The challenges of making that happen, though, become clear when climbing the confined, 334-step stairwell that winds up to the belfry. Also evident: the quality of the renovation.

Bright morning light shone in through the four restored clock faces — perched high above the Houses of Parliament — each with 324 pieces of pot opal glass produced in Germany. Newly refurbished golden orbs that decorate the tower’s stonework glinted in the sun.

The sheer size of Big Ben, weighing a little over 15 tons, is impressive, as is the intricacy of a clock mechanism based on the most advanced technology available to its 19th-century creators. It still loses no more than a second in accuracy a week.

The Elizabeth Tower is not the first clock tower to watch over Parliament — that one is thought to date from around 1290. In 1834, a fire destroyed the Palace of Westminster, leading to the construction of the modern-day building that is one of the most famous examples of Gothic Revival architecture in the world.

And when the original clock tower was built, it was constructed with a rising scaffold, “so it rose as if by magic, it was noted at the time,” Mr. Watrobski said.

In May 1859, crowds lined the streets to greet Big Ben’s arrival. The enormous bell was pulled by 16 horses to Westminster, where it took 18 hours to haul it nearly 200 feet to the belfry before it could first ring out.

Back then, the clock tower was the most advanced and ambitious public building of its age, but by 2017, stonework was deteriorating, water was leaking into the belfry, and the steps, ironwork and guttering were all in need of repair. There was even still damage dating from 1941, when Parliament was bombed during World War II.

“Like all historic buildings, you don’t really know until you peel off the skin what you are going to find underneath,” Mr. Watrobski said. “There was a considerable amount of damage to cast iron and to stonework.”

The restoration work has gone a long way to modernizing the Elizabeth Tower, which will reopen this year to tourists. But the improvements will benefit visitors and maintenance staff alike.

An elevator has been installed, as has a restroom at the top — the lack of which previously meant Big Ben’s maintenance workers had to trek down the 334 steps whenever they were in need of one. There is even now a spot for the staff to make tea.

While Big Ben needs constant maintenance, the clock had never been fully serviced until this restoration. After it was dismantled, it was secreted away from London, more than 280 miles, to the workshop of the Cumbria Clock Company in northwestern England.

Given its symbolic importance, its whereabouts while being serviced was never disclosed.

To help keep the work under wraps, the Cumbria Clock Company removed signs from its building to make it harder for uninvited visitors to find. When a group of walkers once peered through a window and asked if they were looking at the famous clock, they were told that they were instead viewing one from Manchester Town Hall.

“It was very important that what we were doing was kept secret,” said the company’s director, Keith Scobie-Youngs, who was worried that it might attract thieves or vandals as well as curious tourists.

Mr. Scobie-Youngs said that the clock had been in remarkably good condition and that he had been awed by the skill of the 19th-century clockmakers.

“Nobody had ever attempted to build a clock that size to the accuracy demanded,” he said, adding, “I refer to it as being the smartphone of the 1850s.”

Mr. Scobie-Youngs also lauded Big Ben: “There is a unique sound to it,” he said. “It is that unique heartbeat.”

The bell’s bong, he said, was instantly recognizable to Britons. “When people were a long way from home, and it was on the radio, that unique sound brought people home again,” Mr. Scobie-Youngs said.

Freshly painted, finished with enough gold to cover four tennis courts, and complete with more than 7,000 replacement stones and carvings, the exterior of the Elizabeth Tower stands as a monument to what can be achieved by modern restoration, protecting it, hopefully, for the next 75 years.

Even for those who spent years on the project, the result was a pleasant surprise, said Charlotte Claughton, a senior project leader. She said that she was taken aback when the scaffolding came down and she saw the building shining, “as if it was new,” in the sunlight.

“It was hugely exciting to see it. There are a few moments that catch you off guard, and that was one of them,” Ms. Claughton said. “It was heartwarming.”

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La première de cinq œuvres architecturales à The Case, l’unique nouvelle résidence gardiennée de Malibu depuis des décennies, est mise en vente pour 69,995 millions USD

MALIBU, Californie–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Après plus d’une décennie d’approbations, de conception et de construction, Scott Gillen, l’architecte d’intérieur visionnaire, créateur et fondateur d’Unvarnished, a mis en vente la première de cinq propriétés d’une résidence privée de 24 acres appelée The Case. Première résidence gardiennée construite à Malibu depuis des décennies, The Case est composée de cinq propriétés spectaculaires, inspirées du style moderne du milieu du siècle et perchées au-dessus de The Colony sur le promontoire en bord de mer le plus convoité de Malibu, et représente le plus vaste développement résidentiel privé de son histoire. The Edge, sur le marché pour 69,995 millions USD, sera la première propriété terminée au sein de la résidence et sera livrée clés en main, offrant à son acheteur la gratification instantanée d’un luxe sans précédent et de la perfection du design à façon. Les cinq domiciles sur mesure sont actuellement en cours de construction, les propriétés restantes devant être entièrement terminées au cours de l’année.

