KOROPY, Ukraine — Four men tugged at long strips of fabric to lift a coffin out of the gaping hole in the backyard of a small house. They flung the lid open to reveal the moldy corpse of Oleksiy Ketler, who had been killed instantly by shrapnel when a mortar fell on the road in Koropy, a village outside Khavkiv in northeastern Ukraine, in March.
Mr. Ketler, a father of two young children, would have celebrated his 33rd birthday on June 25, if he had not been outside his house at the wrong time. Now, his body has become another exhibit in Ukraine’s wide-ranging effort to collect evidence to prosecute Russia and its military for war crimes in the brutal killings of Ukrainian civilians.
Experts say the process is proceeding with extraordinary speed and may become the biggest effort in history to hold war criminals to account. But it faces an array of formidable challenges.
rape, execution-style killings and the deportation of what Mr. Belousov said could be tens of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia — were being investigated.
Better Understand the Russia-Ukraine War
At the same time, hundreds of international experts, investigators and prosecutors have descended on Ukraine from an alphabet soup of international agencies.
Early in the war, the top prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, arrived in Ukraine with several dozen investigators. But the court, which is based in the Netherlands, tries a limited number of cases, and usually seeks to prosecute only the upper echelon of political and military leaders.
It is also slow: Investigators working on the 2008 Russian-Georgian war did not apply for arrest warrants until this year.
There are a number of other initiatives, too. Amal Clooney, an international human rights lawyer, is part of a team advising the Ukrainian government on bringing international legal action against Russia. The United Nations has started a commission to investigate human rights violations in Ukraine — with three human rights experts — but cannot establish a formal tribunal because Russia wields veto power on the U.N. Security Council.
Investigators in Poland are collecting testimonies from refugees who fled there to feed to Ukrainian prosecutors. France has sent mobile DNA analysis teams to embed with the Ukrainian authorities to collect evidence. Nongovernmental organizations based in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, are going to territories recently occupied by Russian soldiers to collect witness statements.
The involvement of multiple countries and organizations does not necessarily lead to a more productive investigation, said Wayne Jordash, a British criminal lawyer who lives in Ukraine. Mr. Jordash, who is part of an international task force supporting Ukrainian prosecutors, was critical of some of the efforts to assist Ukraine judicially, describing it as “smoke and mirrors,” without results and clear priorities.
The International Criminal Court’s investigators were only just getting going, he noted, and experts from other countries have also been cycling in for stints of several weeks.
“You can’t just parachute into an investigation for two weeks and expect it to be meaningful,” Mr. Jordash said.
Iva Vukusic, a scholar of post-conflict justice at the University of Utrecht, said, “Resources are being poured in, but maybe down the line we will see that they were not being spent the right way,” for instance, duplicating investigation efforts rather than providing psychosocial support to victims.
Ms. Vukusic pointed out the large size of the endeavor. Across the country, she said, “there are thousands of potential suspects, and thousands of potential trials.” All of the material needs to be properly marshaled and analyzed, she said.
“If you have 100,000 items — videos, statements, documents — if you don’t know what you’re sitting on, it limits the use of material,” Ms. Vukusic said.
She also cautioned that the International Criminal Court’s leadership could face criticism by collaborating too closely with the Ukrainian authorities because, she said, Ukraine was also “an actor in this war.”
She feared Ukrainian officials were setting expectations for justice very high, and possibly wasting scarce resources on absentia trials.
“No big caseis going to be finished in two years or five years because of the scale of the violence and the fact it is going on for so long,” she said.
Mr. Belousov, the Ukrainian war crimes prosecutor, acknowledged as much. “We are playing a long game,” he said. Even if the perpetrator is tried and convicted in absentia, Mr. Belousov said, “We understand in a year, or two or three or five, these guys won’t be able to avoid punishment.”
Mr. Belousov said that he appreciated the international assistance but that coordinating it was the “biggest challenge” law enforcement authorities experienced.
For example, the Kharkiv prosecutors used a shiny new forensic investigation kit donated by the European Union for their exhumation in Koropy, the village in northeast Ukraine. But a police officer from a unit in Dmytrivka, a 45-minute drive west of Kyiv, said they had not seen or met with any international investigators or received any equipment from them.
Mr. Belousov said Ukraine wanted to take the lead in prosecuting the cases — a divergence from previous post-conflict situations in which the national authorities initially left the process to international tribunals.
But most Ukrainian investigators have little experience in these kinds of inquiries.
For example, Andriy Andriychuk, who joined the police force in the region west of Kyiv two years ago, said his work previously involved investigating local disputes or livestock theft. Now it involves “a lot more corpses,” he said.
On a recent sunny afternoon, he was called to a wooded area near the town of Dmytrivka. Several days before, police officers had received a call from foresters who had come upon a man’s grave. The dead man, Mykola Medvid, 56, had been buried with his passport; his hat was hung on top of a cross made out of sticks.
His daughter and his cousin identified his body. The local morgue officially established the cause of death: a fatal shot in the chest.
Since then, his daughter Mariia Tremalo has not heard from the investigators. No witnesses have come forward, and it was unclear who might have killed her father, or why. Still, she is hungry for justice.
“My father will never be returned,” she said. “But I would like the perpetrators to be punished.”
Right now that seems all but impossible.
In Koropy, the village near Kharkiv, Mr. Ketler’s mother, Nadezhda Ketler, was inconsolable as the gravediggers and inspectors worked. She wandered down the road to another part of her property. Six officials stood over her son’s body, photographing and documenting as his best friend, Mykhailo Mykhailenko, who looked petrified and smelled of stale alcohol, identified him.
