Amazon Pauses Construction After Seventh Noose Is Found at Site

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Amazon said it had temporarily stopped construction of a new fulfillment center in Windsor, Conn., after seven ropes that appeared to be nooses were found on the site since April 27.

The Windsor Police Department said it was investigating what it called “potential hate crime incidents” with the Connecticut State Police and the F.B.I.

Amazon said it had shut down construction on the site until at least Monday while new security measures were being put in place. It said a $100,000 reward had been offered; Amazon said that it had contributed $50,000 and that construction companies and subcontractors working on the site had contributed the other $50,000.

“We continue to be deeply disturbed by the incidents at this construction site,” Brad Griggs, an Amazon representative, said at a news conference on Thursday with Black elected officials and members of the N.A.A.C.P. “Hate, racism and discrimination have no place in our society and certainly are not tolerated in any Amazon workplace.”

in Windsor, a town of about 28,000 people north of Hartford.

“We want to see someone apprehended,” Nuchette Black-Burke, a member of the Windsor Town Council, said at the news conference. “If we need to get a sit-in, a protest, whatever we need to do, we’re going to continue to do it until the folks here realize it’s not acceptable. It’s a hate crime.”

Construction Dive, a news site focused on the construction and building industry, which said that 65 percent of the readers it surveyed last year had witnessed racist incidents on job sites. Those incidents included nooses, graffiti and slurs. Seventy-seven percent of readers said that nothing had been done to address the incidents.

The F.B.I. said it was lending resources and support to the Windsor police.

“The implications of a hanging noose anywhere are unacceptable and will always generate the appropriate investigative response,” David Sundberg, the special agent in charge of the New Haven field office, said in a statement.

Mr. Esdaile said that workers on the site had come from Lynchburg, Va., as well as Florida, Georgia, Texas and other parts of the South. “We are concerned that individuals from this community are not really working on this particular site, as promised,” he said.

Carlos Best, an ironworker who was at the news conference, said he had seen Confederate flags on hats and on the backs of cars and had heard “racial remarks” on the construction site. He said it was not the only job site where he had seen and heard such things, but “it’s kept quiet because some guys just want to get a paycheck and go home.”

“But, personally, on this job here, I’ve seen a lot of racism,” Mr. Best said. “I would like to say to the person that’s doing it: Could you please stop? Stop what you’re doing and grow a conscience and think about other people.”

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Hong Kong Protests, Silenced on the Streets, Surface in Artworks

HONG KONG — As tear gas and fiery street clashes swirled around her two years ago, the Hong Kong painter Bouie Choi wondered how she would eventually render them on canvas.

The answer, exhibited at a local gallery about a year later, was “borrowed space_borrowed time,” her suite of brooding, ethereal landscapes that evoked ancient Chinese scroll paintings and captured a city transformed by civil unrest. Specific visual references to the protests were subtly blended into layer upon layer of washed-out acrylic brush strokes.

“My previous landscape works were quite peaceful and distanced from what happened in reality; they were more surrealistic,” Ms. Choi, 33, said in an interview. “But this exhibition was quite different because the relationship between me and the city had changed.”

street art and political posters that lionized protesters as heroes or explicitly poked fun at Hong Kong’s government and its allies in Beijing. Some of that work was produced by people with established careers in fine arts.

a national security law that China’s central government imposed on the territory last summer and the mass arrests of opposition politicians, activists and lawyers that followed.

Artists, writers and filmmakers know that whatever they create could run afoul of the national security law, which criminalizes anything that the Chinese government deems terrorism, secession, subversion or collusion with foreign powers. Institutions like art galleries are wary of taking risks. One curator said privately that talking about art and politics was especially sensitive ahead of Art Basel Hong Kong, a major international fair that opens this week.

Some Hong Kong curators have been quietly asking artists to tone down certain pieces, consulting with lawyers about how to avoid prosecution under the national security law and even calling the police to discuss potentially sensitive works before exhibiting them, said Wong Ka Ying, a member of a union that represents about 400 Hong Kong artists.

“We now act like we’re in Beijing or Shanghai,” she said.

Yet several young Hong Kong artists are daring to produce work about the 2019 protests anyway, albeit with heavy doses of abstraction and ambiguity. A few talk about their artistic process in polemical terms; others, like Ms. Choi, say they are merely responding creatively to the experience of living through a once-in-a-generation trauma.

pro-democracy demonstrations that are now seen as preludes to the giant outpouring of civil disobedience in 2019.

