Illegal Immigration Is Down, Changing the Face of California Farms

To hear more audio stories from publications like The New York Times, download Audm for iPhone or Android.

GONZALES, Calif. — It looks like a century-old picture of farming in California: a few dozen Mexican men on their knees, plucking radishes from the ground, tying them into bundles. But the crews on Sabor Farms radish patch, about a mile south of the Salinas River, represent the cutting edge of change, a revolution in how America pulls food from the land.

For starters, the young men on their knees are working alongside technology unseen even 10 years ago. Crouched behind what looks like a tractor retrofitted with a packing plant, they place bunches of radishes on a conveyor belt within arm’s reach, which carries them through a cold wash and delivers them to be packed into crates and delivered for distribution in a refrigerated truck.

The other change is more subtle, but no less revolutionary. None of the workers are in the United States illegally.

are not coming in the numbers they once did.

There are a variety of reasons: The aging of Mexico’s population slimmed the cohort of potential migrants. Mexico’s relative stability after the financial crises of the 1980s and 1990s reduced the pressures for them to leave, while the collapse of the housing bubble in the United States slashed demand for their work north of the border. Stricter border enforcement by the United States, notably during the Trump administration, has further dented the flow.

the economists Gordon Hanson and Craig McIntosh wrote.

As a consequence, the total population of unauthorized immigrants in the United States peaked in 2007 and has declined slightly since then. California felt it first. From 2010 to 2018, the unauthorized immigrant population in the state declined by some 10 percent, to 2.6 million. And the dwindling flow sharply reduced the supply of young workers to till fields and harvest crops on the cheap.

The state reports that from 2010 to 2020, the average number of workers on California farms declined to 150,000 from 170,000. The number of undocumented immigrant workers declined even faster. The Labor Department’s most recent National Agricultural Workers Survey reports that in 2017 and 2018, unauthorized immigrants accounted for only 36 percent of crop workers hired by California farms. That was down from 66 percent, according to the surveys performed 10 years earlier.

The immigrant work force has also aged. In 2017 and 2018, the average crop worker hired locally on a California farm was 43, according to the survey, eight years older than in the surveys performed from 2007 to 2009. The share of workers under the age of 25 dropped to 7 percent from a quarter.

hire the younger immigrants who kept on coming illegally across the border. (Employers must demand documents proving workers’ eligibility to work, but these are fairly easy to fake.)

That is no longer the case. There are some 35,000 workers on H-2A visas across California, 14 times as many as in 2007. During the harvest they crowd the low-end motels dotting California’s farm towns. A 1,200-bed housing facility exclusive to H-2A workers just opened in Salinas. In King City, some 50 miles south, a former tomato processing shed was retrofitted to house them.

“In the United States we have an aging and settled illegal work force,” said Philip Martin, an expert on farm labor and migration at the University of California, Davis. “The fresh blood are the H-2As.”

Immigrant guest workers are unlikely to fill the labor hole on America’s farms, though. For starters, they are costlier than the largely unauthorized workers they are replacing. The adverse effect wage rate in California this year is $17.51, well above the $15 minimum wage that farmers must pay workers hired locally.

So farmers are also looking elsewhere. “We are living on borrowed time,” said Dave Puglia, president and chief executive of Western Growers, the lobby group for farmers in the West. “I want half the produce harvest mechanized in 10 years. There’s no other solution.”

Produce that is hardy or doesn’t need to look pretty is largely harvested mechanically already, from processed tomatoes and wine grapes to mixed salad greens and tree nuts. Sabor Farms has been using machines to harvest salad mix for decades.

survey by the Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology found that about two-thirds of growers of specialty crops like fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts have invested in automation over the last three years. Still, they expect that only about 20 percent of the lettuce, apple and broccoli harvest — and none of the strawberry harvest — will be automated by 2025.

Some crops are unlikely to survive. Acreage devoted to crops like bell peppers, broccoli and fresh tomatoes is declining. And foreign suppliers are picking up much of the slack. Fresh and frozen fruit and vegetable imports almost doubled over the last five years, to $31 billion in 2021.

Consider asparagus, a particularly labor-intensive crop. Only 4,000 acres of it were harvested across the state in 2020, down from 37,000 two decades earlier. The state minimum wage of $15, added to the new requirement to pay overtime after 40 hours a week, is squeezing it further after growers in the Mexican state of Sinaloa — where workers make some $330 a month — increased the asparagus acreage almost threefold over 15 years, to 47,000 acres in 2020.

H-2A workers won’t help fend off the cheaper Mexican asparagus. They are even more expensive than local workers, about half of whom are immigrants from earlier waves that gained legal status; about a third are undocumented. And capital is not rushing in to automate the crop.

“There are no unicorns there,” said Neill Callis, who manages the asparagus packing shed at the Turlock Fruit Company, which grows some 300 acres of asparagus in the San Joaquin Valley east of Salinas. “You can’t seduce a V.C. with the opportunity to solve a $2-per-carton problem for 50 million cartons,” he said.

While Turlock has automated where it can, introducing a German machine to sort, trim and bunch spears in the packing shed, the harvest is still done by hand — hunched workers walk up the rows stabbing at the spears with an 18-inch-long knife.

These days, Mr. Callis said, Turlock is hanging on to the asparagus crop mainly to ensure its labor supply. Providing jobs during the asparagus harvest from February to May helps the farm hang on to its regular workers — 240 in the field and about 180 in the shed it co-owns with another farm — for the critical summer harvest of 3,500 acres of melons.

Losing its source of cheap illegal immigrant workers will change California. Other employers heavily reliant on cheap labor — like builders, landscapers, restaurants and hotels — will have to adjust.

Paradoxically, the changes raking across California’s fields seem to threaten the undocumented local work force farmers once relied on. Ancelmo Zamudio from Chilapa, in Mexico’s state of Guerrero, and José Luis Hernández from Ejutla in Oaxaca crossed into the United States when they were barely in their teens, over 15 years ago. Now they live in Stockton, working mostly on the vineyards in Lodi and Napa.

They were building a life in the United States. They brought their wives with them; had children; hoped that they might be able to legalize their status somehow, perhaps through another shot at immigration reform like the one of 1986.

Things to them look decidedly cloudier. “We used to prune the leaves on the vine with our hands, but they brought in the robots last year,” Mr. Zamudio complained. “They said it was because there were no people.”