The next day, Mr. Ketler’s body was taken to the city’s morgue, where the final cause of death was established.
Eventually, Ms. Ketler gathered the strength to show investigators the crater made by the bomb that killed him, leading the police to the exact spot where he died. Ms. Ketler stood looking at the trees as they rustled in the wind. She did not speak to anyone. She said she did not know if a guilty verdict in a war crimes trial, if it ever came, would ease the pain of losing her child.
“I had to bury my son twice,” Ms. Ketler said later. “You understand, this is hard enough to do once, and to have to do it a second time. The pain of a mother will not go anywhere.”
Evelina Riabenko, Diana Poladova and Oleksandr Chubko contributed reporting.
Digital payments are the default for millions of women of childbearing age. So what will their credit and debit card issuers and financial app providers do when prosecutors seek their transaction data during abortion investigations?
It’s a hypothetical question that’s almost certainly an inevitable one in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade last week. Now that abortion is illegal in several states, criminal investigators will soon begin their hunt for evidence to prosecute those they say violated the law.
Medical records are likely to be the most definitive proof of what now is a crime, but officials who cannot get those may look for evidence elsewhere. The payment trail is likely to be a high priority.
HIPAA — which governs the privacy of a patient’s health records — permits medical and billing records to be released in response to a warrant or subpoena.
“There is a very broad exception to the HIPAA protections for law enforcement,” said Marcy Wilder, a partner and co-head of the global privacy and cybersecurity practice at Hogan Lovells, a law firm. But Ms. Wilder added that the information shared with law enforcement officials could not be overly broad or unrelated to the request. “That is why it matters how companies and health plans are interpreting this.”
Card issuers and networks like Visa and Mastercard generally do not have itemized lists of everything that people pay for when they shop for prescription drugs or other medications online, or when they purchase services at health care providers. But evidence of patronage of, say, a pharmacy that sells only abortion pills could give someone away.
a new state law authorizes residents to file lawsuits against anyone who helped facilitate an abortion.
“With the ruling only coming down late last week, it’s premature to understand the full impact at the state level,” Brad Russell, a USAA spokesman, said via email. “However, USAA will always comply with all applicable laws.”
American Airlines Credit Union, Bank of America, Capital One, Discover, Goldman Sachs, Prosperity Bank USA, Navy Federal Credit Union, US Bank, University of Wisconsin Credit Union, Wells Fargo and Western Union did not return at least two messages seeking comment.
American Express, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo have all announced their intentions to reimburse employees for expenses if they travel to other states for abortions. So far, none have commented about how they would respond to a subpoena seeking the transaction records of the very employees who would be eligible for employer reimbursement.
Amie Stepanovich, vice president of U.S. policy at the Future of Privacy Forum, a nonprofit focused on data privacy and protection, said warrants and subpoenas can be accompanied by gag orders, which can prevent companies from even alerting their customers that they’re being investigated.
“They can choose to battle the use of gag orders in court,” she said. “Sometimes they win, sometimes they don’t.”
In other instances, prosecutors may not say exactly what they’re investigating when they ask for transaction records. In that case, it’s up to the financial institution to request more information or try to figure it out on its own.
Paying for abortion services with cash is one possible way to avoid detection, even if it isn’t possible for people ordering pills online. Many abortion funds pay on behalf of people who need financial help.
But cash and electronic transfers of money are not entirely foolproof.
“Even if you are paying with cash, the amount of residual information that can be used to reveal health status and pregnancy status is fairly significant,” said Ms. Stepanovich, referring to potential bread crumbs such as the use of a retailer’s loyalty program or location tracking on a mobile phone when making a cash purchase.
In some cases, users may inadvertently give up sensitive information themselves through apps that track and share their financial behavior.
“The purchase of a pregnancy test on an app where financial history is public is probably the biggest red flag,” Ms. Stepanovich said.
Other advocates mentioned the possibility of using prepaid cards in fixed amounts, like the kinds that people can buy off a rack in a drugstore. Cryptocurrency, they added, usually does leave enough of a trail that achieving anonymity is challenging.
One thing that every expert emphasized is the lack of certainty. But there is an emerging gut feeling that corporations will be in the spotlight at least as much as judges.
“Now, these payment companies are going to be front and center in the fight,” Ms. Caraballo said.
LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–EVgo Inc. (NASDAQ: EVGO), the nation’s largest public fast charging network for electric vehicles (EVs) and first powered by 100% renewable electricity, today announced that the company was selected for proposed awards for two new California Energy Commission (CEC) Reliable, Equitable, and Accessible Charging for multi-family Housing (REACH) grants totaling $3.6M. These funds will be used to deploy new high-powered direct current fast chargers (DCFC) near multi-family housing (MFH) units. In addition, local community residents will be eligible for discounted EVgo rates as part of the project.
“EVgo is thrilled to work with the California Energy Commission to keep making it easier for more drivers to go electric with wider access to convenient, reliable and affordable EV charging solutions,” said Cathy Zoi, CEO at EVgo. “There are more than 6 million Californians1 like me who live in apartment buildings, and fast charging nearby is key for us to drive EVs. By partnering with the state on these grants, we can go even further to pair infrastructure for everyone with incentives for nearby residents of underserved and impacted communities – ensuring equitable access to these resources for all.”
In November 2021, the CEC released a grant solicitation and application package entitled “Reliable, Equitable, and Accessible Charging for multi-family Housing (REACH)” as part of its Clean Transportation Program. The solicitation was an offer to demonstrate replicable and scalable business and technology models for large-scale deployment of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure capable of maximizing access and EV travel for multi-family housing (MFH) residents, from DCFC nearby those residents to level 2 (L2) chargers in and around the residential buildings themselves. The solicitation defined MFH as residential properties with multiple dwelling units, but excluded single-family dwellings (detached), duplexes, triplexes, townhomes, and mobile homes. Projects under the REACH grant must include charger installations that will benefit and be used by MFH residents within disadvantaged communities, low-income communities, or a combination of both.
