Biden vs. Putin

Russia has stationed nearly 80,000 troops on its border with Ukraine. Not far away, in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, Russian-backed separatists have recently intensified their attacks. And yesterday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Kyiv, to emphasize American support for Ukraine.

Blinken, holding a bouquet of roses, stood in a rainstorm to visit a memorial for Ukrainian soldiers killed in the fighting with Russia. He later said he had been emotionally moved “to pay tribute to those who lost their lives defending Ukraine’s democracy.”

Since President Biden took office — following Donald Trump, who was famously solicitous of President Vladimir Putin — tensions between Russia and the U.S. have been rising. This morning, we want to help you make sense of what’s going on.

The buildup of troops since March is both a message to Ukraine as well as to the U.S. and the European Union.

over the Donetsk region, potentially giving Putin more control over eastern Ukraine.

The Times’s Helene Cooper and Julian Barnes wrote, “and to make clear to Kyiv the limits of Western support.”

The troop deployment also seems to contain a message bigger than just Ukraine. It is a show of strength by Putin as he also takes steps to quash the protest movement led by Aleksei Navalny, which has inspired more dissent than Putin has faced in years. And it’s a reminder to Biden that if he becomes too aggressive toward Russia, Putin can create problems for him.

Biden has an ambitious foreign policy agenda, some of which has little to do with Russia and some of which requires Russian cooperation, such as climate change and Iran’s nuclear program. An escalating conflict over Ukraine would make all of that more difficult.

calling him a killer — but Biden’s actual policies have been more moderated. On the one hand, Blinken’s visit to Kyiv has been provocative, and last month the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia, in response to hacking and election interference.

But the sanctions stopped far short of what the U.S. could have imposed. “I was clear with President Putin that we could have gone further, but I chose not to do so,” Biden said when announcing them. “The United States is not looking to kick off a cycle of escalation and conflict with Russia.”

Anton Troianovski, The Times’s Moscow bureau chief, describes the White House strategy as “a carefully choreographed carrot-and-stick approach.” Lara Jakes, who covers the State Department, points out that Biden and Putin have known each other for years and that their relationship, for all of the tension, is characterized by “pragmatism and a fair bit of predictability.”

Perhaps Biden’s biggest goal is to create a stable relationship in which Putin decides that he has more to lose than to gain from confrontation. And that’s not easy.

Russia, as The Economist recently wrote, is already “the single most prolific stoker of instability on Europe’s borders, and arguably the most energetic troublemaker in rich democracies, funding extremist parties, spreading disinformation and discord.” But of course Russia could still cause even more trouble, as Putin is now demonstrating in Ukraine.

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Musk’s repeated tweeting of misinformation about the pandemic. Some cast members have expressed their displeasure, or as The Times’s Dave Itzkoff writes, “their befuddlement.”

The casting is an example of how “the ecosystem of fame has shifted,” the AV Club writes. Musk’s social media presence has earned him an unusual fan base for a C.E.O. It’s also a throwback to the early seasons of “S.N.L.,” when the show chose hosts based less on movie openings. Some of them also generated criticism, at the time or later:

In Musk’s case, the polarized response is part of the appeal. Michael Che, one of the show’s head writers, said: “I like when the show has some edge.”

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Australia Bars Its Citizens in India From Coming Home Amid Covid Crisis

SYDNEY, Australia — Before the coronavirus pandemic surged, Drisya Dilin dropped her daughter off with her parents in India, expecting to bring her to Australia a month later. That was more than a year ago.

Now, any attempt to get the 5-year-old to Australia, where she is a permanent resident, brings a threat of jail time or large fines.

She’s one of about 8,000 Australians affected by an unprecedented travel ban that began on Monday, prompted by India’s record-breaking Covid outbreak. It is believed to be the first time that Australia has made it a criminal offense for its own citizens and permanent residents to enter the country.

