different email that Mr. Musk sent only to Tesla executives. The automaker’s share price closed on Friday down about 9 percent after that article was published.
Tesla’s staff has grown substantially as sales have surged and it has built new factories, including two that opened this year near Berlin and Austin, Texas. The company employed more than 99,000 workers at the end of last year. Just two years earlier, Tesla had 48,000.
2017 and 2018.
In recent weeks, investors have begun questioning the company’s sky-high stock price. The market values the company at more than $728 billion, more than several other large automakers combined. Tesla’s shares are down about 40 percent from their high at the end of last year, bringing attention to the risks the company faces from growing competition, accusations of racial discrimination and production problems at its factory in Shanghai.
buy Twitter for roughly $44 billion. Here’s how the deal unfolded:
The initial offer. Mr. Musk made an unsolicited bid worth more than $40 billion for the influential social network, saying that he wanted to make Twitter a private company and that he wanted people to be able to speak more freely on the service.
“From a corporate good-governance perspective, Tesla has a lot of red flags,” Andrew Poreda, a senior analyst who specializes in socially responsible investing at Sage Advisory Services, an investment firm in Austin, told The Times last month. “There are almost no checks and balances.”
Mr. Musk’s management style and success — he is listed as the world’s richest man by Bloomberg and Forbes — have earned him admirers but have made him a lightning rod. Tesla has lost a number of top executives in recent years, many of whom have gone on to top jobs at other automakers, tech companies and battery makers.
Recently, Mr. Musk praised the work ethic in China, where labor conditions can be harsh or even abusive, suggesting that workers in the United States were lazy. “They won’t just be burning the midnight oil. They’ll be burning the 3 a.m. oil,” he said about Chinese workers in an interview with The Financial Times. “So they won’t even leave the factory type of thing. Whereas in America, people are trying to avoid going to work at all.”
Still, some analysts remain bullish about Tesla’s prospects. “In our view, Tesla likely does not need to hire any more employees to maintain its growth, and we think the plan to reduce the work force likely shows that Tesla over hired last year,” Seth Goldstein, a senior equity analyst at Morningstar, said in a note on Friday.
Amid the roar of artillery and bone-rattling explosions, New York Times photographers have borne graphic witness to the fight to survive. These are their stories and images.
Through the three months of Russia’s invasion, New York Times journalists have chronicled carnage and courage, ruin and resolve, across the wide arc of combat through eastern Ukraine, where Vladimir V. Putin’s brutal offensive is now concentrated.
At the front line and within easy range of it, they have joined civilians whose homes, families and emotions have been shattered, as well as Ukrainian soldiers — hardened veterans and green volunteers — using tools as modern as surveillance drones and as ancient as trenches.
Amid the roar of artillery, the clatter of small arms and bone-rattling explosions, Times photographers have borne graphic witness to the fight to survive and kill — or just survive. These are their accounts and images from the last few weeks of that fight.
On the front line south of Izium, a Russian-captured city just north of the Donetsk region, two Ukrainian 122-mm guns thundered across the rolling landscape last week. They belonged to an artillery detachment of the 93rd Mechanized Brigade, called in to fire on Russian forces who had pinned down Ukrainian troops.
The camouflaged gunners then worked at lightning speed to conceal their position, moving broken branches to hide from view the smoking barrels of the powerful weapons. A young soldier wearing a bandanna and a determined expression burst out of the greenery, sprinting back into the woods to hide from enemy drones. Soon the team was reloading, aiming and firing again.
Along the same front, a dozen members of the 95th Air Assault Brigade camped in a concrete building at an abandoned farmhouse. Throughout the night, in pairs, they took turns on sentry duty from inside a trench system worming down a hillside, overlooking a valley of rolling wheat fields pockmarked with dark clumps of dirt kicked up by the impact of recent shelling by Russian artillery.
Several nearby buildings had been shattered by shelling, and the thump of artillery exchanges between Ukrainian and Russian troops a few miles north rumbled day and night.