Eight years ago, for example, the artist South Ho walled and unwalled himself with bricks that said, “Made in Xianggang,” the word for Hong Kong in Mandarin, mainland China’s dominant tongue. Photographs of his stunt were exhibited in 2017 by the Asia Society’s Hong Kong gallery, alongside other pieces that conveyed a sense of helplessness toward Beijing’s tightening grip on the city.

Now the space for expression is narrower. A government funding body recently said that it had the power to end grants to artists who promote “overthrowing the government,” and state-owned newspapers have denounced a collection by a local museum that is expected to open soon and owns works by the dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

More than a dozen Hong Kong artists and gallerists either declined to be interviewed for this article or did not respond to requests for comment.

traffic scene on wire mesh to depict fences that went up near a cross-harbor tunnel that antigovernment protesters targeted in 2019. He also used yellow tape to frame walls where the authorities had painted over antigovernment graffiti.

Unreasonable Behavior,” a mixed-media solo show by Siu Wai Hang that included photographs of the 2019 protests that the artist had punched, ripped or cut.

Teenage girls with bricks,” an abstract work with collapsing perspectives and vague pastel figures. The gallery’s curatorial statement said the work depicted female protesters who had been discouraged by male comrades from joining the front lines of street clashes.

And this spring, at the Asia Society’s Hong Kong gallery, the artist Isaac Chong Wai installed “Falling Carefully,” a mixed-media piece featuring three life-size mannequins of the artist, each suspended in a different stage of free fall. A nearby wall displayed his sketches of protesters and riot police officers during antigovernment demonstrations in Hong Kong and beyond, including Armenia, Russia and Uganda.

fell, suffering fatal injuries, as police officers clashed with protesters.

Henry Au-yeung, the director of Grotto Fine Art, the gallery that exhibited the paintings last fall, wrote in an essay that they depicted “social unrest,” but also that “clear images do not mean clarity of event; what is veiled can well be the hidden truth.”

Tiffany May contributed reporting.

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Live Updates: U.N. Security Council Is Set to Meet on Middle East Violence

streamed live on a U.N. website.

The American ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said in a statement posted on Twitter after the meeting was announced that “the U.S. will continue to actively engage in diplomacy at the highest levels to try to de-escalate tensions.”

Security Council meetings on the Israeli-Palestinian issue have often ended inconclusively and served mainly as a platform for supporters of both sides to air their grievances. But they have also demonstrated the widespread view among United Nations members that Israel’s actions as an occupying power are illegal and that its use of deadly force is disproportionately harsh.

Briefing the Security Council last week in a closed session, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East, Tor Wennesland, described the latest violence as “the most serious escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in years.”

Israeli warplanes stepped up their attacks on Sunday morning, launching multiple strikes at a main thoroughfare leading to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, leaving residents trapped under the rubble and killing at least 26 people, including eight children, according to local media reports.

The Israeli Army said that a separate strike destroyed the home of Yehya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, although it was unclear whether he was there.

Sirens wailed early Sunday in Israeli border towns as Hamas rockets were launched into the area, although there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

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Israel Strikes Gaza Tower Housing A.P. and Other News Media

An Israeli airstrike destroyed a prominent building in Gaza City on Saturday that housed media outlets, including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. The Israel Defense Forces said it gave an advanced warning for civilians to evacuate.

We are shocked and horrified that the Israelis would target the building that housed A.P.‘s bureau in Gaza. They long knew that A.P.’s bureau was there, and they targeted it. Now, fortunately, we had a warning, and we were able to get our journalists out. We narrowly escaped a huge loss of life. We had 12 journalists in that building. And those brave journalists not only got out, but they were able to salvage much of our equipment because it’s important that we continue to tell this story. You see, that building provided the best vantage point for the world to see the events in Gaza, and now that building is destroyed. And we will work hard to continue to tell the world the important events of Gaza, and we will keep our journalists safe.

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An Israeli airstrike destroyed a prominent building in Gaza City on Saturday that housed media outlets, including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. The Israel Defense Forces said it gave an advanced warning for civilians to evacuate.CreditCredit…Hosam Salem for The New York Times

The prominent 12-story building in Gaza City that was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on Saturday not only housed the offices of media organizations including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera.

It also offered a vantage point for the world on Gaza, as A.P. cameras positioned on the roof terrace captured Israeli bombardments and Palestinian militants’ rocket attacks during periodic flare-ups in fighting — including over the past week.

