A yearning for close connection, for something meaningful amid a seismic, terrifying event that won’t end, is what brought two dozen people to a recent“cuddle” party.

Cuddle parties started before the war, but the people who came two Sundays ago — a mix of men and women from their early 20s to mid-60s — said they really needed them now.

The cuddlers gathered in a large, tent-like structure near the river, and as new age music played, they lied on floor cushions in a big warm heap. Some stroked their neighbor’s hair. Others clutched each other tightly, eyes closed, like it was the last embrace they’d ever share with anyone. After about 15 to 20 minutes, the heap stirred awake.

The cuddlers opened their eyes, untangled themselves, stood up and smoothed out their pants. The whole idea is to seek bodily comfort from curling up with a stranger. They found new cuddling partners and new positions.

The instructor was clear that none of this was supposed to be sexual or romantic. But still, it looked like a G-rated orgy.

This cuddling is another dimension of Kyiv’s party scene at the moment: Many social gatherings are specifically engineered to provide solace.

Maksym Yasnyi, a graphic designer, just held a 24-hour yoga party, which he said was “really cool” but it wasn’t like going out before the war.

“Before the war, Kyiv nightlife was sparkling with different colors,” he said. “You could spend the whole night going from party to party. If I allow myself to think about this, I’ll make myself really upset.”

Now, when it hits 10, Kyiv radiates a nervous energy. People drinking on the street, or out by the river, check their watches. They cap the clear plastic bottles of cider they were swigging, get up and walk quickly.

Cars move faster. More run yellow lights. The clock is ticking.

Uber prices triple, if you can find one.

Some young people, seeing the impossibility of hailing a ride, say bye to their friends and duck their heads and start running home, desperate to beat curfew.

At the stroke of 11, Kyiv stops. Nothing moves. The sidewalks lie empty.

All that energy that was building, building, building, suddenly plunges into a stunning, citywide hush.

Oleksandra Mykolyshyn contributed reporting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atlantic Council analysis last week.

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

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

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

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

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

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The Battle for Kyiv Looms as a Long and Bloody Conflict

The tactics Lieutenant Chornovol described are indicative of the city’s defenses, which rely on a blend of sophisticated air defense systems, army troops, civilian volunteers and paramilitary organizations.

An urban environment favors booby traps, ambushes and lightly armed but mobile defenders against a regular army. Ukrainians have laid out pie-sized anti-tank mines on the shoulders of roads, which can be quickly dragged across streets to block advances. In cities, the urban grid channels the invader’s armored vehicles into narrow streets, where they become vulnerable.

The Russians also have a formidable force, but of a different nature. They rely on superior troop numbers and powerful, but less mobile, weaponry.

Russian tanks, for instance, are moving methodically in long columns through small towns outside Kyiv, rarely straying from roads. At times, the vehicles are creating gigantic traffic jams.

On the Dnieper River’s west bank, soldiers and vehicles from two Siberia-based Combined Arms Armies — parlance for large Russian military groupings — are creeping forward, said Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at CNA, a research institute in Arlington, Va. Russian special forces units, or Spetsnaz, have turned the once-tranquil suburb of Irpin into a battle zone, he said.

On the eastern bank, Russia’s 41st Combined Arms Army has been probing into outlying towns like Brovary, where Lieutenant Chornovol blew up a Russian tank.

Why the Russians are advancing tanks into the urban landscape of Kyiv’s outskirts, where they are vulnerable to ambush, is something of a mystery, Mr. Kofman said. “They are trying to make quick progress down roads while the Ukrainians are trying to engage them in cities, rather than out in the open fields,” he said.

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Ukrainian Minister Has Turned Digital Tools Into Modern Weapons of War

After war began last month, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine turned to Mykhailo Fedorov, a vice prime minister, for a key role.

Mr. Fedorov, 31, the youngest member of Mr. Zelensky’s cabinet, immediately took charge of a parallel prong of Ukraine’s defense against Russia. He began a campaign to rally support from multinational businesses to sunder Russia from the world economy and to cut off the country from the global internet, taking aim at everything from access to new iPhones and PlayStations to Western Union money transfers and PayPal.

To achieve Russia’s isolation, Mr. Fedorov, a former tech entrepreneur, used a mix of social media, cryptocurrencies and other digital tools. On Twitter and other social media, he pressured Apple, Google, Netflix, Intel, PayPal and others to stop doing business in Russia. He helped form a group of volunteer hackers to wreak havoc on Russian websites and online services. His ministry also set up a cryptocurrency fund that has raised more than $60 million for the Ukrainian military.

The work has made Mr. Fedorov one of Mr. Zelensky’s most visible lieutenants, deploying technology and finance as modern weapons of war. In effect, Mr. Fedorov is creating a new playbook for military conflicts that shows how an outgunned country can use the internet, crypto, digital activism and frequent posts on Twitter to help undercut a foreign aggressor.

McDonald’s have withdrawn from Russia, with the war’s human toll provoking horror and outrage. Economic sanctions by the United States, European Union and others have played a central role in isolating Russia.

