trove of ancient Scythian treasure.

The canal even has its own anthem, still framed on the wall of the canal’s headquarters. “We built the canal in peace, along with the whole great and powerful country,” the words go. “Keep it, as dear as your breath, for your children and grandchildren!”

But when Russia seized Crimea in 2014, a senior aide in the Ukrainian president’s office, Andriy Senchenko, organized the damming of the canal as a way to strike back. Before the canal’s annual springtime opening, he directed workers to pile up a pyramid of bags of sand and clay near the border with Crimea. And he had them put up a sign saying they were installing a flow-measurement mechanism, to put Russian intelligence on the wrong track.

He is convinced that blocking the canal was the right decision because it imposed costs on Moscow, much as military resistance would have.

“In order to cause as much damage to the Russian Federation as was caused by seven years of blocking the canal, tens of thousands would need to have died at the front,” Mr. Senchenko said.

tell it, Ukraine’s leaders since 2014 have forced Russian speakers in the country to “renounce their identity or to face violence or death.” The reality is different in Kherson, where many residents still value some common bonds with Russia, including language — but want no part of a further military intervention by Mr. Putin.

A hill outside the city of Kakhovka, near the canal’s beginning, bears another reminder of historical ties to Russia: a towering Soviet monument of Communist revolutionaries with a horse-drawn machine gun, marking the fierce battles here in the Russian Civil War a century ago. Kyiv in 2019 demanded that the monument be taken down, calling it “insult to the memory of the millions of victims of the Communist totalitarian regime.” The city refused, and the monument still stands, overlooking rusty, dismantled lampposts.

Tending her mother’s grave at an adjoining cemetery, Ms. Lomonosova, a gardener, and her father, Mikhail Lomonosov, 64, said they did not want the monument torn down.

They spoke Russian, described themselves as “little Russians,” and said they occasionally watched Russian television. But if Russian troops were to invade, Ms. Lomonosova was ready to flee, and Mr. Lomonosov was ready to fight against them.

“We may have a Russian last name, but we are proud to be Ukrainian,” Ms. Lomonosova said. “Everyone has their own territory, though all have a shared past.”

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Biden to Declare Atrocities Against Armenia Were Genocide

WASHINGTON — More than a century after the Ottoman Empire’s killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenian civilians, President Biden is preparing to declare that the atrocities were an act of genocide, according to officials familiar with the internal debate. The action would signal that the American commitment to human rights outweighs the risk of further fraying the U.S. alliance with Turkey

Mr. Biden is expected to announce the symbolic designation on Saturday, the 106th anniversary of the beginning of what historians call a yearslong and systematic death march that the predecessors of modern Turkey started during World War I. He would be the first sitting American president to do so, although Ronald Reagan made a glancing reference to the Armenian genocide in a 1981 written statement about the Holocaust, and both the House and the Senate approved measures in 2019 to make its recognition a formal matter of U.S. foreign policy.

At least 29 other countries have taken similar steps — mostly in Europe and the Americas, but also Russia and Syria, Turkey’s political adversaries.

A U.S. official with knowledge of the administration’s discussions said Mr. Biden had decided to issue the declaration, and others across the government and in foreign embassies said it was widely expected.

said in an interview with the Turkish broadcaster Haberturk. “If the United States wants to worsen ties, the decision is theirs.”

The legal definition of genocide was not accepted until 1946, and officials and experts said Mr. Biden’s declaration would not carry any tangible penalties beyond humiliating Turkey and tainting its history with an inevitable comparison to the Holocaust.

“We stand firmly against attempts to pretend that this intentional, organized effort to destroy the Armenian people was anything other than a genocide,” a bipartisan group of 38 senators wrote in a letter to Mr. Biden last month, urging him to make the declaration. “You have correctly stated that American diplomacy and foreign policy must be rooted in our values, including respect for universal rights. Those values require us to acknowledge the truth and do what we can to prevent future genocides and other crimes against humanity.”

Mr. Biden appears intent on showing that his commitment to human rights — a pillar of his administration’s foreign policy — is worth any setback.

Turkey’s tenuous cease-fire with Russia has allowed for already-narrowing humanitarian access, and in the Black Sea, to which American warships must first pass through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles on support missions to Ukraine.

“It may be harder to get Erdogan to agree to specific policies,” Mr. Jeffrey said.

He also raised the prospect that Turkey could force meticulous reviews to slow non-NATO operations at Incirlik Air Base, a way station for American forces and equipment in the region. Or, Mr. Jeffrey said, Turkey could do something to provoke new sanctions or reimpose ones that have been suspended, like taking military action against Kurdish fighters allied with American forces against the Islamic State in northeast Syria.