“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what transpired today,” the A.P.’s president, Gary Pruitt, said in a statement following the Israeli attack.

The leveling of the al-Jalaa tower, which occurred as fighting between Israelis and Palestinians spiraled on several fronts, drew condemnations from across the world. The Israel Defense Forces said that its fighter jets struck the tower because it also contained military assets belonging to Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Pruitt called on the I.D.F. to present evidence to support its allegation, adding that the news agency had operated from the building for 15 years.

“We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” he said. “This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”

On Sunday, the I.D.F. tweeted that the building was “an important base of operations” for Hamas military intelligence, where it “gathered intel for attacks against Israel, manufactured weapons & positioned equipment to hamper I.D.F. operations.”

The I.D.F. — which frequently accuses Hamas of using civilians as shields — provided advance warning to civilians in the building to allow evacuation. The A.P. reported that the owner of the building, Jawad Mahdi, was “told he had an hour to make sure everyone has left the building.”

In the minutes before the airstrike, Mr. Mahdi was filmed desperately pleading with the Israeli Army, asking them to allow four journalists who had been filming an interview — with the father of four children slain in an Israeli strike on a refugee camp on Saturday morning — an extra 10 minutes to retrieve their belongings.

An Israeli soldier told him: “There will be no 10 minutes.”

Minutes later, the building was destroyed, engulfed in a plume of black smoke.

The A.P. said that it “narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life,” and that a dozen journalists and freelancers inside the building evacuated before the strike. The building also housed apartments on the lower floors.

Press freedom groups said that the strike — coming a day after the Israeli Army erroneously told foreign media that ground troops had entered Gaza — raised concerns that Israel was interfering with independent reporting on the conflict. In a statement, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists questioned whether the I.D.F. was “deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza.”

A White House spokeswoman, Jennifer Psaki, tweeted that the United States had “communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility.” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that he was “deeply disturbed” by the strike and warned that “indiscriminate targeting of civilian and media structures” would violate international law.

After the strike, journalists from other news organizations gathered near the rubble. Heba Akila, an Al Jazeera journalist who had been broadcasting from the tower when the warning call was made, said: “This is clearly to silence the truth and the voices of journalists.”

As the worst violence in years rages between the Israeli military and Hamas, each night the sky is lit up by a barrage of missiles streaking across the sky and the projectiles designed to counter them.

It is a display of fire and thunder that has been described as both remarkable and horrifying.

The images of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system attempting to shoot down missiles fired by militants in Gaza have been among the most widely shared online, even as the toll wrought by the violence only becomes clear in the light of the next day’s dawn.

“The number of Israelis killed and wounded would be far higher if it had not been for the Iron Dome system, which has been a lifesaver as it always is,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said this week.

The Iron Dome became operational in 2011 and got its biggest first test over eight days in November 2014, when Gaza militants fired some 1,500 rockets aimed at Isreal.

While Israeli officials claimed a success rate of up to 90 percent during that conflict, outside experts were skeptical.

The systems’s interceptors — just 6 inches wide and 10 feet long — rely on miniature sensors and computerized brains to zero in on short-range rockets. Israel’s larger interceptors — the Patriot and Arrow systems — can fly longer distances to go after bigger threats.

The Iron Dome was recently upgraded, but the details of the changes were not made public.

In the current conflict, militants in the Gaza Strip have fired nearly 3,000 missiles, the Israeli Air Force said on Sunday, noting that about 1,150 of them had been intercepted.

A pro-Palestinian protest near the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Saturday.
Credit…Gamal Diab/EPA, via Shutterstock

As the conflict between Israel and Hamas stretched into its seventh day, pro-Palestinian demonstrations were held in cities around the world, even as leaders across Europe expressed concern about a rise in anti-Semitic attacks.

On Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators in Washington marched from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol in protest of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people and what they said was an inadequate response from the United States.

“People think they can be neutral about this. That’s absolutely wrong,” said Alexandra-Ola Chaic, 17, who traveled to the rally from Burke, Va., with her family, which is of Palestinian descent. “We have to do what we can to make this an issue that receives political support.”

The crowd that gathered was diverse in age and background, and included many families with young children.

Ruth Soto, 25, from Northern Virginia, came with her sister to show solidarity with Palestinians. She said the displacement of Palestinians felt personal to her because her family fled war in Central America to come to the United States illegally.

