WASHINGTON/UNITED NATIONS, April 7 (Reuters) – China’s abstentions on U.N. votes to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are a “win”, said the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, underscoring how Beijing’s balancing act between its partner Russia and the West may be the best outcome for Washington.
Beijing has refused to call Russia’s actions in Ukraine an invasion and has repeatedly criticized what it says are illegal Western sanctions to punish Moscow.
But U.S.-led pressure on China, including the specter of secondary sanctions should it provide material support for Russia’s war, appears to be helping keep Beijing on the fence over the conflict.
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China abstained from two non-binding U.N. General Assembly votes last month that criticized Russia for the ongoing war and its humanitarian costs.
“That is a win when China abstains. We’d love them to vote yes, but an abstention is better than them voting no,” U.N. ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told Reuters.
“I’m not sure they expected that Russia would go this far. They continue to support Russia publicly, but I do get a sense of discomfort,” she said.
China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun, responding to Thomas-Greenfield’s remarks, said: “The whole world is not comfortable. Do you think that anyone should be comfortable with this crisis?”
China and Russia declared a “no-limits” strategic partnership several weeks before the Feb. 24 invasion and have been forging closer energy and security ties in recent years to push back on the United States and the West.
In a tilt toward Moscow, China’s leader Xi Jinping has discussed the conflict in Ukraine during calls with leaders of many major countries, but has yet to offer such diplomatic validation to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
While Beijing has given some humanitarian aid to Ukraine – about $2.37 million worth of items such as blankets and baby formula – those contributions are outmatched by much smaller donors.
Analysts say they have yet to see any major indication that China is violating strict Western sanctions on Russia, but there are strong signs that China is hedging its bets, particularly on the economic front.
China’s state oil refiners are avoiding new oil contracts with Russia despite steep discounts, sources told Reuters. read more
State-run Sinopec, Asia’s biggest oil refiner, also suspended talks for a major petrochemical investment and a gas marketing venture in Russia. read more
Sanctions on Russia should give China a “good understanding” of the consequences it could face if it provides material support to Moscow, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman warned on Wednesday. read more
China appears unlikely to back away from its tacit diplomatic support for Russia – even in light of graphic images showing widespread civilian killings in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, north of the capital Kyiv. Moscow rejects Western charges of war crimes.
Zhang said China did not want to be dragged into the crisis.
“The focus is really for the parties concerned to find a solution as quick as possible, instead of trying to look at some indirect party, and to drag those indirect parties into this crisis,” Zhang told Reuters.
‘PLAY BOTH SIDES’
China, which itself has been accused by Washington of committing genocide towards its Uyghur population, voted no on Thursday on a resolution that suspended Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council. read more
Before the vote, Zhang called it a “hasty move” that forced countries to choose sides.
U.S. officials appear to be expecting that China’s support for Russia won’t violate major red lines set by the United States and the European Union, which together represent a quarter of China’s global trade, compared to just 2.4% for Russia, according to the EU. read more
“We are likely to continue to see some amount of Chinese support for the Russian economy, but a dance that Beijing tries to do to keep up its economic ties to the European Union in particular, but also to the United States,” Mira Rapp-Hooper, director for the Indo-Pacific at the White House National Security Council, said in March. read more
U.S. President Joe Biden has leaned heavily on allies to help make the case – as he did in a call with Xi last month – that there would be consequences for supporting Russia.
Following a virtual summit between EU and Chinese leaders last week, China’s foreign ministry said it was not deliberately circumventing sanctions. read more
It has also denied being asked for, or supplying, any military support for Russia.
Scott Kennedy, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told a recent online forum there was little indication that Chinese banks were supporting sanctioned Russian financial institutions, and that some Chinese firms were selling less to Russia, from cell phones to car parts.
Experts say the United States’ ability to monitor and track small-scale Chinese sanctions violations is limited, as shipments could be driven over land borders where U.S. monitoring does not occur. They say preventing Chinese firms from large sanctioned trade with Russia should be the goal.
“The realists are going to win this one and understand that the Chinese are going to play both sides toward the middle and they’ll take what few victories they can get,” said Donald Pearce, a former export control attaché at the U.S. embassy in Moscow who works with Torres Trade Advisory.
“If you’ve got at least a tacit admission that China respects the idea that the U.S. could start imposing secondary sanctions, that may be enough,” Pearce said.
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Reporting by Michael Martina in Washington and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Mary Milliken and Michael Perry
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
WASHINGTON — Russia asked China to give it military equipment and support for the war in Ukraine after President Vladimir V. Putin began a full-scale invasion last month, according to U.S. officials.
Russia has also asked China for additional economic assistance, to help counteract the battering its economy has taken from broad sanctions imposed by the United States and European and Asian nations, according to an official.
American officials, determined to keep secret their means of collecting the intelligence on Russia’s requests, declined to describe further the kind of military weapons or aid that Moscow is seeking. The officials also declined to discuss any reaction by China to the requests.
President Xi Jinping of China has strengthened a partnership with Mr. Putin and has stood by him as Russia has stepped up its military campaign, destroying cities in Ukraine and killing hundreds or thousands of civilians. American officials are watching China closely to see whether it will act on any requests of aid from Russia. Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, is scheduled to meet on Monday in Rome with Yang Jiechi, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s elite Politburo and director of the party’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission.
Mr. Sullivan intends to warn Mr. Yang about any future Chinese efforts to bolster Russia in its war or undercut Ukraine, the United States and their partners.
“We are communicating directly, privately to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them,” Mr. Sullivan said on CNN on Sunday.
“We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country anywhere in the world,” he said.
Mr. Sullivan did not make any explicit mention of potential military support from China, but other U.S. officials spoke about the request from Russia on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of diplomatic and intelligence matters.
Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said he had never heard of the request from Russia. “The current situation in Ukraine is indeed disconcerting,” he said, adding that Beijing wants to see a peaceful settlement. “The high priority now is to prevent the tense situation from escalating or even getting out of control.”
The Biden administration is seeking to lay out for China the consequences of its alignment with Russia and penalties it will incur if it continues or increases its support. Some U.S. officials argue it might be possible to dissuade Beijing from ramping up its assistance to Moscow. Chinese leaders may be content to offer rhetorical support for Moscow and may not want to further enmesh themselves with Mr. Putin by providing military support for the war, those U.S. officials say.