Pentagon officials have also noted the value of Turkish forces remaining in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of U.S. and other coalition troops by Sept. 11; Kabul and Ankara have a longstanding relationship that will allow some troops to remain in Afghanistan after the NATO nations leave.

Tensions between Turkey and the United States flared in December, when the Trump administration imposed sanctions against Ankara for its purchase and then test of a Russian missile defense system that Western officials said could expose NATO’s security networks to Moscow. The sanctions were imposed in the final month of Mr. Trump’s presidency, three years after Turkey bought the missile system, and only after Congress required them as part of a military spending bill.

had pointedly promised to help Armenia last fall during its war against Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, noting the politically influential Armenian diaspora in the United States. His administration took a more evenhanded approach in trying to broker a peace agreement alongside Russia and France and, ultimately, Armenia surrendered the disputed territory in the conflict with Azerbaijan, which was backed by Turkey.

In the Wednesday interview, Mr. Aivazian, Armenia’s foreign minister, seized on Turkey’s military role in the Nagorno-Karabakh war as an example of what he described as “a source of expanding instability” in the region and the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

He said the genocide designation would serve as a reminder to the rest of the world if malign values are not countered.

“I believe bringing dangerous states to the international order will make our world much more secure,” Mr. Aivazian said. “And we will be witnessing less tragedies, less human losses, once the United States will reaffirm its moral leadership in these turbulent times.”

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Biden Preparing to Declare That Atrocities Against Armenia Were Genocide

WASHINGTON — More than a century after the Ottoman Empire’s killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenian civilians, President Biden is preparing to declare that the atrocities were an act of genocide, according to officials familiar with the internal debate. The action would signal that the American commitment to human rights outweighs the risk of further fraying the U.S. alliance with Turkey

Mr. Biden is expected to announce the symbolic designation on Saturday, the 106th anniversary of the beginning of what historians call a yearslong and systematic death march that the predecessors of modern Turkey started during World War I. He would be the first sitting American president to do so, although Ronald Reagan made a glancing reference to the Armenian genocide in a 1981 written statement about the Holocaust, and both the House and the Senate approved measures in 2019 to make its recognition a formal matter of U.S. foreign policy.

At least 29 other countries have taken similar steps — mostly in Europe and the Americas, but also Russia and Syria, Turkey’s political adversaries.

A U.S. official with knowledge of the administration’s discussions said Mr. Biden had decided to issue the declaration, and others across the government and in foreign embassies said it was widely expected.

said in an interview with the Turkish broadcaster Haberturk. “If the United States wants to worsen ties, the decision is theirs.”

The legal definition of genocide was not accepted until 1946, and officials and experts said Mr. Biden’s declaration would not carry any tangible penalties beyond humiliating Turkey and tainting its history with an inevitable comparison to the Holocaust.

“We stand firmly against attempts to pretend that this intentional, organized effort to destroy the Armenian people was anything other than a genocide,” a bipartisan group of 38 senators wrote in a letter to Mr. Biden last month, urging him to make the declaration. “You have correctly stated that American diplomacy and foreign policy must be rooted in our values, including respect for universal rights. Those values require us to acknowledge the truth and do what we can to prevent future genocides and other crimes against humanity.”

Mr. Biden appears intent on showing that his commitment to human rights — a pillar of his administration’s foreign policy — is worth any setback.

Turkey’s tenuous cease-fire with Russia has allowed for already-narrowing humanitarian access, and in the Black Sea, to which American warships must first pass through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles on support missions to Ukraine.

“It may be harder to get Erdogan to agree to specific policies,” Mr. Jeffrey said.

He also raised the prospect that Turkey could force meticulous reviews to slow non-NATO operations at Incirlik Air Base, a way station for American forces and equipment in the region. Or, Mr. Jeffrey said, Turkey could do something to provoke new sanctions or reimpose ones that have been suspended, like taking military action against Kurdish fighters allied with American forces against the Islamic State in northeast Syria.

Pentagon officials have also noted the value of Turkish forces remaining in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of U.S. and other coalition troops by Sept. 11; Kabul and Ankara have a longstanding relationship that will allow some troops to remain in Afghanistan after the NATO nations leave.