“Forth is excited to partner with EVgo in providing outreach and education to communities in California to help increase awareness and understanding of the benefits and availability of electric transportation solutions in their neighborhoods,” commented Jeff Allen, Executive Director, Forth. “Equitable and convenient access to charging infrastructure is a key element of expanding widespread adoption of electric transportation and is a central tenet of our work.”
As part of EVgo’s commitment to Electric for All, EVgo integrates the EPA’s EJ Screening Tool – an environmental justice mapping and screening tool based on nationally consistent data — to identify potential site locations that can increase infrastructure access for low-income individuals, people of color and underserved communities, as these communities tend to have the fewest charging options while experiencing greater impacts of pollution. Public charging options, and fast charging in particular, can help mitigate this disconnect while fueling the transition to electric by servicing more densely populated areas. In 2021, EVgo achieved its goal to increase such access to charging each quarter and reached a PM2.5 EJScreen demographic score of 51% for its chargers – meaning a majority are within a ten-minute drive of areas with high particulate matter (PM2.5) levels in the air. Today, the company is developing new benchmarking strategies to improve equity and access to its solutions.
For more information around the locations of fast charger’s within EVgo’s charging network, visit www.evgo.com.
EVgo (Nasdaq: EVGO) is the nation’s largest public fast charging network for electric vehicles, and the first to be powered by 100% renewable energy. As of the end of the first quarter 2022, with more than 850 charging locations, EVgo’s owned and operated charging network serves over 60 metropolitan areas across more than 30 states and approximately 375,000 customer accounts. Founded in 2010, EVgo leads the way on transportation electrification, partnering with automakers; fleet and rideshare operators; retail hosts such as hotels, shopping centers, gas stations and parking lot operators; and other stakeholders to deploy advanced charging technology to expand network availability and make it easier for drivers across the U.S. to enjoy the benefits of driving an EV. As a charging technology first mover, EVgo works closely with business and government leaders to accelerate the ubiquitous adoption of EVs by providing a reliable and convenient charging experience close to where drivers live, work and play, whether for a daily commute or a commercial fleet.
JIJI, Taiwan, June 16 (Reuters) – Taiwan’s military showed off its latest domestically produced armoured vehicle on Thursday, the CM-34 Clouded Leopard, at a remote manufacturing site in the mountains of the central part of the island.
Taiwan has been keen to demonstrate its resolve to defend itself should China, which claims the democratically governed island as its own territory, ever attack. Those fears have become more pronounced over the past two years or so as Beijing steps up military activities near Taiwan.
While Taiwan relies on the United States for many of its weapons, like fighter jets, President Tsai Ing-wen has been pushing for a greater emphasis on Taiwanese-designed and made armaments, the most high profile of which is new submarines.
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The eight-wheeled CM-34, which entered service in 2019, is armed with the Mk44 Bushmaster 30mm chain gun, made by Northrop Grumman (NOC.N) and with an effective firing range of 3 km (1.9 miles). It is designed to be highly mobile, operating in all weathers.
Facility chief Wang Wen-hung told reporters the plant in Jiji can produce six vehicles a month, and it has already delivered 173 of them to the military out of a total order for 305.
It is named after Taiwan’s clouded leopard. Though now believed to be extinct, the animal is revered by some of Taiwan’s indigenous people who consider it sacred.
The development of the vehicle has not been without problems.
Last year, several senior executives from supplier companies were jailed for fraud over procuring substandard parts, including some from China, for an earlier model, the CM-32.
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Reporting by Ann Wang; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
LUCKNOW, India, June 16 (Reuters) – Police in northern India fired shots in the air on Thursday to push back stone-throwing crowds and authorities shut off mobile internet in at least one district to forestall further chaos, as protests widened against a new military recruitment system.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government this week announced an overhaul of recruitment for India’s 1.38 million-strong armed forces, looking to bring down the average age of personnel and reduce pension expenditure. read more
But potential recruits, military veterans, opposition leaders and even some members of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have raised reservations over the revamped process.
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In northern Haryana state’s Palwal district, some 50 km (31 miles) south of the capital New Delhi, crowds hurled stones at a government official’s house and police protecting the building fired shots to keep the mob at bay, according to video footage from Reuters partner ANI.
“Yes, we have fired a few shots to control the crowd,” a local police official said, declining to be named.
There was no immediate information on casualties.
Mobile internet was temporarily suspended in Palwal district for the next 24 hours, Haryana’s information department said.
Protesters in eastern India’s Bihar state set a BJP office on fire in Nawada city, attacked railway infrastructure and blocked roads, as demonstrations spread across several parts of the country, police officials told Reuters.
Demonstrators perform push-ups as they protest against “Agnipath scheme” for recruiting personnel for armed forces, in Munger, Bihar, India June 16, 2022 in this still image obtained from a handout video. ANI/Handout via REUTERS
Protesters also attacked railway property across Bihar, settling alight coaches in at least two locations, damaging train tracks and vandalising a station, according to officials and a railways statement.
The new recruitment system, called Agnipath or “path of fire” in Hindi, will bring in men and women between the ages of 17-and-a-half and 21 for a four-year tenure at non-officer ranks, with only a quarter retained for longer periods.
Previously, soldiers have been recruited by the army, navy and air force separately and typically enter service for up to 17 years for the lowest ranks.