« The Case est mon projet le plus vaste et le plus épique à ce jour. L’opportunité de créer une résidence de cinq propriétés sur l’un des meilleurs, sinon le meilleur, promontoire de la côte californienne, était quelque chose que je ne pouvais pas refuser. En toute franchise, dix minutes après avoir mis les pieds sur la propriété, je savais déjà que je l’achèterais », a déclaré Scott Gillen, le fondateur d’Unvarnished. « L’ampleur de la propriété et la capacité de construire 10 000 à 12 000 pieds carrés de maisons de plain-pied m’ont posé des difficultés immenses mais m’ont aussi donné des opportunités incroyables de faire franchir un nouveau palier à mes principes de design fondamentaux : l’utilisation de matériaux chaleureux, un clin d’œil aux espaces modernes, larges et ouverts du milieu du siècle, beaucoup de lumière naturelle et un brouillage des lignes entre les intérieurs et les extérieurs, qui sont aussi les principes de l’architecture moderne du milieu du siècle. Aussi était-il tout à fait naturel que mes conceptions pour The Edge et les autres propriétés de The Case, s’inspirent énormément de l’architecture moderne du milieu du siècle, et que j’y incorpore ensuite les techniques de construction et d’ameublement, dont la qualité est rarement, si jamais, présente dans les nouveaux développements, pour créer une expérience unique d’une vie luxueuse sur la côte de Malibu, un endroit unique à nul autre pareil au monde. Je suis très fier de ce que The Edge est devenue et je suis extrêmement impatient de la mettre sur le marché. »

La propriété de 2,6 acres, offrant des vues cinématographiques du Queen’s necklace, de Palos Verdes à Point Dume, incarne l’essence même d’une vie de luxe décontractée. Couvrant environ 10 500 pieds carrés, la maison de plain-pied propose cinq chambres avec salle d’eau et trois cabinets de toilette, et comprend une cuisine de chef Bulthaup, une vaste grande salle, une suite parentale avec spa extérieur, et des portes en verre du sol au plafond qui s’ouvrent sur une terrasse en ipé de 10 000 pieds carrés avec cabanon et cuisine extérieure.

The Edge, baptisée ainsi pour sa superbe piscine d’eau douce à débordement sur deux côtés de près de 80 pieds qui jaillit comme un plongeoir sur l’océan Pacifique, avec la célèbre île de Catalina au loin, est inspirée du point de vue architectural par les géants du style moderne du milieu du siècle que sont Lloyd Wright, Neutra, Lautner et Quincy Jones pour n’en citer que quelques-uns. La magnifique propriété inclut également un ameublement personnalisé soigneusement sélectionné par MM. Minotti et Gillen, des appareils Miele et Gaggenau, des armoires sur mesure, une chambre à vin en teck d’une capacité de 650 bouteilles, une bibliothèque privée close en verre et en teck, et un cinéma maison qui est en fait une salle « flottant » dans une autre salle pour offrir l’expérience de cinéma à la maison ultime.

The Case est le joyau de la couronne de la série visionnaire de Malibu de Scott Gillen, où chaque maison est un sanctuaire en soi. Derrière son portail surveillé par des gardes 24h/24 et ses fonctionnalités de sécurité conçues par le célèbre expert international de la sécurité Gavin de Becker, les résidents de The Case vivront avec une tranquillité d’esprit et une intimité ultimes.

The Case est composée de cinq maisons modernes du milieu du siècle distinctes : The Cantilever House (étude de cas n°1), The Butterfly House (étude de cas n°2), The Edge (étude de cas n°3), The Flat House (étude de cas n°4) et The Glass Tunnel (étude de cas n°5).

Pour plus d’informations, veuillez consulter le site www.unvarnishedco.com ou contactez l’agent immobilier Sandro Dazzan de The Agency.

Le texte du communiqué issu d’une traduction ne doit d’aucune manière être considéré comme officiel. La seule version du communiqué qui fasse foi est celle du communiqué dans sa langue d’origine. La traduction devra toujours être confrontée au texte source, qui fera jurisprudence.

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German Brewers Face ‘Unprecedented’ Beer Bottle Shortage

Stefan Fritsche, who runs a centuries-old German brewery in Neuzelle, near the Polish border, has seen his natural gas bill jump a startling 400 percent over the past year. His electricity bill has increased 300 percent. And he’s paying more for barley than ever before.

But the soaring inflation for energy and grains in the wake of the Ukraine war is no match for the biggest challenge facing Mr. Fritsche’s brewery, Klosterbrauerei Neuzelle, and others like it across Germany: a severe shortage of beer bottles.

The problem is “unprecedented,” Mr. Fritsche said. “The price of bottles has exploded.”

The issue is not so much a lack of bottles. Germany’s roughly 1,500 breweries have up to four billion returnable glass bottles in circulation — about 48 for every man, woman and child.

recycling, it comes with one major problem: getting people to return their empties.

Dragging a crate — or several — of empty glass bottles back to a store can be a hassle, even if it means getting back the deposit fee. So people tend to let them stack up, in the basements of their homes or on the balconies of their apartments, biding their time until they are running out of either space or spare cash.