Tensions between Turkey and the United States flared in December, when the Trump administration imposed sanctions against Ankara for its purchase and then test of a Russian missile defense system that Western officials said could expose NATO’s security networks to Moscow. The sanctions were imposed in the final month of Mr. Trump’s presidency, three years after Turkey bought the missile system, and only after Congress required them as part of a military spending bill.

had pointedly promised to help Armenia last fall during its war against Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, noting the politically influential Armenian diaspora in the United States. His administration took a more evenhanded approach in trying to broker a peace agreement alongside Russia and France and, ultimately, Armenia surrendered the disputed territory in the conflict with Azerbaijan, which was backed by Turkey.

In the Wednesday interview, Mr. Aivazian, Armenia’s foreign minister, seized on Turkey’s military role in the Nagorno-Karabakh war as an example of what he described as “a source of expanding instability” in the region and the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

He said the genocide designation would serve as a reminder to the rest of the world if malign values are not countered.

“I believe bringing dangerous states to the international order will make our world much more secure,” Mr. Aivazian said. “And we will be witnessing less tragedies, less human losses, once the United States will reaffirm its moral leadership in these turbulent times.”

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Putin, Addressing Russia, Warns West Not to Cross Red Line: Live Updates

that could be prepared to move into neighboring Ukraine.

President Volodymyr Zelensky on the front line in Ukraine’s Mariupol region this month.
Credit…Ukrainian Presidential Press Service, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed his nation on Tuesday evening, warning citizens of the possibility of war. He addressed President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia directly, urging him to step back from the brink and proposing that the two meet.

The unusual videotaped appearance by Mr. Zelensky — a former comedian elected in 2019 on a promise to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine — was the clearest signal yet that Ukraine is girding for the possibility of a full-fledged war with Russia. Moscow’s buildup of troops on the Ukrainian border, he said, had created “all the preconditions for escalation.”

“Does Ukraine want war? No. Is it ready for it? Yes,” Mr. Zelensky said. “Our principle is simple: Ukraine does not start a war first, but Ukraine always stands to the last man.”

It appeared to be no coincidence that Mr. Zelensky’s address came on the eve of Mr. Putin’s annual state of the nation address on Wednesday. At the end of his video, Mr. Zelensky switched from Ukrainian to Russian, speaking to Mr. Putin directly. He pushed back at Mr. Putin’s contention that Russian forces would be used in Ukraine only if the Russian-speaking population in the east was threatened, and proposed a summit in the war-torn eastern region known as Donbas.

“It is impossible to bring peace on a tank,” Mr. Zelensky said.

“I am ready,” he continued, “to invite you to meet anywhere in the Ukrainian Donbas where there is war.”

There was no immediate response from the Kremlin to Mr. Zelensky’s invitation.

Aleksei A. Navalny, left, at a court hearing in February. 
Credit…Yuri Kochetkov/EPA, via Shutterstock

Russia is moving ahead with efforts to outlaw the organization led by the opposition figure Aleksei A. Navalny, a step that could result in the most intense wave of political repression in the post-Soviet era. But supporters of the jailed opposition leader say they are determined to take to the streets.

Opponents of President Vladimir V. Putin have called for protests across Russia on Wednesday in support of Mr. Navalny, whose allies say he is on a hunger strike and near death in a Russian prison. The police are expected to intervene forcefully to break up the protests, which started in the country’s Far East immediately after Mr. Putin delivered his state of the nation speech.

Mr. Putin has rarely mentioned Mr. Navalny by name and did not do so in his speech. He did not refer to him in any way.

Mr. Navalny is insisting that he be allowed to be seen by doctors of his choosing. A lawyer who visited him, Vadim Kobzev, said on Tuesday that Mr. Navalny’s arms were punctured and bruised after three nurses had unsuccessfully tried six times to hook him up to an intravenous drip.

“If you saw me now, you would laugh,” Mr. Navalny said in a letter that his team posted to social media. “A skeleton walking, swaying, in its cell.”

The Kremlin depicts Mr. Navalny as an agent of American influence, and Russian prosecutors filed a lawsuit on Friday to declare his organization “extremist” and illegal.

The extremism designation, which a Moscow court will consider in a secret trial starting next week, would effectively force Russia’s most potent opposition movement underground and could result in yearslong prison terms for pro-Navalny activists.

The White House has warned the Russian government that it “will be held accountable” if Mr. Navalny dies in prison. Western officials — and Mr. Navalny’s supporters and allies — reject the idea that he is acting on another country’s behalf.

But in the Kremlin’s logic, Mr. Navalny is a threat to Russian statehood, doing the West’s bidding by undermining Mr. Putin. It is Mr. Putin, Mr. Trenin said, who is keeping Russia stable by maintaining a balance between competing factions in Russia’s ruling elite.