“I never expected this to happen,” said Ms. Dilin, a hospital administrator who has tried several times to repatriate her daughter to Australia, including on a charter flight this month that was canceled.

a strong preference for hard borders, has pushed isolation to a new extreme. No other democratic nation has issued a similar ban on all arrivals. Britain, Germany and the United States, for example, have restricted travel from India, but have exempted citizens and permanent residents, many of whom are rushing home.

Australia’s decision — announced quietly late Friday night by officials who said it was necessary to keep the country safe — has built into a medical and moral crisis.

Indian-Australians are outraged. Human rights groups have condemned the move as unnecessarily harsh and a violation of citizenship principles. Other critics have suggested that the policy was motivated by racism or, at the very least, a cultural double standard.

medical oxygen; and where crematories are burning day and night amid a deluge of bodies.

Australian officials said the new restrictions — with penalties of up to five years in prison and nearly 60,000 Australian dollars ($46,300) in fines under Australia’s Biosecurity Act — would keep its hotel quarantine system from being overwhelmed.

“Fifty-seven percent of the positive cases in quarantine had been arrivals from India,” Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Sunday. “It was placing a very, very significant burden on health and medical services in states and territories.”

But for Australians in India, the policy amounts to a stunning lack of concern.

“I thought our passports would look after us,” said Emily McBurnie, an Australian wellness coach who has been stranded in New Delhi since March 2020 and has been ill with Covid-19 for more than a month. She said that the Australian government owed more to its citizens, and added that if her health deteriorated, she feared she would not have access to oxygen or an intensive care bed.

fewer than 300 active Covid cases and where daily life has been nearly normal for months, most people support the strict border policy. In a recent poll by the Lowy Institute, which surveyed Australians before the Indian outbreak intensified, an overwhelming majority reported that they were happy with how Australia has tackled the pandemic. Only one in three surveyed said the government should do more to help Australians return home during the pandemic.

Natasha Kassam, the director of the Lowy Institute’s Public Opinion and Foreign Policy Program, said many Australians had been led to believe that those abroad should have come home by now or had chosen to stay where they were for personal or professional reasons.

The distinct lack of sympathy is tied, in part, to a lack of understanding, Ms. Kassam said. “More than a third of Australians were born overseas,” she said. “Closed borders means separated families.”

Human Rights Watch called Australia’s ban an “outrageous response” that undermined the concept of citizenship by denying people their right to return to their country.

said the travel ban “raises serious human rights concerns,” and the agency called on the government to show that the move was not discriminatory.

While India has the world’s highest number of new infections, it also has an enormous population. Its per capita infection rate is still lower than what it was in the United States and in many parts of Europe during their recent peaks.

Ms. Dilin, who lives in Sydney, where she works in the Covid-response unit of a hospital, said Australia’s treatment of people from India was clearly unfair.

“When the U.S. had the same issues, when the U.K. had many cases, they never stopped anybody from coming back,” she said.

Aviram Vijh, a Sydney-based designer from India and an Australian citizen, said the government’s actions smacked of prejudice.

“Clearly it’s a move that’s disproportionate,” Mr. Vijh said. His cousin, also an Australian citizen, is stranded in India with his wife and 3-year-old daughter, he added. Both his cousin and his wife have Covid-19.

“He’s very distressed,” he said of his cousin. “And there’s no path forward.”

Neha Sandhu, an Australian citizen who managed to return home from India in June, said that along with Ms. Dilin’s daughter, there were several other unaccompanied minors affected by the ban, many of whom had been visiting family in India and were now unable to return home.

“It is totally inhumane,” said Ms. Sandhu, who runs a Facebook group with more than 17,000 followers for those stuck in India.

Australian officials have argued, however, that the move was purely based on an assessment of the risk to public health. Australia’s chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, said the ban was temporary and is set to be lifted May 15, though it could also be extended.

Ms. Kassam, of the Lowy Institute, said the denial of a right to return for Australians in India was the first major test of a policy that most Australians have quietly accepted. She wondered if Australians would be more sympathetic once they knew the details.