Mr. Sullivan said China “was aware before the invasion took place that Vladimir Putin was planning something,” but added that the Chinese might not have known the full extent of the Russian leader’s plans. “It’s very possible that Putin lied to them, the same way he lied to Europeans and others,” he said.
Mr. Xi has met with Mr. Putin 38 times as national leaders, more than with any other head of state, and the two share a drive to weaken American power.
Traditionally, China has bought military equipment from Russia rather than the other way around. Russia has increased its sales of weaponry to China in recent years. But China has advanced missile and drone capabilities that Russia could use in its Ukraine campaign.
Although Russia on Sunday launched a missile barrage on a military training ground in western Ukraine that killed at least 35 people, there has been some evidence that Russian missile supplies have been running low, according to independent analysts.
Last week, the White House criticized China for helping spread Kremlin disinformation about the United States and Ukraine. In recent days, Chinese diplomats, state media organizations and government agencies have used a range of platforms and official social media accounts to amplify a conspiracy theory that says the Pentagon has been financing biological and chemical weapons labs in Ukraine. Right-wing political figures in the United States have also promoted the theory.
On Friday, Russia called a United Nations Security Council meeting to present its claims about the labs, and the Chinese ambassador to the U.N., Zhang Jun, supported his Russian counterpart.
“Now that Russia has made these false claims, and China has seemingly endorsed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, wrote on Twitter last Wednesday.
China is also involved in the Iran nuclear negotiations, which have stalled because of new demands from Russia on relief from the sanctions imposed by Western nations in response to the Ukraine war.
American officials are trying to determine to what degree China would support Russia’s position in those talks. Before Russia raised the requests, officials from the nations involved had been close to clinching a return to a version of the Obama-era nuclear limits agreement from which Donald J. Trump withdrew, Mr. Sullivan might bring up Iran with Mr. Yang on Monday.
Current and former U.S. officials say the Rome meeting is important given the lives at stake in the Ukraine war and the possibility of Russia and China presenting a geopolitical united front against the United States and its allies in the years ahead.
“This meeting is critical and possibly a defining moment in the relationship,” said Evan Medeiros, a Georgetown University professor who was a senior Asia director on the National Security Council during the Obama administration.
“I think what the U.S. is probably going to do is lay out the costs and consequences of China’s complicity and possible enabling of Russia’s invasion,” he said. “I don’t think anyone in the administration has illusions that the U.S. can pull China away from Russia.”
Some U.S. officials are looking for ways to compel Mr. Xi to distance himself from Mr. Putin on the war. Others see Mr. Xi as a lost cause and prefer to treat China and Russia as committed partners, hoping that might galvanize policies and coordination among Asian and European allies to contain them both.
Chinese officials have consistently voiced sympathy for Russia during the Ukraine war by reiterating Mr. Putin’s criticism of NATO and blaming the United States for starting the conflict. They have refrained from any mention of a Russian “war” or “invasion,” even as they express general concern for the humanitarian crisis.
They mention support for “sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a common catchphrase in Chinese diplomacy, but do not say explicitly which nation’s sovereignty they support — meaning the phrase could be interpreted as backing for Ukraine or an endorsement of Mr. Putin’s claims to restoring the territory of imperial Russia.
China and Russia issued a 5,000-word statement on Feb. 4 saying their partnership had “no limits” when Mr. Putin met with Mr. Xi before the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Around that time, senior Chinese officials asked senior Russian officials not to invade Ukraine before the end of the Games, according to U.S. and European officials who cite a Western intelligence report.
Starting last November, American officials quietly held talks with Chinese officials, including the ambassador in Washington and the foreign minister, to discuss intelligence showing Mr. Putin’s troop buildup to persuade the Chinese to tell the Russians not to launch a war, U.S. officials said. The Chinese officials rebuffed the Americans at every meeting and expressed skepticism that Mr. Putin intended to invade Ukraine, the U.S. officials said.
William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, said Thursday in a Senate hearing that he believed Mr. Xi was “unsettled” by the Ukraine war.
Last Tuesday, Mr. Xi repeated China’s standard talking points on the war in a video call with the leaders of France and Germany. He also said that all nations should show “maximum restraint” and that China was “deeply grieved by the outbreak of war again on the European continent,” according to a Chinese readout. He did not say Russia had started the fighting.
U.S. and European officials say large Chinese companies will most likely refrain from openly violating sanctions on Russia for fear of jeopardizing their global commerce. On Thursday, some Russian news articles and commentary questioned China’s commitment to Russia after news agencies reported that China was refusing to send aircraft parts to the country.
Russia, as U.S. officials often remind the public, has relatively few friends or allies. And officials have said Russia’s outreach to its partners is a sign of the difficulties it is encountering trying to subdue Ukraine.
As the United States and Europe have increased pressure and sanctions, Moscow has sought more aid.
In the buildup to war, Russia got assistance from Belarus, using its territory to launch part of the invasion. Minsk has also tried to help Moscow evade sanctions. Those actions prompted the European Union to impose sanctions on Belarus. The penalties would limit money flowing into Belarus from Europe and block some Belarusian banks from using the SWIFT financial messaging system.
Michael Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, accused Belarus of being a “co-aggressor” and having “stabbed your neighbor in the back,” referring to Ukraine.
President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus has said his military will not join in the war. But Russia has launched missiles from Belarus and evacuated some injured Russian soldiers to hospitals in that country.
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who owes his government’s survival to Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war, also declared support for Moscow’s invasion. Russia has tried to recruit Syrian fighters to join the Ukraine war, according to the Pentagon.
While there are no details of how many recruits Moscow has enlisted or if they have arrived in Ukraine, American officials said it was an indicator of the strategic and tactical problems that have plagued Russian commanders.
Before the start of the war, European officials said, Russian military contractors with experience fighting in Syria and Libya secretly entered eastern Ukraine to help lay the groundwork for the invasion.
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.
GENEVA — The United States and Russia emerged from seven hours of urgent negotiations on Monday staking out seemingly irreconcilable positions on the future of the NATO alliance and the deployment of troops and weapons in Eastern Europe, keeping tensions highamid fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei A. Ryabkov, Russia’s lead negotiator, insisted after the meeting that it was “absolutely mandatory” that Ukraine “never, never, ever” become a NATO member.