“If Putin leaves, a battle between different groups breaks out, and Russia withdraws into itself, has no time for the rest of the world and no longer gets in anyone’s way,” said Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center. “The West is, of course, using Navalny, and will use him to create problems for Putin and, in the longer term, help Putin become history in one way or another.”

Lyubov Sobol, center, was among the close allies of Aleksei A. Navalny to be detained before the planned rallies. 
Credit…Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters

MOSCOW — Dozens of opposition activists were arrested in 20 cities across Russia before a rally scheduled for Wednesday night in Moscow in support of the imprisoned Kremlin critic Aleksei A. Navalny.

Some of the activists were beaten and sentenced to administrative arrests, according to OVD Info, an independent rights group that tracks arrests. Many were members of Mr. Navalny’s political organization, but some were arrested simply for sharing social media posts about the rally.

Among those detained were two prominent associates of Mr. Navalny: his spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh; and Lyubov Sobol.

In Russia’s Far East — where protests started before rallies were expected to sweep across the vast nation with 11 time zones — the police detained eight people in the city of Magadan, according to Vesma, a local news website. About 40 people came out to protest in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the capital of the Kamchatka region, with no arrests reported.

In Vladivostok, a major port on the eastern tip of Russia, about 100 people marched through the city with no arrests reported so far, Vl.ru, a local news website reported.

“Freedom to political prisoners,” people chanted. The police warned protesters through loudspeakers that they could be arrested. “We will not stay silent,” was the response.

In recent weeks, the Russian authorities have conducted raids on Mr. Navalny’s offices across the country, looking for leaflets and other materials calling for protests. Those items would presumably be used in the Kremlin’s drive to have his organization labeled “extremist,” which would expose its members to potentially lengthy prison terms.

In Kurgan, a city in central Russia, an unknown person sneaked into Mr. Navalny’s office on Monday morning and destroyed a radiator, flooding the premises.

Under various pretexts, the authorities in cities across Russia blocked central squares and streets. In Yekaterinburg, they rescheduled a Victory Day parade rehearsal to ensure that it overlapped with a scheduled protest. In Kostroma, the central square was closed down, ostensibly for pest control measures.

In universities across the country, students were ordered to sit for unscheduled tests and other gatherings with mandatory attendance, TV Rain, an independent news station reported on Tuesday.

The authorities in Moscow denied Mr. Navalny’s allies a permit for the rally they have planned for Wednesday evening, citing coronavirus concerns. The Prosecutor General’s office warned parents that they would be subject to fines and arrest if their underage children are detained at a rally.

More than 450,000 people nationwide registered online to declare their intent to take part in demonstrations against Mr. Navalny’s incarceration and treatment in prison. More than 100,000 people did so in Moscow, and more than 50,000 in St. Petersburg.

President Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus in Sochi, Russia, in February.
Credit…Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In a speech filled with bluster and bromides against the West, President Vladimir V. Putin on Wednesday lingered on a grievance that has not gained much traction outside the Russian state news media: an unfounded accusation that the C.I.A. has been plotting to assassinate the leader of Belarus.

Even as he raised the subject, Mr. Putin acknowledged that it was not being taken seriously outside Russia.

“Characteristically, even such lamentable actions are not discussed in the so-called collective West,” Mr. Putin said. “They pretend nothing happened.”

Over the weekend, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, arrested two men whom it said were plotting to murder President Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus and to seize television and radio stations.

It said the men had coordinated with U.S. and Polish intelligence agencies and come to Russia to meet Belarusian generals sympathetic to the opposition. The Russian authorities released video that showed the men casually discussing their improbable plot over a meal at a Moscow restaurant.

One of the men, Aleksandr Feduta, is a former spokesman for Mr. Lukashenko. The other, Yuras Zyankovich, has dual U.S. and Belarusian citizenship. The United States and Polish governments denied any role in a murder and coup plot in Belarus.

The arrests aligned with Mr. Putin’s casting of Russia in his state of the nation speech on Wednesday as victimized and pressured by a hypocritical and aggressive Western world that poses imminent threats.

The encroaching West, Mr. Putin said, has “crossed all the boundaries.”

Policies to pressure Russia that were previously limited to economic sanctions “have been reborn as something more dangerous,” he said. “I have in mind the recent facts that came to light of a direct attempt to organize a coup in Belarus and the murder of the leader of that country.”