“We’ve seen the struggle, being displaced from your home,” she said. “This is a way we can help them.”

In London, a pro-Palestinian march on Saturday attracted thousands of protesters, and similar demonstrations were held in cities around the world.

At the same time, there was growing concern about a rise in attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions.

France banned a pro-Palestinian protest in Paris, citing the “sensitive” international context and the risk of acts of violence against synagogues and Israeli interests in the French capital.

Paris protest organizers pressed ahead on Saturday despite the ban. The police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the rally, which had drawn about 3,000 people, Agence France-Presse reported.

This past week, German protesters attacked synagogues, burned Israeli flags and marched through the streets chanting slurs against Jews.

Felix Klein, a German official tasked with countering anti-Semitism, said: “It is appalling how obviously Jews in Germany are being held responsible here for actions of the Israeli government in which they are completely uninvolved.”

Britain experienced a sharp increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the past week, a charity said on Saturday.

Credit…Adat Yeshua Messianic Synagogue

The Community Security Trust, a charity that records anti-Semitic threats, said it had received more than 50 reports of Jews across Britain being threatened and verbally abused in the past week — a 490 percent increase from the previous seven days. It said it believed that many more attacks had gone unreported.

Offensive phrases and slogans about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been shouted at Jewish people of all ages, including children, said Dave Rich, the charity’s director of policy. “When the conflict in Israel reaches this level of intensity, we always see increases in anti-Semitic incidents,” he said.

A new round of deadly violence erupted in the Middle East over the past week, as Israeli airstrikes hit targets in Gaza and the militant group Hamas launched rockets at cities inside Israel.

A damaged building in Petah Tikva, Israel, that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip.
Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times

There is no simple answer to the question “What set off the current violence in Israel?”

But in a recent episode of The Daily, Isabel Kershner, The New York Times’s Jerusalem correspondent, explained the series of recent events that reignited violence in the region.

In Jerusalem, nearly every square foot of land is contested — its ownership and tenancy symbolic of larger abiding questions about who has rightful claim to a city considered holy by three major world religions.

As Isabel explained, a longstanding legal battle over attempts to forcibly evict six Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem heightened tensions in the weeks leading up to the outbreak of violence.

The always tenuous peace was further tested by the overlap of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with a month of politically charged days in Israel.

A series of provocative events followed: Israeli forces barred people from gathering to celebrate Ramadan outside Damascus Gate, an Old City entrance that is usually a festive meeting place for young people after the breaking of the daily fast during the holy month.

Then young Palestinians filmed themselves slapping an ultra-Orthodox Jew, videos that went viral on TikTok.

And on Jerusalem Day, an annual event marking the capture of East Jerusalem during the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, groups of young Israelis marched through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter to reach the Western Wall, chanting “Death to Arabs” along the way.

Stability in the city collapsed after a police raid on the Aqsa Mosque complex, an overture that Palestinians saw as an invasion on holy territory. Muslim worshipers threw rocks, and officers met them with tear gas, rubber-tipped bullets and stun grenades. At least 21 police officers and more than 330 Palestinians were wounded in that fighting.

Listen to the episode to hear how these clashes spiraled into an exchange of airstrikes that has brought Israeli forces to the edge of Gaza — and the brink of war.

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Listen to ‘The Daily’: The Israeli-Palestinian Crisis, Reignited

Rockets, airstrikes and mob violence: Why is this happening now, and how much worse could it get?

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Keith Haring’s Refrigerator Door Is on the Auction Block

It began life began as a white refrigerator door in an apartment in SoHo, but by the 1990s, it was anything but plain. It was covered with the graffiti tags and wide-marker signatures of the famous friends of the tenant in the apartment. “Madonna Loves Keith,” read one inscription.

Yes, that Madonna. The tenant was the artist Keith Haring, a star of the SoHo art scene, who partied with Andy Warhol and graffiti artists like LA II (whose real name is Angel Ortiz) and Fab Five Freddy (Fred Brathwaite), both of whom signed the refrigerator. Also on the door are the letters JM, which the auctioneer Arlan Ettinger, in an interview, speculated had belonged to Jean-Michel Basquiat, the downtown artist who became a megawatt celebrity. (Ettinger said he had tried to verify the Basquiat signature but that “there’s no way of absolutely confirming” it’s his writing or not.)