Artem Sandul, 20, pulled on a cigarette under the cover of a wood and mud bunker in the trenches as dawn broke. Until Russia invaded on Feb. 24, he had been flipping burgers at a McDonald’s. Now he was cooking for his fellow soldiers, his commander seemingly keeping him back from the most dangerous shelling a couple of miles up the road, where Ukrainian lines were only 400 yards from Russian lines in some places.
Near Izium, jets, most likely Russian, flew low over Ukrainian positions, firing defensive flares to confuse antiaircraft batteries, then made a sharp turn toward the trenches and screamed by so low that they disappeared behind a tree line before vanishing over the horizon.
On Tuesday, in Vuhledar, about 30 miles southeast of the Russian-occupied Donetsk, an artillery team from the 53rd Brigade responded to Russian artillery fire the soldiers said was coming from inside a church about four miles away.
In Barvinkove, a Ukrainian-held town 20 miles southwest of Izium, a cyclist pedaled past blown-out buildings and a barricade, while at a small base, soldiers drank coffee and a sniper prepared his rifle for a mission. Nearby, Russian forces were trying to push southward, part of a pincer move to trap the Ukrainian troops still holding a pocket of territory in the two eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.
On the seesawing front line of that pocket lies Bakhmut, a largely evacuated town of blasted building shells, rubble and incinerated vehicles, where two huge craters bracket the administrative building. In newly reinforced defensive positions, Ukrainian soldiers tried to hold off the Russian advance, amid the constant din and ground shudder of artillery fired by both sides.
In that region, Times photographers encountered evidence of Russian losses, too. Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces, mostly volunteer fighters, managed to retake the village of Novopil. With Russian troops still less than half a mile away, the evidence of a fierce battle was everywhere, in the wreckage of houses and the stench of dead bodies.
In front of a small shed, the body of a Russian soldier lay where he had been cut down, his clean, well-polished boots at odds with the surrounding devastation. His brown suede belt bore the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union.
Near Bilohorivka were the ravaged bodies and tanks of hundreds of Russian troops whose disastrous attempt to cross the Seversky Donets River fell to deadly Ukrainian heavy artillery.
But many of those caught in the destruction did not wear uniforms. Vitaliy Kononenko, 47, had just built a new home for his family in the Zaporizhzhia region in southern Ukraine, but before he could bring his wife and children to see it, it was destroyed.
In the train station in Pokrovsk, in the Donetsk region, Anna Vereschak, 43, boarded a westbound evacuation train with her daughters Milana, 5, and Diana, 4, after bombardment forced them from their village. Another woman, Valentina, ushered her blind 87-year-old mother, Nina, onto the train.
Millions of Ukrainians have fled their homes, particularly from the east, taking only what they can cram into a bag or two, often after holding out for weeks or months in basements despite bombardment, hunger and isolation. Some of the fiercest fighting now is around Sievierodonetsk, in the Luhansk region, the easternmost city still held by Ukraine.
In Lysychansk, just across the bombed-out bridge from Sievierodonetsk, three police officers braved artillery fire to collect the bodies of the dead, like a 65-year-old woman known to neighbors as Grandma Masha. Her dog growled and barked from his kennel as they loaded her into a body bag and then their white van.
Grandma Masha could not get the medicine she needed to treat her diabetes, according to a neighbor, Lena, 39. Her son had left with his family and was not able to return when she fell ill.
“It’s a completely stupid war — but no one asked for my opinion,” said Lena, who, like most people interviewed, gave only her first name because she feared for her safety.
In an apartment block in Sievierodonetsk, already partially blasted and burned by shelling, residents huddled in the basement, resigned, at last, to evacuation. They barely reacted to the sounds of explosion and nearby gunfire.
Across the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, and the southern part of the Kharkiv region, Times photographers found Ukrainian troops in every imaginable phase of daily life in a combat zone.
In an underground bunker were dozens of members of the Carpathian Sich Battalion — eating, sleeping, cleaning their weapons and chatting on cellphones with their wives and girlfriends. Some gathered around a monitor to watch drone video of a recent attack. Most smoked.
The floor and walls of the bunker quaked as a tank round hit a nearby building, and small-arms fire followed. Bullets ricocheted off walls outside. The Russians were close.