Mr. Hernández grumbles about H-2A workers, who earn more even if they have less experience, and don’t have to pay rent or support a family. He worries about rising rents — pushed higher by new arrivals from the Bay Area. The rule compelling farmers to pay overtime after 40 hours of work per week is costing him money, he complains, because farmers slashed overtime and cut his workweek from six days to five.

He worries about the future. “It scares me that they are coming with H-2As and also with robots,” he said. “That’s going to take us down.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Live Updates: Russian Forces Battle in Ukraine’s East to Feed Putin’s Hunger for a Victory

DONETSK REGION, Ukraine — Fighting raged on Thursday across eastern Ukraine, from the Kharkiv area in the north where Ukrainian forces regained ground, to Mariupol in the south, where Russians breached the last Ukrainian redoubt in a steel plant, as Moscow’s forces battled to present President Vladimir V. Putin with something he can call victory.

Some of the most ferocious combat took place between those two poles, in or near the north of the Donetsk region, where the earth heaved with constant artillery bombardment. Russian forces approached from the east, north and south, vainly trying to trap and destroy Ukrainian units in and around the cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, and the towns of Lyman and Barvinkove.

At a busy medical field hospital in that cauldron, where the smoke of battle dulled the spring sunlight, a Ukrainian soldier with a concussion lay curled into a fetal position, while another, his face half torn away, lay dead in a black body bag. In Kramatorsk, now largely abandoned, three Russian airstrikes gutted a large apartment complex and a store selling bras and underwear, injuring 26 people.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

The Kremlin is determined to reach some kind of milestone, Western officials and analysts say, by May 9, the day Russia commemorates the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany with a military parade full of bombast and martial spirit that Mr. Putin has turned into something close to a religious holiday. After more than two months of his vaunted military’s halting performance and heavy losses in Ukraine, they say, Russia’s autocratic leader needs something to show for the war’s massive cost in lives and treasure.

But it is difficult to evaluate how the actual fighting is going. The Russian advance appears to have been sluggish, with forces taking a few villages each day in one location, while losing just as many in another. Ukrainian forces are mounting a highly mobile defense, maneuvering in small units around the larger masses of Russian forces, ensuring that lines remain fluid and unpredictable.

“The front is swinging this way and that,” said a tattooed 24-year-old army paramedic named Zhenya who was resting at the field hospital. “At first they weren’t hitting nearby here, now shells are coming in over the fence.”

In Mariupol, perhaps the city most devastated by the Russian invasion that began on Feb. 24, furious close-quarters combat shook the sprawling Azovstal steel plant, as Russian forces finally began to penetrate the complex where the last Ukrainians have held out for two months in a warren of underground bunkers. The number of Ukrainian fighters remaining is unclear, but Ukrainian officials said that even after a recent trickle of evacuations, about 200 civilians are still trapped there.

“Heavy, bloody battles are raging,” Lt. Col. Denys Prokopenko, a Ukrainian commander at Azovstal, said in a video posted Wednesday night. On Thursday, Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the city government, said that with nonstop shelling and fighting, the plant had been “turned into hell.”

Credit…Associated Press

In its latest assessment, the Institute for the Study of War, a research organization in Washington, said that Moscow wanted “to claim complete control of Mariupol by May 9, with Russian propagandists recently arriving in the city to set conditions for further claims of a Russian victory.”

With Russian efforts now concentrated farther south, Ukrainian forces have been pushing the Russians back in the Kharkiv area, recapturing towns and villages, and in some cases forcing Russian units beyond artillery range of the battered city.

The Kremlin had a muted response on Thursday to The New York Times’s report that the United States had supplied intelligence to Ukrainian forces that had helped them locate and kill Russian generals. Russia was already “well aware” that NATO and its member countries were sharing intelligence with Ukraine, said Dmitri S. Peskov, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, who added that Western aid only lengthens the war and “cannot prevent the fulfillment” of Russia’s goals.

The Pentagon spokesman, John F. Kirby, declined to comment directly, but said the United States did not specifically provide intelligence on the locations of Russian officers, “or participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian military.”

After Russia’s initial drive in the north failed to take Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, its forces withdrew and began to focus on capturing territory in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, but their progress has been slow and costly.

In a striking moment of candor, Mr. Putin’s closest foreign ally, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the ruler of neighboring Belarus, called the fighting a war — a term forbidden in Russia — and acknowledged that it was not going well for Russia. “I feel like this operation has dragged on,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

In the north of Donetsk, the dead and wounded flowed into the field hospital at a regular clip as Russian artillery pounded the rolling, wooded hills where Ukrainian troops were mounting their defense.

On a visit on Thursday, ordnance whizzed, thumped and boomed in all directions. Military paramedics brought wounded soldiers to the field hospital to stabilize them before sending them by ambulance to a military hospital farther from the front.

Ukrainian military officials asked that the precise location of the field hospital, about a 25-minute drive from Kramatorsk, be withheld to prevent the Russians from targeting it. Even so, Russian artillery shells landed nearby.

The toll on Ukrainian forces could be measured by the columns of ambulances racing away from the front lines, even as trucks and armored vehicles carrying troops and equipment headed in the opposite direction.

“We’re not making any kind of prognoses,” said Valeria Skorik, a press officer for the 81st brigade, among the units fighting in the northern part of the Donetsk region. “I’ve been asked by journalists about what kind of event we might have on May 9, but I’ve just decided not to answer.”

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Western officials and analysts say that Mr. Putin could be planning to make a dramatic announcement on Victory Day, when he traditionally reviews the parade from an elevated platform in Red Square and delivers a speech surrounded by aged World War II veterans. He often has other heads of government with him, too, but the war has left Russia largely isolated, and the Kremlin says no foreign leaders were invited this year.

Speculation has centered on a possible claim of victory by Mr. Putin or, more ominously, an acknowledgment that Russia is at war and the announcement of a mass mobilization with expanded conscription, a move that would be unpopular.

Ukrainian forces in and around northern Donetsk appear to be holding the line for now, offering poor prospects for a Russian achievement there, despite Russia’s incessant hammering at Ukrainian military positions and towns.