In an interview in March, President Biden assented when asked whether Vladimir V. Putin was a “killer.”
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

The election of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as president of the United States, despite his promise to be tough on Russia, initially gave the Kremlin hope, analysts say.

He was seen as more professional, reliable and pragmatic than President Donald J. Trump, with a worldview shaped by a Cold War era of diplomacy in which Washington and Moscow engaged as equal superpowers with a responsibility for global security. In their first phone call in January, Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin agreed to extend the New Start arms-control treaty, a Russian foreign policy goal that the Kremlin had not been able to achieve with Mr. Trump.

Then came the television interview in March in which Mr. Biden assented when asked whether Mr. Putin was a “killer.” A month later, that moment — to which Russian officials and commentators responded with a squall of prime-time-televised, anti-American fury — looks like a turning point. It was followed by last week’s raft of American sanctions against Russia, combined with Mr. Biden’s call for a summit meeting with Mr. Putin, which to many Russians looked like a crude American attempt to negotiate from a position of strength.

“This is seen as an unacceptable situation — you won’t chase us into the stall with sanctions,” said Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, a think tank.

How far Mr. Putin will go in striking back against the West’s real or imagined hostility is an open question. In the state news media, the mood music is dire. On the flagship weekly news show on the Rossiya 1 channel on Sunday, the host Dmitri Kiselyov closed a segment on Mr. Putin’s showdown with Mr. Biden by reminding viewers of Poseidon — a weapon in Russia’s nuclear arsenal that Mr. Putin revealed three years ago.

“Russia’s armed forces are ready to test-fire a nuclear torpedo that would cause radioactive tsunamis capable of flooding enemy cities and making them uninhabitable for decades,” a translation of a Danish newspaper report intoned.

Still, there are signs that Mr. Putin does not want tensions with the West to spiral out of control.

As Europe and the United States scrambled to assess the Russian troop buildup in late March, Russia’s top military officer, Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, spoke on the phone with his American counterpart, Gen. Mark A. Milley. On Monday, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Mr. Putin’s Security Council, discussed the prospect of a presidential summit with Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser. And the Kremlin said this week that Mr. Putin would speak at Mr. Biden’s online climate change meeting on Thursday.

Ms. Stanovaya, the analyst, says she was convinced that Mr. Putin is more interested than his hawkish advisers in looking for ways to work with the United States. She pointed to Mr. Putin’s determination to return Russia to the ranks of great powers.

“Putin very much believes in his mission as a great historic figure with responsibility not only for Russia, but also for global security,” Ms. Stanovaya said. “He doesn’t understand how it is that the American president doesn’t feel the same way.”

A satellite image of Russian military equipment at the Opuk training area on Crimea’s Black Sea coast.
Credit…Maxar Technologies, via Associated Press

The Russian authorities closed airspace to commercial traffic near the Ukrainian border starting on Tuesday in another sign of rising military tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

The warning to commercial pilots covers parts of the Crimean Peninsula — annexed by Russia seven years ago — and international airspace over the Black Sea. It formalized what had already become obvious: The region is in the grips of an increasingly ominous military crisis.

Ukraine objected last week to Russia’s closing of areas in the Black Sea to shipping, a ban that the U.S. State Department spokesman, Ned Price, on Monday called an “unprovoked escalation in Moscow’s ongoing campaign to undermine and destabilize Ukraine.”

Over the past month, Russia has massed the largest military force along Ukraine’s eastern border and in Crimea since the outset of war in 2014, according to Western governments. Analysts say that the deliberately high visibility of the buildup indicates that its purpose is more a warning to the West than a prelude to invasion.

“They are deploying in a very visible way,” said Michael Kofman, a senior researcher at CNA, a policy research group in Arlington, Va. “They are doing it overtly, so we can see it. It is intentional.”

The Russian military says it is conducting exercises in response to Ukrainian threats to two Russian-backed separatist regions and to what it calls heightened NATO military activity in the Black Sea area.

Military tensions have also risen elsewhere. On Tuesday, Russia’s Air Force flew two nuclear-capable Tu-160 strategic bombers over the Baltic Sea for eight hours. In the Arctic Ocean, the Northern Fleet has been conducting a huge naval drill, the Defense Ministry said.

President Vladimir V. Putin on Wednesday hailed Russians’ “singular cohesion, their spiritual and moral values that in a number of countries are forgotten.”
Credit…Maxim Shipenkov/EPA, via Shutterstock

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has often sought to bolster domestic support through rally-around-the-flag, aggressive foreign policy moves. But on Wednesday he opened his annual address to the nation by focusing on the bread-and-butter economic issues that polls show most worry Russians.