A handful of Ukrainian soldiers dashed outside to repel the attack, while others collected their weapons and waited by the door in case they were needed. They weren’t; the shooting subsided.
One soldier lit a stove and began frying buckwheat.
At a well-guarded and heavily fortified checkpoint, fighters built more trenches and bunkers, using sandbags and rough-hewn logs, in preparation for a possible Russian advance in their direction. Warned of incoming artillery fire, they ducked into a bunker, and a medic in the group boasted that their hideouts could take almost anything the Russians might fire at them.
The evidence of war was strewn across the ravaged landscape. Wreckage was everywhere, from collapsed buildings and buckled streets to burned-out tanks. A common sight was the tail of a rocket sticking out of the ground, a reminder of the constant danger from above.
The smells and sounds of war were everywhere, too. Few civilians were around, but troops were omnipresent, patrolling, scavenging, resting and building fortifications when they were not fighting.
After their armored vehicle broke down, a dozen soldiers from Ukraine’s 95th Air Assault Brigade recently stood by a roadside near the city of Kramatorsk, smoking, like stranded commuters waiting for a lift.
An attempt to tow them failed, so the soldiers, with their weapons, piled aboard another armored vehicle and set off in the day’s fading light toward the front.
The men of the 93rd Brigade are at the forefront of efforts to hold off the Russian advance south of Izium. Small units of mortar teams have camped out in destroyed villages, battling Russian forces that have thrown everything at them.
They spoke of enduring days of near-constant shelling, sheltering in dank basements, surrounded by jars of pickled vegetables.
Thoughts rarely strayed far from the lethal stakes, but between such harrowing episodes, it was striking how the ordinary business of life, like a highway breakdown, never quite disappeared.
A kiosk in Bakhmut did a brisk trade serving coffee, burgers and sandwiches to soldiers coming and going from the fighting.
In Barvinkove, which has come under heavy Russian bombardment, a few local women were still hawking vegetables and dairy products under the shade of a tree in the town center. A passing soldier, back from the front to refuel, asked to buy some herbs.
The woman refused to take payment for her goods, waving him off and wishing him well.
Recognizing that reality, state officials in recent years have gone back to encouraging the use of small-scale energy systems. To manage the supply and demand of electricity, for example, Hawaii offers up to $4,250 to homeowners on Oahu, home to about 70 percent of the state’s population and Honolulu, to install home batteries with their solar systems, defraying as much as third of the cost of doing so. Utilities can tap those batteries for power between 6 and 8:30 p.m., when energy demand typically peaks.
“It’s a good example of a good policy pivot with utilities and regulators saying, ‘We need to change how we approach this,’” said Bryan White, a senior analyst at Wood Mackenzie, a research and consulting firm.
‘Oil is a finite resource.’
Unlike most of the country, Hawaii burns a lot of oil to generate electricity — a common approach on islands because the fuel is easier and cheaper to ship than natural gas.
“We’re unique in that we’re dependent on oil for more power generation than the rest of the U.S. mainland combined,” Marco Mangelsdorf, a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who specializes in the politics of energy and has lived in Hawaii for much of his life.
Power plants fueled by oil supplied nearly two-thirds of Hawaii’s electricity last year, down from nearly three-quarters a decade earlier, according to the Energy Information Administration, a federal agency. Rooftop solar, by comparison, supplied about 14 percent, up from 6 percent in 2014, the earliest year for which the agency has that data.
The state had imported about 80 percent of its oil from Russia, Libya and Argentina, which offer a grade that Hawaii’s refinery can process. The remaining 20 percent came from Alaska.
Natalia Abiyeva is a real-estate agent specializing in rental apartments in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, east of Moscow. But lately, she has been learning a lot about battlefield medicine.
Packets of hemostatic granules, she found out, can stop catastrophic bleeding; decompression needles can relieve pressure in a punctured chest. At a military hospital, a wounded commander told her that a comrade died in his arms because there were no airway tubes available to keep him breathing.