The shorter tenure has caused concern among potential recruits.
“Where will we go after working for only four years?” one young man, surrounded by fellow protesters in Bihar’s Jehanabad district, told ANI. “We will be homeless after four years of service. So we have jammed the roads.”
Smoke billowed from burning tyres at a crossroads in Jehanabad where protesters shouted slogans and performed push-ups to emphasise their fitness for service.
Bihar and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh saw protests over the recruitment process for railway jobs in January this year, underlining India’s persistent unemployment problem. read more
Varun Gandhi, a BJP lawmaker from Uttar Pradesh, in a letter to India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday said that 75% of those recruited under the scheme would become unemployed after four years of service.
“Every year, this number will increase,” Gandhi said, according to a copy of the letter posted by him on social media.
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Writing by Devjyot Ghoshal;
Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, William Maclean
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BRUSSELS — Losing ground to Russia’s brutal advance in the east, Ukraine on Monday demanded an arsenal of sophisticated Western weapons many times greater than what has been promised, or even discussed, underscoring the rising pressure on Western leaders to reconsider their approach to the war.
The tactics that served the Ukrainians well early in the war have not been nearly as effective as the fighting has shifted to the open ground of the Donbas region in the east, where Russians are relying on their immense advantage in long-range artillery. Russian forces are poised to take the blasted city of Sievierodonetsk, the easternmost Ukrainian outpost, and are closing in on the neighboring city of Lysychansk.
With the leaders of France, Germany and Italy planning their first visit to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, since the war began, they and other Western leaders have to decide whether to double down on arming Ukraine or press harder for negotiations with Moscow to end the war.
running out of ammunition for their Soviet-era artillery, and Ukrainian officials contend that Russian artillery in the east is out-firing their own, 10 to 1.
Mykhailo Podolyak, the Zelensky adviser, said Ukraine needs 300 mobile multiple rocket-launch systems, 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles and 1,000 drones to achieve parity with Russia in the Donbas region where fighting is concentrated — numbers many times beyond anything that has been publicly discussed in the West. The United States has promised four of the mobile rocket launchers and Britain a few more; Washington has sent a little more than 100 howitzers, and other nations a few dozen more.
faster than Ukrainians can be trained to use them — but Mr. Podolyak, Mr. Zelensky and others clearly mean to keep up the pressure on the West, complaining daily that the current arms flow is woefully inadequate.
mposed tough economic sanctions on Russia, supplied significant financial and military aid to Ukraine, and insisted publicly that it is up to Ukraine’s own, democratically elected leaders to decide how and when to negotiate with Russia.
But they also worry that a long war will bring in NATO countries and even cause President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to escalate what has been a brutal but conventional campaign. President Emmanuel Macron of France, in particular, has twice said it was important not to “humiliate Russia.”
European officials also worry about the damage being done to their own economies by inflation and high energy prices, and about the likely domestic political backlash. And many in Europe are eager to find a way, even if it’s a temporary cease-fire, to resume Ukrainian grain exports as global food prices soar and parts of the world face a threat of famine.
Such talk raises hackles in Kyiv and in the capitals of Central and Eastern Europe where Russia is most feared, and officials questioned how committed their friends to the west are to beating back Mr. Putin’s aggression. Leaders of several countries that were once part of the Soviet bloc believe this war is about more than Ukraine, and that the Kremlin’s ambitions to re-establish that sphere of influence and overthrow the European security order must be met with defeat, not a cease-fire.
matériel, but fear it could soon be surrounded, trapping a large number of Ukrainian troops.
Mr. Michta wrote for Politico.
“For the first time in the modern era,” he wrote, “it would force Moscow to come to terms with what it takes, economically and politically, to become a ‘normal’ nation-state.”
Reporting was contributed by Andrew E. Kramer and Valerie Hopkins from Kyiv, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Lysychansk, Ukraine.
DONETSK REGION, Ukraine — Nearly four months after Russia invaded, the Ukrainian military is running low on ammunition for its Soviet-era artillery and has not received enough supplies from its allies to keep the Russians at bay, Ukrainian officials and artillery officers in the field say.
The shortage has put Ukrainian troops at a growing disadvantage in the artillery-driven war of attrition in the country’s east, with Russia’s batteries now firing several times as many rounds as Ukraine’s. While the West is sending in weapons, they are not arriving fast enough or in sufficient numbers to make up for Ukraine’s dwindling arsenal.
The Western weapons, heavy, long-range artillery pieces and multiple-launch rocket systems, are more accurate and highly mobile, but it takes time to deploy them and train soldiers to use them. In the meantime, Ukraine is running out of ammunition for the older weapons.
The Guardian newspaper that Ukraine was losing the artillery battle with Russia on the front lines because of the shortage of artillery shells for its older guns. He said Ukraine was firing 5,000 to 6,000 artillery rounds a day and had “almost used up all of our ammunition.”
By contrast, Russian forces are firing about 60,000 artillery shells and rockets each day in the Donbas fighting, according to a senior adviser to the Ukrainian military command who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at CNA, a research institute in Arlington, Va., said ammunition supplies would be critical to the final outcome in the battle for eastern Ukraine.
“This war is far more about attrition by artillery than maneuver, which means one of the deciding factors is who has more ammunition,” he said.
That Ukraine was running low on ammunition has hardly been a secret. Ukrainian officials flagged the problem months ago. On the front lines, commanders watched, alarmed, as stocks dwindled mid-battle. Soldiers say requests for artillery support go unanswered, for lack of shells.