The airstrike on Kramatorsk left a large crater and generated a shock wave so powerful that it blew out the interior walls of a row of apartments about 75 feet away and ripped steel doors off hinges. Touring the damage, Pavel Kirilenko, chief of the Donetsk region’s military administration, said that remarkably, no one had been killed.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

“This is yet more confirmation that everyone needs to leave the city,” Mr. Kirilenko said. “The enemy is exclusively targeting elements of civilian infrastructure in order to spread panic — and not only spread panic, but to destroy the civilian population.”

In anticipation of a potential assault, officials have urged anyone who is able to leave the city as soon as possible. Many have done so: The streets of Kramatorsk, an industrial and administrative center with a prewar population of about 150,000, are largely empty. Most businesses are shuttered. Each day, buses leave the city center, evacuating residents to points west.

But not everyone has heeded the calls to leave. Inside the destroyed apartment building on Thursday was a woman in a bathrobe, cradling a small dog. She gave only her first name, Viktoria.

The explosion, at about 4:30 a.m., blew her balcony and the entire front wall of her apartment onto her and her husband as they slept. Her husband suffered a large head wound; drops of blood stained the mattress and floor. Her 24-year-old daughter was left with a broad cluster of bloody cuts from flying glass.

She said local officials had urged her to shelter in a school, at least for the night. But she said she just wanted to seal the front of her apartment in plastic to keep out the elements, and stay there for the night.

“There is shelling everywhere,” she said. “So where are we supposed to go?”

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

For the last defenders of Mariupol, long cut off from outside aid with their numbers and supplies dwindling, the situation was even more dire.

Russian forces managed to find their way into the four-square-mile Azovstal complex where they have been sheltering with the help of a former worker familiar with its layout, according to Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Mr. Gerashchenko, on social media and speaking to reporters, said that an electrician who had worked at the steel plant showed the Russians tunnels to enter the complex.

He said the Russian desire to declare victory on May 9 explained why Russian state television hosts, who are some of Mr. Putin’s leading cheerleaders — including Vladimir Solovyov, under U.S. and European sanctions for promoting Kremlin disinformation — have traveled to Mariupol.

Communications from Azovstal briefly went dark on Wednesday, but on Thursday morning, fighters in the bunkers were again sending messages via social media platforms, promising not to surrender.

“It has been three days since Russian troops broke into the territory of Azovstal,” said Capt. Svyatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of the Azov regiment at the plant. “Heavy fighting continues to take a bloody toll.”

Reporting was contributed by Richard Pérez-Peña from New York, Cora Engelbrecht and Marc Santora from Krakow, Poland, and Anton Troianovski from Istanbul.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

They Fell Deeply in Love in Bucha. One Russian Bullet Ended It All.

She grabbed his hands, crying, “Oleh, Oleh.”

“The Russians were sitting on the curb, drinking water from plastic bottles, just watching me,” she said. “They didn’t say anything, they didn’t show any emotion. They were like an audience at the theater.”

That’s when she let out a “wild cry, like something I have never heard,” her father said.

“Shoot me!” she screamed. “Shoot me and the cat!”

She was looking at the soldiers, staring at their boots, but the commander eventually lowered his gun and said, “I do not kill women.”

He gave Iryna and her father three minutes to leave.

Bucha’s population is normally around 40,000, but all but 3,000 to 4,000 residents had fled before the Russian occupation, city officials said. Around 400 civilians are thought to have been killed, meaning about one of 10 people who were here.

Some were shot execution style with hands tied behind their backs. Others were horribly beaten. Many were like Oleh: no military experience, unarmed and posing no obvious threat.

So many bodies were left on Bucha’s streets that city officials said they were worried about a plague. But they didn’t have enough workers to collect the dead. So they drafted volunteers. One of them was Vladyslav Minchenko, a tattoo artist.

“The most blood I had ever seen was in a piercing,” he said wryly.

But soon he was picking up dead people and body parts, zipping them into black bags and taking them to a communal grave outside Bucha’s main church. He retrieved Oleh’s body, with its shattered head, he said, which was verified by video evidence.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atlantic Council analysis last week.

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

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

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

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

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

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Ukraine Live Updates: Russian Offensive in East Has Started, Ukraine Says

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine said Monday that Russian forces had launched a ground assault along a nearly 300-mile front in the east after hitting the country with one of the most intense missile barrages in weeks, including the first lethal strike on Lviv, the western city that has been a refuge for tens of thousands of fleeing civilians.

The missile strikes, which killed at least seven people in Lviv alone, punctured any illusions that the picturesque city of cobbled streets and graceful squares near Poland’s border was still a sanctuary from the horrors Russia has inflicted elsewhere in Ukraine over the past two months.

Credit…Ronaldo Schemidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Lviv attack followed 300 missile and artillery strikes that Russia claimed to have carried out, mainly in the east, in what appeared to be a campaign to terrorize the population and intimidate Ukraine’s military before the new ground offensive had begun in the part of the country known as the Donbas.

The secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, said on national television that the Russian ground assault, which had been anticipated for weeks, stretched along nearly the entire front line, from the northern Kharkiv region south to the besieged port of Mariupol.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said, “A very significant part of the Russian army is now concentrated for that offensive,” adding, “No matter how many servicemen get thrown there, we will fight, we will defend ourselves.”

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

The overnight missile barrage targeted fuel depots, warehouses, and other infrastructure, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. Russian forces also appeared to be finally seizing the entire port of Mariupol, where outnumbered Ukrainian fighters defied demands to lay down their weapons at a vast steel plant that has become a kind of industrial Alamo.

Mariupol, a once-vibrant city in southeast Ukraine, is the last obstacle to Russia’s drive to secure a “land bridge” to Crimea, the southern Ukrainian peninsula seized by Russian forces eight years ago.

The intensified attacks came amid signs that international sanctions were beginning to choke Russia’s economy — and in the process, opening fissures between the country’s leaders. President Vladimir V. Putin insisted that “the strategy of an economic blitzkrieg has failed.” But Moscow’s mayor warned that 200,000 people risked losing their jobs in the capital alone, while the head of the central bank warned that the effect of Russia’s isolation was just starting to be felt.