“It is deadly for small brewers,” Mr. Fritsche said. The brewery he runs sells 80 percent of its beer in bottles. (In 2003, a recycling law was expanded to focus on reducing waste in the beverage industry, meaning most beer sold for the domestic market is in returnable bottles, not cans.)

annual survey by Kirin, the Japanese brewer. (The United States ranked 17th.) But on the whole, Germans are cutting back. Since the Federal Statistics Office began keeping records in 1993 — a year after Mr. Fritsche’s family took over the brewery in Neuzelle — national consumption of beer has dropped nearly 24 percent, as people embrace a wider diversity of soft drinks.

Lockdowns surrounding the coronavirus over the past two years also contributed to the trend, as bars remained closed and sporting and cultural events were canceled.

The difficult environment makes management of the breweries all the more important. Mr. Fritsche said he had relied for decades on a combination of tradition and creativity.

A willingness to push the boundaries and think around the corner is essential to surviving in a tougher business environment, he said. For example, the brewery has a bottle of its signature product, Schwarzer Abt, or Black Abbot, that has been blessed by Pope Francis. The bottle is now dipped into each fresh batch of Schwarzer Abt.

What helps, too, is taking a long view of the history that comes with running a business founded in 1589, the events that it has witnessed and withstood over time.

“Nazis, Communists, government takeovers — in the past, we’ve had just about everything here,” Mr. Fritsche said. “And we have survived it all. We will get through this as well.”

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Live Updates: Ukrainian Holdouts in Mariupol Surrender to an Uncertain Fate

BUCHA, Ukraine — A breeze rustles through the cherry blossoms in bloom on almost every block in this small city, the white petals fluttering onto streets where new pavement covers damage left by Russian tanks just weeks ago.

Spring has arrived in Bucha in the six weeks since Russian soldiers withdrew from this bedroom community outside Kyiv, leaving behind mass graves of slaughtered citizens, many of them mutilated, as well as broken streets and destroyed buildings.

A semblance of normal life has returned to the city. Residents have been coming back to Bucha over the past few weeks, and the city has raced to repair the physical damage wrought by the invading Russian troops and their weapons. Now, on the leafy springtime streets of the city, it is hard to imagine the horrors that unfolded here.

On a newly paved street with freshly painted white lines, the rotating brushes of a street cleaning machine whisked away what was left of shattered glass and bits of iron shrapnel. In one of the neighborhoods where many of the roughly 400 bodies of Ukrainian citizens were discovered in April, technicians were laying cable to restore internet service. At one house, a resident was removing pieces of destroyed Russian tanks still littering his garden.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Sweeping away as many traces as possible of the destruction caused by the Russian occupation was an important step in healing the wounds suffered by Bucha’s residents, said Taras Shapravsky, a City Council official.

Mr. Shapravsky said 4,000 residents had stayed in the city while it was occupied, terrified and many hiding in basements without enough food. Even after the Russian soldiers withdrew, many residents remained traumatized.

“They were in very bad psychological condition,” he said. “Specialists explained to us that the faster we clear away all possible reminders of the war, the faster we will be able to take people out of this condition.”

Mr. Shapravsky said phone reception was restored a few days after the Russians left, and then water and electricity. He said about 10,000 residents had returned so far — roughly a quarter of the prewar population of this small city 20 miles from Kyiv, the capital.

In a sign of life returning to normal, he said the marriage registration office reopened last week and almost every day, couples are applying for marriage licenses.

Bucha was a city where many people moved to for quieter lifestyles, a place where they could raise families away from the bustle of the capital, to which many commuted to work. It was a place where people from Kyiv might drive to on a nice weekend to have lunch.

Six years ago, Sergo Markaryan and his wife opened the Jam Cafe, where they served Italian food, played old jazz and sold jars of jam. He described the cafe as almost like their child, and he has decorated it with an eclectic mix of hundreds of pictures and strings of photos of customers.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

When Russia invaded, Mr. Markaryan, 38, drove his wife and 3-year-old son to the border with Georgia, where he is from. As a Georgian citizen he could have stayed outside the country, but he came back to Ukraine to volunteer, sending food to the front lines.

Two weeks ago, when the electricity was restored, Mr. Markaryan came back on his own to Bucha to see what was left of the cafe and repair the damage caused by the Russian soldiers.

“They stole the knives and forks,” he said, ticking off missing items. He said the soldiers dragged the dining chairs out to use at checkpoints and stole the sound system. And, he said, despite the working toilets, they had defecated on the floor before leaving.

Two days before it was due to reopen last week, the cafe and its outdoor terrace looked spotless and Mr. Markaryan was taste-testing the espresso to see if it was up to par.

“Many people have already returned but some are still afraid,” Mr. Markaryan said. “But we have all definitely become much stronger than we were. We faced things that we never thought could happen.”

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

On the other side of town, in a row of closed shops with peaked roofs and boarded-up windows, Mr. B — a former cocktail bar run by Borys Tkachenko has been patched up and turned into a coffee bar.