Vadym Mischuk, 32, a Ukrainian soldier who had just rotated off the frontline near the eastern city of Bakhmut, said Thursday that there is so much Russian artillery fire that “we don’t even hear ours.” One soldier, who declined to provide his name for security reasons, estimated that for every one Ukrainian shell fired, the Russians fired 10.
The Ukrainian military has been honest about the shortfalls — something an army would not typically telegraph to the enemy in a war — perhaps because doing so adds a sense of urgency to appeals for more powerful Western weaponry.
“In early March we were already well aware that during intensive war with Russia our resources were depleting,” Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, wrote on Facebook on Thursday. He added, “Relying solely on Soviet weapons was definitely a losing strategy.”
Even before the invasion, Ukraine’s ammunition depots had been targets for saboteurs, regularly blowing up like gigantic, lethally dangerous fireworks displays.
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Spies or drones dropping incendiary devices were blamed in many cases. Between 2015 and 2019, six ammunition depots blew up in Ukraine, burning about 210,000 tons of ammo, or three times more than the Ukrainian army expended in the same time span fighting Russian-backed separatists, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Following Russia’s invasion, NATO countries have stepped in to bolster Ukraine’s supply of ammunition, but the transfers have not always gone smoothly. Countries of the old Warsaw Pact and NATO countries used different calibers of ammunition — an enduring legacy that means much of Ukraine’s arsenal, built decades ago to Soviet specifications, cannot fire Western ammunition.
Ukraine’s newly acquired hoard of NATO’s 155-millimeter artillery shells is now larger than its entire artillery ammunition stockpile before the war started, Mr. Reznikov said. But the Ukrainian forces have too few guns at the front to fire the munitions, and are facing extensive logistics challenges not only to get them into the fight, but also to maintain them once there.
Some European countries have shipped so many of their own ammunition reserves to Ukraine — in some cases up to 30 percent — that they’re increasingly anxious about replenishing their stocks, European Union officials said.
Officials said that while there was still a relatively steady flow of military equipment from the E.U. and its allies, Ukraine was not receiving as much heavy artillery as it needs.
With artillery shells in short supply, Ukrainian forces have adjusted their tactics to compensate for the lack of artillery support. On Friday, for example, a tank unit in Donbas was using a Ukrainian T-64BV tank more like an artillery piece than a main battle tank.
Instead of attacking targets directly, the tank drove several kilometers toward the front, positioned itself in a tree line, and lobbed shells at Russian positions while a Ukrainian officer adjusted its aim over the radio and using a drone overhead — the procedure typically used with mortars or howitzers.
“It is a fact already that the tanks are used because there is not enough artillery,” said the artillery unit commander, who asked to go by his nom de guerre, Razor. His unit of 122-millimeter, self-propelled howitzers had run out of Ukrainian ammunition and was now using Czech-supplied shells.
But ammunition can be fickle. Decades-old ammunition can become unreliable if not stored properly over time, potentially leading to more duds. Another soldier, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that a batch of Czech-supplied rockets were faulty, with only three out of 40 firing.
Ukrainian soldiers wounded in combat have also voiced dismay about the paltry artillery support, which they blamed on a lack of ammunition.
“There is not an hour with a pause” in Russian bombardments, Lt. Oleksandr Kolesnikov, who was wounded late last month, said in an interview in an ambulance while being evacuated to a hospital to the west. “The artillery is very intense.” He said his commander called in artillery in response but received only one salvo.
The Russian artillery superiority has frightened soldiers, he said. “In war, everything is scary and we fear everything. Only idiots are not afraid.”
Reporting was contributed by Oleksandr Chubko from Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Maria Varenikova from Barvinkove, Ukraine, Matina Stevis-Gridneff from Brussels and Helene Cooper and John Ismay from Washington.
LYSYCHANSK, Ukraine — Just to move about town, Ukrainian soldiers accelerate to breakneck speeds in their SUVs, screech around corners, zip into courtyards, then pile out and run for cover.
“They see us and they open fire,” Colonel Yuriy Vashchuk said of the need to move quickly or become a vulnerable target for Russian artillery. “There’s no place in this town that is safe.”
He was careering around on the high ground of Lysychansk, across the river from Sievierodonetsk, the site of the fiercest fighting in Ukraine’s East. To be prepared, he placed a hand grenade in the cup holder between the front seats of his vehicle. A box of pistol ammunition slid back and forth on the dashboard as he drove.
Signs of Ukraine’s tenuous military positions are everywhere: On the hills overlooking Sievierodonetsk, smoke from a dozen or so fires testify to weeks of seesaw urban combat. The single supply route to the west is littered with burned vehicles, hit by Russian artillery.
The clanging, metallic explosions of incoming shells ring out every few minutes.
These two cities, separated by the Seversky Donets River, have become the focal point of the battle in the East, though weeks of bombardment have driven away most civilians, and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine recently referred to them as “dead cities.’’
Russia’s goal is clear: It aims to capture the cities, even if that means flattening them, and continue its march westward.
Yet Ukraine’s strategy there remains unclear. Analysts say Sievierodonetsk, with its empty streets and hollowed-out buildings, is of limited military significance, and in recent days, Mr. Zelensky has spoken both of the merits of pulling back and the longer-term risks of doing so.
On Wednesday night, he swung back toward emphasizing its importance, framing the fighting here as pivotal to the broader battle for the region. “In many ways, the fate of our Donbas is being decided there,” he said in his nightly speech to the nation.
“We defend our positions, inflict significant losses on the enemy,” Mr. Zelensky said. “This is a very fierce battle, very difficult. Probably one of the most difficult throughout this war.”
Still, the government’s mixed signals emerged again on Thursday when Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukraine’s defense minister, made a desperate plea for more powerful weapons. “We have proved that, unlike many others, we do not fear the Kremlin,’’ he said. “But as a country we cannot afford to be losing our best sons and daughters.”