While Ukraine’s east remained the focus of Russia’s recalibrated military ambitions, the strike on Lviv was a lethal reminder that no Ukrainian city, even one scarcely 50 miles from the Polish border, lies outside the range of Moscow’s rockets.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Gray smoke billowed from what remained of the red roof of a long concrete garage on the city’s western outskirts, a sign outside advertising “carwash” and “tire replacement.” A hole in the roof indicated that the building had taken a direct hit from a missile. Air raid sirens wailed continuously as firefighters struggled to extinguish the flames and ambulances ferried away the wounded.

While the garage burned, a train rumbled by toward Lviv’s nearby railway station, carrying passengers fleeing the fighting in the eastern city of Dnipro. It stopped briefly and the train’s conductors and other workers tried to reassure anxious passengers as they started hearing about the airstrikes by phone.

“It was panic,” said Anna Khrystiuk, a volunteer who was handing out information to displaced people, several of whom ran to a shelter in the station when the missiles hit. “Many people were from Kharkiv and other places and they were so afraid of rockets already. They thought that it was safe to stay here.”

In Kharkiv, a northeastern city shelled relentlessly since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, a fresh artillery strike killed at least one person in a residential area. The victim was standing a few yards from an apartment building that was struck. It came after a concerted missile barrage on Sunday killed at least five people in the city’s center.

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

“It was the first time this neighborhood was hit,” said Lubov Ustymenko, 72, who wore a winter coat and stood a few yards from a discarded umbrella and a puddle filled with a mix of blood and the morning’s light rain. “Our life is decided in one second — you go outside, and then you’re gone.”

Russia’s ground onslaught — a push to seize more of the Donbas — got underway after weeks of setbacks, including Russia’s retreat from areas surrounding the capital, Kyiv, and the sinking of a major Russian warship in the Black Sea.

Having failed in the early weeks of the war to destroy the Ukrainian military’s network of fuel and ammunition depots — perhaps under the erroneous assumption that Ukrainian forces would surrender wholesale — Russia has intensified its attacks against those facilities, as well as against transportation infrastructure.

But Russia’s puzzling failure to do so earlier has left its forces with costly unfinished business, and given Ukrainian troops an unexpected advantage. Pavel Luzin, a Russian military analyst, said that while Russia has hit railway facilities, so far it has avoided aiming missiles at bridges over big rivers.

“If Russia plans to expand its presence on Ukraine’s territory — and the end goal since 2014 has been the destruction of Ukrainian statehood as such — it would need the railway too,” Mr. Luzin said.

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Besides targeting Kharkiv, Russian forces have unleashed further destruction on eastern cities like Mykolaiv, which lies in Russia’s pathway to the Black Sea port of Odesa. Those attacks have tied up Ukrainian forces and prevented them from joining the fight farther east, while sowing terror among civilians after Russia failed to conquer these cities early in the war.

In Mariupol, devastated by weeks of siege warfare, a band of Ukrainian fighters remained ensconced in the Azovstal steel plant after having rejected Russian demands to surrender. Russia intensified its bombing of the factory, and it was unclear and how long the Ukrainians could endure in the plant’s labyrinthine underground tunnels. Officials on both sides said Russia could control the city soon.

Even with much of Mariupol now a wasteland, the city’s capture would represent a key strategic prize for Russia and would free up forces for its Donbas offensive.

Credit…Pavel Klimov/Reuters

Still, British defense intelligence officials said the grinding battle for the city has become a source of anxiety for Russian commanders.

“Concerted Ukrainian resistance has severely tested Russian forces and diverted men and matériel, slowing Russia’s advance elsewhere,” said Mick Smeath, a British defense attaché. He likened Russia’s treatment of Mariupol to its brutal tactics in Chechnya in 1999 and Syria in 2016.

After two months of fighting, pro-war commentators in Russia are pushing the army for tangible military victories that would cover up some of the embarrassments Moscow has suffered, including the sinking of the Moskva, the flagship of the Kremlin’s Black Sea fleet, and the retreat from around Kyiv. So far, Russia has been able to claim only the capture of Kherson, a regional capital, as a significant battlefield achievement.

Credit…Maxar Technologies

On Russia’s state-run television, commentators have enthusiastically promoted the Donbas offensive as a decisive battle that could be a turning point in the war. Many point toward May 9, the commemoration of Russia’s 1945 victory over Nazi Germany, as the date when Mr. Putin could claim a semblance of victory in Ukraine.

“The big battle for the Donbas has already started,” said Yuri Podolyaka, a pro-Russia analyst who publishes military reports on his popular channel on Telegram. “The activity of the Russian artillery and air forces has intensified again.”

On Monday, the head of the regional administration in Luhansk, which is part of the Donbas, said that Russian forces had gained control of the town of Kreminna, adding to territory in the region held by Moscow.

Still, those scattered Russian advances carry less psychological punch than lethal strikes on Lviv, a city that has become a critical gateway to safety for the millions of Ukrainians who have fled westward, trying to escape the worst of the fighting. In late February, it was quickly repurposed from a charming tourist destination into a base of operations for a vast relief effort, serving as a channel for humanitarian supplies, aid workers, foreign fighters making their way to frontline cities, and many foreign journalists.

Hundreds of thousands of displaced people have passed through the city’s train and bus stations. For many others, it is a new — if fleeting — home. Lviv, which had about 720,000 residents before the war began, has since welcomed at least 350,000 people displaced from other parts of the country.

Until Monday, the only direct targets that had been hit in Lviv were a fuel storage site and tank facility in the city’s northeast, hit by several missile strikes about three weeks earlier. Before that, a pair of attacks targeted an airport facility and a military base near Lviv, killing at least 35 people.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

In Monday’s strike, three missiles hit empty military warehouses while a fourth hit the garage, according to the head of Lviv’s military administration, Maksym Koztyskyy. He did not say whether all the casualties were from the strike on the garage. Besides the seven killed, he said 11 people were injured — a toll that could rise as rescue workers cleared rubble from the site. The missiles, Mr. Koztyskyy said, had been launched by warplanes from the direction of the Caspian Sea.

Orest Maznin, a police officer, said he had been driving to work past the garage when the missiles struck, and he narrowly escaped shrapnel. The windshield of his car had a large hole from the impact of a piece of metal.

“It happened too quickly for me to be afraid,” Mr. Maznin said.