Ms. Abiyeva, 37, has decided to take matters into her own hands. On Wednesday, she and two friends set out in a van for the Ukrainian border for the seventh time since the war began in February, bringing onions, potatoes, two-way radios, binoculars, first-aid gear and even a mobile dentistry set. Since the start of the war, she said, she has raised more than $60,000 to buy food, clothes and equipment for Russian soldiers serving in Ukraine.
“The whole world, it seems to me, is supporting our great enemies,” Ms. Abiyeva said in a phone interview. “We also want to offer our support, to say, ‘Guys, we’re with you.’”
Russia, grass-roots movements, led in large part by women, have sprung up to crowdsource aid for Russian soldiers. They are evidence of some public backing for President Vladimir V. Putin’s war effort — but also of the growing recognition among Russians that their military, vaunted before the invasion as a world-class fighting force, turned out to be woefully underprepared for a major conflict.
care packages familiar to Americans from the Iraq war. The most sought-after items include imported drones and night vision scopes, a sign that Russia’s $66 billion defense budget has not managed to produce essential gear for modern warfare.
“No one expected there to be such a war,” Tatyana Plotnikova, a business owner in the city of Novokuybyshevsk on the Volga, said in a phone interview. “I think no one was ready for this.”
155-millimeter shells fired by American howitzers, and that Russia’s leadership may have underestimated the determination of the West to support Ukraine.
“It’s not making the military operation go any faster from our point of view — it’s making our situation more difficult, I don’t deny it,” Mr. Borodai said, referring to Western weapons deliveries. “It’s possible that our military leaders were not ready for there to be such massive support on the part of the West.”
benefiting from a far more extensive crowdfunding campaign that is delivering millions of dollars’ worth of donations in items like drones, night vision scopes, rifles and consumer technology.
Most of the groups collecting donations for Russian soldiers appear to be operating independently of the Russian government. They mostly rely on volunteers’ personal contacts in individual units and at military hospitals who pass along lists of what they most urgently need.
segment in April about such volunteers explained, “but a mother’s heart has a will of its own.”
Outside state media, however, supporters of the war are pointing to private donations as a key to victory. Pro-Russian military bloggers, some of them embedded with Russian troops, are urging their followers to donate money to buy night vision equipment and basic drones.
“Our guys are dying because they lack this equipment,” one blogger wrote, while “the entire West is supplying the Ukrainian side.”
The needed equipment, largely imported, can be bought at Russian sporting goods stores or ordered online. Starshe Eddy, a popular military blogger, wrote that consumer drones made by the giant Chinese company DJI “have become so firmly entrenched in combat operations that it’s become hard to imagine the war without them.”
says the item “makes seeing — and ranging — deer out to 600 yards a reality.”
wrote, adding a winking emoji and a heart emoji.
Ms. Abiyeva says she started crowdsourcing aid after her husband, a captain, was deployed to Ukraine and she felt “powerless” to affect the course of events. She visited the hospital attached to her husband’s local military base and got the contact information for surgeons deployed to the war. Ever since, they have sent requests to her directly and passed her contacts along to colleagues.
When one surgeon at a field hospital asked for arterial embolectomy catheters, for treating clogs in arteries, Ms. Abiyeva found another volunteer in St. Petersburg to make the 700-mile trip to deliver 10 of them immediately. Ms. Abiyeva said that when she met the surgeon on her own trip to the region a week later, he told her that six of the catheters had already been used.
“It’s possible that we saved six lives,” she said.
The Russian military’s apparently urgent need for essential medical equipment and basic, foreign-made consumer devices has led some Russians to wonder how the Kremlin has been spending its enormous military budget, more than 3 percent of the country’s total economic output. On the VKontakte page of Zhanna Slobozhan, a coordinator of donations in the border city of Belgorod, a woman wrote that talk of raising money for drones and gun sights “makes me think that the army is totally being abandoned to the mercy of fate.”
“Let’s make sure that at least we won’t abandon our guys,” Ms. Slobozhan wrote back. She did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Putin visited a military hospital on Wednesday for the first time since the war began. He later told officials that while the doctors he met had assured him that “they have all they need,” the government should “promptly, quickly and effectively respond to any needs” in military medicine.
documentary about soldiers’ mothers released last weekend by the Russian journalist Katerina Gordeyeva, seen some three million times on YouTube, one woman describes her son using a wire to reattach soles to his boots.