He warned that as many as 100 Ukrainian soldiers were being killed every day.
Indeed, the fighting on the plains in eastern Ukraine has become a race between Russia’s tactic of making slow, methodical advances that gain ground even as they reduce towns to rubble and kill untold numbers, and the delivery — far too slow, Ukrainians say — of powerful Western weapons needed to halt the invaders.
The Ukrainian military and government are now making no secret of the challenges they face in the East, three and a half months after Russia invaded. Their daily updates that highlight real setbacks are atypically honest by the standards of military press offices, a tactic perhaps intended to add a sense of urgency to their daily calls for heavy Western weaponry
Russia has also been moving swiftly to punish Ukrainian soldiers captured on the battlefield.
On Thursday, two Britons and a Moroccan who fought for the Ukrainian military were sentenced to death by a court in a Russian-occupied region of eastern Ukraine, after they were accused of being mercenaries, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.
The death sentences for the men — Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, of Britain and Brahim Saadoun of Morocco — alarmed human rights advocates and raised questions about the protections for thousands of foreign-born fighters serving in Ukraine, some of whom have been taken prisoner.
In Russia, investigators said on Thursday that they had opened 1,100 cases of potential “crimes against peace” committed by captured Ukrainian service members, possibly paving the way for a mass show trial.
The fighting in Sievierodonetsk has come down to bloody, block-by-block combat, though a senior Ukrainian official, Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Mr. Zelensky, suggested Thursday that Russia may have partially withdrawn to clear the battlefield for further artillery bombardments.
Sievierodonetsk lies on the mostly flat, eastern bank of the river and the Ukrainian forces’ sole supply line is a partially obstructed bridge. Two other bridges were blown up earlier in the fighting. On the river floodplain below one of the ruined bridges lies the upside-down wreck of a truck that plunged when the span was destroyed.
On the high, western bank is the city of Lysychansk. The two cities form a single metropolitan area, separated only by the river. Lysychansk, on the high bank, is seen as a more defensible fallback position for the Ukrainians fighting in this area.
In Lysychansk, asphalt chunks, sheared-off tree branches and other debris from shelling litter the city’s streets, which were otherwise mostly empty on a visit this week. Broken power lines droop from poles. At one spot, an unexploded Russian rocket juts out of a sidewalk.
Across the river, the streets in Sievierodonetsk were at moments eerily quiet, at other times a cacophony of gunshots and explosions.
Rapid fire from the large-caliber guns on armored personnel carriers, sounding like a jackhammer at work, echoed around the area.
A few miles to the west, another battle is raging across a pastoral landscape of rolling steppe and small villages, as Russian forces try to cut supply lines, surround the two cities and trap the Ukrainian fighters there. The two armies continually fire artillery at each other, with the Russians getting the upper hand for now.
A maze of rural back roads is now the only route in for the Ukrainians, and it is vulnerable to Russian artillery. In a field a few hundred yards off a road on Wednesday, a Ukrainian military vehicle burned and sent up a plume of black smoke.
“They are trying to make a circle, to trap all soldiers inside and destroy them,” said Mariana Bezugla, the deputy head of the Security, Defense and Intelligence Committee in Ukraine’s Parliament.
The military does not disclose troop numbers, but Ms. Bezugla said several thousand Ukrainian soldiers are now deployed in the area at risk of being surrounded.
Ms. Bezugla wears a military uniform and gold-tinted aviator glasses while driving about in a van once used as an armored vehicle for a bank. She has been living in the potential encirclement zone for the past two weeks, she said, working to ensure that military aid to Ukraine is not misused. That issue is likely to rise in importance as billions of dollars in Western aid arrives.
That weaponry is flowing in, but not reaching the front quickly. Poland has promised tanks and armored vehicles, according to the Polish government. Norway has sent self-propelled howitzers, along with spare parts and ammunition. The United States and allies sent towed howitzers. And earlier this month, the United States and Britain promised advanced, mobile, multi-rocket launchers, what the Ukrainian military has said it needs to hit Russian targets far from the front.
But it’s unclear how much of it has arrived in the places it is most needed, and whether it will be enough.
“I cannot say that I am satisfied with the tempo and quantity of weapon supplies. Absolutely not,” said Mr. Reznikov, the minister of defense. “But at the same time, I am extremely grateful to the countries that support us.”
Ms. Bezugla said she was also thankful. “But for me, it’s hard to understand why help is given in doses, just enough to survive but not enough to win,” she said. “It worries me. Our people are dying every day here.”
Out in a field of green wheat shoots, one sign of the need for additional American military aid was the blown-up debris of earlier assistance. An American M777 howitzer had lost an artillery duel; it was blasted into several blackened, charred pieces amid craters from Russian artillery.
Reporting was contributed by Oleksandr Chubko from Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Marc Santora from Warsaw, Michael Levenson from New York, Dan Bilefsky from Montreal, Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia and Valerie Hopkins from Chernihiv, Ukraine.
For large and small nations around the globe, the prospect of averting a recession is fading.
That grim prognosis came in a report Tuesday from the World Bank, which warned that the grinding war in Ukraine, supply chain chokeholds, Covid-related lockdowns in China, and dizzying rises in energy and food prices are exacting a growing toll on economies all along the income ladder. This suite of problems is “hammering growth,” David Malpass, the bank’s president, said in a statement. “For many countries, recession will be hard to avoid.”
World growth is expected to slow to 2.9 percent this year from 5.7 percent in 2021. The outlook, delivered in the bank’s Global Economic Prospects report, is not only darker than one produced six months ago, before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but also below the 3.6 percent forecast in April by the International Monetary Fund.