He rattled off a laundry list of social subsidies that he said his government would begin to provide to new mothers, single parents and low-income families.

“For our entire history, our people triumphed, overcoming challenges thanks to their singular cohesion, their spiritual and moral values that in a number of countries are forgotten, but we on the contrary have strengthened,” Mr. Putin said.

He outlined programs to subsidize summer camp for children, smooth the system for child-support payments to single mothers and move more social services online.

While Russia is still in the throes of a coronavirus wave, Mr. Putin minimized the threat and said Russia would swivel to “healing the wounds” and shoring up the economy. He also laid out a requirement that Russian laboratories be ready to prepare tests for potential new infectious diseases within four days of their discovery.

Mr. Putin traditionally starts his yearly address with a focus on economic issues, and despite rising tensions with the West, this year was no different.

The Russian leader is aware that empty wallets can add fuel to protest movements and that the stagnating economy is taking a toll on support for his government. Russians’ average take-home wages adjusted for inflation have been declining since the Ukraine crisis in 2014, dropping 10 percent since then.

Analysts say it is no coincidence that protests have seeped out of the wealthy cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg to Russia’s far-flung provinces, which are feeling the economic pain more acutely.

The Russian budget fell into deficit during the pandemic last year, but in the first quarter of 2021 was again in surplus, buoyed by rising oil prices. This has provided Mr. Putin room for maneuver on populist policies before parliamentary elections scheduled for the fall.

Over the years, he has padded his speeches with populist announcements that are often repetitions or minor updates on long-running policies.

Russia, for example, has for years paid a bonus of around $10,000 to women for the birth of a child, a policy intended to help reverse Russia’s long demographic decline.

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In Russia, a Military Buildup That Can’t be Missed

MASLOVKA, Russia — Deep in a pine forest in southern Russia, military trucks, their silhouettes blurred by camouflage netting, appear through the trees. Soldiers in four-wheel-drive vehicles creep along rutted dirt roads. And outside a newly pitched tent camp, sentries, Kalashnikovs slung over their shoulders, pace back and forth.

Over the past month or so, Russia has deployed what analysts are calling the largest military buildup along the border with Ukraine since the outset of Kyiv’s war with Russian-backed separatists seven years ago.

It is far from a clandestine operation: During a trip to southern Russia by a New York Times journalist, evidence of the buildup was everywhere to be seen.

The mobilization is setting off alarms in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, European capitals and Washington, and is increasingly seen as an early foreign policy test for the Biden administration, which just hit Moscow with a new round of sanctions. Russia responded almost immediately, announcing on Friday that it would expel 10 U.S. diplomats.

“Solar Winds” hacking of government agencies and corporations, various disinformation efforts and the annexation of Crimea.

told European lawmakers on Wednesday that Russia is now garrisoning about 110,000 soldiers near the Ukrainian border. In Washington, the director of the C.I.A. told Congress that it remains unclear whether the buildup is a show of force or preparation for something more ominous.

Even if the goal of the buildup remains unclear, military analysts say it was most certainly meant to be seen. A show of force is hardly a good show if nobody watches.

“They are deploying in a very visible way,” said Michael Kofman, a senior researcher at CNA, a think tank based in Arlington, Va., who has been monitoring the military activity. “They are doing it overtly, so we can see it. It is intentional.”

foreign reporters have been showing up daily to watch the buzz of activity.

Conflict Intelligence Team, a group of independent Russian military analysts.

Gigantic military trucks are parked within sight of the roads, which have, strangely, remained open to public traffic.

news release to announce the redeployment of the naval landing craft closer to Ukraine, in case anybody was curious. The vessels sailed along rivers and canals connecting the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. The ministry posted pictures.

forces for a possible incursion.

But Mr. Burns said U.S. officials were still trying to determine if the Kremlin was preparing for military action or merely sending a signal.

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U.S. Imposes Stiff Sanctions on Russia, Blaming It for Major Hacking Operation

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Thursday announced tough new sanctions on Russia and formally blamed the country’s premier intelligence agency for the sophisticated hacking operation that breached American government agencies and the nation’s largest companies.

In the broadest effort yet to give more teeth to financial sanctions — which in the past have failed to deter Russian activity — the sanctions are aimed at choking off lending to the Russian government.

