LONDON — The weather maps for Europe were blood red on Sunday as heat that has been baking Spain and Italy and fanning fires in southwest France worked its way north toward Britain.
In London, it was warm, in the high 80s, but temperatures on Monday and Tuesday were forecast to hit 100 or higher and to shatter records in a place where air-conditioning is rare and buildings are constructed to retain heat.
In France, the extreme temperatures that have fed wildfires in the south are expected to sweep into the north, especially along the Atlantic coast, which was bracing for uncharacteristically scorching weather.
Germany and other countries in July, killing hundreds. In August, multiple wildfires consumed large areas of Greece. And, also in August, one town in Sicily may have recorded the hottest temperature ever in Europe: 124 degrees Fahrenheit.
But on Sunday, the attention in France was focused on the wildfires, in the southwestern Gironde region near Bordeaux, where over 1,200 firefighters were still struggling to contain two separate blazes.
stay out of the sun from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., to make only essential journeys on those days, to avoid exercising during the hottest part of the day and to carry water with them.
Reporting was contributed by Aurelien Breeden from Paris, Francheska Melendez from Foz do Farelo, Portugal, Gaia Pianigiani from Rome and Euan Ward from London.
Not only did Ms. Mordaunt urge Britons to vote for Brexit, but she also played a minor, though memorable, part in the campaign by warning that Turkish migrants would flock to Britain when their own country joined the European Union, something she claimed Britain would be unable to block. The statement was erroneous: Britain, like other members, had a right to veto Turkey’s membership.
Brexit supporters regard her with suspicion for another reason: She voted for an ill-fated withdrawal agreement with the European Union negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May.
Ms. Mordaunt combines an interest in security and a military background with views on social issues that are mildly progressive by Tory party standards. She has spoken up in favor of the rights of transgender people, for example, a position that has gotten her into trouble with the culture warriors on the party’s right.
Seeking to defuse the issue, Ms. Mordaunt said last week that transgender women “are not biological women like me, but the law recognizes them in their new gender and that’s very simple and straightforward.”
In the cut-and-thrust of Tory politics, of course, it is neither.
During a televised debate on Friday evening, Mr. Mordaunt came under renewed pressure on the issue, with one of her opponents, Kemi Badenoch, questioning whether she had backtracked on her earlier position. Critics said Ms. Mordaunt’s performance was wobbly and unfocused.
Analysts said the unsettled nature of the contest had made it especially vicious. Mr. Sunak, the early front-runner, has come under attack by Mr. Johnson’s allies, who view his resignation less than two weeks ago, which set the stage for the prime minister’s downfall, as a betrayal. Mr. Sunak’s tax policy as chancellor was criticized by Jacob Rees-Mogg, with whom he sat in cabinet just days ago. Mr. Rees-Mogg refused to deny reports that he had described the policy, which included tax increases, as “socialist.”
LONDON — For five years, the most famous clock tower in Britain was hidden behind an ugly fortress of scaffolding, and its hourly bong was rendered mute.
But the restoration work is done, and this summer, a sound familiar to Londoners for more than a century and a half will again ring out across the British capital — Big Ben is back.
The clock tower — officially known as the Elizabeth Tower since 2012 when it was renamed in honor of the queen’s diamond jubilee — stands tall over the Palace of Westminster, which houses the British Parliament and is one of the world’s most instantly recognized constructions. But it is the nickname of the biggest bell in the belfry that draws the most name recognition: Big Ben.
started ticking in 1859. More than 3,500 parts were removed from the 316-foot tower, including much of its iron roof.
Brexit supporters fought in vain to return it to service to mark the country’s exit from the European Union.
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.”
WASHINGTON — President Biden signaled a vast increase in America’s commitment to defeating Russia in Ukraine on Thursday as he asked Congress to authorize $33 billion for more artillery, antitank weapons and other hardware as well as economic and humanitarian aid.
The request represented an extraordinary escalation in American investment in the war, more than tripling the total emergency expenditures and putting the United States on track to spend as much this year helping the Ukrainians as it did on average each year fighting its own war in Afghanistan, or more.
“The cost of this fight is not cheap,” Mr. Biden said at the White House. “But caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen. We either back the Ukrainian people as they defend their country or we stand by as the Russians continue their atrocities and aggression in Ukraine.”
Mr. Biden also sent Congress a plan to increase the government’s power to seize luxury yachts, aircraft, bank accounts and other assets of Russian oligarchs tied to President Vladimir V. Putin and use the proceeds to help the Ukrainians. Just hours later, Congress passed legislation allowing Mr. Biden to use a World War II-era law to supply weapons to Ukraine on loan quickly.