“Australians have historically been supportive of tough border restrictions, though these questions have never been asked in relation to their own citizens,” she said. “The idea of fortress Australia is politically popular, but is untested in terms of criminalizing citizens for simply coming home”

Damien Cave reported from Sydney, Australia, and Livia Albeck-Ripka from Melbourne, Australia.

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Decorating Scandal Engulfs Boris Johnson and Puts Fiancée in Spotlight

LONDON — Of all the unsavory ethical questions swirling around Prime Minister Boris Johnson these days, the one that has stuck is how he paid for the costly makeover of his apartment in Downing Street. And it has put his 33-year-old fiancée, Carrie Symonds, under a particularly scorching spotlight.

Mr. Johnson has been accused in news reports of secretly using funds from a Conservative Party donor to supplement his public budget for redecorating the apartment — a charge that, although Mr. Johnson says he has repaid the money, has prompted an investigation by Britain’s Electoral Commission. But it is Ms. Symonds and her purportedly expensive taste in wallpaper and designer furniture that has become a running theme on social media and in British tabloids.

“#CarrieAntoinette” is trending as a Twitter hashtag, while the leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, had himself photographed studying wallpaper at the British department store John Lewis — a labored stunt meant to make light of reports that Ms. Symonds derided the Downing Street décor left by Mr. Johnson’s no-nonsense predecessor, Theresa May, as a “John Lewis nightmare.”

Never mind that Ms. Symonds has not actually been quoted saying anything about John Lewis. The reference, in a profile of her in Tatler magazine, is attributed to an unnamed person who once visited her in the apartment. Tatler did report that Ms. Symonds oversaw the renovation project, and her involvement means she, too, may have to turn over evidence to the Electoral Commission.

For Ms. Symonds, a former Conservative Party communications chief who now works for an animal-rights group, it is the latest trial in a year overstuffed with dramatics: the near-fatal illness of Mr. Johnson after he contracted the coronavirus; the birth of their son, Wilfred; and the bitter purging of Mr. Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, in which she is reported to have played a behind-the-scenes role.

It all has put Ms. Symonds at the heart of a familiar narrative, one replete with sexism and double standards: the grasping, manipulative politician’s partner. She joins a parade of women, from Hillary Clinton to Cherie Blair, the wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose murmurings to their men were the subject of fevered suspicion.

The fact that her relationship with Mr. Johnson coincided with the breakup of his 25-year marriage, and that she became the first unmarried partner to move into Downing Street, only adds to Ms. Symonds’ tabloid portrayal as a libertine Lady Macbeth or an upwardly mobile Marie Antoinette — choose your cliché.

“The outsized fascination with Carrie Symonds’ role in the prime minister’s circle reflects outdated sexist tropes that regard women in positions of influence as inherently devious,” said Sophia Gaston, director of the British Foreign Policy Group and a research fellow at the London School of Economics.

Her defenders say that as an accomplished political player in her own right, Ms. Symonds has no less right to offer advice to the prime minister than any other unpaid adviser — and he would be wise to take it.

And yet, others say, there are legitimate questions to ask about Ms. Symonds’ influence, which goes beyond the news media’s obsessive focus on home improvements at Downing Street. Her ardent defense of animal rights was reported to have contributed to the government’s decision to halt a cull of badgers in Derbyshire, which contradicted the advice of scientists and veterinarians.

Friends of Ms. Symonds have been installed in key positions in Downing Street and, in the telling of Mr. Cummings, protected by her even after evidence of wrongdoing. On his blog, he claimed that Mr. Johnson wanted to shut down a leak investigation after it became clear that the culprit was Henry Newman, a close adviser to Ms. Symonds.

Mr. Cummings quoted Mr. Johnson as saying to him, “If Newman is confirmed as the leaker, then I will have to fire him, and this will cause me very serious problems with Carrie, as they’re best friends.”