Mr. Zelensky was elected in 2019, he appointed Mr. Fedorov, then 28, to be minister of digital transformation, putting him in charge of digitizing Ukrainian social services. Through a government app, people could pay speeding tickets or manage their taxes. Last year, Mr. Fedorov visited Silicon Valley to meet with leaders including Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple.

Russia invaded Ukraine, Mr. Fedorov immediately pressured tech companies to pull out of Russia. He made the decision with Mr. Zelensky’s backing, he said, and the two men speak every day.

“I think this choice is as black and white as it ever gets,” Mr. Fedorov said. “It is time to take a side, either to take the side of peace or to take the side of terror and murder.”

On Feb. 25, he sent letters to Apple, Google and Netflix, asking them to restrict access to their services in Russia. Less than a week later, Apple stopped selling new iPhones and other products in Russia.

Russia damaged the country’s main telecommunications infrastructure. Two days after contacting Mr. Musk, a shipment of Starlink equipment arrived in Ukraine.

Since then, Mr. Fedorov said he has periodically exchanged text messages with Mr. Musk.

were put on pause following the invasion. Russia, a signatory to the accord, has tried to use final approval of the deal as leverage to soften sanctions imposed because of the war.

But while many companies have halted business in Russia, more could be done, he said. Apple and Google should pull their app stores from Russia and software made by companies like SAP was also being used by scores of Russian businesses, he has noted.

In many instances, the Russian government is cutting itself off from the world, including blocking access to Twitter and Facebook. On Friday, Russian regulators said they would also restrict access to Instagram and called Meta an “extremist” organization.

Some civil society groups have questioned whether Mr. Fedorov’s tactics could have unintended consequences. “Shutdowns can be used in tyranny, not in democracy,” the Internet Protection Society, an internet freedom group in Russia, said in a statement earlier this week. “Any sanctions that disrupt access of Russian people to information only strengthen Putin’s regime.”

Mr. Fedorov said it was the only way to jolt the Russian people into action. He praised the work of Ukraine-supporting hackers who have been coordinating loosely with Ukrainian government to hit Russian targets.

“After cruise missiles started flying over my house and over houses of many other Ukrainians, and also things started exploding, we decided to go into counter attack,” he said.

Mr. Fedorov’s work is an example of Ukraine’s whatever-it-takes attitude against a larger Russian army, said Max Chernikov, a software engineer who is supporting the volunteer group known as the IT Army of Ukraine.

“He acts like every Ukrainian — doing beyond his best,” he said.

Mr. Fedorov, who has a wife and young daughter, said he remained hopeful about the war’s outcome.

“The truth is on our side,” he added. “I’m sure we’re going to win.”

Daisuke Wakabayashi and Mike Isaac contributed reporting.

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Ukraine’s Burial Mounds Offer Meaning in a Heap of History

DNIPRO, Ukraine — Belching diesel exhaust, a bulldozer cut into a 4,000-year-old burial mound, peeling back the soil to reveal the mysteries hidden inside, including a skeleton.

For archaeologists, this excavation in the flatlands of eastern Ukraine holds the promise of discovery. For a developer, it clears the way for new country homes.

In recent years, government archaeologists, developers and farmers, who sometimes also level burial mounds in their fields to ease plowing, have seemingly been the only parties interested in the fate of Ukraine’s vast constellation of ancient graves. And few have paid much heed to preserving the dirt piles.

Hoping to correct this history of neglect, a Ukrainian nongovernmental group is agitating for the preservation of the burial mounds of Scythians and other ancient warrior cultures, partly on the grounds that they hold particular significance for a country at war today.

Guardians of the Mounds, two years ago. It has been gaining traction as a national movement since.

Russian invasion, as the Russian Army massed tanks and soldiers on Ukraine’s border, a succession of nomadic warrior cultures, including the most famous, the Scythians, built the mounds on the steppe.

displayed by the thousands at museums in Kyiv, the capital, are mere distractions from the message of the mounds, Mr. Klykavka said. And even finding the treasures in a mound does not justify dismantling it, he said.

smoking marijuana. “The Scythians enjoy it so much they howl with pleasure,” the Greek historian Herodotus wrote. They nonetheless rebuffed an invasion of their homeland by Persia, the most powerful empire of the time.

Criticism by the Guardian of the Mounds is misplaced, said Dmytro Teslenko, the chief archaeologist for the city of Dnipro, where he oversees an excavation done with a bulldozer but also shovels and brushes.

Union of Archaeologists of Ukraine. “It happens with the tacit consent or with the active participation of local bodies of cultural heritage protection,” which are eager to excavate for the possibility of finding funerary goods and less concerned about the actual dirt piles.

Members of Guardians of the Mounds, in contrast, have been rebuilding mounds. Mr. Klykavka has piled up soil on six leveled burial mound sites in a remote field north of Kyiv which holds 18 graves.

“I always feel good here,” he said, standing atop one of the mounds.

Andrew E. Kramer reported from Moscow.

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