The latest American pledge came as Moscow raised the prospect of a widening conflict with the West. Russian officials accused the United States and Poland of working together on a covert plan to establish control over western Ukraine and asserted that the West was encouraging Ukraine to launch strikes inside Russia, where gas depots and a missile factory have burned or been attacked in recent days.
A Russian missile strike setting off a fiery explosion in central Kyiv shattered weeks of calm in the capital and served as a vivid reminder that the violence in Ukraine has not shifted exclusively to the eastern and southern portions of the country, where Russia is now focusing its efforts to seize and control territory. Russian forces are making “slow and uneven” progress in that part of Ukraine but are struggling to overcome the same supply line problems that hampered their initial offensive, the Pentagon said.
The strike came on the same day that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was meeting with António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, just a few miles away in Kyiv, a visit that was no secret in Moscow. Mr. Guterres arrived in Ukraine, after sitting down with Mr. Putin in Moscow, in hopes of securing evacuation routes for besieged Ukrainian civilians and support for the prosecution of war crimes.
In the hours before the latest strike, Mr. Guterres toured the stunning wreckage in Borodianka, Bucha and Irpin, three suburbs of Kyiv that have borne the heavy cost of the fighting. Standing in front of a row of scorched buildings where dozens of people were killed, he called Russia’s invasion “an absurdity” and said, “There is no way a war can be acceptable in the 21st century.”
In his nightly address, Mr. Zelensky condemned the strike, saying it revealed Russia’s “true attitude to global institutions” and was an effort to “humiliate the U.N.” He vowed a “strong response” to that and other Russian attacks. “We still have to drive the occupiers out,” he said.
Just as the United States was ramping up its flow of arms to the battlefield, the German Parliament voted overwhelmingly to deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine, a largely symbolic move to show unity after the government announced the plan earlier this week.
A day after Russia cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said his country must be prepared for the possibility that Germany could be next. “We have to be ready for it,” Mr. Scholz told reporters in Tokyo, where he paid Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan a visit to shore up ties between the two countries.
Russian strikes and Ukrainian counterattacks continued to batter eastern and southern battlegrounds in Ukraine, but Russian troops are advancing cautiously in this latest phase, able to sustain only several kilometers of progress each day, according to a Pentagon official speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational details.
Despite having much shorter supply lines now than they did during the war’s first several weeks in Ukraine’s north, the Russians have not overcome their logistics problem, the Pentagon official said, citing slow shipments of food, fuel, weapons and ammunition.
Moscow now has 92 battalion groups fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine — up from 85 a week ago, but still well below the 125 it had in the first phase of the war, the official said. Each battalion group has about 700 to 1,000 troops.
Russia has amassed artillery to support its troops near the city of Izium, according to the latest assessment by the Institute for the Study of War, a research group. Russian forces have used the city as a strategic staging point for their assault in the east and probably seek to outflank Ukrainian defensive positions, the analysts said.
Since Wednesday, Russian troops have captured several villages west of the city, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, with the likely aim of bypassing Ukrainian forces on two parallel roads running south, toward the cities of Barvinkove and Sloviansk.
A senior American diplomat accused Russia of engaging in systematic campaigns to topple local governments in occupied Ukraine and to detain and torture local officials, journalists and activists in so-called “filtration camps,” where some of them have reportedly disappeared.
The diplomat, Michael R. Carpenter, the American ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said the United States has information that Russia is dissolving democratically elected local governments and has forced large numbers of civilians in occupied areas into camps for questioning.
The Ukrainian military said it was moving more troops to the border with Transnistria, a small breakaway region in Moldova, on Ukraine’s southwest flank, hundreds of miles from the fighting on the eastern front.
Ukraine ordered the reinforcements after it accused Russia this week of orchestrating a series of explosions in Transnistria, potentially as a pretext to attack Ukraine from the south and move on Odesa, Ukraine’s major Black Sea port. Russia has thousands of troops in Transnistria, which is controlled by Kremlin-backed separatists.
Russia sought to turn the tables by accusing Ukraine and its allies of being the ones to widen the war, citing the supposed secret Polish-American plan to control western Ukraine and the recent attacks on targets inside Russia. Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, urged Kyiv and Western capitals to take seriously Russia’s statements “that further calls on Ukraine to strike Russian facilities would definitely lead to a tough response from Russia.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Mr. Zelensky, said Ukraine had a right to strike Russian military facilities and “will defend itself in any way.” Britain’s defense minister, Ben Wallace, also said Ukraine would be justified in using Western arms to attack military targets inside Russia, as he warned that the war could turn into a “slow-moving, frozen occupation, like a sort of cancerous growth in Ukraine.”
Speaking at the White House, Mr. Biden rejected Russian suggestions that the United States was waging a proxy war against Moscow. “It shows the desperation that Russia is feeling about their abject failure in being able to do what they set out to do in the first instance,” Mr. Biden said.