Downing Street has denied that Mr. Johnson tried to shut down the investigation, but it did not comment about Ms. Symonds’ role.

Her defenders say she has a savvy political sense and could well have aspired to a seat in Parliament if she hadn’t begun a relationship with Mr. Johnson. To the extent that she is giving him advice, some say, it is helpful: cutting loose Mr. Cummings and other hard-core Brexiteers softened the prime minister’s image and improved his popularity before the recent ethics issues pulled him back to his more familiar role as a political scalawag.

“She was fantastic — she is very loyal and was hugely supportive,” said John Whittingdale, a former culture secretary for whom Ms. Symonds served as a special adviser. He described her as “a strongly committed Conservative” and a “very strong Brexit supporter” at a time when that was a less popular position.

“The people who are attacking Carrie clearly see a route to damage the prime minister by attacking her,” he said.

Ms. Symonds labors under a few handicaps, one of which is the lack of a job description for a prime minister’s partner. The role has no constitutional status, and unlike that of first lady in the United States, little administrative support. Successful spouses have usually had strong identities outside Downing Street.

Margaret Thatcher’s husband, Denis, was a businessman, as is Mrs. May’s husband, Philip. David Cameron’s wife, Samantha, ran a fashion company, while Ms. Blair, who once had her own political ambitions, worked as a high-level barrister during her husband’s decade in office. Though Ms. Blair’s influence came under criticism early on, the scrutiny subsided as she built a flourishing legal career.

“She always knew she could go back to her job at the bar, which made it less demeaning to be the appendage,” said Fiona Millar, a journalist and onetime aide to Ms. Blair. Ms. Symonds, she said, “doesn’t seem to have that life outside politics, which the people who’ve been successful at it did have.”

The daughter of Matthew Symonds, a co-founder of The Independent newspaper, and a lawyer for the paper, Josephine McAfee, Ms. Symonds was raised by her mother (both parents were married to other people at the time).

Her young adulthood was deeply affected by an incident in 2007 when she was targeted by a taxi driver who served her spiked drinks while driving her home. Ms. Symonds testified against the man, John Worboys, who was jailed as a serial sexual predator.

Well connected and social, Ms. Symonds became a public relations aide for the Conservative Party, eventually rising to chief communications officer, where she encountered Mr. Johnson. The couple had hoped to get married last summer, after his divorce from Marina Wheeler became final, but delayed the date because of coronavirus restrictions.

Life in Downing Street is less glamorous than it might appear, Ms. Millar said. While the job comes with a spacious Westminster apartment, a baronial weekend home, Chequers, and an annual decorating budget of £30,000 ($41,600), the government does not pay for food or household staff. Outside of public occasions, the couple are expected to cook for themselves or get takeout.

Living above the office, as Mr. Johnson struggled with the pandemic and his own illness, was challenging, people who know Ms. Symonds said. She contracted Covid herself, while pregnant, and then cared for their baby while Mr. Johnson, 56, was still shaking off his illness.

“There were times last week that were very dark indeed,” Ms. Symonds tweeted after he was released from an intensive care unit. Despite that, she retained her interest in environmental protection.

“Since having Wilf & not being able to get to the shops during lockdown,” she posted four months later, “I’ve relied on Amazon for lots of baby essentials, but I’ve been dismayed at the amount of plastic packaging. Please sign this petition to ask Amazon to give us plastic-free options too.”

Political commentators say they see Ms. Symonds’ fingerprints in Mr. Johnson’s embrace of green policies. They say she has played to his pragmatic instincts by nudging him toward a more conciliatory politics.

Few prime ministerial partners have been so deeply immersed in politics. Not only does she know the Conservative Party well, she also has strong contacts among its lawmakers, political journalists and the special advisers who play a powerful role in Downing Street and elsewhere in the government.

Steven Fielding, professor of political history at the University of Nottingham, said people have questioned Ms. Symonds’ influence “because of her specific insights and connections and background as a political operative and because of Boris Johnson’s malleability, and the fact that no one is sure what in his head.”