Mr. Tkachenko, 27, came back to Bucha a month ago, repaired the roof, which like most of the buildings on the street appeared to have been damaged by shrapnel, and found that the espresso machine was still there. He reopened to sell coffee — or in the case of customers who were soldiers or medical workers, give it away.

Mr. Tkachenko, who had worked in clubs in Florida and Canada and studied the hotel business in Switzerland, opened the bar with his savings last December. Russia invaded two months later.

He said he knew they had to leave when his 14-month-old daughter started running around their apartment, covering her ears and saying “boom, boom, boom” at the sound of explosions.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Mr. Tkachenko drove his family to the border with Slovakia, where they eventually made their way to Switzerland. He returned to Ukraine to volunteer, helping to send supplies to the front and to displaced civilians.

“We had big plans for this place,” Mr. Tkachenko, who despite everything had a wide smile that matched a tattoo on his arm reading, “Born to be happy,” said of his bar.

He said that when the war ended he would probably join his wife and daughter in Switzerland.

“I don’t see a future here right now,” he said.

While the frenetic activity of city workers and residents has helped clear the city of much of the debris of the Russian occupation, the scars of what happened here run deep.

On one quiet street corner, a bunch of dandelions and lilies of the valley had been laid out on a flowered scarf in a modest sidewalk memorial.

Volodymyr Abramov, 39, said the memorial honored his brother-in-law, Oleh Abramov, who was taken out of his house at gunpoint by Russian soldiers, ordered to kneel and shot. (Oleh Abramov and his wife, Iryna, were the subject of a Times article published this month.)

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

“He was not even interrogated,” he said.

Mr. Abramov’s home was destroyed by Russian soldiers who tossed grenades into his house. But he said that was nothing compared with the suffering of his 48-year-old sister, Iryna Abramova, who lost her husband as well as her house.

“I try to help her and take care of her so she doesn’t kill herself,” he said. “I tell her that her husband is watching her from heaven.”

Mr. Abramov, a glazier, said he was now wondering if he should rebuild his house. “I want to run away from here,” he said.

Outside the city’s morgue, where French and Ukrainian investigators are still working to identify bodies from the massacres by Russian troops, a small group of residents gathered, hoping to find out what happened to family members.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Yulia Monastyrska, 29, said she had come to try to get a death certificate for her husband, whose body was among those discovered in April. His hands were bound, he had been shot in the back and the legs, and one of his eyes was burned out, she said.

Ms. Monastyrska said her husband, Ivan, was a crane operator who disappeared while she and her 7-year-old daughter, Oleksandra, hid in the basement of their apartment building.

Oleksandra, wearing glasses and sneakers with princesses on them, leaned against her mother as she listened to details that were clearly now familiar to her.

“As far as I know, everyone wants to come back here, but they are still afraid,” Ms. Monastyrska said. “We were born here, we lived here, a lot of good things happened here.”

Yulia Kozak, 48, accompanied by her daughter Daryna, 23, and Daryna’s 3-year-old son, Yehor, had come to take a DNA test to see if there was a match among the unidentified remains of her missing son, Oleksandr, 29, who had fought in the war against Russia in 2017.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Prosecutors found his military ID, dirty and moldy, in a basement where the Russians held prisoners.

Sobbing, she said the last time she spoke by phone with her son, in March, he had told her he was being shot at. In his apartment, there is a bullet hole in the window, on which the sign of the cross had been etched.

Ms. Kozak, a cook, said she planned to stay in Bucha until she found her son.

“I am sure he is alive, 100 percent sure,” she said. “I feel that he is somewhere, I just don’t know where.”

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

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Ukraine Live Updates: West Raises Pressure on Putin, Including Sanctions on Reputed Girlfriend

KRAKOW, Poland — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia faced fresh setbacks Friday over the Ukraine invasion, as Sweden became the second neutral country in two days to move toward joining NATO and the West devised ways to reroute Ukrainian grain past a Russian naval blockade.

New signs of a Russian military retreat near Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, also added to Mr. Putin’s challenges, appearing to subvert or at least delay the Kremlin’s goal of encircling Ukrainian forces concentrated in eastern Ukraine.

But for Mr. Putin, the biggest vexation may have been the most personal: Britain slapped sanctions on his ex-wife, Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, on a former Olympic gymnast long rumored to be his girlfriend, Alina Kabaeva, and on three cousins: Igor, Mikhail and Roman Putin.

“We are exposing and targeting the shady network propping up Putin’s luxury lifestyle and tightening the vise on his inner circle,” Britain’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss, said.

Credit…Giuseppe Cacace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The West faced challenges of its own. Even as Sweden signaled that it would benefit from joining NATO — one day after Finland said it was ready to join — the president of Turkey signaled his objections to an expansion of the alliance, a possible complication that could work in Russia’s favor. Foreign ministers of the alliance were meeting Saturday in Germany, and invited counterparts from Sweden and Finland to join them.