Ettinger, who will sell the refrigerator door on Wednesday at Guernsey’s, said the door served as Haring’s guest register. “It seemed like everybody who was anybody showed up there,” he said, “and you signed in on that refrigerator door. It’s not beautiful, but it’s of that moment, of that time. It reflects a certain spirit, a creativeness, that is alive today if you think about the people who were there — Madonna, and a long, long list of artists.”

Ettinger said the owner, a yoga instructor in California, had insisted on privacy, so much so that he said he did not even know her name. He said his contract to sell the door was with a friend of the owner who forwarded an email describing how the owner had found the apartment on Broome Street — she saw an ad for a “spacious railroad apartment” in The Village Voice in 1990. It came with “this amazing refrigerator covered with the graffiti of the Haring era.” The walls had once been covered, too, but she said that the landlord had repainted them.

She returned home one sweltering day to learn that the refrigerator had conked out and was removed; the delivery men had left it on the street to be picked up with the garbage.

“I raced outside,” the email said. “There, in the back alley, was our old friend, the Haring fridge, lying on its side. The door slipped off the body of the fridge easily. I brought it upstairs while my roommate retrieved the smaller top freezer door.”

In 1993, when she moved to California, she carted the door to her parents’ home in Washington, and stored it in their attic, where it stayed until about 2010, when her mother shipped it to her.

Andy Warhol, whose signature is also on the refrigerator door, figures in another item in the auction: A moose head he owned. The auction will be conducted online through Liveauctioneers.com and Invaluable.com, and by telephone from Guernsey’s. Ettinger’s estimate for the refrigerator door is “in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

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Japan’s Skateboarders Roll, Warily, Out of the Shadows

TOKYO — Daisuke Hayakawa is the coach of Japan’s Olympic skateboarding team, which is likely to dominate the sport when it makes its debut at this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo. But that does not mean he would dare set his skateboard down on a city sidewalk.

He may be a rebel in Japan, but he has manners.

“Skateboarding became one of the sports at the Olympics, but the image of skateboarding in Japan is that it’s an activity for unruly kids,” he said.

So as evening fell on a warm summer day last year, Hayakawa, 45, carried his board in the crook of his wrist. He left home in central Tokyo and took the subway to Kanegafuchi Station, a half-hour train ride north of downtown, and walked about 15 minutes toward the Sumida River.

The streets and sidewalks were mostly empty. Yet his skateboard still never touched the ground.

relegated to the unkempt shadows of Japanese society — far more hidden and distrusted than in other places around the globe.

Olympics.

Expectations are high. Hayakawa expects Japan to capture at least six of the sport’s 12 medals, including multiple golds.

It is sure to be a strange but exciting time for Hayakawa and others of an older generation, the grown-up misfits most deeply connected to the culture of skateboarding in Japan.

“For my old friends, we want to show that what we did was not wrong,” Hayakawa said. “For the newcomers, who come to skateboarding because of the Olympics, I explain that our culture is cool. We are why they are competing.”

After an hour or so under the viaduct, the red sun swallowed by a distant skyline just starting to sparkle, Hayakawa glowed with sweat. He flipped his skateboard back into his hands and retreated all the way to the station. Then he rode the next train home, carrying his own set of wheels under his arm.

“People gradually see skateboarding as a sport,” Hayakawa said. “But most people will not understand that the counterculture side is the real skateboarding.”

Kantaro Suzuki contributed reporting.

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Alarm in Ukraine as Russian Forces Mass at Border

MARIUPOL, Ukraine — There are the booms that echo again, and parents know to tell their children they are only fireworks. There are the drones the separatists started flying behind the lines at night, dropping land mines. There are the fresh trenches the Ukrainians can see their enemy digging, the increase in sniper fire pinning them inside their own.

But perhaps the starkest evidence that the seven-year-old war in Ukraine may be entering a new phase is what Capt. Mykola Levytskyi coast guard unit saw cruising in the Azov Sea just outside the port city of Mariupol last week: a flotilla of Russian amphibious assault ships.

Since the start of the war in 2014, Russia has used the pretext of a separatist conflict to pressure Ukraine after its Westward-looking revolution, supplying arms and men to Kremlin-backed rebels in the country’s east while denying it was a party to the fight.

Few Western analysts believe the Kremlin is planning an invasion of eastern Ukraine, given the likely backlash at home and abroad. But with a large-scale Russian troop buildup on land and sea on Ukraine’s doorstep, the view is spreading among officials and wide swathes of the Ukrainian public that Moscow is signaling more bluntly than ever before that it is prepared to openly enter the conflict.