An association of retired Russian officers published an open letter on May 19 noting that the public was raising funds for equipment the military sorely lacked “even though the government has plenty of money.” The letter excoriated Mr. Putin’s war effort as halfhearted, urging him to declare a state of war, with the aim of capturing all of Ukraine.
But on the ground, the concerns are more prosaic. With the approach of summer, Lyme disease-bearing ticks are out, and volunteers in Belgorod have been making homemade insect repellent, putting it into spray bottles and delivering it to the front.
A group of women collecting donations in the area learned that some of the Russian-backed separatist forces were so badly equipped that they were using shopping bags to carry their belongings. In their Telegram account with about 1,000 followers, the group put out an urgent call for backpacks, along with shoes, Q-tips, socks, headlamps, lighters, hats, sugar and batteries.
“This is so they understand that they are not alone,” said one of the coordinators of the Belgorod group, Vera Kusenko, 26, who works at a beauty salon as an eyelash extension specialist. “We hope this ends soon.”
The Mercedes-Benz logo is seen at the 43rd Bangkok International Motor Show, in Bangkok, Thailand, March 22, 2022. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
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BERLIN, May 17 (Reuters) – Mercedes-Benz (MBGn.DE) will incorporate a new, highly energy-dense battery in its upcoming electric G-Class from 2025, it said on Tuesday, a solution to the problem of how to power large electric cars without weighing them down with heavy batteries.
The battery, made by start-up Sila Nanotechnologies, uses silicon-based anodes and is 20-40% more energy dense than comparable cells currently available, Mercedes-Benz said.
Silicon – which Tesla (TSLA.O) said in 2020 it would build up the use of in its batteries – provides an alternative to the more commonly used graphite, 70% of which comes from China.
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Mercedes-Benz is the first publicly announced automotive customer of California-based battery start-up Sila Nanotechnologies, which said in early May it was investing a figure in the low hundreds of millions of dollars in a new plant in Washington state due to open in 2024. read more
The premium carmaker has a minority equity stake in the unlisted Sila, which is also working with BMW (BMWG.DE).
Sila, founded by an ex-Tesla engineer, raised an additional $590 million last year, boosting its valuation to an estimated $3.3 billion.
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Army vehicles were so decrepit that repair crews were stationed roughly every 15 miles. Some officers were so out of shape that the military budgeted $1.5 million to re-size standard uniforms.
That was the Russian military more than a decade ago when the country invaded Georgia, according to the defense minister at the time. The shortcomings, big and small, were glaring enough that the Kremlin announced a complete overhaul of the military to build a leaner, more flexible, professional force.
But now, almost three months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is clear the Kremlin fell woefully short of creating an effective fighting machine. Russian forces in Ukraine have underperformed to a degree that has surprised most Western analysts, raising the prospect that President Vladimir V. Putin’s military operation could end in failure.
By any measure, despite capturing territory in the south and east, the Russian military has suffered a major blow in Ukraine. It has been forced to abandon what it expected would be a blitzkrieg to seize the entire country in a few days. Its forces were driven from around Kyiv, the capital. The flagship of its Black Sea fleet, the Moskva, was sunk; it has never controlled the skies; and by some Western estimates, tens of thousands of Russians have died.
This war has exposed the fact that, to Russia’s detriment, much of the military culture and learned behavior of the Soviet era endures: inflexibility in command structure, corruption in military spending, and concealing casualty figures and repeating the mantra that everything is going according to plan.
The signs of trouble were hiding in plain sight. Just last summer, Russia held war games that the Ministry of Defense said showed its ability to coordinate a deployment of 200,000 men from different branches of the military in a mock effort to combat NATO. They would be among the largest military exercises ever, it said.
Lt. General Yunus-Bek Evkunov, the deputy defense minister, told reporters the exercises demonstrated Russia’s ability to rapidly deploy joint forces in a manner that would “make sober any enemy.’’