He likewise condemned Russian officials’ raising the specter of nuclear war. “No one should be making idle comments about the use of nuclear weapons or the possibility that they could use that,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s irresponsible.”
The massive aid package Mr. Biden unveiled on Thursday would eclipse all the spending by the United States so far on the war. There is widespread bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for more aid, but it remained uncertain whether the issue could get tied up in negotiations over ancillary issues like pandemic relief or immigration.
The request, more than twice the size of the $13.6 billion package lawmakers approved and Mr. Biden signed last month, was intended to last through the end of September, underscoring the expectations of a prolonged conflict.
It includes more than $20 billion for security and military assistance, including $11.4 billion to fund equipment and replenish stocks already provided to Ukraine, $2.6 billion to support the deployment of American troops and equipment to the region to safeguard NATO allies and $1.9 billion for cybersecurity and intelligence support.
The request also includes $8.5 billion in economic assistance for the government in Kyiv to provide basic economic support, including food and health care services, as the Ukrainian economy reels from the toll of the war. An additional $3 billion would be provided for humanitarian assistance and food security funding, including medical supplies and support for Ukrainian refugees and to help stem the impact of the disrupted food supply chain.
When combined with the previous emergency measure, the United States would be authorizing $46.6 billion for the Ukraine war, which represents more than two-thirds of Russia’s entire annual defense budget of $65.9 billion. Mr. Biden said he expected European allies to contribute more as well.
By comparison, the Pentagon last year estimated that the total war-fighting costs in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 at $816 billion, or about $40.8 billion a year. (That did not count non-Defense Department expenditures, and private studies have put the total cost higher.)
Without waiting for the latest aid plan, Congress moved on Thursday to make it easier for Mr. Biden to funnel more arms to Ukraine right away. The House voted 417 to 10 to invoke the Lend-Lease Act of 1941 to authorize Mr. Biden to speed military supplies to Ukraine. The Senate passed the legislation unanimously earlier this month, meaning it now moves to Mr. Biden’s desk for his signature.
The original act, proposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, authorized the president to lease or lend military equipment to any foreign government “whose defense the president deems vital to the defense of the United States” and was used originally to aid Britain and later the Soviet Union in their battle against Nazi Germany.
“Passage of that act enabled Great Britain and Winston Churchill to keep fighting and to survive the fascist Nazi bombardment until the United States could enter the war,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland. “President Zelensky has said that Ukraine needs weapons to sustain themselves, and President Biden has answered that call.”
The legislation targeting oligarchs would streamline ongoing efforts to find and confiscate bank accounts, property and other assets from the Russian moguls.
Among other things, it would create a new criminal offense for possessing proceeds from corrupt dealings with the Russian government. It would also add the crime of evading sanctions to the definition of “racketeering activity” in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO.
Reporting was contributed by Marc Santora from Krakow, Poland; Jeffrey Gettleman and Maria Varenikova from Kyiv, Ukraine; Emily Cochrane, Catie Edmondson, Eric Schmitt and Michael D. Shear from Washington; Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia; Shashank Bengali and Matthew Mpoke Bigg from London; and Farnaz Fassihi from New York.
The events themselves took a matter of minutes to unfold in a paroxysm of one-sided gunfire that snuffed out more than a dozen lives, each one of them a new martyr in Northern Ireland’s somber annals of loss. But the effort to unravel what happened in those brief moments — to parse the antecedents and the outcomes, to trace the lines of command on the grisly day that became known as Bloody Sunday — devoured years of costly inquiry.
And when the questioning was done, the conclusion was drawn by some that the killings by British soldiers on Jan. 30, 1972, had earned a place alongside the Sharpeville shootings in South Africa in 1960 and the Tiananmen Square killings in Beijing in 1989 as exemplars of lethal violence in the name of a state, directed against those who sought to defy its writ.
The failings were legion, committed by a unit of the British military once known for its gallantry and prowess in theaters of conflict as far-flung as Arnhem in the Netherlands during World War II and the Falklands in 1982. Much soul-searching and much obfuscation swirled around the central question of whether, as some of the soldiers initially insisted, they had opened fire in response to an armed and potentially lethal attack by the outlawed, underground Irish Republican Army.
determined in June 2010. None of the fallen — 13 were killed that day, and one died of injuries later — posed “a threat of causing death or serious injury, or indeed was doing anything else that could on any view justify” the firing of over 100 rounds of military-grade ammunition from automatic rifles.