His American counterpart, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, reiterated that the United States could never make such a pledge because “we will not allow anyone to slam closed NATO’s open door policy,” and she said that the United States and its allies would not stand by if Russia sought to change international borders “by force.’’
The impasse left the fate of Ukraine — which was not invited to the bilateral talks — in a state of uncertainty, with Russia’s military intentions far from resolved following hastily-scheduled meetings between Ms. Sherman and Mr. Ryabkov on Sunday night and on Monday.
massed roughly 100,000 troops on its borders with Ukraine, Mr. Ryabkov told reporters “we have no intention to invade Ukraine.” And both sides offered some positive assessments.
Ms. Sherman, talking to reporters via phone after Monday’s meeting, said that she saw some areas where the two countries could make progress, and Mr. Ryabkov described the talks as “very professional, deep, concrete” and that their tone “makes one more optimistic.’’
The talks will continue on Wednesday in Brussels, when Russian officials meet with NATO allies, and on Thursday in Vienna, at a gathering of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which includes both Russia and Ukraine as well as the United States. Mr. Ryabkov said that the outcome of those discussions would determine whether or not Russia was willing to proceed with diplomacy.
And he warned that if the West did not agree to Russia’s demands to roll back NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe, it would face unspecified consequences that would put the “security of the whole European continent” at risk.
American officials told The New York Times, signaling that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia still may not have made up his mind about whether to proceed with an attack, or might be considering something less conventional than pouring troops over the border.
The U.S. officials say they are preparing for everything from a full-scale invasion, to partial incursions, to cyberattacks intended to paralyze the country.
“He tried to maintain a flexible position that would allow Putin to decide either way,” Kadri Liik, a Russia specialist at the European Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, said of Mr. Ryabkov’s approach. “It will be Putin’s decision whether to continue these talks under the conditions that the U.S. makes available.”
Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and fomented a separatist war in the country’s east after the pro-Western revolution in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, in 2014. The war in eastern Ukraine continues to simmer, having claimed more than 13,000 Ukrainian lives on both sides.
Understand Russia’s Relationship With the West
The tension between the regions is growing and Russian President Vladimir Putin is increasingly willing to take geopolitical risks and assert his demands.
In the last year, Mr. Putin has increasingly cast Western support for Ukraine as an existential threat, claiming that the neighboring country, formerly a Soviet republic, was being turned into an “anti-Russia” that the West could use to attack or otherwise weaken his country.
But Russia’s aims go far beyond the future of Ukraine, a position it put forth in an extraordinary set of demands to the West last month that sought to roll back NATO’s military presence to 1990s levels. It also asked for guarantees that NATO would not expand eastward or keep forces or weapons in former Soviet states that have since joined NATO. .
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.
Even without any American concessions, Monday’s talks already represented a victory of sorts for the Kremlin because they brought the issue of NATO expansion, which has long angered Mr. Putin, to the forefront of issues confronting Washington policymakers.
Ms. Liik, the analyst, said the seriousness with which the United States appeared to prepare for Monday’s talks — sending a large delegation that included officials from the Defense Department, the State Department and the National Security Council, which coordinates policy at the White House — sent an important signal to Moscow.
“We had the feeling that the American side took the Russian proposals very seriously and studied them deeply,” Mr. Ryabkov said. “Now, things are being called by their names, and this in itself has a healing effect on our relations with the West.”
Mr. Ryabkov said Russia would make a decision on whether or not to continue diplomacy after the meetings this week, warning that “the risks connected with a possible intensification of confrontation cannot be underestimated.”
But Mr. Ryabkov was vague as to what, exactly, the consequences would be if the United States refused Russia’s demands. He repeatedly said that Russia had no plans to attack Ukraine and that there was “no reason to fear an escalation scenario in this regard.”
But he also said that increased military activity by the West in Ukraine and in the Black Sea region had caused Russia to shift its military posture in the region, and that it was concerned about “deliberate provocations” by Ukraine.
Western officials have said they believe that Russia could manufacture a “provocation” as a pretext for an invasion.
Describing the consequences of what would happen if diplomacy fails, Mr. Ryabkov repeated Mr. Putin’s wording that the West would face a “military-technical response” by Russia. He said Russia would not make public what that response would look like because doing so would invite new sanctions threats, but he indicated it could involve new deployments of certain weapons systems.
Ms. Sherman, cautious after a long career of sparring with Russian officials, was asked after the meeting whether she had realistic hope for a diplomatic solution.
“It’s very hard for diplomats to do the work we do if you have no hope,’’ she said. “So of course I have hope.”
She paused briefly. “But what I care about more is results.”
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — The authoritarian leader of Kazakhstan said Friday that he had authorized the nation’s security forces to “fire without warning” as the government moved to bring an end to two days of chaos and violence after peaceful protests descended into scenes of anarchy.
“We hear calls from abroad for the parties to negotiate to find a peaceful solution to the problems,” President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said in an address to the nation. “This is just nonsense.”
“What negotiations can there be with criminals and murderers,” he said. “They need to be destroyed and this will be done.”
The government said that order had been “mainly restored” across the country as Russian troops joined with the country’s security forces to quell widespread unrest.
the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
This is the first time in the history of the alliance that its protection clause has been invoked.
Even as Russian paratroopers from the elite 45th Guards Spetsnaz Brigade landed in Almaty, gunbattles raged in the streets late into the night, according to video from a BBC correspondent on the scene.
lifted price caps for liquefied petroleum gas, a low-carbon fuel that many Kazakhs use to power their cars. But the frustration among the people runs deep in regards to social and economic disparities.
What do the protesters want? The demands of the demonstrators have expanded in scope from lower fuel prices to a broader political liberalization by seeking to oust the autocratic forces that have ruled Kazakhstan without any substantial opposition since 1991.
Why does the unrest matter outside this region? Until now, the oil-rich country has been regarded as a pillar of political and economic stability in an unstable region. The protests are also significant for Vladimir Putin, who views Kazakhstan as part of Russia’s sphere of influence.