Jane Arraf reported from Lviv, Ukraine, Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia, and Mark Landler from London. Reporting was contributed by Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kharkiv, Ukraine, Michael Schwirtz from Kyiv, and Anton Troianovski and Neil MacFarquhar from Istanbul.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Live Ukraine Updates: Biden Moves to Suspend Normal Trade With Russia

As Russian troops massed near the border with Ukraine last month, the American ambassador to Israel received an appeal on behalf of Roman Abramovich, the most visible of the billionaires linked to President Vladimir V. Putin.

Leaders of cultural, educational and medical institutions, along with a chief rabbi, had sent a letter urging the United States not to impose sanctions on the Russian, a major donor, saying it would hurt Israel and the Jewish world. Days later, Mr. Abramovich and Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial, announced a partnership that a spokesman for the organization said included a pledge of at least $10 million.

The request to the diplomat reflects the extraordinary effort Mr. Abramovich, 55, has made over the last two decades to parlay his Russian fortune into elite standing in the West — buying London’s Chelsea soccer team, acquiring luxury homes in New York, London, Tel Aviv, St. Barts and Aspen, collecting modern masterworks and contributing to arts institutions around the world. With two superyachts, multiple Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin sports cars, and a private 787 Boeing Dreamliner jet, Mr. Abramovich wanted everyone to know that he had arrived.

But now the backlash against the Russian invasion of Ukraine is tarnishing the status that Mr. Abramovich and other oligarchs have spent so much to reach. On Thursday, British authorities added him to an ever-expanding list of Russians under sanctions for their close ties to Mr. Putin.

Mr. Abramovich, whose fortune is estimated at more than $13 billion, was barred from entering Britain or doing any business there — disrupting his plans to sell his soccer team and prohibiting it from selling tickets to matches, even blocking him from paying to keep the electricity on in his West London mansion.

Oligarchs like Mr. Abramovich “have used their ill-gotten gains to try to launder their reputations in the West,” said Thomas Graham, a Russia scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations. “But the message of these sanctions is, that is not going to protect you.”

On Friday, Canada announced sanctions of its own against Mr. Abramovich. The United States has not imposed sanctions on the billionaire — so far, at least. In a statement explaining its actions, the British government said that the businessman had profited from transactions with the Russian government and special tax breaks. The statement also suggested that a steel company Mr. Abramovich controlled could contribute to the war against Ukraine, “potentially” supplying steel for Russian tanks. The business, Evraz, said in a statement that it had not done so. A representative for Mr. Abramovich did not respond to a request for comment.

“The blood of the Ukrainian people is on their hands,” Liz Truss, the British foreign secretary, said of the oligarchs under sanctions. “They should hang their heads in shame.”

Credit…Victor Vasenin/Kommersant/Sipa USA, via Associated Press

Michael McFaul, an American ambassador to Moscow during the Obama administration, recalled that while Mr. Putin’s government claimed to despise the United States and its allies, his foreign ministry was constantly trying to help the oligarchs around him, including Mr. Abramovich, obtain visas so that they could ingratiate themselves with the Western elite.

“On our side, we have been playing right along,” he said, overlooking the oligarchs’ ties to Mr. Putin and welcoming them and their money.

Orphaned as a child in a town on the Volga River in northern Russia, Mr. Abramovich dropped out of college and emerged from the Red Army in the late 1980s just as the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was opening new opportunities for private enterprise. Mr. Abramovich plunged into trading anything he could, including dolls, chocolates, cigarettes, rubber ducks and car tires.

His big break came in the mid-1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when he and a partner persuaded the Russian government to sell them the state-run oil company Sibneft for about $200 million. In 2005, he sold his stake back to the government for $11.9 billion. Other deals followed, including the formation of a mammoth aluminum company. Many involved the Russian state, and some ended in bitter litigation.

After Mr. Putin was inaugurated president in 2000, he quickly moved to dominate the billionaire businessmen who had profited from privatization, sending a message by jailing the richest and most powerful oligarch. Mr. Abramovich is one of the few early elite who remain in his circle.

As Mr. Putin was consolidating power, Mr. Abramovich served as governor of a desolate northeastern province from 2001 until 2008.

Credit…Reuters

“I started business early, so maybe that’s why I’m bored with it,” he told The Wall Street Journal in 2001 about his interest in the region, saying he wanted to lead a “revolution toward civilized life.”

But like other oligarchs wary of the new president’s power to make or break them, Mr. Abramovich also began looking for footholds outside Russia.

Mr. Putin’s display of force “increased the incentive for the oligarchs to have acceptance in the West,” said Stephen Sestanovich, a professor of international relations at Columbia University and former ambassador at large to the former Soviet Union. “Who knows when you might fall out with Putin and need an alternative place to land?”

In spring 2003, Mr. Abramovich was in Manchester, England, to watch the legendary Brazilian forward Ronaldo score a game-winning hat trick for Real Madrid. The Russian had never shown much interest in soccer before, but that night he was smitten.

He soon began shopping for a team — looking in Spain and Italy before settling on England and finally on Chelsea. His $180 million takeover — completed in quick, stealthy talks with the British financier Keith Harris over a single weekend — transformed the club. In his first summer, he went on the largest single spending spree for players that English soccer had ever seen.

Within two years of his arrival, Chelsea was the English champion for the first time in a half-century, and the team has since won four more championships. A Russian flag has hung outside the stadium for years, emblazoned with the words “The Roman Empire,” alongside a stylized image of its owner’s face. (Britain on Friday said it would consider proposals to buy the soccer team under special conditions.)

Credit…Odd Andersen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

At a news conference when Russia won the right to host the 2018 soccer World Cup, Mr. Putin commended Mr. Abramovich for the development of Russian soccer, too, and suggested he might play a role in “a public-private partnership” to prepare for the tournament. “He has a lot of money in stocks,” Mr. Putin noted, smiling.

While looking after his London soccer team, Mr. Abramovich met and married his third wife, Dasha Zhukova, the daughter of a Russian oil magnate, who had grown up partly in Los Angeles; studied Russian literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara; and tried fashion design in London.

In 2011, he bought an elegant 15-bedroom mansion near Kensington Palace for a reported price over $140 million, which was expanded a few years later to include a huge underground swimming pool.