The consequences were enormous, reverberating far beyond the hardscrabble Northern Ireland city of Derry, known to British officials and many members of its Protestant minority as Londonderry, where the bloodletting exploded. Four years earlier, in 1968, in the same mean streets of the city’s Bogside district — a crucible of anti-British sentiment — a civil rights march had dissolved into violent confrontation among mainly Roman Catholic protesters and the mainly Protestant police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The clashes signaled the start of what became known as the Troubles, three decades of tangled sectarian strife that drew Britain’s army into the territory.
From then until the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998, more than 3,500 people died, caught up in the mutually exclusive visions of those, mainly Catholic, who were seeking a unified Ireland, and largely Protestant unionists who were committed to ever deeper ties with mainland Britain.
Father Daly died in 2016.
Jan. 30, 1972, began in familiar ways. Civil rights activists had signaled their plans to demonstrate against the recently introduced British practice of interning people without trial. The authorities outlawed the demonstration, but it went ahead anyhow.
Protesters, who were overwhelmingly Catholic, lobbed rocks at the army. The army responded with rubber bullets, tear gas and a water cannon. Back from the fray, a top commander of the paratroopers issued orders for his troops to arrest suspected rioters without pursuing peaceful protesters too closely.
the 2010 inquiry report said.
The spasm of killing unfolded with chaotic speed. “Only some 10 minutes elapsed between the time soldiers moved in vehicles into the Bogside and the time the last of the civilians was shot,” said the report, written by Lord Saville of Newdigate, an eminent British judge, whose inquiry had taken 12 years and cost an eye-watering $280 million.
“Bloody Sunday was a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded, and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland,” it concluded.
In the week after the shootings, in the Republic of Ireland, a crowd burned down the British Embassy in Dublin. Protests against the killings spread as far as Chicago. And in Derry itself, huge crowds turned out for the funerals of 11 of the 13 killed on Bloody Sunday.
Jackie Duddy, 17, a boxer whose image — he was carried away by a small clutch of people, including Father Daly — became as much a totem of the day’s horrors as the photograph of Hector Pieterson, a 12-year-old South African schoolboy who was shot and killed in Soweto in 1976 when the police opened fire on Black students protesting apartheid-era education. In the imagery of Bloody Sunday, the 17-year-old seems limp, and Father Daly waves a bloodstained handkerchief as an impromptu flag of truce.
13 to die on the day — photographed in a pool of his own blood — was Bernard McGuigan, 41, a factory worker who was shot in the back of the head as he went to help Patrick Doherty, 31, a civil rights activist and factory worker who had been shot as he tried to crawl to safety.
In theory, each of the British soldiers directly involved in the shootings — none of whom was ever officially identified by name or put on trial — had been issued rules of engagement listed on a so-called Yellow Card that set narrow limits for opening fire. Those restrictions were largely ignored, the Saville report said.
Of the 13 who died on Jan. 30, only one, Gerald Donaghey, 17, a member of the youth wing of the I.R.A., was found to be in possession of nail bombs. He was killed by a bullet that had already passed through the body of Gerard McKinney, 35, a soccer team manager, who also died. Mr. Donaghey had not been trying to throw nail bombs when he became collateral damage, according to the Saville inquiry; he was running away from the soldiers.
finally offered an apology, calling the killings “unjustified and unjustifiable.”
But such wounds are slow to heal. Just in the run-up to Sunday’s commemoration, taunting the survivors, someone clambered up light poles in Derry to unfurl the regimental banner of the Parachute Regiment. A full half-century after the killings, the symbols of division and hostility still held their potency.
KYIV — The British government said Saturday that the Kremlin was developing plans to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine — and had already chosen a potential candidate — as President Vladimir V. Putin weighs whether to order the Russian forces amassed on Ukraine’s border to attack.
The highly unusual public communiqué by the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, issued late at night in London, comes at a moment of high-stakes diplomacy between the Kremlin and the West. Russia has deployed more than 100,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders that could, according to American officials, attack at any moment.
“The information being released today shines a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine, and is an insight into Kremlin thinking,” Liz Truss, Britain’s foreign secretary, said in a statement. “Russia must de-escalate, end its campaigns of aggression and disinformation, and pursue a path of diplomacy.”
The British announcement was the second time in just over a week that a Western power had publicly accused Russia of meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs, part of a concerted effort to pressure Mr. Putin to de-escalate. On Jan. 14, the United States accused the Kremlin of sending saboteurs into eastern Ukraine to create a provocation that could serve as a pretext for invasion.
posted a photo of himself to Facebook posing as James Bond with the comment, “Details tomorrow.”
Russian spies maintain extensive networks of agents in Ukraine and contacts between Ukrainian officials and intelligence officers are not uncommon, according to Ukrainian and Western security officials
All four of the other Ukrainians named in the communiqué once held senior positions in the Ukrainian government and worked in proximity to Paul Manafort, former President Donald J. Trump’s campaign manager, when he worked as a political adviser to Ukraine’s former Russian-backed president, Viktor F. Yanukovych. After Mr. Yanukovych’s government fell in 2014, they fled to Russia.