“These ships are, concretely, a threat from the Russian state,” Captain Levytskyi said over the whir of his speedboat’s engines as it plied the Azov Sea, after pointing out a Russian patrol boat stationed six miles offshore. “It is a much more serious threat.”

Many Ukrainian military officials and volunteer fighters say that they still find it unlikely that Russia will openly invade Ukraine, and that they do not see evidence of an imminent offensive among the gathered Russian forces. But they speculate over other possibilities, including Russia’s possible recognition or annexation of the separatist-held territories in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainians are awaiting President Vladimir V. Putin’s annual state-of-the-nation address to Russia on Wednesday, an affair often rife with geopolitical signaling, for clues about what comes next.

“I feel confused, I feel tension,” Oleksandr Tkachenko, Ukraine’s culture and information policy minister, said in an interview.

Mr. Tkachenko listed some invasion scenarios: a three-pronged Russian attack from north, south and east; an assault from separatist-held territory; and an attempt to capture a Dnieper River water supply for Crimea.

Russia, for its part, has done little to hide its buildup, insisting that it has been massing troops in response to heightened military activity in the region by NATO and Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials deny any plans to escalate the war, but there is no question that President Volodymyr Zelensky has taken a harder line against Russia in recent months.

Mr. Zelensky has closed pro-Russian TV channels and imposed sanctions against Mr. Putin’s closest ally in Ukraine. He has also declared more openly than before his desire to have Ukraine join NATO, a remote possibility that the Kremlin nevertheless regards as a dire threat to Russia’s security.

Interviews with frontline units across a 150-mile swath of eastern Ukraine in recent days underscored the fast-rising tensions in Europe’s only active armed conflict. Officials and volunteers acknowledge apprehension over Russia’s troop movements, and civilians feel numb and hopeless after seven years of war. At least 28 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in fighting this year, the military says.

“We live in sadness,” said Anna Dikareva, a 48-year-old postal service worker in the frontline industrial town of Avdiivka, where people scarcely flinch when shells explode in the distance. “I don’t want war, but we won’t solve this in a peaceful way, either.”

For much of last year, a cease-fire held.

Mr. Zelensky, a television comedian elected in 2019 on a promise to end the war, negotiated with the Kremlin for step-by-step compromises to ease the hardships of frontline residents and look for ways out of a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people. But Russia’s insistence on policies that would essentially give it a say in eastern Ukraine’s future was unacceptable to Kyiv.

“The hope that Zelensky had to solve this issue, it didn’t happen,” said Mr. Tkachenko, the information minister and a longtime associate of the president.

Instead, the fighting has picked up again.

The Ukrainians’ labyrinths of trenches and fortifications along the roughly 250-mile front is by now so well established that in one tunnel near Avdiivka, the soldiers put up multicolored Christmas lights to spruce up the darkness. The town lies just a few miles north of the city of Donetsk, the separatists’ main stronghold.

At their hillside battle position, overlooking a separatist position in a T-shaped growth of trees, the soldiers described the sound of separatist drones they said carried land mines dropped about a mile behind the line. Since December and January, they said, sniper fire from the other side increased, and they could see the separatists digging new trenches.

The lettering above the skull on their shoulder patches read: “Ukraine or death.”

“The enemy has activated lately,” said one 58-year-old soldier, nicknamed “the professor,” who said he would not give his full name for security reasons.

In Avdiivka, a volunteer unit of Ukraine’s ultranationalist Right Sector keeps a pet wolf in a cage outside the commander’s office. The commander, Dmytro Kotsyubaylo — his nom de guerre is Da Vinci — jokes that the fighters feed it the bones of Russian-speaking children, a reference to Russian state media tropes about the evils of Ukrainian nationalists.

Both sides have accused each other of increasing numbers of cease-fire violations, but Mr. Kotsyubaylo said that — to his regret — his fighters were allowed to fire only in response to attacks from the separatist side.

On the video screen above his desk, Mr. Kotsyubaylo showed high-definition drone footage depicting the quotidian violence taking place just 400 miles from the European Union’s borders. In one sequence, two of his unit’s mortar rounds explode around separatist trenches; a naked man emerges, sprinting. In another, an explosion is seen at what he said was a separatist sniper position; the clearing smoke reveals a body coated with yellow dust.

Asked what he expects to happen next, Mr. Kotsyubaylo responded: “full-scale war.”