In a sign that not all diplomatic channels have been cut off, the American secretary of defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, spoke on Friday with Sergei K. Shoigu, Russia’s defense minister, for the first time since Feb. 18 — six days before the invasion of Ukraine. Mr. Austin pushed for an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine and emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication, according to John F. Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the call had been held “at the initiative of the American side,” which two senior U.S. officials confirmed.

Top Pentagon officials, including Mr. Austin, had repeatedly tried to contact their Russian counterparts in the aftermath of the invasion. Until Friday, those efforts had been unsuccessful.

“What motivated them to change their mind and be open to it, I don’t think we know for sure,” one senior Pentagon official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe a confidential call. He said the hourlong conversation was “professional” but broke no new ground. Mr. Austin nevertheless hoped it would “serve as a springboard for future conversations,” the official said.

It was the highest-level contact between U.S. and Russian leaders since Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, spoke with Gen. Nikolay Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, on March 16, to reiterate the United States’ strong opposition to the invasion.

Credit…Anton Novoderezhkin/Sputnik

Russia has taken roughly 80 percent of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where its latest offensive has been concentrated. If Moscow can hold that territory, it would gain significant leverage in any future talks. Yet it has been struggling to gain more ground against Ukrainian forces wielding heavy weapons supplied by the West.

On Friday, Russian forces bombarded largely abandoned and devastated towns in Donbas while Ukrainian forces drove Russian troops further away from Kharkiv in the northeast. The Ukrainian counteroffensive there was beginning to rival the one that pushed Russian troops away from Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, last month, the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington research group, said.

The British Defense Ministry said that satellite imagery confirmed that Ukrainian forces had also decimated a Russian battalion as it tried to cross pontoon bridges over a river in northeast Ukraine earlier this week. While it was not clear how many soldiers were killed, the scattering of burned-out and destroyed vehicles along the riverside suggested that Russia had suffered heavy losses.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

In moving closer to joining NATO, Sweden contended in a report that Russian aggression in Ukraine had fundamentally altered Europe’s security and that Swedish membership in the alliance would “have a deterrent effect in northern Europe.”

“Through NATO membership, Sweden would not only strengthen its own security, but also contribute to the security of like-minded countries,” the report stated.

If Sweden joins, it would end more than 200 years of neutrality and military nonalignment and deliver another rebuke to Mr. Putin, who had invoked NATO expansion as a rationale for the invasion.

But the addition of Sweden and Finland could be complicated by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who suggested on Friday that his country, which has one of the largest armies among NATO members, would be reluctant to welcome them into the alliance.

“Right now, we are following developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but don’t have positive views,” Mr. Erdogan told reporters after attending Friday Prayer at a mosque in Istanbul.

Turkey has generally supported Western responses to the invasion, agreeing to block Russian warships from passing through the Turkish Straits.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

But Sweden and Finland would need unanimous support from NATO’s 30 members to join. Mr. Erdogan could be withholding Turkey’s approval for leverage on issues he cares about, such as Turkey’s longstanding concerns about a guerrilla group known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., which launched a violent separatist movement in Turkey in the early 1980s.

“Sadly, Scandinavian countries are almost like guesthouses for terrorist organizations,” Mr. Erdogan said, naming the P.K.K.

Karen Donfried, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told reporters in Washington on Friday that the United States was “working to clarify Turkey’s position.” She said U.S. officials do not assume that Turkey opposes NATO membership for Finland and Sweden.

“We respect the political processes that are underway in both Finland and Sweden,” she said.

In Germany, agricultural ministers from the Group of 7, representing the world’s wealthiest democracies, discussed ways to circumvent Russian warships that have blocked Ukrainian grain from reaching global markets through the Black Sea. Ukraine is the world’s fourth largest grain exporter, and the blockade has threatened to worsen a global food crisis.

Cem Özdemir, the German agricultural minister, said the G7 would seek routes to transport Ukrainian grain by road and rail, as well as via the Danube River. He called the blockade “part of Russia’s perfidious strategy to not only take out a competitor, which they’re not going to be able to do, but it’s also economic war that Russia is waging.”

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

In Kyiv, Ukrainian judicial authorities began hearing a case against a Russian soldier accused of shooting a civilian, the first trial involving a suspected war crime by a Russian service member since the invasion began.

Prosecutors said the soldier, Sgt. Vadim Shysimarin, fatally shot a 62-year-old man on a bicycle in a village in the Sumy region, about 200 miles east of Kyiv, on Feb. 28, to stop the man from reporting him and his fellow soldiers to the Ukrainians.

Sargeant Shysimarin, who is 21 and faces 10 to 15 years in prison, was brought into the courtroom in handcuffs and seated in a locked glass box. Head bowed, he ignored journalists who asked him how he was feeling.

“For me, it is just work,” Viktor Ovsyannikov, a Ukrainian court-appointed lawyer, said when asked about defending Sargeant Shysimarin. “It is very important to make sure my client’s human rights are protected, to show that we are a country different to the one he is from.”

In the Russian town of Khimki, near Moscow, a court extended the pretrial detention of the American basketball star Brittney Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, until June 18, her lawyer said.