Understand the Escalating Tensions Over Ukraine
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Ominous warnings. Russia called the strike a destabilizing act that violated the cease-fire agreement, raising fears of a new intervention in Ukraine that could draw the United States and Europe into a new phase of the conflict.
The Kremlin’s position. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who has increasingly portrayed NATO’s eastward expansion as an existential threat to his country, said that Moscow’s military buildup was a response to Ukraine’s deepening partnership with the alliance.
One of those named, Vladimir Sivkovich, was among four Ukrainians targeted last week with sanctions by the United States Treasury Department for their ties to Russian efforts to destabilize Ukraine.
If the British assessment is accurate, it would not be the first time the Kremlin tried to install a pro-Russian leader or interfere in Ukraine’s government. In 2004, Russian efforts to fraudulently sway a presidential election set off what became known as the Orange Revolution, which forced a redo election that led to the defeat of Mr. Yanukovych, who was the Kremlin’s favored candidate.
In 2013, when the Kremlin pressured Mr. Yanukovych, who eventually was elected president, to back out of a trade pact with the European Union, Ukrainians again poured into the streets. Mr. Yanukovych was eventually driven from power, prompting Mr. Putin to order the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and instigate a separatist war in eastern Ukraine.
Russian officials have repeatedly denied any intention of launching an attack against Ukraine, dismissing such accusations as “hysteria” and claiming without providing evidence that it is the government in Kyiv that is seeking to escalate tensions. Even so the buildup of Russian troops on the border has continued. At least 127,000 soldiers now surround Ukraine to the north, east and west, Ukraine’s military intelligence service says, with additional troops from Russia’s Eastern Military District now pouring into neighboring Belarus.
The standoff is redolent of an old-fashioned Cold War showdown between Moscow and the West, with both sides trading accusations of war mongering and jockeying for geopolitical advantage. Though the confrontational tone was muted when Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met his Russian counterpart for the latest round of talks in Geneva on Friday, there is as yet no end in sight.
Britain’s unusual disclosure comes at a time when it is trying to assert itself in the crisis on military and diplomatic fronts. It has delivered shipments of antitank weapons to the Ukrainian military, dispatched its senior ministers to NATO countries under threat from Russia and begun to engage directly with Russia.
Britain’s defense secretary, Ben Wallace, accepted an invitation from his Russian counterpart, Sergei K. Shoigu, to meet in Moscow, while the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, may meet with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov.
The disclosure also comes amid a swirling political scandal over Downing Street garden parties in 2020 that violated lockdown restrictions, which has mushroomed to such a degree that it threatens Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hold on power.
Critics have suggested that Mr. Johnson may try to exploit the tensions with Russia — and Britain’s more assertive diplomatic and military role — as a way to deflect attention from his political woes.
Kenneth P. Vogel contributed reporting from Washington and Maria Varenikova reported from Kyiv.
LONDON — When Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain warned his country in a televised address on Sunday night that a tidal wave was coming, he might well have been talking about his own political future.
Mr. Johnson’s reference was to the latest coronavirus variant, which is sweeping across Britain and prompted him to ramp up a campaign to deliver 18 million booster shots by New Year’s Day. But the prime minister faces a different kind of deluge: from a rebellious Conservative Party, collapsing poll ratings and persistent questions about whether he or his staff flouted the very lockdown rules they imposed on the public.
The cascade of bad news is so extreme that it has raised questions about whether Mr. Johnson will even hang on to power until the next election. It is an ominous turn for a leader who has long defied political gravity, surviving scandals and setbacks that would have sunk many other politicians.
“It’s not the end for him, but I think it’s the beginning of the end,” said Jonathan Powell, who served as chief of staff to a Labour prime minister, Tony Blair. “The problem is that these crises have a cumulative effect. As soon as he ceases to be an asset and the party is facing an election, they’ll get rid of him.”
according to a poll by the market research firm Opinium. The opposition Labour Party has jumped to a lead over the Conservatives of nine percentage points, its largest advantage since February 2014.
“The thing that should most worry the prime minister is that while the Tory share has dipped quite clearly, the ratings for the prime minister have dipped even more,” said Robert Hayward, a Conservative member of the House of Lords and a polling expert. “The message is quite clear: that this is at the prime minister’s door.”
For Mr. Johnson, the rapidly spreading Omicron variant could help him politically, giving him a fresh public-health crisis around which to mobilize another national vaccination campaign. Britain’s rapid rollout of vaccines early in the year buoyed the government, though the pace fell off later in the summer, and Britain’s rate of fully vaccinated people now trails those of France, Italy and Portugal.