The whole exercise was scripted. There was no opposing force; the main units involved had practiced their choreography for months; and each exercise started and stopped at a fixed time. The number of troops participating was probably half the number advertised, military analysts said.
“It is the Soviet army, basically,” said Kamil Galeev, an independent Russian analyst and former fellow at The Wilson Center in Washington. “The reforms increased the efficiency of the army, but they only went halfway.”
When, after the Georgia conflict in 2008, Russia tried to revamp its military, the idea was to jettison the rigidly centralized, Soviet-era army that could supposedly muster four million troops in no time. Instead, field officers would get more responsibility, units would learn to synchronize their skills and the entire arsenal would be dragged into the computer age.
Many traditionalists resisted change, preferring the old model of a huge, concentrated force. But other factors also contributed to the military’s inability to transform. Birthrates plunged in the 1990s, leading to a shrinking pool of men that could be conscripted. That, and persistent low salaries, delayed recruitment targets. Endemic corruption handicapped the efforts.
But the basic problem was that the military culture of the Soviet Union endured, despite the lack of men and means to sustain it, analysts said.
“The Soviet military was built to generate millions of men to fill lots and lots of divisions that had endless stockpiles of equipment,” said Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at CNA, a research institute in Arlington, Va. “It was designed for World War III, the war with NATO that never came.”
Ultimately, the push for change stalled, leaving a hybrid version of the military somewhere between mass mobilization and a more flexible force, analysts said. It still favors substantial artillery over infantry troops who can take and hold land.
The scripted way the military practices warfare, on display in last summer’s exercises, is telling. “Nobody is being tested on their ability to think on the battlefield,” said William Alberque, the Berlin-based director of the arms control program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Instead, officers are assessed on their ability to follow instructions, he said.
Russia would like the world to view its army as it appears during the annual Victory Day parade — a well-oiled instrument of fit soldiers in dashing uniforms marching in unison and bristling with menacing weapons.
“They use the military forces as a propaganda machine,” said Gleb Irisov, 31, a former air force lieutenant who left the military in 2020 after five years. He then worked as a military analyst for the official TASS news agency before quitting and leaving the country because he strongly opposed the invasion.
Senior military commanders argue that recent expeditionary forces, especially in Syria, provided real combat training, but analysts call that claim inflated.
Russian troops faced no real adversary in Syria; the war was mostly an air force operation where the pilots could hover over targets at will. Russia has not fought a large land war since World War II.
Yet Russia’s leaders exaggerated the country’s success. In 2017, Sergei K. Shoigu, Russia’s defense minister, bragged at a meeting of fellow ministers in the Philippines that Russia had “liberated’’ 503,223 square kilometers in Syria. The problem is that the area Mr. Shoigu claimed to have freed from militants is more than twice the size of the entire country, reported Proekt, an independent news outlet.
With about 900,000 people overall, a little over one third of them ground forces, the Russian military is not that large, considering that it must defend a vast country covering 11 time zones, analysts said. But the goal of recruiting 50,000 contract soldiers every year, first stated a decade ago, has not been met, so there is still a yearly draft of 18- to 27-year olds.
Mr. Putin has not resorted to a mass military draft that would muster all able-bodied adult males for the war. But even if he did, the infrastructure required to train civilians en masse no longer exists. The consensus is that the bulk of Russia’s available ground forces have already been deployed in Ukraine.
Rampant corruption has drained resources. “Each person steals as much of the allocated funds as is appropriate for their rank,” said retired Maj. Gen. Harri Ohra-Aho, the former Chief of Intelligence in Finland and still a Ministry of Defense adviser.
The corruption is so widespread that some cases inevitably land in court.
In January, Col. Evgeny Pustovoy, the former head of the procurement department for armored vehicles, was accused of helping to steal more than $13 million by faking contracts for batteries from 2018 to 2020, according to TASS.
In February, a Moscow military court stripped Maj. Gen. Alexander Ogloblin of his rank and sentenced him to 4.5 years in prison for what the charges called fraud on an “especially large scale.” The authorities accused him of embezzling about $25 million by vastly overstating the expenses in state contracts for satellite and other equipment, the business news website BFM.RU reported.