How has the government responded? President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has called the protesters “a band of terrorists,” declared Kazakhstan under attack and asked the Russian-led military alliance to intervene. Officials have instituted a state of emergency and shut off internet access.
“The United States and, frankly, the world will be watching for any violations of human rights,” said Ned Price, a State Department spokesman. “We will also be watching for any actions that may lay the predicate for the seizure of Kazakh institutions.”
Meanwhile, China expressed full support for the Kazakh leader.
“You decisively took effective measures at critical moments to quickly calm the situation, which embodies your responsibility as a politician,” China’s authoritarian leader, Xi Jinping, said in a message to Mr. Tokayev, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.
Kazakhstan has been expanding its ties with China in recent years. The country plays a central role in Mr. Xi’s signature infrastructure program, known as “One Belt, One Road,” which aims to revive the ancient Silk Road and build up other trading routes between Asia and Europe to pump Chinese products into foreign markets.
In his message, Mr. Xi condemned any efforts to undermine Kazakhstan’s stability and peace, as well as its relationship with China. He told Mr. Tokayev that Beijing “resolutely opposes external forces deliberately creating turmoil and instigating a ‘color revolution’ in Kazakhstan,” the news agency said.
The Xinhua report did not elaborate on what Mr. Xi was referring to, but the Chinese Communist Party has often invoked the theme of foreign meddling to explain unrest, including in Hong Kong.
The protests in Kazakhstan started on Sunday with what appeared to be a genuine outpouring of public anger over an increase in fuel prices and a broader frustration over a government widely viewed as corrupt — with vast oil riches benefiting an elite few at the expense of the masses.
In a concession, the government on Thursday announced a price cap on vehicle fuel and a halt to increases in utility bills.
However, as the protests swelled, both the government and even some supporters of the protests said they had been co-opted by criminal gangs looking to exploit the situation.
Over the past two days, oil prices have risen 4 percent, partly driven by worries over Kazakhstan, a major petroleum producer. Futures in Brent crude, the international benchmark, were trading at $82.95 a barrel on Friday, close to seven-year highs that were reached in October.
Chevron, the second largest U.S. oil company, said there has been some disruption to oil production at their key Tengiz field in Kazakhstan. The issue appears to be difficulty in loading some petroleum products from the field onto rail cars.
The market is also responding to geopolitical tensions, including over Ukraine, and to production problems in Nigeria, Angola, Libya and elsewhere.
The huge destruction of public property in Kazakhstan — including the torching of Almaty’s City Hall and the burning and looting of scores of other government buildings — has been met with a strong show of force by security personnel.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement on Friday that 26 “armed criminals” had been “liquidated” and 18 security officers killed in the unrest.
Ivan Nechepurenko reported from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Valerie Hopkins from Moscow, and Marc Santora from Chatel, France. Michael Crowley contributed reporting from Washington, Stanley Reed from London, and Gillian Wong from Seoul.
At one particularly tense moment, in October 2020, American intelligence reports detailed how Chinese leaders had become worried that President Trump was preparing an attack. Those concerns, which could have been misread, prompted Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to call his counterpart in Beijing to assure otherwise.
“The Taiwan issue has ceased to be a sort of narrow, boutique issue, and it’s become a central theater — if not the central drama — in U.S.-China strategic competition,” said Evan Medeiros, who served on President Obama’s National Security Council.
China’s ambitious leader, Xi Jinping, now presides over what is arguably the country’s most potent military in history. Some argue that Mr. Xi, who has set the stage to rule for a third term starting in 2022, could feel compelled to conquer Taiwan to crown his era in power.
Mr. Xi said Saturday in Beijing that Taiwan independence “was a grave lurking threat to national rejuvenation.” China wanted peaceful unification, he said, but added: “Nobody should underestimate the staunch determination, firm will and powerful ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Few believe a war is imminent or foreordained, in part because the economic and diplomatic aftershocks would be staggering for China. Yet even if the recent flights into Taiwan’s self-declared air identification zone are intended merely as political pressure, not a prelude to war, China’s financial, political and military ascendancy has made preserving the island’s security a gravely complex endeavor.
Until recently, the United States believed it could hold Chinese territorial ambitions in check, but the military superiority it long held may not be enough. When the Pentagon organized a war game in October 2020, an American “blue team” struggled against new Chinese weaponry in a simulated battle over Taiwan.
KABUL, Afghanistan — Ten days after the chaotic evacuation of Afghanistan came to an end, a lone jetliner lifted off from Kabul’s airport on Thursday, the first international passenger flight since American forces ended their 20-year presence in the country.
The departure of the chartered Qatar Airways Boeing 777, with scores of Americans, Canadians and Britons on board, was hailed by some as a sign that Taliban-ruled Afghanistan might be poised to re-engage with the world, even as reports emerged that the group was intensifying its crackdown on dissent.
“Kabul Airport is now operational,” Mutlaq bin Majed Al-Qahtani, a special envoy from Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a news conference on the tarmac.
In recent days, Qatari and Turkish personnel worked with the Taliban to repair damage and make the airport basically functional again. But just more than a week ago, the facility was a scene of frantic desperation as people jockeyed to find seats on the last commercial and military planes out.
a suicide bombing attack at the gates of the airport killed scores of Afghans and 13 U.S. service members.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban who joined the Qatari envoy at the news conference, said that the resumption of international flights would be critical to ensuring that much-needed aid continued to flow into the country.
China, making cautious overtures to its unstable neighbor, has pledged to give $30 million in food and other aid to the new government. But China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, also urged the Taliban to work to contain terrorist groups.
The United Nations warned on Thursday that the freezing of billions of dollars in Afghan assets to keep it out of Taliban hands would inevitably have devastating economic consequences.
Deborah Lyons, the U.N. special envoy on Afghanistan, told the U.N. Security Council that the international community needed to find way to make these funds available to the country, with safeguards to prevent misuse by the Taliban, “to prevent a total breakdown of the economy and social order.”
a statement. “Afghans who have taken to the streets, understandably fearful about the future, are being met with intimidation, harassment and violence — particularly directed at women.”
U.S. officials said that the Americans on board the flight from Kabul on Thursday were considered the “most interested” in getting out, but said other Americans in Afghanistan would have other opportunities to leave.