There was anecdotal evidence on Monday that Mr. Johnson’s urgent call for booster shots had resonated with the public: People had booked more than 110,000 appointments by 9 a.m. on Monday morning, causing the National Health Service’s website to crash under the weight of the demand. Long lines formed outside vaccination sites, including one snaking around St. Thomas’s Hospital, across the river from Parliament in London.
recently likened Mr. Johnson to President Richard M. Nixon and accused his aides of lying consistently.
“There are several reasons for this,” Mr. Hodges wrote. “One is obviously Boris himself. As a former minister said: ‘He treats facts like he treats all his relationships — utterly disposable once inconvenient.’”
resigned in a flap over his outside lobbying activities. Oddsmakers now expect the Tories to lose the seat to the Liberal Democrats.
That would be a demoralizing setback for both Mr. Johnson and his party; those are the type of working-class voters who swept Mr. Johnson to power and whom he needs to hold on to if he wants to win again in the next election.
“The Tories are more willing to get rid of their leaders than the other political parties: We do it much more quickly and ruthlessly,” Mr. Hayward said. “But the loss of support is attritional; it isn’t over one particular event.”
LONDON — With cases of the Omicron variant doubling every three days and the government doing an about-face on restrictions it had long resisted, Britain is bracing for a new coronavirus surge, unsure if it will be a relatively minor event or a return to the dark days of earlier pandemic waves.
So far, the number of Omicron cases — 817 confirmed by Thursday, though officials say the real figure is likely much higher — is small compared with the daily average of 48,000 new coronavirus cases overall. But the government’s Health Security Agency warned that if the recent growth rate continues, “we expect to see at least 50 percent of Covid-19 cases to be caused by the Omicron variant in the next two to four weeks.”
Early evidence in Britain backs up tentative findings elsewhere, notably in South Africa, where the heavily mutated new variant is already widespread: It appears to be the most contagious form of the virus yet, a previous case of Covid-19 provides little immunity to it, and vaccines seem less effective against it. But it also seems to cause less severe illness than earlier variants.
Britain’s experience with Omicron may be a harbinger of what others can expect. Until now, it has been looser about social restrictions than many other nations in Western Europe, and Britain ordinarily has extensive travel to and from South Africa, so it could be the first wealthy country to be hit hard by Omicron. It also has one of the world’s most robust systems for sequencing viral genomes, so it can identify and track new variants earlier and more thoroughly than other countries.
opposed stricter controls that have been adopted around Europe, which was suffering through its biggest coronavirus wave so far before Omicron appeared.
Times analysis shows how infrastructure issues and the public’s level of willingness to get vaccinated may pose larger obstacles than supply.
“It’s not going to take long before it becomes obvious in other places, but it’s clearer earlier here,” Dr. Barrett said. “I think other countries should basically assume the same thing is happening.”
The genomic surveillance could also give Britain a head start in determining how severe Omicron cases are, though there will be a lag because it takes days or weeks for a person who gets infected to become seriously ill.
“It is increasingly evident that Omicron is highly infectious and there is emerging laboratory and early clinical evidence to suggest that both vaccine-acquired and naturally acquired immunity against infection is reduced for this variant,” Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser to the Health Security Agency, said in a statement.
Experts fear what that could mean for Britain’s already struggling National Health Service.
“A lot of staff have left or are burnt out,” Dr. English said, after months of dealing with the strains of the pandemic. “Now we’ve going to have another big hit — very likely — from Omicron. I am really, really sympathetic toward my poor colleagues working in clinical practice at the moment.”
said in a statement that the country had been having “increasingly high incidences of Covid-19 for some time,” adding that “health care workers are rightly worried about the impact the Omicron variant could have” on the health system’s ability to function if caseloads rise fast.
Some hospitals have already canceled elective care again, a strategy seen at the start of the pandemic to free up resources for treating coronavirus patients. Patients are already experiencing hourslong waits for ambulances as a result of the existing pressures on the system, Dr. Nagpaul added.
“While the number of Covid hospitalizations today is much lower than last winter, we must not risk complacency by ignoring the rapid doubling of Omicron cases every two to three days,” he said.
LONDON — This week, Marisha Wallace finally had to admit that her planned five-day ski holiday in Switzerland in mid-December was not salvageable: The Swiss government’s sudden decision to impose a 10-day quarantine on some international travelers meant she wouldn’t be able to leave her hotel or return home to London on her scheduled flight.
“It’s the way of the world right now,” said Ms. Wallace, an actress and a singer. “You can’t plan anymore.”
That provisional state, amplified across the world, has left the still-fragile economy in a state of suspense as spiking coronavirus infections and the new variant Omicron have popped up around the globe.