In an executive order, President Biden announced a series of additional steps — sanctions on 32 entities and individuals for disinformation efforts and for carrying out the Russian government’s interference in the 2020 presidential election. Ten Russian diplomats, most of them identified as intelligence operatives, were expelled from the Russian Embassy in Washington. The country also joined with European partners to sanction eight people and entities associated with Russia’s occupation in Crimea.

The announcement is the first time that the U.S. government had placed the blame for the “SolarWinds” hacking attack right at the Kremlin’s feet, saying it was masterminded by the SVR, one of the Russian intelligence agencies that was also involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee six years ago. The finding comports with the findings of private cybersecurity firms.

SolarWinds; to the C.I.A.’s assessment that Russia offered bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan; and to Russia’s longstanding effort to interfere in U.S. elections on behalf of Donald J. Trump. The key to the sanctions’ effectiveness, officials concede, will be whether European and Asian allies go along with that ban, and whether the United States decides to seek to extend the sanctions by threatening to cut off financial institutions around the world that deal in those Russian bonds, much as it has enforced “secondary sanctions” against those who do business with Iran.

In a conversation with President Vladimir V. Putin on Tuesday, Mr. Biden warned that the United States was going to act to protect its interests, but also raised the prospect of a summit meeting between the two leaders. It is unclear whether Russia will now feel the need to retaliate for the sanctions and expulsions. American officials are already alarmed by a troop buildup along the border of Ukraine and Russian naval activity in the Black Sea.

And inside American intelligence agencies there have been warnings that the SolarWinds attack — which enabled the SVR to place “back doors” in the computer networks — could give Russia a pathway for malicious cyber activity against government agencies and corporations.

Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, has often said that sanctions alone will not be sufficient, and said there would be “seen and unseen” actions against Russia. Mr. Biden, before his inauguration, suggested the United States would respond in kind to the hack, which seemed to suggest some kind of clandestine cyber response. But it may take weeks or months for any evidence that activity to come to light, if it ever does.

SolarWinds attack because that was the name of the Texas-based company whose network management software was subtlety altered by the SVR before the firms customers downloaded updated version. But the presidential statement alludes to the C.I.A.’s assessment that Russia offered bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan and explicitly links the sanctions to Russia’s longstanding effort to interfere in U.S. elections on behalf of Donald J. Trump.

In the SolarWinds breach, Russian government hackers infected network-management software used by thousands of government entities and private firms in what officials believe was, at least in its opening stages, an intelligence-gathering mission.

The SVR, also known as the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, is primarily known for espionage operations. The statement said American intelligence agencies have “high confidence in its assessment of attribution” of responsibility to Russia.

In an advisory, the United States described for private companies specific details about the software vulnerabilities that the Russian intelligence agencies used to hack into the systems of companies and governments. Most of those have been widely known since FireEye, a private security firm, first found evidence of the hack in December. Until FireEye’s discovery, the actions had been entirely missed by the U.S. government, largely because the attack was launched from inside the United States — where, as the Russians know well, American intelligence agencies are prohibited from operating.

Previous sanctions against Russia have been more narrowly drawn and have largely affected individuals. As such, the Kremlin has largely appeared to absorb or shrug off the penalties without changing its behavior.

trading in Moscow before the announcement, the ruble’s exchange rate to the dollar dropped about 1 percent, reflecting nervousness over how the sanctions would play out. The main stock index, Mosbirzhi, also fell just over 1 percent.

The fallout so far reflects years of Russian government policy to harden its financial defenses against sanctions and low oil prices by running budget surpluses and salting away billions of dollars in sovereign wealth funds.

Balanced budgets have been a core economic policy principle of Mr. Putin, who came to power more than 20 years ago during a post-Soviet debt crisis that he saw as humiliating for Russia and vowed not to repeat.

Still, analysts say strains from the past year of pandemic and the drop in the global price of oil, a major Russian export commodity, have left Russia more vulnerable to sanctions targeting sovereign debt. By the first quarter of this year, however, a recovery in oil prices had helped return the federal budget to surplus.

reported.

Michael D. Shear and David E. Sanger reported from Washington, Steven Erlanger from Brussels, and Andrew E. Kramer from Moscow.

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Sliding in the Polls, Erdogan Kicks Up a New Storm Over the Bosporus

ISTANBUL — The unpredictable roller coaster that has become Turkish politics was on full display this past week after 104 retired admirals publicly challenged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an open letter — and 10 of them ended up in jail, accused of plotting a coup.

It was no accident that the episode came as Mr. Erdogan finds himself in the midst one of the most intense political passages of his career, as the worsening pandemic and economy have left the president sliding in the opinion polls even as he amasses more powers.