Growth is expected to remain muted next year. And for the remainder of this decade, it is forecast to fall below the average achieved in the previous decade.
poorer, hungrier and less secure.
Roughly 75 million more people will face extreme poverty than were expected to before the pandemic.
Per capita income in developing economies is also expected to fall 5 percent below where it was headed before the pandemic hit, the World Bank report said. At the same time, government debt loads are getting heavier, a burden that will grow as interest rates increase and raise the cost of borrowing.
“In Egypt more than half of the population is eligible for subsidized bread,” said Beata Javorcik, chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. “Now, that’s going to be much more expensive for government coffers, and it’s happening where countries are already more indebted than before.”
stock market’s woes. The conflict has caused dizzying spikes in gas prices and product shortages, and is pushing Europe to reconsider its reliance on Russian energy sources.
Global growth slows. The fallout from the war has hobbled efforts by major economies to recover from the pandemic, injecting new uncertainty and undermining economic confidence around the world. In the United States, gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, fell 0.4 percent in the first quarter of 2022.
Russia’s economy faces slowdown. Though pro-Ukraine countries continue to adopt sanctions against the Kremlin in response to its aggression, the Russian economy has avoided a crippling collapse for now thanks to capital controls and interest rate increases. But Russia’s central bank chief warned that the country is likely to face a steep economic downturn as its inventory of imported goods and parts runs low.
Trade barriers go up. The invasion of Ukraine has also unleashed a wave of protectionism as governments, desperate to secure goods for their citizens amid shortages and rising prices, erect new barriers to stop exports. But the restrictions are making the products more expensive and even harder to come by.
Prices of essential metals soar. The price of palladium, used in automotive exhaust systems and mobile phones, has been soaring amid fears that Russia, the world’s largest exporter of the metal, could be cut off from global markets. The price of nickel, another key Russian export, has also been rising.
“Insecurity and violence continue to weigh on the outlook” for many low-income countries, the World Bank said, while “more rapid increases in living costs risk further escalating social unrest.” Several studies have pointed to rising food prices as an important trigger for the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011.
In Latin American and the Caribbean, growth is expected to slow to 2.5 percent from 6.7 percent last year. India’s total output is forecast to drop to 7.5 percent from 8.7 percent, while Japan’s is expected to remain flat at 1.7 percent.
The World Bank, founded in the shadow of World War II to help rebuild ravaged economies, provides financial support to low- and middle-income nations. It reiterated its familiar basket of remedies, which include limiting government spending, using interest rates to dampen inflation and avoiding trade restrictions, price controls and subsidies.
Managing to tame inflation without sending the economy into a tailspin is a difficult task no matter what the policy choices are — which is why the risks of stagflation are so high.
At the same time, the United States, the European Union and allies are struggling to isolate Russia, starving it of resources to wage war, without crippling their own economies. Many countries in Europe, including Germany and Hungary, are heavily dependent on either Russian oil or gas.
The string of disasters — the pandemic, droughts and war — is injecting a large dose of uncertainty and draining confidence.
Among its economic prescriptions, the World Bank underscored that leaders should make it a priority to use public spending to shield the most vulnerable people.
That protection includes blunting the impact of rising food and energy prices as well as ensuring that low-income countries have sufficient supplies of Covid vaccines. So far, only 14 percent of people in low-income countries have been fully vaccinated.
“Renewed outbreaks of Covid-19 remain a risk in all regions, particularly those with lower vaccination coverage,” the report said.
KHERSON REGION, Ukraine — Since Russia invaded, NATO nations have upgraded Ukraine’s arsenal with increasingly sophisticated tools, with more promised, like the advanced multiple-launch rocket systems pledged by the United States and Britain.
But training soldiers how to use the equipment has become a significant and growing obstacle — one encountered daily by Junior Sgt. Dmytro Pysanka and his crew, operating an aged antitank gun camouflaged in netting and green underbrush in southern Ukraine.
Peering through the sight attached to the gun, Sergeant Pysanka is greeted with a kaleidoscope of numbers and lines that, if read correctly, should give him the calculations needed to fire at Russian forces. However, errors are common in the chaos of battle.
More than a month ago, the commanders of his frontline artillery unit secured a far more advanced tool: a high-tech, Western-supplied laser range finder to help with targeting.
But there’s a hitch: Nobody knows how to use it.
“It’s like being given an iPhone 13 and only being able to make phone calls,” said Sergeant Pysanka, clearly exasperated.
The range finder, called a JIM LR, is like a pair of high-tech binoculars and likely part of the tranche of equipment supplied by the United States, said Sergeant Pysanka.
It may seem like a perfect choice to help make better use of the antitank gun, built in 1985. It can see targets at night and transmit their distance, compass heading and GPS coordinates. Some soldiers learned enough to operate the tool, but then rotated elsewhere in recent days, leaving the unit with an expensive paperweight.
“I have been trying to learn how to use it by reading the manual in English and using Google Translate to understand it,” Sergeant Pysanka said.
On Monday, Britain promised to send Ukraine mobile multiple-rocket launchers, improving the range and accuracy of Ukrainian artillery, days after President Biden committed to sending similar weapons.
Ukraine’s most advanced new arms are concentrated in the eastern Donbas region, where the fiercest fighting rages as President Vladimir V. Putin’s forces — approaching from the east, north and south — try to crush a pocket of Ukrainian-held territory. At the eastern tip of that pocket, the two sides have waged a seesaw battle for the devastated, mostly abandoned city of Sievierodonetsk.