Then he turned heads in Manhattan in 2014, paying $78 million for three adjacent townhouses on East 75th Street, in a landmark district of the Upper East Side. He proposed combining the three homes of different styles into a single mega-mansion, with an elevator, a new glass-and-bronze rear facade and a pool in the lower level. The Historic Districts Council, an advocacy group, called the plan “a whole new level of egregious consumption.” But he ultimately managed to win city approval, in part by purchasing a fourth adjacent townhouse for nearly $29 million and revising his alteration plans.

Credit…Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

Ms. Zhukova had developed a growing interest in art, and in 2008 she and Mr. Abramovich founded Garage, a seminal contemporary art center in Moscow. (Amy Winehouse performed at the opening, and early shows included works by Cindy Sherman and Jeff Koons.) He joined the board of the Bolshoi Theater. And Mr. Abramovich started to earn a reputation as one of the biggest spenders in the art world, known for buying pieces by blue-chip artists. He spent nearly $120 million at auctions in the same week, acquiring a Francis Bacon triptych and Lucian Freud’s “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping.”

It struck one figure in the New York art world as “a trophy approach to collecting.”“It’s like when you go to a hunter’s house,” said Todd Levin, an art adviser. “There’s the elephant on the wall, there’s the rhino, there’s the tiger and the lion.”

Although he rarely gave interviews, Mr. Abramovich was often photographed alongside the rich and famous at fashionable spots around the world, and his New Year’s Eve parties at his estate on the French island of St. Barts — reportedly a $90 million property covering 70 acres — have made tabloid headlines. One year, Paul McCartney joined the Killers to sing the Beatles classic “Helter Skelter.” Entertainment in other years included the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Prince.

Mr. Abramovich and Ms. Zhukova divorced by 2019, and he transferred to her the New York townhouses, plus two nearby apartments, for $92 million, according to public records. She lives in the city with their two children — he has seven in all. She serves as a board member of the Metropolitan Museum, one of the premier positions in New York philanthropy, and is a fixture in the city’s art and fashion scenes. Her network of friends includes Ivanka Trump, the daughter of former President Donald J. Trump; Jared Kushner, the former president’s son-in-law and adviser; Josh Kushner, Jared’s brother and an investor; and Josh’s wife, the model Karlie Kloss.

Credit…Team Boyko/Getty Images

On Thursday, Ms. Zhukova distanced herself from Mr. Abramovich. “Dasha has moved on with her life and is happily remarried,” a spokesman for Ms. Zhukova said in a statement. She issued a second, more personal statement denouncing the Russian invasion as “brutal,” “horrific” and “shameful.”

“As someone born in Russia, I unequivocally condemn these acts of war, and I stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people,” Ms. Zhukova said.

Mr. Abramovich has struggled to escape the stigma of association with Mr. Putin. In 2018, after Russian spies fatally poisoned two people in Britain, the British authorities delayed renewing his business visa, reportedly seeking additional disclosures from him about his dealings.

He turned instead to Israel, where his status as a Jew allowed him citizenship. He now owns mansions in Tel Aviv and the seaside city of Herzliya, and Haaretz ranks him among the richest people in the country.

There, too, Mr. Abramovich’s big spending has set him apart. He donated $30 million to Tel Aviv University in 2015, and has since given tens of millions of dollars to the Sheba Medical Center near the city, according to a hospital official.

Credit…Orel Cohen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

He has also donated more than $100 million to an Israeli settler organization. An investigation last year by the BBC News Arabic service found that companies controlled by Mr. Abramovich had given that money to the City of David Foundation, which buys up Palestinian property and moves Jews in as part of an effort to bolster Israel’s claim to sovereignty.

Last November, President Isaac Herzog of Israel flew to London for the opening of a Holocaust exhibition Mr. Abramovich had funded at the Imperial War Museums. He called the Russian “a shining example of how sports and teams can be a force of good,” citing the “Just Say No to Antisemitism” banners that his Chelsea soccer team was hanging at its games.

When reports emerged of the recent appeal to the United States not to subject Mr. Abramovich to sanctions, Dani Dayan, the chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and a former diplomat, initially defended the letter.

“I don’t see any reason to reject a gift by a Jew, an Israeli citizen, a person that for a decade is committed to very worthy causes,” he said. He was “not a judge” and was not aware of any wrongdoing by Mr. Abramovich, Mr. Dayan added.

But after Britain imposed sanctions against Mr. Abramovich, the Israeli Holocaust memorial said it was suspending its relationship with him. A spokesman declined to say whether the memorial had received any of the multimillion-dollar pledge. “In light of recent developments,” the organization said in a short statement, “Yad Vashem has decided to suspend the strategic partnership with Mr. Roman Abramovich.”

Reporting was contributed by Graham Bowley, Stephen Castle, Stefanos Chen, Michael Forsythe, Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, Robin Pogrebin and Rebecca R. Ruiz.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Ukraine Live Updates: Russian Forces Push Ahead After Talks Failed to Make Progress

Russia’s international disinformation campaign seemed to flounder in the early days of the invasion, as narratives about Ukrainian bravery dominated the internet. But in Russia, the country’s propaganda machine was busy churning out a deluge of misinformation aimed at its own citizens.

The narrative disseminated online through state-run and unofficial channels has helped create an alternate reality where the invasion is justified and Ukrainians are to blame for violence. To control the narrative at home, Russia also shut down access to several websites and threatened the news media with long prison sentences for criticizing the war. There’s some evidence that the effort has mollified at least some Russians.

Here is what the war looks like to Russians, based on a review of state news articles, channels on the popular chat app Telegram, and input from several disinformation watchdogs who are monitoring Russia’s propaganda machine.

After Russian shellings killed Ukrainian civilians, Russia blamed ‘neo-Nazis.’

A headline from the Russian state news website Tass.
Translated into English. TapHover for the original.

Some of the most disturbing images from the war have come from Mariupol, a port city in the southeastern coast. Shelling battered the region, killing several civilians who were trying to flee the area, during what was supposed to be a cease-fire.

But Russians got a different explanation online: Ukrainians had fired on Russian forces during the cease-fire, and neo-Nazis were “hiding behind civilians as a human shield,” according to the Russian state news website Tass.

Neo-Nazis have been a recurring character in Russian propaganda campaigns for years, used to falsely justify military action against Ukraine in what Russian officials have called “denazification.” Those claims have only continued during the conflict. To explain away attacks on other Ukrainian apartment buildings, the same article by Tass claimed that neo-Nazis had placed “heavy weapons in apartment buildings, while some residents are forcibly kept in their homes,” providing no evidence.