To inspire the party faithful, Mr. Erdogan has returned again to herald one of his favorite grand ideas: to carve a canal, through Istanbul, from the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea to open a new shipping route parallel to the narrow Bosporus.

For now, the use of those natural waterwaysis governed by the Montreux Convention, an international treaty forged in 1936, between the two World Wars, in an attempt to eliminate volatile tensions over one of the world’s most vital maritime choke points.

blog, the Yetkinreport, “shifts the current agenda from the pandemic and the economy to fields that the A.K.P. likes.”

The pandemic’s toll is now worse than ever in Turkey, with more than 50,000 new cases recorded daily. An increasingly sharp economic crunch looms, too, as the government’s pandemic support for businesses is scheduled to end and inflation and unemployment remain alarmingly high.

In the midst of the troubles, Mr. Erdogan’s party has slipped to below 30 percent in a recent opinion poll, and his political ally, the Nationalist Movement Party, has fallen as low as 6 percent, making his re-election to the presidency in 2023 seem increasingly difficult.

Even his own supporters recognize that a bruising fight lies ahead. “We have entered the long two-year election process leading to the 2023 elections,” Burhanettin Duran, the director of SETA, a pro-government research organization, wrote in a column in the Daily Sabah newspaper this past week.

“Due to the recent declaration,” he said, referring to the admirals’ letter, “now there is a possibility that the process will be painful.” He predicted a combined domestic and international campaign against Mr. Erdogan’s government.

Mr. Erdogan has promised that his multibillion-dollar canal plan would create a construction and real estate boom and bring in revenue from an increase in shipping traffic.

Investigative journalists have exposed real estate deals in which prospectors from the Middle East have bought up much of the land along where the canal will be built.

Yet Mr. Erdogan said at a regional party congress in Istanbul in February that the project would go ahead, despite opposition.

“They don’t like it, do they? They are trying to prevent it, aren’t they?” he said in his keynote speech. “Despite them, we will build the Istanbul Canal.’’

The admirals are far from the only opponents of the canal. Others include the popular mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, along with environmentalists, ecologists and urban planners.

But the admirals raised particular ire from Mr. Erdogan and his fellow Islamists by including in their letter criticism of a currently serving admiral who was caught on video attending prayers with a religious sect.

The retired admirals made a point of reaffirming their adherence to the secular ideals of the Turkish republic’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The government machinery pounced swiftly.

Ten of the signatories were detained on Monday, and another four were ordered to report to the police but were not jailed in view of their advanced years. Mr. Erdogan accused them of plotting a coup, a toxic allegation after four years of thousands of detentions and purges since the last failed coup. Some saw that as a warning to serving officers who might have similar thoughts.

Mr. Erdogan had “got his groove back” Steven A. Cook, a senior fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, wrote in an analysis.

The admirals’ letter did not come out of the blue. A year earlier, 126 retired Turkish diplomats had penned an open letter warning against withdrawing from the convention. The debate reveals the deep divisions between secularists and Islamists that have been tearing Turkey apart since Mr. Erdogan’s rise to power in 2002.

Caught up in their own dislike of the secular republic that replaced the Ottoman Empire, the Islamists distrust the Montreux Convention, said Asli Aydintasbas, a senior fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations. That was an erroneous reading of history, she added, but Mr. Erdogan feels that the convention needs “to be modernized to meet Turkey’s new coveted role as a regional heavyweight.”

Secularists, as well as most Turkish diplomats and foreign policy experts, see the Montreux Convention as a win for Turkey and fundamental to Turkish independence and to stability in the region.

Russia would have most to lose from a change in the treaty, said Serhat Guvenc, a professor of international relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, although any alteration or break up of the convention seems inconceivable, since it would demand consensus from the multiple signatories.

“Russia would resent it and be provoked,” he said. The United States and China would gain, since neither currently is allowed to move large warships or aircraft carriers into the Black Sea.

Most analysts said that Mr. Erdogan and his advisers knew the impossibility of changing the Montreux Convention, but that the veteran politician is using the issue to kick up a storm.

“It is the government’s way of lobbying for the canal,” Ms. Aydintasbas said. “Erdogan is adamant about building a channel parallel to the Bosporus, and one of the government’s arguments will likely be that this new strait allows Turkey to have full sovereignty — as opposed to the free passage of Montreux.”

That interpretation is both inaccurate and dangerous, she said. “Inaccurate because as long as Montreux is there, no vessel is obliged to use the new canal. Dangerous because it could aggravate the Russians and the international community.”

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