Senator Angus King of Maine, an independent who sits on the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees, was cautiously optimistic on Thursday morning about Americans elsewhere in Afghanistan being able to depart from the Kabul airport, although he noted the journey could be “treacherous and difficult.” But he said it was still unclear how many who wanted to leave remained in Afghanistan, or how they would get to the capital.
“I don’t want to sound like I have a great deal of confidence in the Taliban,” Mr. King said, adding, “All I can say is that it appears that, thus far, the Taliban has honored their commitment to allow Americans to leave.”
While the flight Thursday appeared to be a step toward resolving a diplomatic impasse that has left scores of Americans and other international workers stranded in Afghanistan, it was not clear if the Taliban would allow the tens of thousands of Afghans who once helped the U.S. government and now qualify for emergency U.S. visas to leave.
Taliban and foreign officials have said that Afghans with dual citizenship would be allowed to leave, but it was unclear whether any were on the first flight.
It also remained unclear whether charter flights from the airport in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, where dozens of Americans and hundreds of Afghans were waiting to leave the country, would be allowed to fly.
In recent days, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has said that the Taliban are to blame for the grounded flights, and that they claim some passengers on the manifesto do not have the proper documentation.
Mr. Price, the State Department spokesman, said the United States had “pulled every lever” to persuade the Taliban to allow flights to depart from Mazar-i-Sharif carrying not only American citizens and legal residents but also Afghans considered to be at high risk.
“It continues to be our contention that these individuals should be allowed to depart,” he said. “At the first possible opportunity.”
Paul Mozur and Marc Santora contributed reporting.
assassination of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti was met on Monday with bewilderment by some who knew him and surprise by prominent Haitian Americans who said he had not been known as a major political player.
At the same time, a university professor who met with the doctor twice last month said that he had spoken then of being sent by God to take over the Haitian presidency.
Some two dozen people have been arrested in the killing, but Haitian officials have placed the doctor, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, 63, at the center of an investigation that has stretched out from Haiti to Colombia and the United States.
The doctor’s brother, Joseph Sanon, said he had not been in touch with him for a while and he had no idea what was going on. “I am desperate to know what’s happening,” he said.
A former neighbor of the doctor’s in Florida, Steven Bross, 65, said, “He was always trying to figure out ways to make Haiti more self-sufficient, but assassinating the president, no way.”
But in a telephone interview on Monday, Michel Plancher, a civil engineering professor at Quisqueya University in Port-au-Prince, said he had received a call from out of the blue to attend a meeting with Dr. Sanon, who he was told was planning a political campaign.
Professor Plancher said he had never heard of the doctor but decided to attend the meetings, which were held at a home in the capital, after internet searches showed Dr. Sanon to be a pastor who had done charitable work.
The two men had a first meet-and-greet encounter on June 1, Professor Plancher said. The initial contact was followed a day or two later by an hourlong meeting with Dr. Sanon and a group of six to eight people. Both meetings happened in the same home in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
There, he said, Dr. Sanon outlined his political ambitions.
“He said he was sent by God. He was sent on a mission of God to replace Moïse,” Professor Plancher said. “He said the president would be resigning soon. He didn’t say why.”
“He said he will implement a Marshall Plan to run the country,” Professor Plancher added. “He wanted to change French as an official language, and replace it with English. He seemed a bit crazy. I didn’t want to participate anymore.”
Haiti’s national police chief, Léon Charles, has accused Dr. Sanon of playing a pivotal role in the assassination and wanting to become president, but offered no explanation for how the doctor could possibly have taken control of the government.
During a raid of his home, the Haitian authorities said, the police found a D.E.A. cap — the team of hit men who assaulted Mr. Moïse’s home appear to have falsely identified themselves as Drug Enforcement Administration agents — six holsters, about 20 boxes of bullets, 24 unused shooting targets, and four license plates from the Dominican Republic.
A YouTube video recorded in 2011 titled “Dr. Christian Sanon — Leadership for Haiti” appears to present Mr. Sanon as a potential leader of the country. In it, the speaker denounces the leaders of Haiti as corrupt plunderers of its resources.
As the authorities focused on Monday on Dr. Sanon’s actions in recent months, a clearer picture of his past was also coming into view.
Dr. Sanon was born in 1958 in Marigot, a city on Haiti’s southern coast, and graduated from the Eugenio María de Hostos University in the Dominican Republic and the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., according to a short biography from the Florida Baptist Historical Society.
Public records show that Dr. Sanon was licensed to practice both conventional medicine as well osteopathic medicine, in which doctors can provide therapies like spinal manipulation or massage as part of their treatment.
In 2013, he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida, a process in which people can liquidate assets to pay creditors. Dr. Sanon stated at the time of his bankruptcy filing that he was a doctor and the director of the Rome Foundation, a nonprofit involved in assisting people in Haiti.
Dr. Ludner Confident, a Haitian-born anesthesiologist who practices medicine in Florida, said he got to know Dr. Sanon while they were working for the foundation in the years before the devastating 2010 earthquake.
“He is a pastor,” Dr. Confident said. “He’s a man of God, wanting to do things for Haiti.”
Still, Dr. Confident, who said he had not spoken with Dr. Sanon for years, said, “When it comes to politics, I don’t have any information about his political agenda.”
And though Dr. Sanon was straddling two worlds, dividing time between his homes in Haiti and Florida, some in Miami’s Haitian diaspora expressed surprise when Dr. Sanon was named as a central figure in the assassination plotting.
“I never heard of this Sanon before,” said Georges Sami Saati, 68, a Haitian American businessman who is a prominent figure in Miami’s community of Haitian émigrés. “Nobody ever heard of him.”
A top security aide to President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti had traveled to Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, several times in the months before the president’s assassination last week, Colombian defense officials said on Monday morning, raising the prospect that the attackers had inside help.
The Colombian officials, who are helping in a wide-ranging investigation into the president’s death, said that they were examining what connection, if any, there was between the trips by the head of the presidential palace guard, Dimitri Hérard, and the Colombian former soldiers accused by Haitian officials of having been involved in the killing.
Since January, Mr. Hérard had traveled to Ecuador, Panama and the Dominican Republic, each time with a layover in Bogotá. On at least one occasion, he stayed for several days.
But the Colombian authorities have yet to establish a direct link between Mr. Hérard and the captured former soldiers, officials said.