Mr. Kotsyubaylo said he believed Russia’s troop movements north and south of separatist-held territory were a ruse meant to draw Ukrainian forces away from the front line. He said he expected Russia instead to launch an offensive using its separatist proxies in the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics,” allowing Mr. Putin to continue to claim that the war is an internal Ukrainian affair.

“If Russia wanted to do it in secret, they would do it in secret,” Mr. Kotsyubaylo said of the massing troops. “They’re doing everything they can for us to see them, and to show us how cool Putin is.”

Under the peace plan negotiated in Minsk, Belarus, in 2015, both sides’ heavy weaponry is required to be positioned well behind the front line.

Ukraine’s artillery is now stationed in places like a Soviet-era tractor yard in an out-of-the-way village reached by treacherous dirt roads an hour’s drive from Mariupol. Col. Andrii Shubin, the base commander, said he was ready to send his artillery guns and his American-provided weapon-locating radar trucks to the front as soon as the order came.

Ukrainian officials say that they are not repositioning troops in response to the Russian buildup, and that any current troop movements are normal rotations.

On Monday, dozens of tanks and armored vehicles could be seen on the move in the southwest of the government-controlled area of eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region. Soldiers relaxed on cots at a village train station under graffiti that used an obscenity to refer to Mr. Putin.

Around the region, from Mariupol’s fashionable waterfront to the shrapnel-scarred streets of Avdiivka, many residents said they were so exhausted from the war that they did not even want to consider the possibility that the fighting will flare up again.

Lena Pisarenko, a 45-year-old Russian teacher in Avdiivka, said she had never stopped keeping an emergency supply of water on hand in pots and bottles all over her apartment and her balcony. During the shelling at the height of the war, she created a ritual to keep her children calm: They would play board games and drink tea while three candles burn down three times. Then it was time for bed.

Another woman passing by, Olga Volvach, 41, said she was paying little mind to the recent escalation in shelling.

“Our balcony door isolates sound well,” she said.

Maria Varenikova contributed reporting from Mariupol, Ukraine.

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Couple Who Defaced $400,000 Painting in South Korea Thought It Was a Public Art Project

SEOUL — The couple saw brushes and paint cans in front of a paint-splattered canvas at a gallery in a Seoul shopping mall. So they added a few brush strokes, assuming it was a participatory mural.

Not quite: The painting was a finished work by an American artist whose abstract aesthetic riffs on street art. The piece is worth more than $400,000, according to the organizers of the exhibition that featured the painting.

Now it’s hard to tell where the artist’s work ends and the vandalism begins. “Graffitied graffiti,” a local newspaper headline said last week.

Either way, the piece, “Untitled,” by John Andrew Perello, the graffiti artist known as JonOne, is now a magnet for selfies. And on social media, South Koreans are debating what the vandalism illustrates about art, authorship and authenticity.

The artwork is displayed with paint cans, brushes and shoes that the artist used when he worked on it, one of the exhibition’s organizers, Kang Wook, said in an interview. He added, “There were guidelines and a notice, but the couple did not pay attention.”

Some social media users have echoed Mr. Kang’s reasoning. Others say the sign was confusing and the couple should not be blamed.

A few suggest that the incident itself was a form of contemporary art, or that the couple’s abstract brush strokes — three dark-green blotches covering an area about 35 inches by 11 inches — have improved the piece.

The debate is notable in part because the crime was not intentional and the painting can be restored, said Ken Kim, an art restoration expert in Seoul who has seen the vandalized work.

The painting is part of “Street Noise,” an exhibition that opened at Lotte World Mall in Seoul in February and features about 130 artworks by an international group of more than a dozen graffiti artists. Mr. Kang said the staff at the mall noticed on March 28 that the painting had been vandalized, and identified the couple by checking security footage.

The couple were arrested but released after the police determined that the vandalism was accidental, the local news media reported. Mr. Kang said the couple told the police that they had thought the artwork was open to public participation.

The couple have not been identified and could not be reached for comment.

The artist, JonOne, said in an interview on Wednesday that he was disappointed and angry that his work had been “defaced,” although some people have said the publicity could work in his favor.

“Art should be religious,” he said. “You don’t paint on a church.”

JonOne said the vandalism of his work in Seoul reminded him of growing up in New York City and the feeling that his talent was not appreciated.