Credit…Andrej Cukic/EPA, via Shutterstock

Ms. Griner has been in Russian custody since mid-February on drug charges that can carry up to 10 years in prison. The charge is based on allegations that she had vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage when she was stopped at an airport near Moscow in February.

“She is OK,” Ms. Griner’s lawyer, Aleksandr Boikov, said in an interview, adding that the court had denied his motion to have Ms. Griner transferred to house arrest. He said he expected the trial to begin in about two months.

The State Department said this month that Ms. Griner had been “wrongfully detained,” signaling that it may become more actively involved in trying to secure her release.

Marc Santora reported from Krakow, Mark Landler from London and Michael Levenson from New York. Reporting was contributed by Eric Schmitt and Edward Wong from Washington, Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia, Valerie Hopkins from Kyiv, Ukraine, Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Cassandra Vinograd from London, Dan Bilefsky from Montreal and Steven Erlanger from Tallinn, Estonia.

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Grim search in blown-out Havana hotel, death toll at 26 

HAVANA, May 7 (Reuters) – Cuban rescue workers on Saturday picked through rubble for bodies and possible survivors after a Havana boutique hotel was devastated by what authorities said was a gas explosion, leaving at least 26 dead.

The blast at the Hotel Saratoga, just a block from the iconic capitol building in a renovated area of downtown Havana, seriously damaged two adjoining upscale apartment buildings and inflicted lighter damage to 17 structures within a two-block radius. Debris fell on pedestrians in the heavily traveled area and glass and debris went flying at a nearby grammar school.

Local authorities said 50 adults and 14 children were injured. Four of the dead were children, they said, providing few details. One of the dead was a Spanish tourist.

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Authorities and local media said rescuers were working to get to a passage way to the basement in hopes there were survivors. They said it was slow going as engineers had to check the stability of what remained of the building.

The hotel, housed in a more than century-old building, had been closed and only workers were inside at the time of the explosion, state-run TV said.

Residents of the adjoining apartment building often rented out to tourists.

The neoclassical-style hotel was remodeled by a British company after the fall of the Soviet Union and for many years was considered the place to stay by visiting government officials and celebrities.

Recently, it had lost some of its shine with the opening of new hotels in Havana, but was still a five-star venue just a minute away from various historic sites such as the renovated, century-old Marti Theater, which sustained moderate damage.

“Well, its just more bad news. There was Trump, Biden, the pandemic, shortages, and I could go on and on,” Michael Serano, a nurse who doubles as a handyman,” said, shrugging his shoulders and looking to the sky.

The Cuban tourism industry was largely shuttered for the last two years and is in the process of reopening now that locally developed vaccines appear to have tamed the new coronavirus, though arrivals remain at around 30% of pre-pandemic levels.

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Reporting by Marc Frank
Editing by Alistair Bell

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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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.

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‘I Don’t Have the Right to Cry’: Ukrainian Women Share Their Stories of Escape

I just had a feeling that we had to get out of there. Every minute you hear these explosions, these shots somewhere nearby, it’s hard to understand, are you a target? Even if it’s silent, the silence feels ominous. There is just this constant sense of danger.

And I had a great sense of guilt that I was not protecting my children. I felt like a terrible mother because my children are in danger and they’re suffering. It’s cold and they have nothing to eat. So, we decided to leave.

We needed to get to Irpin. There was some kind of transfer that would help take us to Kyiv. To get there, we had to cross this park. And as we entered the park, some kind of madness started. It was shelling, it was shooting. We all fell to the ground and covered our heads. Everywhere around us, there was glass exploding, flying glass. My husband put his body over my daughter, the youngest one.

The bridge was out. So, we had to walk across this piece of metal. Suddenly, again, there was shooting from both sides. There was a sound of the shots hitting metal. We got to the ground, on our palms, you know? And on the other side, there was a soldier, one of ours. He picked up Marina, my youngest daughter. She thought it was all a game. When he picked her up, she laughed.

I write TV shows. But now I feel like I’m a character in one of them. I didn’t want to leave my homeland. I was satisfied with my country, even with all its shortcomings and all its complications. But now I understand that tomorrow is my last day in my country. I don’t want to be a refugee somewhere in a foreign land. I’ll miss my home. I’ll miss my things, our photographs, pictures of my parents. I left my diaries, my children’s toys, my dresses.

Two children, ages 8 and 14

Interviewed on March 11. She escaped Mariupol, a port city in southern Ukraine that has been under siege by the Russian military for more than two weeks.

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Live Updates: Police Detain Thousands at Antiwar Protests Across Russia

MEDYKA, Poland — Iryna Dukhota has been married to her husband for 26 years. She met him when they were young, as he was riding his bike through her neighborhood in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.

But a few days ago, on a gray, windswept morning, with thousands of people rushing around them, the couple stood at the Ukraine-Poland border, lips quivering. After all these years, it was time to say goodbye.

“I told him ‘I love you’ and ‘We will see each other soon,’” Ms. Dukhota said, her eyes pooling.