At a news conference in Bogotá, Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas, the chief of the Colombian national police, said that the number of Colombians captured in Haiti had risen to 21, three of whom are dead.
The Colombians, Mr. Vargas said, had traveled from Colombia to the Dominican Republic and then on to Haiti after their plane tickets were purchased by a company based in Florida.
At least two of the Colombians, Duberney Capador and Germán Rivera García, were working with that company, CTU Security. Both are now dead.
Colombia has one of the best-trained militaries in Latin America, and because of this, Colombian veterans are highly sought after by global security companies. They deploy them to faraway places like Yemen and Iraq, often paying far more than they could expect to earn in Colombia.
Haitian officials have cast the Colombians as centerpieces of a well-organized plot carried out by “foreign mercenaries” to kill Mr. Moïse, but critical questions remain about what they were really in Haiti to do.
The country’s lead prosecutor has begun looking into what role Haitian security forces may have had in an operation that killed the president and wounded his wife but harmed no one else in the household or in the president’s security retinue.
In Colombia, some family members of the detained Colombians say the men went to Haiti to protect the president, not to kill him. That has only added to the many murky and often contradictory claims surrounding the assassination.
Then on Sunday, the Haitian authorities said they had arrested a Florida-based, Haitian-born doctor whom they described as a central figure in the assassination plot, and said he had hired a private security company that recruited at least some of the Colombians.
Things remain as murky as ever, but to Giovanna Romero, the widow of one of the Colombians killed in Haiti, one thing is clear: Her husband, Mauricio Javier Romero, was no assassin.
“Mauricio never would have signed up for such an operation, no matter how much money he was offered,” she said.
A team of U.S. officials newly returned from a trip to Haiti briefed President Biden on Monday about the situation on the ground in a country in upheaval, and it appears they may have come home with more questions than answers.
“What was clear from their trip is that there is a lack of clarity about the future of political leadership,”the White House spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said at a news conference on Monday.
Haiti has a presidency left vacant after an assassination, two competing prime ministers and a Parliament that is not functioning. The country, overrun by gangs and hobbled by poverty, is still shaken by the death of President Jovenel Moïse, who was gunned down at his home by a team of hit men, the authorities say.
“The people of Haiti deserve peace and security,” Mr. Biden told reporters, “and Haiti’s political leaders need to come together for the good of the country.”
The American delegation met with both the interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, and with Ariel Henry, the man Mr. Moïse named to succeed Mr. Joseph as prime minister only days before he was assassinated.
“This is just the beginning of our conversations,” Ms. Psaki said, “and we will remain in close touch with law enforcement, with individuals in Haiti, with a range of leaders in Haiti about how we can assist and provide assistance moving forward.”
Ms. Psaki said the White House was still reviewing Haiti’s request that it send troops to help stabilize the county. “But as of right now,” she said, “the U.S. has not committed to having any sort of presence on the ground.”
The U.S. team included an F.B.I. agent and Department of Homeland Security officials, as well a representatives from the State Department and the National Security Council.
“The delegation reviewed the security of critical infrastructure with Haitian government officials and met with the Haitian National Police, who are leading the investigation into the assassination,” the National Security Council spokeswoman, Emily Horne, said in a statement on Monday.
John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said in an interview with Fox News on Sunday that the U.S. focus was on “helping Haitian authorities“get their arms around investigating this incident and figuring out who’s culpable.”
In the wake of the assassination, there has been a sense of chaos in some parts of Haiti, with some people gathering at the U.S. Embassy there hoping to leave, and competing political factions vying for control of the government.
Chris Wallace of Fox News pressed Mr. Kirby on whether conditions in Haiti were a matter of national security. While the United States is watching the situation closely, Mr. Kirby said, the American investigative team would be “the best way forward.”
“I don’t know that we’re at a point now where we can say definitively that our national security is being put at risk by what’s happening there,” Mr. Kirby said. “But clearly we value our Haitian partners. We value stability and security in that country.”
The photos are horrifying. They seem to portray the body of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti laid out in the morgue, his left eye crushed in, the flesh of one of his arms torn by bullets, his mouth gaping.
A country already reeling from the assassination of its leader on Wednesday and the chaos that followed reacted to the images with horror and despair, afraid that the photos circulating on social media channels would rip the last shreds of dignity from both the person and the office he held.
Even his critics were outraged.
“Even if @moisejovenel was decried and declared a de facto president, let’s not go down to the level of dehumanization established by the @PHTKhaiti,” tweeted the journalist Nancy Roc, referring to Mr. Moïse’s political party. “Haitians are better than that.”
She was among many who beseeched others not to forward the photos that were circulating through the country’s buzzing WhatsApp channels.
The authenticity of the pictures could not be independently confirmed, but forensic experts consulted by The Times who reviewed the photographs said that rumors that Mr. Moïse had been tortured — which swirled around social media along with the photos — were unlikely to be true.
“I don’t see anything that looks like it would be typical of torture,” said Dr. Michael Freeman, an associate professor of forensic medicine at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Dr. Freeman noted that an autopsy would be needed to determine conclusively whether Mr. Moïse was tortured, but the wounds visible in the photographs appeared consistent with gunshots.
“The fact that he’s not bound is a pretty strong indication that he’s not been tortured,” Dr. Freeman added.
Photos of dead bodies left on the streets are sadly regular fare in Haiti. But that the country’s leader would face the same wretched indignity seemed to underscore just how cheap life had become in the country.
The Rev. Rick Frechette, an American Catholic priest with the Congregation of the Passion order and a doctor who regularly treats Haiti’s poor in clinics in Port-au-Prince’s slums and in the hospitals he built in a suburb of the capital, said that for some of his staff members, the president’s brutal assassination had brought back memories of past violence.
“People are traumatized and afraid,” he said.
And then there were those who believed the distribution of the photos was politically motivated, part of the struggle over who will govern the country in the president’s absence.
“Last night’s photos show how much they want to create a climate of violence and instability in the country after their heinous crime,” tweeted Danta Bien-Aimé, a nurse and former Fulbright scholar.
Harold Isaac contributed reporting from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Haitians gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, hoping to be granted visas to leave the country as the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last week heightened an uncertain and volatile situation in the country.