Some of the uneasiness about Ms. Symonds is as much about Mr. Johnson as her. With few fixed positions and a lack of ideological moorings, he leaves the impression that his decisions can be swayed by those with greatest access to him. During a year of lockdowns, that circle sometimes shrank to Ms. Symonds.

“The reason we’re fussing over this is that we think we have an inadequate figure as prime minister,” said Jill Rutter, a former civil servant who is a senior research fellow at the U.K. in a Changing Europe, a London think tank. “If we thought we had a really good prime minister, would we really care who his spouse is, beyond hoping he has a happy personal life?”

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Iran’s Foreign Minister, in Leaked Tape, Says Revolutionary Guards Set Policies

In a leaked audiotape that offers a glimpse into the behind-the scenes power struggles of Iranian leaders, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Revolutionary Guards Corps call the shots, overruling many government decisions and ignoring advice.

In one extraordinary moment on the tape that surfaced Sunday, Mr. Zarif departed from the reverential official line on Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of the Guards’ elite Quds Force, the foreign-facing arm of Iran’s security apparatus, who was killed by the United States in January 2020.

The general, Mr. Zarif said, undermined him at many steps, working with Russia to sabotage the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and adopting policies toward Syria’s long war that damaged Iran’s interests.

“In the Islamic Republic the military field rules,” Mr. Zarif said in a three-hour taped conversation that was a part of an oral history project documenting the work of the current administration. “I have sacrificed diplomacy for the military field rather than the field servicing diplomacy.”

choreograph steps toward returning to a deal.

“The structure of our foreign ministry is mostly security oriented,” Mr. Zarif said.

Mr. Zarif said he was kept in the dark on government actions — sometimes to his embarrassment.

On the night that Iran decided to retaliate against the United States for the killing of General Suleimani, two Quds Force commanders went to see the Iraqi prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, to inform him that in about 45 minutes Iran would be firing missiles at a military base where U.S. troops were stationed, Mr. Zarif said. The Americans knew about the strike before he did.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry informed him that Israel had attacked Iranian interests in Syria at least 200 times, to his astonishment, Mr. Zarif said.

downing of a Ukrainian jetliner in Iran that killed 176 on board on the morning after Iran attacked the air base.

The Guards knew immediately that their missiles had hit the plane, but only admitted to it three days later.

Soon after the plane was brought down, Mr. Zarif attended a small meeting of the national security council with two top military commanders, and said the world was demanding an explanation. The commanders, he said, attacked him and told him to send out a tweet saying the news was not true.

“I said, ‘If it was hit by a missile, tell us so we can see how we can resolve it,’” Mr. Zarif recalled. “God is my witness, the way they reacted to me is as if I had denied the existence of God.”

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After Testing the World’s Limits, Putin Steps Back From the Brink

On Thursday, Mr. Putin’s defense minister announced a partial pullback of troops, a step welcomed by Ukraine’s president in a nervous Kyiv. Mr. Putin held out an olive branch to President Biden by appearing at his online climate summit. And on Friday, Mr. Navalny said his hunger strike demanding better medical care had “achieved enough” after he was examined twice by civilian doctors.

“No matter how much the system tries to show itself to be a deaf-mute, thousand-ton monolith, it in fact continues to react to pressure from inside and outside,” a top aide to Mr. Navalny, Leonid Volkov, posted on Twitter.

In Mr. Medvedev’s article interpreting the week’s events published on Friday morning, he compared the current state of world affairs to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when the United States and the Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear war. The problem today, unlike the original Cold War war, he wrote, was that the United States no longer respected Russia’s strength.