Now, she says, she does not know when or even if she will ever see him again.

As the Russian Army bears down on Ukraine from the north, south and east, a mass migration of millions of civilians is gathering like a storm over the plains.

But the international border gates are a painful filter, splitting families apart. The Ukrainian government has mandated that men aged 18 to 60 are not allowed to leave the country, so the crowds pouring into Poland, Hungary and other neighboring nations are eerily devoid of men. It is almost exclusively women and young children who pass through the checkpoints after heartbreaking goodbyes. The Ukrainian men, whether they want to or not, turn back to fight.

Some Ukrainian women referred to the separations as “a little death.”

Credit…Jeffrey Gettleman/The New York Times

Medyka, Poland, is one such sorting point. A small village on the Poland-Ukraine border among endless wheat fields, faintly illuminated by a pale sun at this time of year, its roads are now lined with Ukrainian women and children marching west, bundled against the wind.

While a spurt of nationalism is being celebrated in Ukraine, and young men and their fathers are pouring into military recruitment centers, it is a much different mood at the border. The refugees said they felt cut off not only from their country, but from their families. They talk of being bewildered, lost and lonely. Overnight, so many mothers have become heads of households in a foreign land, hefting suitcases, carrying young children, working two cellphones at once or pulling nervously on cigarettes.

“I still can’t believe I’m here,” said Iryna Vasylevska, who had just left her husband in Berdychiv, a small town in Ukraine’s besieged north. Now on her own, with two children, 9 and 10, she said she had been so stressed that she had not slept for two days nor had she been able to swallow much food.

“Everything is blocked,” she said, holding a shaking hand up to her neck.

Her husband, Volodymyr, sits at home awaiting further instructions from the authorities. He sounded sorrowful over the phone about being hundreds of miles from his wife and children, but he insisted, “I feel lighter in my heart knowing they don’t hear the sounds of sirens anymore.”

Another man, Alexey Napylnikov, who urged his wife and daughter to flee for their safety, said: “This separation is like falling into emptiness. I don’t know if I am ever going to see them again.”

Under martial law, which was introduced by the Ukrainian government on Feb. 24, all men 18 to 60 are forbidden from leaving the country unless they have at least three children or work in certain strategic sectors, such as bringing in weapons. A few men were able to skinny through when the war first erupted, but very soon after, Ukrainian border guards began searching cars lined up at the frontier and ordering men to stay behind.

Credit…Maciek Nabrdalik for The New York Times

To some, this policy seems sexist. Women have stayed behind to fight, as well. So why can families not choose which parent will leave with the children? When asked about this, a Ukrainian official cited the country’s military policy, saying that while some women volunteer to serve, they are not legally obliged to do so.

But it is not just husbands and wives being pulled apart. Multigenerational families have been ruptured, too. There is an expression in Ukrainian that goes something like this: “It is good to have children so there is someone to bring you a glass of water when you are old.” The culture is to stay near your parents and help them in old age.

But among the crowds flowing through the gates in Medyka and at other border points, there are almost no older adults, either. Most have chosen to stick it out in Ukraine.

“I have been through this before, and the sound of sirens doesn’t scare me,” said Svetlana Momotuk, 83, speaking by phone from her apartment in Chornomorsk, near the port of Odessa.

When her grandson-in-law came to say goodbye, she said, she shouted at him: “You’re not taking my children with you! What the hell are you thinking?”

Now, she says, she is relieved they left, though she dearly misses them.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

If they expected an immense sense of relief exiting a war-torn country and stepping across an international border, many refugees said it had not yet come. Instead, there is guilt. Several women said they felt horrible leaving their husbands and their parents in the path of an advancing army.

Even though she is now safe, taken in by a Polish friend, Ms. Dukhota said, “There is some sort of sadness inside me.”

Her husband has never held a gun before — he owns a string of convenience stores. And now, like so many other Ukrainian men, he has signed up with a local defense unit to take on the Russians.

The mothers who made it out also worry about resentment from friends and family who stayed behind. They fear they will be seen as less patriotic at a time of great crisis. Still, some women said they ultimately decided to leave while they could, for the safety — and sanity — of themselves and their children.

“My baby couldn’t stand the explosions anymore,” said a woman named Mariana, the mother of a 4-year-old girl. She stood alongside Highway 28 in Medyka making calls from two cellphones, desperate to connect with the ride she had lined up and get out of the cold.

Almost all of their stories reveal that the decisions to separate were as agonizing as the separations themselves.

“For six days my husband told me to leave, and I refused,” Ms. Dukhota said.

She did not want to be alone, and like so many others, she kept hoping that the fighting would stop in a day or two.

Credit…Maciek Nabrdalik for The New York Times

But after the bombings drew closer, she finally relented and snatched up some warm clothes, including a green hoodie that she wore the other day as she walked hunched over in the cutting wind toward Medyka, her first steps as a refugee.

Ms. Dukhota and her husband stayed together until the last possible minute. Like others, they moved together out of immediate danger to cities like Lviv, in Ukraine’s west, that so far have been spared the relentless bombardment that has pummeled other places.