Just days after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti, a high-stakes battle for control of the country is heating up, and the president of the Senate, Joseph Lambert, is among those jockeying for power.
Although the Haitian Parliament is in a state of dysfunction — with only 10 sitting senators out of 30 because the terms of the other 20 have expired — a majority of the remaining lawmakers on Friday signed a resolution calling for a new government to replace the current interim prime minister, Claude Joseph. They declared that Mr. Lambert, who also has the support of several political parties, should become provisional president.
“He seems to be quite intelligent politically,” Laënnec Hurbon, a Haitian sociologist and researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research, said of Mr. Lambert.
Mr. Lambert, 60, is from the city of Jacmel in southern Haiti. An agronomist by training, he is a seasoned politician who was elected to the lower house of Parliament in 1995, before winning a seat in the Senate in 2006. He is currently in his third term as president of the Senate.
Mr. Hurbon said that Mr. Lambert had initially been close to the Haitian Tèt Kale Party, whose name means “Bald Headed,” which supported Mr. Moïse as well as his predecessor Michel Martelly. But Mr. Hurbon said that Mr. Lambert had always managed to ingratiate himself with other parties.
In 2019, Mr. Lambert, who had been passed over for the position of prime minister, announced that he was joining the opposition to Mr. Moïse, according to the newspaper Nouvelliste. As Mr. Lambert rose to the Senate’s presidency in January, he criticized Mr. Moïse’s policies but also said that he wanted to cooperate closely with the president to devise solutions to the country’s problems.
On Friday, a dozen parties from all political stripes signed a “protocol of national accord” backing the Senate’s decision and calling for the installation of Mr. Lambert as interim president within the next 48 hours.
“He always knows in perilous, difficult situations like this one, to make the right speech and therefore to seduce the people,” Mr. Hurbon said of Mr. Lambert, adding that he had been surprised to see such a large coalition of opposition parties backing Mr. Lambert’s bid for power.
The Senate’s resolution on Friday said that Mr. Lambert should become provisional president until January, when a new parliament would be elected. It also said that Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon, should replace Mr. Joseph, the current interim prime minister.
Mr. Lambert wrote on Twitter that the swearing-in ceremony was scheduled for Saturday afternoon but had been delayed because all senators wanted to be “present to actively participate in the inauguration.”
Lilas Desquiron, culture minister in Haiti from 2001 to 2004, said that Mr. Lambert was “a skilled politician” who was very popular among civil servants.
“He is someone who plays for himself but plays with a lot of intelligence,” she said.
The Haitian government’s extraordinary request for U.S. forces to help stabilize the country in the aftermath of the assassination of its president last week carries haunting vestiges from American military interventions that happened more than a century ago.
Back then, the United States dispatched forces without an invitation from Haiti. The American government was motivated by Haiti’s internal turmoil and a willingness to meddle in the affairs of neighbors to protect its own interests under the Monroe Doctrine.
In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson sent the Marines into Haiti, calling the invasion a justifiable response to avert anarchy after a mob assassinated Haiti’s president, Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam. The American military stayed for nearly two decades.
But even before that, Mr. Wilson saw fit to take military action in Haiti, worried about what his administration saw as the growing influence of Germany there, according to a historical page about the U.S. interventions on the State Department archive website.
In 1914, his administration sent in Marines who removed $500,000 from the Haitian National Bank for what the administration called “safekeeping” in New York, giving the United States control of the bank, the website said.
Eighty years later, President Bill Clinton ordered more than 23,000 U.S. troops sent to Haiti in what was termed “Operation Restore Democracy,” aimed at ensuring a transition that would return the ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power.
In 2004, President George W. Bush sent in the Marines as part of an “interim international force” after Mr. Aristide resigned under intense U.S. pressure.
WASHINGTON — Iran agreed on Monday to a one-month extension of an agreement with international inspectors that would allow them to continue monitoring the country’s nuclear program, avoiding a major setback in the continuing negotiations with Tehran.
Under the agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran will extend access to monitoring cameras at its nuclear facilities until June 24, Rafael Mariano Grossi, the agency’s director general, told reporters in Vienna.
The extension prevents a new crisis that could derail talks among world powers, including the United States, aimed at bringing Washington back to the 2015 nuclear deal that President Donald J. Trump withdrew from three years ago. Restoring the deal, including a commitment from Iran to resume all its obligations under the agreement, is a top priority for President Biden.
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said in a statement that the decision was made “so that negotiations have the necessary chance to progress and bear results.”
reached a three-month compromise under which inspectors would retain partial access to nuclear production facilities.
Under that agreement, Iran allowed cameras to continue monitoring its facilities but insisted on retaining possession of the footage until an agreement to restore the larger nuclear deal was reached. The country’s state media reported on Monday that it would share the footage with the International Atomic Energy Agency if the United States lifted sanctions as part of a restored deal, but would erase the recordings otherwise.
The agreement will allow for other methods of continued international visibility into the nuclear program, but neither Iran nor the agency has publicly provided full details about their compromise.
“I want to stress this is not ideal,” Mr. Grossi said. “This is like an emergency device that we came up with in order for us to continue having these monitoring activities.”
sanctions that are strangling Iran’s oil exports and economy.
Because Tehran refuses to negotiate directly with the United States over the 2015 deal, which it says that Mr. Trump violated without cause, American negotiators have been working from a nearby hotel and communicating with Iranian officials through intermediaries.
Appearing on “This Week” on ABC on Sunday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that the talks had made progress but suggested that Tehran was delaying further progress.
“Iran, I think, knows what it needs to do to come back into compliance on the nuclear side. And what we haven’t yet seen is whether Iran is ready and willing to make a decision to do what it has to do,” he said. “That’s the test, and we don’t yet have an answer.”
on Twitter. He asked if the United States was ready to return to the deal by lifting the sanctions and said that Iran would return to its full commitments once Washington had done so.
“Lifting Trump’s sanctions is a legal & moral obligation,” Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, tweeted on Sunday. “NOT negotiating leverage.”
He added of the sanctions, “Didn’t work for Trump — won’t work for you.”
Iran has steadily expanded its nuclear program since Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the deal. Its government said on Monday that the stockpile of enriched uranium at higher levels had increased in the past four months.