“If the consequences of victory are so great that they put in question the continued existence of the victor, then this is not a victory,” Mr. Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Mr. Putin’s Security Council, wrote in a not-so-veiled reference to Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

A risk of Mr. Putin’s escalatory approach to foreign policy is that he may need to up the ante to achieve the desired effect. That was the case with Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine. While the war in eastern Ukraine has lasted since 2014, with Moscow sending arms and men to the separatists it backs, the Kremlin had not since the outset of hostilities threatened as explicitly to openly invade Ukraine as it did in recent weeks.

Mr. Pavlovsky, who advised the Kremlin until 2011, compares Mr. Putin’s system to a ratchet: a mechanism that, even with occasional pauses, can only turn in one direction.

“When the system is all built on the principle of escalation, it cannot pull back in earnest,” he said.

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Foreign Leaders Attend Funeral for President Idriss Déby of Chad

The leaders of several African nations and the president of France on Friday attended the funeral of President Idriss Déby of Chad, one of Africa’s most enduring and feared autocrats whose death was announced this week.

Military leaders said on Tuesday that he had died from injuries sustained in clashes between rebels and government forces.

Despite abuses directed at his own people during his 31-year rule, Mr. Déby had benefited from the indulgence of Western powers as he remained a steady linchpin for their military interventions against Islamist insurgents in the region. His death has thrown the future of the vast African nation into uncertainty.

The Chadian military announced this week that Mr. Déby, 68, had died on Monday — the same day that his victory in a sixth election, marred by irregularities, had been confirmed.

Front for Change and Concord in Chad, threatened to march on Ndjamena on Friday, after the funeral, and had warned foreign leaders not to attend.

whether he was in fact killed by a rival.

At the funeral on Friday, Mr. Déby’s family praised “a great fighter” who was “obsessed with peace and the unity of Chadians.”

“You’ve left while walking toward the enemy,” said Abdelkrim Idriss Déby, another of Mr. Déby’s sons.

Mr. Macron said Mr. Déby had lived as a soldier and died as one.

“Idriss, you were an exemplary leader and a courageous warrior, but you also knew the value of diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” Mr. Macron said at the funeral on Friday.

known as Operation Barkhane, is headquartered in the capital. The French president’s office said on Monday that the nation had lost “a courageous friend” with Mr. Déby’s death.

Thomas Gassilloud, a French lawmaker who sits on a parliamentary committee focusing on the relationship between France and Chad, said that Mr. Déby had long offered stability in a region where that was difficult to find.

“Chad is at the crossroads of zones that have faced multiple security crises in recent years: Libya to the north, Niger to the west, and the Central African Republic to the south,” he said, noting that Mr. Déby had studied at the prestigious Paris-based military school that trains senior French Army officers. “France was used to working with Déby, and when it came to military operations in the Sahel, they spoke the same language.”

Mr. Macron arrived in Ndjamena on Thursday evening, before the funeral, and met with Mahamat Idriss Déby at the presidential palace. The French authorities have said that “exceptional circumstances” in Chad justified the installation of Mr. Déby’s son as interim president.

Roland Marchal, a longtime expert on Chad at the Paris-based Sciences Po university, said that Mr. Macron’s meeting with Mr. Déby showed French approval for what several analysts consider a coup, noting that Paris had not publicly called for the Chadian Constitution to be respected, unlike U.S. officials have.

“France wants to keep a privileged relationship with the Chadian authorities,” Mr. Marchal said, “and for that it is ready to accept that the constitution of a country be swept away.”

Mahamat Adamou contributed reporting.

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Putin Warns of a Russian ‘Red Line’ the West Will Regret Crossing

MOSCOW — He warned ominously of “red lines” in Russia’s security that, if crossed, would bring a powerful “asymmetric” response. He reminded Western leaders once again of the fearsomeness of his country’s modernized nuclear arsenal. And he boasted of Russia’s moral superiority over the West.

Yet even as President Vladimir V. Putin lashed out at foreign enemies real or perceived in a state-of-the-nation speech on Wednesday, tens of thousands of Russians defied a heavy police presence to pour into the streets to challenge his rule. In Moscow, some gathered across the street from the Kremlin to chant, “Go Away!”