Some women were dropped off at Lviv’s train station to catch a packed train to Poland. Others said their husbands drove them all the way to the border. At the train stations, some women said, there were barricades patrolled by guards to make sure no men were able to leave with them.

Each couple interviewed remembered their last words. Many kept it simple. Often, a young child was looking up at them, confused, standing between two distraught parents, tears streaming down their faces.

“Please don’t worry, everything is going to be OK,” were Ms. Vasylevska’s last words to her husband.

Then she started crying and could not say any more.

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How Europeans Are Responding to Exorbitant Gas and Power Bills

A German retiree facing sky-high energy bills is turning to a wood-burning stove. The owner of a dry cleaning business in Spain adjusted her employees’ work shifts to cut electric bills and installed solar panels. A mayor in France said he ordered a hiring freeze because rising electrical bills threaten a financial “catastrophe.”

Europeans have long paid some of the world’s highest prices for energy, but no one can remember a winter like this one. Lives and livelihoods across the continent are being upended by a series of factors, including pandemic-induced supply shortages and now geopolitical tensions that are driving some energy prices up fivefold.

Matters could get worse if tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalate further, potentially interrupting the flow of gas. Russia provides more than a third of Europe’s natural gas, which heats homes, generates electricity and powers factories. Even as politicians and leaders in capitals across Europe are freezing prices, slashing taxes on energy and issuing checks to households hardest hit by the price increases, concerns are growing about what the persistently high prices could mean for people’s jobs and their ability to pay their bills.

“People are very upset and very distressed,” said Stefanie Siegert, who counsels consumers in the eastern German state of Saxony who find themselves struggling to pay their gas and power bills.

rocked France in 2018. But Ms. Siegert, whose agency counseled more than 300 customers in January — three times its monthly average — said she wouldn’t be surprised if the anger currently directed at the prospect of a vaccine mandate shifted its sights to energy prices.

“When you talk with people, you feel their anger,” she said. “It is very depressing.”

price cap on energy bills was recently raised 54 percent, increasing annual charges to 1,971 pounds. That increase will affect 22 million households beginning in April, contributing to broadening worries in Britain about the rising cost of living.

Similar concerns can be found throughout the continent.

Athina Sirogianni, 46, a freelance translator in Athens, said she remembered fondly the day about a decade ago when her building switched from oil to natural gas. The move cut her utility bill in half.

Nyrstar, the world’s second-largest zinc processor, produces nearly 500 tons of the metal each day at a sprawling factory in Auby, in northern France, a complex that consumes as much energy as the French city of Lyon.

When its electrical rates surged from €35 to €50 per megawatt-hour to €400 last December, it made no sense to keep the factory running, said Xavier Constant, Nyrstar France’s general manager. At that rate, he said, “the more we produce the more we lose,” and so the plant shut down last month for three weeks.

Nyrstar temporarily halved production at its other European plants in October when the energy crisis set in, prompting a brief spike in the global price of zinc.

Last fall, fertilizer plants in Britain were forced to close because of gas prices. And several German companies that produce glass, steel and fertilizer have also scaled back production in recent months.

To ease the burden of the high prices, the government in Berlin reduced by half an energy surcharge on bills aimed at funding the country’s transition to renewable sources of power, and plans to phase it out by the end of next year.

on Twitter. He said the facility’s electricity prices had increased 100 percent.

He and other hospital directors have appealed to the government in Warsaw to intervene, saying the recent cuts to taxes on energy and gasoline were not enough.

In Germany, there is rising tension in municipally owned utilities that must accept customers, like Mr. Backhaus in Saxony, whose relatively low-cost contracts have been dropped by private energy companies because the companies can’t pay ballooning energy rates.

The municipal utilities are forced to increase the rates for these new customers, often almost astronomically high, to cover the cost of buying extra energy on the spot market at record prices. That leads to tensions in communities, and can threaten municipal finances.

“Anyone who wants to will be supplied with energy by the municipal utilities,” said Markus Lewe, president of the German Association of Cities and Towns. “But it must not lead to the municipal utilities and their loyal customers being asked to pay for questionable business models of other providers and having to answer for their shortsighted financing.”

He called on the federal government to intervene, to protect cities from the price instability.

In France, local leaders are also looking to the federal government to help ease the sting of skyrocketing energy bills.

Boris Ravignon, the mayor of Charleville-Mézières, said his city is facing “a catastrophe” after its January energy bill more than tripled, wiping out the region’s budget surplus for infrastructure and public services in a single month. The city is trying to cut costs by switching streetlights to LED bulbs, which use less electricity, and has proposed a new hydroelectric project.

The mayor has already frozen planned hirings and said the city may have no choice but to raise the cost of public services like water, transportation, fees to use sports halls like the city’s public pool, and cultural events.

“We really want to protect citizens from these increases,” Mr. Ravignon said. “But when prices reach such crazy heights, it’s impossible.”

Reporting contributed by Adèle Cordonnier in France, Raphael Minder in Spain and Niki Kitsantonis in Greece.

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