As a teenager, he would sign his graffiti with the tag “JonOne.” His style later became more abstract, although he continued to use graffiti lettering as the foundation for his work. Now 57 and living in Paris, he has described his aesthetic as “abstract expressionist graffiti,” a nod to Jackson Pollock and other American artists who redefined modern painting in the years after World War II.

Julien Kolly, a gallerist in Zurich who specializes in graffiti art and has exhibited JonOne paintings over the years, said that they often prompted strong reactions from viewers.

“Some are full of praise and others think that a child could do better,” he said. “Of course, I am in the first category.”

Mr. Kolly said that he wondered why the couple who vandalized “Untitled” in Seoul thought they could “intervene” in an artwork that was hanging in a gallery — but also that he did not think they intended to “destroy” it.

“I can understand that people may have thought that they could, at the very least, do better than the artist by participating in this work,” he added.

Mr. Kang said a decision about whether to restore “Untitled” would be made before the exhibition ends on June 13. The restoration could cost about $9,000, he added, and the insurance company may find the couple partially liable for the cost.

“But we are concerned,” he added, “because there are many comments saying that the artwork should not be restored, and remain as it is.”

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A Graffiti Artwork in South Korea Was ‘Graffitied.’

SEOUL — The couple saw brushes and paint cans in front of a paint-splattered canvas at a gallery in a Seoul shopping mall. So they added a few brush strokes, assuming it was a participatory mural.

Not quite: The painting was a finished work by an American artist whose abstract aesthetic riffs on street art. The piece is worth more than $400,000, according to the organizers of the exhibition that featured the painting.

Now it’s hard to tell where the artist’s work ends and the vandalism begins. “Graffitied graffiti,” a local newspaper headline said last week.

Either way, the piece, “Untitled,” by John Andrew Perello, the graffiti artist known as JonOne, is now a magnet for selfies. And on social media, South Koreans are debating what the vandalism illustrates about art, authorship and authenticity.

The artwork is displayed with paint cans, brushes and shoes that the artist used when he worked on it, one of the exhibition’s organizers, Kang Wook, said in an interview. He added, “There were guidelines and a notice, but the couple did not pay attention.”

Some social media users have echoed Mr. Kang’s reasoning. Others say the sign was confusing and the couple should not be blamed.

A few suggest that the incident itself was a form of contemporary art, or that the couple’s abstract brush strokes — three dark-green blotches covering an area about 35 inches by 11 inches — have improved the piece.

The debate is notable in part because the crime was not intentional and the painting can be restored, said Ken Kim, an art restoration expert in Seoul who has seen the vandalized work.

The painting is part of “Street Noise,” an exhibition that opened at Lotte World Mall in Seoul in February and features about 130 artworks by an international group of more than a dozen graffiti artists. Mr. Kang said the staff at the mall noticed on March 28 that the painting had been vandalized, and identified the couple by checking security footage.

The couple were arrested but released after the police determined that the vandalism was accidental, the local news media reported. Mr. Kang said the couple told the police that they had thought the artwork was open to public participation.

The couple have not been identified and could not be reached for comment.

The artist, JonOne, said in an interview on Wednesday that he was disappointed and angry that his work had been “defaced,” although some people have said the publicity could work in his favor.

“Art should be religious,” he said. “You don’t paint on a church.”

JonOne said the vandalism of his work in Seoul reminded him of growing up in New York City and the feeling that his talent was not appreciated.

As a teenager, he would sign his graffiti with the tag “JonOne.” His style later became more abstract, although he continued to use graffiti lettering as the foundation for his work. Now 57 and living in Paris, he has described his aesthetic as “abstract expressionist graffiti,” a nod to Jackson Pollock and other American artists who redefined modern painting in the years after World War II.

Julien Kolly, a gallerist in Zurich who specializes in graffiti art and has exhibited JonOne paintings over the years, said that they often prompted strong reactions from viewers.

“Some are full of praise and others think that a child could do better,” he said. “Of course, I am in the first category.”

Mr. Kolly said that he wondered why the couple who vandalized “Untitled” in Seoul thought they could “intervene” in an artwork that was hanging in a gallery — but also that he did not think they intended to “destroy” it.

“I can understand that people may have thought that they could, at the very least, do better than the artist by participating in this work,” he added.

Mr. Kang said a decision about whether to restore “Untitled” would be made before the exhibition ends on June 13. The restoration could cost about $9,000, he added, and the insurance company may find the couple partially liable for the cost.

“But we are concerned,” he added, “because there are many comments saying that the artwork should not be restored, and remain as it is.”

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