It was a snapshot of Russia in the third decade of Mr. Putin’s rule: a leader facing an increasingly angry and desperate opposition but firmly in power with his country’s vast resources and huge security apparatus at his disposal.

an enormous troop buildup on Russia’s border with Ukraine and has gone toe to toe with President Biden, who issued a new round of sanctions last week, undeterred by Mr. Putin’s saber rattling in Ukraine.

Mr. Putin portrayed Russia as harried by Western nations for years with hypocritical criticism and sanctions. Punishing Russia, he said, has become a “new sport” in the West, and he was running thin on patience.

While he pledged on Wednesday that he still wanted “good relations with all participants of international society,” he said that if Russia is forced to defend its interests from any security threats its response would be “fast and tough.”

the prison treatment of the prominent opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny seemed to be mushrooming into something more.

Thousands were arrested at those protests this winter, which came after Mr. Navalny’s return to Russia from Germany, where he had been treated for a poisoning with a chemical weapon.

Riot police officers were out in force on Wednesday. While it appeared that they sought to avoid scenes of brutality that could cast a shadow over Mr. Putin’s speech, the police did detain nearly 1,500 demonstrators nationwide.

Protesters stood on the sidewalks across the street from the exhibition hall next to the Kremlin where Mr. Putin had spoken a few hours earlier. They chanted “Go away!” — referring to Mr. Putin; and “Release him!” — referring to Mr. Navalny.

“I didn’t come out concretely because of Aleksei Navalny, I came out more for myself,” said Svetlana Kosatkina, a 64-year-old real estate agent. “I can’t stand this whole situation of lawlessness and just total humiliation.”

a hunger strike and said by his lawyer to be near death, Mr. Navalny this week wrote in a letter to his allies that he had grown so thin he resembled a “skeleton walking, swaying in his cell.”

Police detained dozens of opposition activists earlier on Wednesday, including Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, and a top lieutenant in his political organization, Lyubov Sobol. To curb turnout at protests, universities compelled students to sit for unscheduled exams, TV Rain, an independent news station, reported on Tuesday.

Mr. Putin’s speech was closely watched for hints of his intentions in Ukraine, after massing the largest military force on the border since the outset of Kyiv’s war with Russian-backed separatists seven years ago.

highest per capita in the world.

“Solar Winds” hacking of government agencies and corporations, various disinformation efforts and earlier military interventions in Ukraine.

Mr. Putin’s allies had also erupted in fury when President Biden in an interview last month agreed with a characterization of Mr. Putin as a “killer.” In Wednesday’s speech, Mr. Putin lingered on a grievance that has not gained much traction outside Russian state news media: an accusation that the C.I.A. had been plotting an assassination of its own, targeting President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus, a Russian ally.

Over the weekend, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, arrested two men who it said had coordinated with American and Polish intelligence agencies to plot the murder of Mr. Lukashenko. This, Mr. Putin said, “crossed all the boundaries.”

In Mr. Putin’s telling, Russia, far from pursuing a militaristic policy, has been the victim of a Western scheme to contain and hobble the country. “They attack Russia here and there without any reason,” Mr. Putin said. He cited Rudyard Kipling’s novel “Jungle Book” with a comparison of the United States to Shere Khan, a villainous tiger, nipping at Russia.

And Mr. Putin lingered on descriptions of Russia’s modernized arsenal of atomic weapons. These include a hypersonic cruise missile, called the Dagger, and a nuclear torpedo, called the Poseidon. The torpedo, Russian officials have said, is designed to set off a radioactive tsunami.

The foreign policy message was a stark warning, said Andrei A. Klimov, deputy chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Russian Senate.

“We aren’t joking any longer,” Mr. Klimov said. ““We won’t every day tell our opponents they will be punished. But when it comes, they will understand.”

Anton Troianovski contributed reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine and Ivan Nechepurenko from Moscow.

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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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