Russian social media accounts have used a mix of fake and unconfirmed photos showing Ukrainian soldiers holding Nazi flags or photos of Hitler. An analysis by the Center for Information Resilience, a nonprofit focused on identifying disinformation, showed that the number of tweets connecting Ukrainians to Nazis soared after the invasion began.

“Propaganda works when it coincides with your existing assumptions,” said Pierre Vaux, a senior investigator at the Center for Information Resilience. “The stuff that chimes into the Nazi stuff is really effective.”

After a nuclear facility caught fire, Russians claimed they were protecting it.

A headline from the Russian state news website Tass.
Translated into English. TapHover for the original.

After Russia attacked an area near the nuclear complex in Zaporizhzhia, leading to a fire, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine called it “nuclear terrorism.”

But according to a Kremlin statement reported in Tass, the military seized the facility to prevent Ukrainians and neo-Nazis from “organizing provocations fraught with catastrophic consequences.” Even though Ukrainians heavily fortified the region against an attack, Russian officials claimed they already had control of the compound before Ukrainians opened fire. They added that Ukrainians set fire to an adjacent building before fleeing, providing no evidence. Western experts said controlling the Zaporizhzhia complex would allow Russia to trigger blackouts or shut down the entire power grid.

The image of Russia as a world protector surfaced again after the country’s officials claimed they discovered evidence that Ukraine was working on a nuclear bomb. According to Russian officials, plans for the bomb were uncovered at the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

“It doesn’t even make sense, because if you’re going to develop a nuclear weapon, you don’t do your secret development in a nuclear power plant,” Mr. Vaux said. “But that kind of thing is just being beamed out on Russian state TV.”

After Russia shelled a residential neighborhood, Russians claimed Ukrainians did it.

An attack on Kharkiv, a northeast Ukraine city bordering Russia, provided additional evidence that Russia had indiscriminately bombed residential neighborhoods and killed civilians, according to the Atlantic Council, an American research group. The International Criminal Court opened an investigation into war crimes after the assault.

In one attack that included heavy shelling, 34 civilians were killed and 285 were injured, according to the Ukrainian State Emergency Service.

A post from the Telegram channel for the Russian news site Readovka.
Translated into English. TapHover for the original.

But Russians listening to state media or browsing channels on Telegram heard another story: The missiles, those sources claimed, came from Ukrainian territory.

On a Telegram channel for the Russian news site Readovka, one post described how “Ukrainian missiles” had “arrived from the northwest” — an area controlled by the Ukrainian military.

Russia’s defense department said that it never attacked cities, instead targeting “military infrastructure” with “high-precision weapons,” according to an article in the state-owned news agency RIA Novosti.

After attacks bloodied civilians, Russians called injured Ukrainians crisis actors.

A woman who survived a blast at her apartment building became the focus of disinformation efforts after her bloodied and bandaged photograph spread widely through newspapers and Western media.

The woman was a resident of an apartment complex in Chuhuiv, near Kharkiv. The photojournalist Alex Lourie captured her portrait after the attack, and the image was soon featured on the front pages of newspapers around the world.

A post from the Telegram channel War on Fakes.
Translated into English. TapHover for the original.

But Russian social media channels falsely described her as a member of Ukraine’s psychological operations unit, according to an analysis by the Ukrainian fact-checking website StopFake.

A post by “War on Fakes,” a pro-Russian website and Telegram channel that appeared at the start of the invasion, suggested that the blood could be grape juice and that the woman could be “part of the territorial defense.” As evidence, the post included a shot of another woman bearing some resemblance. That image came from a New York Times photograph, which was taken in Kyiv — a seven-hour drive west of Chuhuiv.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

How Western Firms Quietly Enabled Russian Oligarchs

Behind a set of imposing metal doors in an easy-to-miss office building in a New York City suburb, a small team manages billions of dollars for a Russian oligarch.

For years, a group of wealthy Russians have used Concord Management, a financial-advisory company in Tarrytown, N.Y., to secretly invest money in large U.S. hedge funds and private equity firms, according to people familiar with the matter.

A web of offshore shell companies makes it hard to know for sure whose money Concord manages. But several of the people said the bulk of the funds belonged to Roman Abramovich, a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Concord is part of a constellation of American and European advisers — including some of the world’s largest law firms — that have long helped Russian oligarchs navigate the Western financial, legal, political and media landscapes.

both said they were leaving Russia. A spokeswoman for another large firm, Debevoise & Plimpton, said it was terminating several client relationships and would not take any new clients in Moscow. Ashurst, a large London-based law firm, said it would not “act for any new or existing Russian clients, whether or not they are subject to sanctions.”

The accounting giants PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and EY — which have provided extensive services to oligarchs and their networks of offshore shell companies — also said they were leaving Russia or severing ties with their local affiliates.

wrote a letter to the White House arguing that Russia’s Sovcombank shouldn’t face sanctions, citing the bank’s commitment to gender equity, environmental and social responsibility.

Sovcombank had agreed to pay the lobbyist’s firm, Mercury Public Affairs, $90,000 a month for its work.

The Biden administration recently imposed sanctions on Sovcombank. Within hours of the announcement, Mercury filed paperwork with the Justice Department indicating that it was terminating its contract with Sovcombank.

As recently as mid-February, the British law firm Schillings represented the Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, a longtime ally of Mr. Putin.

Two weeks later, the European Union and the U.S. Treasury placed sanctions on Mr. Usmanov. Nigel Higgins, a spokesman for Schillings, said the firm is “not acting for any sanctioned individuals or entities.”

say on its website that it represents “some of Russia’s largest companies,” including Gazprom and VTB. The firm said it was “reviewing and adjusting our Russia-related operations and client work” to comply with sanctions.

In Washington, Erich Ferrari, a leading sanctions lawyer, is suing the Treasury on behalf of Mr. Deripaska, who is seeking to overturn sanctions imposed on him in 2018 that he claims have cost him billions of dollars and made him “radioactive” in international business circles.