Over the weekend, Ukrainian troops regained some ground in the city, according to Western analysts and Ukrainian officials. But on Monday, the Ukrainians were forced back again as the Russian military ramped up its already intense artillery attack, according to Serhiy Haidai, Ukraine’s administrator for the region.
A day after a risky visit to troops in Lysychansk, near Sievierodonetsk, President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday gave journalists a blunt assessment of the challenge: “There are more of them. They are more powerful. But we have every chance to fight in this direction.”
Ukraine’s leaders frequently call for high-end Western weapons and equipment, pinning their hopes for victory to requests for new antitank guided missiles, howitzers and satellite-guided rockets.
But atop the need for the tools of war, Ukrainian troops need to know how to use them. Without proper training, the same dilemma facing Sergeant Pysanka’s unit and their lone range finder will be pervasive on a much larger scale. Analysts say that could echo the United States’ failed approach of supplying the Afghan military with equipment that couldn’t be maintained absent massive logistical support.
“Ukrainians are eager to employ Western equipment, but it requires training to maintain,” said Michael Kofman, the director of Russian studies at C.N.A., a research institute in Arlington, Va. “Some things it’s not easy to rush.”
The United States and other NATO countries gave extensive training to the Ukrainian military in the years before the war, though not on some of the advanced weapons they are now sending. From 2015 to early this year, U.S. military officials say, American instructors trained more than 27,000 Ukrainian soldiers at the Yavoriv Combat Training Center near Lviv. There were more than 150 American military advisers in Ukraine when Russia invaded in February, but they were withdrawn.
Since the beginning of the war, the United States has pledged roughly $54 billion in aid for Ukraine and supplied a bevy of weapons and equipment, most recently several advanced HIMARS mobile rocket launchers, a move greeted with swift condemnation from the Kremlin.
But to avoid a more direct confrontation with Russia, the Biden administration has so far declined to send military advisers back into Ukraine to help train Ukrainian forces to use new weapons systems, and has instead relied on training programs outside the country.
This has put enormous pressure on Ukrainian soldiers like Sgt. Andriy Mykyta, a member of the country’s border guard who, before the war, received brief training from NATO advisers on the advanced British antitank weapons, known as NLAWs.
Now he races around frontline positions trying to educate his comrades on how to use them. In many cases, he said, Ukrainian soldiers learned how to use some weapons, including NLAWs, on their own, using online videos and practice.
“But there are types of weapons that you can’t learn from intuition: surface-to-air missiles, artillery and some gear,” Sergeant Mykyta said in a telephone interview. “So we need formal courses,” he added.
Ukraine’s needs are palpable in the region where Sergeant Pysanka’s unit is dug in, just northeast of the Russian-occupied city of Kherson. The area was the site of a brief Ukrainian offensive in the past week that slowed as soon as the retreating Russians destroyed a key bridge; the Ukrainians’ lack of longer-range artillery meant they were unable to attempt a difficult river crossing in pursuit, Ukrainian military officials said.
For Sergeant Pysanka’s gun team, the only instructor available for the laser range finder is a soldier who remained behind from the last unit and had taken time to translate most of the 104-page instruction manual. But it’s still trial and error as they figure out what combination of buttons do what, while searching for ad hoc solutions to solve the lack of a mounting tripod and video monitor (both of which are advertised in the instruction manual).
“If you’re working long distances while holding it by hand, sometimes it can transmit inaccurate figures,” Sergeant Pysanka said. “It is safer,” he added, “to work when the gear is stationed on the tripod facing the enemy and the operator is working with the monitor under cover.”
The JIM LR, made by the French company Safran, looks like a cross between a virtual reality headset and traditional binoculars, and can be used alongside a mapping application on a computer tablet that Ukrainian troops use to help call in artillery strikes.
At around six pounds, it is far smaller than the four-and-a-half-ton, U.S.-supplied M777 155 mm howitzer that has recently made its way to the frontline in Ukraine’s east. But both pieces of equipment have intricacies that are reminders of the complications that come from supplying a military with foreign matériel.
The M777 is highly mobile and capable of firing long distances, but training has been a bottleneck in deploying the howitzers, Ukrainian officers say. At courses in Germany that lasted a week, the United States trained soldiers to fire the weapon and others to maintain it.
But an oversight nearly delayed all maintenance on the guns at the hard-to-reach front lines, Ukrainian officers said. The entire M777 machine is put together on the imperial system used in the United States, meaning that using a Ukrainian metric wrench on it would be difficult, and would risk damaging the equipment.
Only after sending the guns did the United States arrange for a rushed shipment of toolboxes of imperial-gauge wrenches, said Maj. Vadim Baranik, the deputy commander of a maintenance unit.
But tools can be misplaced, lost or destroyed, potentially leaving guns inoperable unless someone scrounges up a U.S.-supplied wrench.
And the JIM LR, capable of displaying extremely accurate targeting data, supplies the information, known as grid coordinates, in a widely used NATO format that Sergeant Pysanka has to convert to the Soviet-era coordinate system used on the Ukrainians’ maps. Such minor speed bumps and chances for error add up, especially when under the stress of a Russian artillery barrage.
For now, Sergeant Pysanka is focused on learning the range finder. In his small slice of the war, Western-supplied weapons and equipment are limited to a small number of antitank rockets and first-aid kits.
“We can’t boast the same kind of resources that there are in the east,” said Maj. Roman Kovalyov, a deputy commander of the unit that oversees Sergeant Pysanka’s gun position. “What Ukraine gets, we can only see on the TV. But we believe that sooner or later it will turn up here.”
Reporting was contributed by Andrew E. Kramer from Kramatorsk, Ukraine, and Eric Schmitt from Washington State.