Huge contracts are not the only temptation. The combination of low salaries — a senior officer earns roughly $1,000 per month — and swelling budgets is a recipe for all sorts of theft, analysts said, leading to a chain reaction of problems.
Commanders disguise how few exercises they hold, pocketing the resources budgeted for them, said Mr. Irisov, the analyst. That exacerbates a lack of basic military skills like navigation and shooting, although the air force did maintain flight safety standards.
“It is impossible to imagine the scale of lies inside the military,” Mr. Irisov said. “The quality of military production is very low because of the race to steal money.”
One out of every five rubles spent on the armed forces was stolen, the chief military prosecutor, Sergey Fridinsky, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the official government newspaper, in 2011.
Mr. Irisov said he had encountered numerous examples of subpar equipment — the vaunted Pantsir air defense system unable to shoot down a small Israeli drone over Syria; Russian-made light bulbs on the wings of SU-35 warplanes melting at supersonic speeds; new trucks breaking down after two years.
In general, Russian weaponry lags behind its computerized Western counterparts, but it is serviceable, military analysts said. Still, some new production has been limited.
For example, the T-14 Armata, a “next generation” battle tank unveiled in 2015, has not been deployed in Ukraine because there are so few, they said.
Russia has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into its military, producing under the State Armament Program a stream of new airplanes, tanks, helicopters and other matériel. Military spending has not dipped below 3.5 percent of gross domestic product for much of the past decade, according to figures from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, at a time when most European nations struggled to invest 2 percent of G.D.P. And that is only the public portion of Russia’s military budget.
This kind of financial investment has helped Russia make what gains it has in Ukraine.
Johan Norberg, a Russia analyst at the Swedish Defense Research Agency, said Russia and its military are too sprawling to expect them to fix every problem, even in a decade. The war in Ukraine exposed the fact that the Russian military is “not 10 feet tall, but they are not two feet tall, either,” he said.
Alina Lobzina and Milana Mazaeva contributed reporting.
LONDON — When Jakob Bitner was 7, he left Russia for Germany with his parents and sister. Twenty-eight years later, he is set on solving a vexing green-energy problem that could help Germany end its dependence on imported energy from Russia, or anywhere.
The problem: how to make wind and solar energy available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even if the sun is not shining or the wind not blowing.
The company that Mr. Bitner co-founded in Munich in 2016, VoltStorage, found some success selling storage battery packs for solar power to homeowners in Europe. Now the company is developing much larger batteries — each about the size of a shipping container — based on a chemical process that can store and discharge electricity over days, not just hours like today’s most popular battery technology.
These ambitions to overcome the unreliable nature of renewable energy fit perfectly with Europe’s targets to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. But Mr. Bitner’s company is facing a frustrating reality that threatens to undercut Europe’s plans and poses a wider challenge in the global fight against climate change: a lack of money to finish the job.
plenty of capital available globally for the multitrillion-dollar task of funding this transition to greener energy.
Europe’s Shift Away From Fossil Fuels
The European Union has begun a transition to greener forms of energy. But financial and geopolitical considerations could complicate the efforts.
The war in Ukraine has made Europe’s energy transition even more urgent. The European Union has said it will cut imported Russian natural gas by two-thirds this year and completely by the end of the decade. While some of that supply will be made up by imports from other countries, such as the United States and Qatar, expanding domestic renewable energy capacity is a critical pillar to this plan.
But attracting investors to projects trying to move beyond mature technologies like solar and wind power is tough. Venture capitalists, once cheerleaders of green energy, are more infatuated with cryptocurrencies and start-ups that deliver groceries and beer within minutes. Many investors are put off by capital-intensive investments. And governments have further muddied the water with inconsistent policies that undermine their bold pledges to reduce carbon emissions.
Venture capitalists’ other interests
Tony Fadell, who spent most of his career trying to turn emerging technologies into mainstream products as an executive at Apple and founder of Nest, said that even as the world faced the risks of climate change, money was flooding into less urgent developments in cryptocurrency, the so-called metaverse and the digital art collections sold as NFTs. Last year, venture capitalists invested $11.9 billion in renewable energy globally, compared with $30.1 billion in cryptocurrency and blockchain, according to PitchBook.