“There’s no way to know how bad it will get,” said Ángel Talavera, head of European economics at Oxford Economics.
report released Wednesday from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed, although growth has been uneven, the world economy this year bounced back more quickly and stronglythan had been anticipated. The report, compiled largely before the latest coronavirus news, nevertheless warned that growth was projected to slow: in the eurozone, to 4.3 percent next year from 5.2 percent in 2021; and in the United States, to 3.7 percent in 2022 from 5.6 percent.
The organization characterized its outlook as “cautiously optimistic.” But it reiterated how much economic fortunes are inextricably tied to the coronavirus: “The economic policy priority is to get people vaccinated,” the report concluded.
a fourth wave of infections transformed Europe into a Covid hot spot and prompted new restrictions like lockdowns in the Netherlands and Austria.
During earlier outbreaks, trillions in government assistance helped quickly resuscitate the struggling U.S. and European economies. It also brought some unexpected side effects. Combined with pent-up demand, that support helped produce a shortage of labor and materials and rising inflation.
Given how much debt was racked up in the past 18 months, such aid is unlikely to recur even with a sharp downturn — and neither are wholesale closures. Vaccines provide some protection, and many people say they are unwilling to go back into hibernation.
People and business alike have shifted into a wait-and-see mode. “A lot of things do seem like they are on hold, like labor market or overall consumption decisions,” said Nick Bunker, director of economic research for the job site Indeed.
How that will affect unemployment levels and inflation rates is unclear. Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, indicated on Tuesday that concern about stubborn inflation was growing. The O.E.C.D. also warned that inflation could be higher and last longer than originally anticipated.
Omicron’s appearance just adds to the uncertainty, Laurence Boone, the organization’s chief economist, said in an interview.
governments have reacted with a confusing hodgepodge of stern warnings, travel bans, mask mandates and testing rules that further cloud the economic outlook. That patchwork response combined with people’s varying tolerance for risk means that, at least in the short term, the virus’s latest swerves will have a vastly different effect depending on where you are and what you do.
In France, Luna Park, an annual one-month amusement fair held in the southern city of Nice and slated to open this weekend, was called off after the government suddenly requisitioned the massive warehouse where roller coasters, shooting galleries and merry-go-rounds were being set up in order to convert the space to an emergency vaccination center.
“Today I find myself trying to save my company, and I’m not sure that I can,” said Serge Paillon, park’s owner. He feared he would face huge losses, including 500,000 euros (about $566,000) he had already invested in the event, as well as refunds for tickets that had been on sale for several months
Mr. Paillon furloughed 20 employees. Another 200 festival workers who were coming from around the country to manage the 60 games and rides were told to stay home.
“For a year and a half, it was already a disaster,” Mr. Paillon said. “And now it’s starting again.”
Israel’s decision on Saturday to shut its borders to all foreign tourists for two weeks is likely to reduce the number of tourists in Israel and the occupied territories this December by up to 40,000, or nearly 60 percent of what was expected, according to a government estimate.
Wiatt F. Bowers, an urban planner, had planned to leave Jacksonville, Fla., for Tel Aviv on Wednesday but had to cancel — the fifth time in 18 months that he had to scrap a planned trip to Israel. He will rebook, but doesn’t know when.
Foreign tourism, which brought a record 4.55 million tourists to Israel in 2019, had already nearly vanished. Between March 2020 and September 2021, nonresident foreigners were barred from entering Israel — and, by extension, the occupied territories, where entry and exit are controlled by Israel.
In Bethlehem, where tourism is the main industry, income consequently fell more than 50 percent, said the mayor, Anton Salman, in a phone interview.
Elias al-Arja, the chief of the Arab Hotel Association, which represents about 100 Palestinian hotels in the occupied territories, said he was concerned less about the short-term effect of the sudden travel ban than about the long-term message of unpredictability it sent to potential visitors.
“The disaster isn’t the groups who canceled over the next two weeks,” Mr. al-Arja said. “How can I convince people to come to the Holy Land after we promised them that you can come, but then the government closes the border?”
Reluctance to travel, though, could mean an upswing in other sectors if the new variant is not as harmful as people fear. Jessica Moulton, a senior partner at McKinsey & Company in London, said previous spending patterns during the pandemic showed that some money people would otherwise use for travel would instead be spent on dining.
She estimated that the roughly $40 billion that British consumers saved on travel last summer was used for shopping and eating out.
At the moment, Ms. Moulton said, “to the extent that Omicron decreases travel, which will happen as we head into Christmas, that will benefit restaurants.”
In Switzerland, where travelers from Britain and 22 other countries must now quarantine, the effect of the policy change on hotels was immediate.