Iran now has a stockpile of 2.5 kilograms of uranium enriched to 60 percent purity, 90 kilograms of enriched uranium at 20 percent and 5,000 kilograms of enriched uranium at 5 percent, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization, told state television.
Uranium enriched to 60 percent purity is a relatively short step from bomb fuel, which is typically considered 90 percent or higher. While uranium enriched to 60 percent can be used as fuel in civilian nuclear reactors, such applications have been discouraged globally because it can easily be turned into bomb fuel.
The nuclear deal with world powers capped Iran’s enrichment and stockpiling of nuclear material at 2.2 kilograms of uranium enriched to a level of 3.7 percent.
For years, government officials and industry executives have run elaborate simulations of a targeted cyberattack on the power grid or gas pipelines in the United States, imagining how the country would respond.
But when the real, this-is-not-a-drill moment arrived, it didn’t look anything like the war games.
The attacker was not a terror group or a hostile state like Russia, China or Iran, as had been assumed in the simulations. It was a criminal extortion ring. The goal was not to disrupt the economy by taking a pipeline offline but to hold corporate data for ransom.
The most visible effects — long lines of nervous motorists at gas stations — stemmed not from a government response but from a decision by the victim, Colonial Pipeline, which controls nearly half the gasoline, jet fuel and diesel flowing along the East Coast, to turn off the spigot. It did so out of concern that the malware that had infected its back-office functions could make it difficult to bill for fuel delivered along the pipeline or even spread into the pipeline’s operating system.
What happened next was a vivid example of the difference between tabletop simulations and the cascade of consequences that can follow even a relatively unsophisticated attack. The aftereffects of the episode are still playing out, but some of the lessons are already clear, and demonstrate how far the government and private industry have to go in preventing and dealing with cyberattacks and in creating rapid backup systems for when critical infrastructure goes down.
nearly $5 million in digital currency to recover its data, the company found that the process of decrypting its data and turning the pipeline back on again was agonizingly slow, meaning it will still be days before the East Coast gets back to normal.
seeks to mandate changes in cybersecurity.
And he suggested that he was willing to take steps that the Obama administration hesitated to take during the 2016 election hacks — direct action to strike back at the attackers.
“We’re also going to pursue a measure to disrupt their ability to operate,” Mr. Biden said, a line that seemed to hint that United States Cyber Command, the military’s cyberwarfare force, was being authorized to kick DarkSide off line, much as it did to another ransomware group in the fall ahead of the presidential election.
Hours later, the group’s internet sites went dark. By early Friday, DarkSide, and several other ransomware groups, including Babuk, which has hacked Washington D.C.’s police department, announced they were getting out of the game.
Darkside alluded to disruptive action by an unspecified law enforcement agency, though it was not clear if that was the result of U.S. action or pressure from Russia ahead of Mr. Biden’s expected summit with President Vladimir V. Putin. And going quiet might simply have reflected a decision by the ransomware gang to frustrate retaliation efforts by shutting down its operations, perhaps temporarily.
The Pentagon’s Cyber Command referred questions to the National Security Council, which declined to comment.
The episode underscored the emergence of a new “blended threat,” one that may come from cybercriminals, but is often tolerated, and sometimes encouraged, by a nation that sees the attacks as serving its interests.That is why Mr. Biden singled out Russia — not as the culprit, but as the nation that harbors more ransomware groups than any other country.
“We do not believe the Russian government was involved in this attack, but we do have strong reason to believe the criminals who did this attack are living in Russia,” Mr. Biden said. “We have been in direct communication with Moscow about the imperative for responsible countries to take action against these ransomware networks.”
With Darkside’s systems down, it is unclear how Mr. Biden’s administration would retaliate further, beyond possible indictments and sanctions, which have not deterred Russian cybercriminals before. Striking back with a cyberattack also carries its own risks of escalation.
The administration also has to reckon with the fact that so much of America’s critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector and remains ripe for attack.
“This attack has exposed just how poor our resilience is,” said Kiersten E. Todt, the managing director of the nonprofit Cyber Readiness Institute. “We are overthinking the threat, when we’re still not doing the bare basics to secure our critical infrastructure.”
The good news, some officials said, was that Americans got a wake-up call. Congress came face-to-face with the reality that the federal government lacks the authority to require the companies that control more than 80 percent of the nation’s critical infrastructure adopt minimal levels of cybersecurity.
The bad news, they said, was that American adversaries — not only superpowers but terrorists and cybercriminals — learned just how little it takes to incite chaos across a large part of the country, even if they do not break into the core of the electric grid, or the operational control systems that move gasoline, water and propane around the country.
Something as basic as a well-designed ransomware attack may easily do the trick, while offering plausible deniability to states like Russia, China and Iran that often tap outsiders for sensitive cyberoperations.
It remains a mystery how Darkside first broke into Colonial’s business network. The privately held company has said virtually nothing about how the attack unfolded, at least in public. It waited four days before having any substantive discussions with the administration, an eternity during a cyberattack.
Cybersecurity experts also note that Colonial Pipeline would never have had to shut down its pipeline if it had more confidence in the separation between its business network and pipeline operations.
“There should absolutely be separation between data management and the actual operational technology,” Ms. Todt said. “Not doing the basics is frankly inexcusable for a company that carries 45 percent of gas to the East Coast.”
Other pipeline operators in the United States deploy advanced firewalls between their data and their operations that only allow data to flow one direction, out of the pipeline, and would prevent a ransomware attack from spreading in.
Colonial Pipeline has not said whether it deployed that level of security on its pipeline. Industry analysts say many critical infrastructure operators say installing such unidirectional gateways along a 5,500-mile pipeline can be complicated or prohibitively expensive. Others say the cost to deploy those safeguards are still cheaper than the losses from potential downtime.
Deterring ransomware criminals, which have been growing in number and brazenness over the past few years, will certainly be more difficult than deterring nations. But this week made the urgency clear.
“It’s all fun and games when we are stealing each other’s money,” said Sue Gordon, a former principal deputy director of national intelligence, and a longtime C.I.A. analyst with a specialty in cyberissues, said at a conference held by The Cipher Brief, an online intelligence newsletter. “When we are messing with a society’s ability to operate, we can’t tolerate it.”