Of the $106 billion invested by venture capitalists in European start-ups last year, just 4 percent went into energy investments, according to PitchBook.
“We need to get real,” said Mr. Fadell, who now lives in Paris and has proposed ideas on energy policy to the French government. “Too many people are investing in the things that are not going to fix our existential problems. They are just investing in fast money.”
It has not helped that the industry has been burned before by a green tech boom. About 15 years ago, environmentally conscious start-ups were seen as the next big thing in Silicon Valley. One of the premier venture capital firms, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, made former Vice President Al Gore a partner and pledged that clean energy would eventually make up at least a third of its total investments.Instead, Kleiner became a cautionary tale about the risks of investing in energy-related companies as the firm missed out on early backing of social media companies like Facebook and Twitter.
There is evidence that these old fears are receding. Two years ago 360 Capital, a venture capital firm based in Paris and Milan dealing in early-stage investment, introduced a dedicated fund investing in clean energy and sustainability companies. The firm is now planning to open up the fund to more investors, expanding it to €150 million from a €30 million fund.
There are a growing number of dedicated funds for energy investments. But even then there is a tendency for the companies in them to be software developers, deemed less risky than builders of larger-scale energy projects. Four of the seven companies backed by 360 Capital’s new fund are artificial intelligence companies and software providers.
Still, the situation has changed completely since the company’s first major green-energy investment in 2008, Fausto Boni, the firm’s founder, said. “We see potentially lots of money coming into the sector, and so many of the issues we had 15 years ago are on their way to being overcome,” he said. But the availability of bigger investments needed to help companies expand in Europe still lags behind, he added.
The funding gap
Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, which is backed by Bill Gates, is trying to fill the gap. It was formed in late 2021 to help move promising technology from development to commercial use. In Europe, it is a $1 billion initiative with the European Commission and European Investment Bank to support four types of technologies — long-duration energy storage, clean hydrogen, sustainable aviation fuels and direct air capture of carbon dioxide — that it believes need to scale quickly.
In Europe, there are “significant difficulties with the scaling-up phase,” said Ann Mettler, the vice president for Europe at Breakthrough Energy and a former director general at the European Commission. There is money for start-ups, but when companies become reasonably successful and a bit larger, they are often acquired by American or Chinese companies, she said. This leaves fewer independent companies in Europe focused on the energy problems they set out to solve.
Companies that build complex — and often expensive — hardware, like Mr. Bitner’s batteries for long-duration energy storage, have an especially hard time finding investors willing to stomach the risks. After a few investment rounds, the companies are too big for early-stage investors but too small to appeal to institutional investors looking for safer places to park large amounts of cash.
“If you look at typical climate technologies, such as wind and solar and even the lithium-ion batteries, they took well over four decades to go from the early R&D to the large-scale commercialization and cost competitiveness,” Ms. Mettler said, referring to research and development. “Four decades — which obviously we don’t have.”
What investors want
There are some signs of improvement, including more funds focused on clean energy or sustainability and more companies securing larger investment rounds. But there is a sense of frustration as investors, companies and European governments agree that innovation and adoption of new technology need to happen much more quickly to reduce carbon emissions sharply by 2030.
“You won’t find a place in the world that is more attuned to what is needed than Europe,” Ms. Mettler said. “It’s not for lack of ambition or vision — it’s difficult.”
But investors say government policy can help them more. Despite climate pledges, the regulations and laws in place haven’t created strong enough incentives for investments in new technologies.
Industries like steel and concrete have to be forced to adopt greener methods of production, Mr. Boni, the 360 Capital founder, said.
For energy storage, hydrogen, nuclear power and other large-scale projects, the government should expedite permitting, cut taxes and provide matching funds, said Mr. Fadell, who has put his personal fortune into Future Shape, which backs start-ups addressing societal challenges.
“There are few investors willing to go all in to put up $200 million or $300 million,” Mr. Fadell said. “We need to know the government is on our side.”