“The majority of travelers from England — between 80 to 90 percent — have already canceled,” said Andreas Züllig, head of HotellerieSuisse, the Swiss hotel association.
Ms. Wallace, who canceled her trip to the Cambrian Hotel in Adelboden, was one of several people who changed their reservations at the hotel after the Swiss government made its announcement on Friday, just one week before the slopes open.
“This obviously has an impact on our very important winter and Christmas business,” said Anke Lock, the Cambrian’s manager, who estimated that 20 percent of the hotel’s December bookings were at risk.
For now, though, most guests are watching and waiting, Ms. Lock said: “We’ve changed the bookings from guaranteed to tentative.”
Extreme uncertainty about the economy may turn out to be the only certainty.
Patrick Kingsley contributed reporting from Jerusalem, Melissa Eddy from Berlin and Léontine Gallois from Paris.
LONDON — As the still-mysterious Omicron variant reached American shores, the World Health Organization on Wednesday scolded wealthy countries that imposed travel bans and dismissed those that poured resources into vaccine booster campaigns when billions in poor countries had yet to receive their first shots.
The comments by W.H.O. officials reopened fraught questions of equity in how the world has handled the coronavirus pandemic since a stark divide over the availability of vaccines emerged between rich and poor countries earlier this year.
But amid fears of a new wave of Covid-19, that seemed unlikely to sway leaders in Europe, Asia, and the United States, which reported its first confirmed Omicron case, in California, on Wednesday. They are scrambling to shield their populations from the variant — about which much remains unknown — by topping up their protection and tightening restrictions on incoming travel.
Travelers reacted with confusion and dismay to news that the United States plans to toughen testing requirements and the screening of inbound passengers. That decision came after Japan, Israel, and Morocco barred foreign travelers and Australia delayed reopening its borders for two weeks.
revealed to the world — and Dr. Tedros warned that the number would rise.
The W.H.O. also voiced skepticism about ambitious booster plans that it claimed come at the expense of first-time vaccinations in less wealthy nations. Britain this week announced a massive new campaign to deliver booster shots to all adults by the end of January. Other European countries and the Biden administration are also pushing these shots as a first line of defense against the variant, buying time for scientists to unravel its genomic code.
Japan joined Israel and Morocco in barring all foreign travelers, and Australia delayed reopening its borders for two weeks. The C.D.C plans to increase testing and screening of international fliers to the U.S.
A patchwork of regulations. As the new Omicron variant spread around the world, two KLM flights from South Africa became emblematic of the scattershot and lax global approach to coronavirus containment. Of the more than 60 people who tested positive for the virus, at least 14 had Omicron.
A new type of treatment. An expert panel voted to recommend that the F.D.A. authorize a Covid pill from Merck for high-risk adults, the first in a new class of antiviral drugs that could work against a wide range of variants, including Omicron. The pill could be authorized within days, and available by year’s end.
Vaccine hesitancy in Africa. The detection of the Omicron variant in Africa signals the next stage of the battle against Covid-19: getting more people inoculated in poorer nations. But though vaccine supplies are becoming sufficient, the new hurdle is overcoming local skepticism or outright hostility.
The borderless nature of the virus, Mr. Guterres said, means that “travel restrictions that isolate any one country or region are not only deeply unfair and punitive — they are ineffective.”
Although the United States is not weighing the kind of blanket travel ban on foreign visitors imposed by Japan, the restrictions being weighed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States are stirring widespread concern. The agency is considering requiring travelers to provide a negative result from a test taken within 24 hours before departure, a spokesman said on Tuesday night.
Though the C.D.C. has yet to officially announce the changes, the prospect sent travelers searching for updates, booking pre-emptive tests where they could, and scouring airline websites for reservation changes, as the pandemic threatened to upend another December travel season.
Carlos Valencia, a dual Spanish-American citizen whose Seville-based company operates a study abroad program for American students, had planned to return to the United States in January. But he said that he would put the trip on hold until “there is at least some clarity about whether the new rules make a trip feasible.”
Whatever shape the restrictions take, he said, they are “way overdone — especially when you consider how lax the U.S.A. has been with getting people to wear face masks and its own health safety measures.”
Emanuela Giorgetti, a teacher in northern Italy, was hoping to join her fiancé, whom she has not seen for almost two years, for Christmas in Chicago. “When I heard the news,” she said, “I thought, ‘Here we go again.’”
Given the potential threat posed by Omicron, she said she understood the impulse to tighten the rules. But it still seemed unfair.
“We have more vaccinated people in Italy than in the U.S., we wear masks indoors and try to go by the rules,” Ms. Giorgetti said.
Reporting was contributed by Nick Cumming-Bruce, Rick Gladstone, Raphael Minder, Gaia Pianigiani, Michael D. Shear and John Yoon.