And the lobbyist Robert Stryk said he had recently had conversations about representing several Russian oligarchs and companies currently under sanctions. He previously represented clients targeted by sanctions, including the administrations of President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela and former President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mr. Stryk said he would consider taking the work if the Treasury Department provided him with the necessary licenses, and if the prospective clients opposed Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

online profiles of current and former Concord employees.

Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers who have interacted with Concord and its founder, Michael Matlin, said it oversaw between $4 billion and $8 billion.

It isn’t clear how much of that belongs to Mr. Abramovich, whose fortune is estimated at $13 billion.

Mr. Abramovich has not been placed under sanctions. His spokeswoman, Rola Brentlin, declined to comment on Concord.

Over the years, Concord has steered its clients’ money into marquee financial institutions: the global money manager BlackRock, the private equity firm Carlyle Group and a fund run by John Paulson, who famously anticipated the collapse of the U.S. housing market. Concord also invested with Bernard Madoff, who died in prison after being convicted of a vast Ponzi scheme.

panel focused on European security, requested that the U.S. government impose sanctions on Mr. Abramovich and seize the assets at Concord, “as this blood money presents a flight risk.”

The work performed by law, lobbying and public relations firms often plays out in public or is disclosed in legal or foreign agent filings, but that is rarely the case in the financial arena.

While Russian oligarchs make tabloid headlines for shelling out for extravagant superyachts and palatial homes, their bigger investments often occur out of public view, thanks to a largely invisible network of financial advisory firms like Concord.

Hedge fund managers and their advisers said they were starting to examine their investor lists to see if any clients were under sanctions. If so, their money needs to be segregated and disclosed to the Treasury Department.

Some hedge funds are also considering returning money to oligarchs who aren’t under sanctions, fearful that Russians might soon be targeted by U.S. and European authorities.

Paradise Papers project, involved the files of the Appleby law firm in Bermuda. At least four clients owned private jets through shell companies managed by Appleby.

When sanctions were imposed on companies and individuals linked to Mr. Putin in 2014, Appleby jettisoned clients it believed were affected.

The Russians found other Western firms, including Credit Suisse, to help fill the void.

Ben Freeman, who tracks foreign influence for the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, said Russians were likely to find new firms this time, too.

“There is that initial backlash, where these clients are too toxic,” Mr. Freeman said. “But when these lucrative contracts are out there, it gets to be too much for some people, and they can turn a blind eye to any atrocity.”

David Segal contributed reporting. Susan Beachy contributed research.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Ukraine Live Updates: Biden Sees ‘Very High’ Threat of Russian Invasion, While Kremlin Insists Troops Are Pulling Back

ImageA Ukrainian military tank exercise in Donetsk Oblast is abruptly canceled as soldiers carrying arms and equipment prepare to move to an undisclosed location.
Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine — The United States and Russia continued to clash over the fate of Ukraine, with President Biden warning Thursday that the threat of a Russian attack remained “very high,” even as the Kremlin insisted that it was withdrawing troops from border areas and said in writing it was not planning an invasion.

But Russia repeated its threat of unspecified “military-technical measures” if the United States did not accede to its demands for sweeping changes to security arrangements in Eastern Europe, a signal that President Vladimir V. Putin would use his large-scale military buildup around Ukraine to extract concessions from Western nations determined to avert a war.

The Kremlin continued to keep the United States and its Western allies off-balance, sounding positive notes about diplomacy in a written response to U.S. security proposals, and offering the most detailed accounting so far of what Mr. Putin said on Tuesday was a “partial” pullback of the 150,000 troops that the United States estimates it has massed around Ukraine.

At the same time, Russia and Ukraine exchanged blame for a flare-up of shelling in Ukraine’s northeast that U.S. officials said they were “watching closely” out of concern that Russia could use it as a pretext to invade. And the State Department announced that Moscow had expelled the deputy American ambassador to Russia last week, calling it an “escalatory step” that would hinder diplomatic efforts.

Speaking at the United Nations Security Council, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that despite Russian denials, U.S. intelligence believed Mr. Putin would launch an assault against Ukraine, and challenged Moscow to say it would not.

The dizzying back-and-forth on Thursday was punctuated by Mr. Biden, who said in brief remarks outside the White House that while “there is a path” to a diplomatic resolution, he still expected Mr. Putin to launch an invasion within several days.

“Every indication we have is they’re prepared to go into Ukraine,” he said.

Video

Video player loading
President Biden said that he expected President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to carry out an invasion of Ukraine within “several days,” but that a diplomatic resolution was still possible.CreditCredit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

Western officials continued to say they had seen no sign of a Russian pullback of the forces menacing its smaller neighbor. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, who met with the head of NATO in Brussels, said Russia continued to move troops closer to Ukraine’s borders, was adding combat aircraft and was stocking up on blood supplies in anticipation of casualties on the battlefield.

“I was a soldier myself not that long ago,” Mr. Austin said. “I know firsthand that you don’t do these sorts of things for no reason. And you certainly don’t do them if you’re getting ready to pack up and go home.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday that troops had redeployed hundreds of miles away from the Ukrainian border areas after conducting military exercises.

The ministry’s spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said that logistics units of the western military district had traveled more than 400 miles from the Kursk region, bordering Ukraine, and returned to their base in the town of Dzerzhinsk in central Russia.

Several other military groups traveled more than 900 miles by railway with their equipment and were redeployed to Chechnya and Dagestan, he said. The troops currently engaged in military exercises in Belarus, to Ukraine’s north, will also return to their home bases once the drills are over, General Konashenkov said in a statement.

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, insisted the withdrawal was continuing. “This process takes time,” he said. “They cannot just get lifted in the air and fly away.”

Since late fall, the number of troops that Russia has dispatched to the borders near Ukraine has been growing. In the first week of January, the United States estimated that they numbered around 100,000. That figure grew to 130,000, and then, on Tuesday, Mr. Biden put the number at 150,000 — with brigades normally based as far away as Siberia joining the force.

On Wednesday, a senior American official, who refused to be quoted by name, told reporters that far from winding down its deployment, Moscow was adding 7,000 combatants.

Russia has framed the crisis as revolving around its fundamental security. And it says that even the distant prospect of Ukraine joining NATO represents an existential threat.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine made it clear once again that NATO membership is key to his country’s long-term security. “It’s not an ambition,” he said in brief comments to the BBC. “It’s our life.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<