tried to block European Union sanctions on Russian energy imports, on which Hungary relies. And he declined to give weapons to Ukraine, or even allow them to be shipped across Hungary’s borders.

That wariness has seeped into the ethnic Hungarian community, fed by Hungarian television channels close to Mr. Orban’s governing party that broadcast into Hungarian-Ukrainian homes along the border. Hungarian broadcasters cast doubt on Ukraine’s position that Russia invaded to steal Ukrainian land, instead sharing Moscow’s perspective that it invaded to protect Russian speakers — a minority with a different language, not unlike the ethnic Hungarians.

“I think this is the main reason for the war, not what Ukraine says,” said Gyula Fodor, a vice rector at the Transcarpathian Hungarian Institute, chatting over traditional plum schnapps after the ceremony for the lost homeland. The institute, a private college, has received Hungarian funding, and Mr. Orban attended its ribbon-cutting.

As the war has dragged on, relations between Mr. Orban and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine have grown increasingly frosty.

In the border towns, suspicion is in the air. Some ethnic Ukrainians claimed during interviews that in the first days of Russia’s invasion Hungarian priests had urged the faithful to hold out hope that their region would be annexed to Hungary after Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, fell, though there is no documentary evidence to substantiate those assertions.

In towns with ethnic Hungarian majorities, some people reported being harassed with mysterious text messages in Ukrainian: “Ukraine for Ukrainians. Glory to the nation! Death to enemies!” They said the messages ended with a threat using another word for ethnic Hungarians: “Magyars to the knives.”

Ukrainian intelligence officials publicly claim the texts came from a bot farm in Odesa using Russian software, and labeled it a Russian attempt to destabilize Ukraine, but they did not provide evidence.

Tensions in Transcarpathia erupted publicly after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Right-wing nationalists marched through the streets of Uzhhorod in recent years, sometimes chanting “Magyars to the knife.”

And a Hungarian cultural center in the city of Uzhhorod was set ablaze twice in 2017. In both cases, authorities said the perpetrators had pro-Russian links. Dmytro Tuzhankskyi, the director of the Institute for Central European Strategy in Uzhhorod that promotes Ukraine’s alignment with the West, says he believes Moscow was behind other local provocations. Moscow would like to sow discord between Hungary and Ukraine, he alleged, as a way of causing more trouble for the Western alliance that has lined up against Mr. Putin.

Hungarian and local officials, he worried, could unwittingly fall prey to such designs: “They might think: One more little provocation — it means nothing. That’s a very dangerous mind-set.”

Yet for many ethnic Hungarians, Ukraine is not blameless.

László Zubánics, the leader of the Hungarian Democratic Union of Ukraine, said locals watch Hungarian television partly because no Ukrainian cable channels reach the border areas, something he saw as a form of political neglect. But he acknowledged that ethnic Hungarians often choose to tune into Hungarian, and not Ukrainian, satellite channels.

Many ethnic Hungarians say they are only able to afford to stay in the region of family vineyards and farms because of Hungarian funding. That makes many ethnic Hungarians skeptical of Ukraine’s claims that it wants to help integrate them into society, Mr. Zubánics said: “Most kids and parents say, ‘Why do I need the state language? I don’t see my place here in this country.’”

Although the Soviets repressed and exiled Hungarian nationalists, some ethnic Hungarians have started to look back on Soviet rule as a time of relative cultural freedom as well. It was a time, according to Mr. Zubánics, when Hungarians recall holding prominent official positions, unlike in modern Ukraine.

Nostalgia for Soviet times stirs the ire of local right-wing nationalists such as Vasyl Vovkunovich, once a political ally of Hungarian nationalists in the final days of the Soviet Union. In 2017, he said he led a march of supporters down the streets of Berehove, ripping down Hungarian flags raised over many churches and buildings.

“These Hungarians are not worthy,” he said. “Their ancestors would roll over in their graves if they knew Hungary was siding with Russia.”

For local residents like Zoltan Kazmér, 32, the present feels more complicated. He feels loyal to Ukraine, he said. But it was Hungarian funding that allowed him to turn his family’s century-old winemaking tradition into a business.

“When we go to Hungary, we feel like Ukrainians,” he said. “When we are in Ukraine, we feel like Hungarians.”

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Live Updates: Facing Heavy Losses, Ukraine Slowly Falls Back in East

Amid the roar of artillery and bone-rattling explosions, New York Times photographers have borne graphic witness to the fight to survive. These are their stories and images.

Through the three months of Russia’s invasion, New York Times journalists have chronicled carnage and courage, ruin and resolve, across the wide arc of combat through eastern Ukraine, where Vladimir V. Putin’s brutal offensive is now concentrated.

At the front line and within easy range of it, they have joined civilians whose homes, families and emotions have been shattered, as well as Ukrainian soldiers — hardened veterans and green volunteers — using tools as modern as surveillance drones and as ancient as trenches.

Amid the roar of artillery, the clatter of small arms and bone-rattling explosions, Times photographers have borne graphic witness to the fight to survive and kill — or just survive. These are their accounts and images from the last few weeks of that fight.

On the front line south of Izium, a Russian-captured city just north of the Donetsk region, two Ukrainian 122-mm guns thundered across the rolling landscape last week. They belonged to an artillery detachment of the 93rd Mechanized Brigade, called in to fire on Russian forces who had pinned down Ukrainian troops.

The camouflaged gunners then worked at lightning speed to conceal their position, moving broken branches to hide from view the smoking barrels of the powerful weapons. A young soldier wearing a bandanna and a determined expression burst out of the greenery, sprinting back into the woods to hide from enemy drones. Soon the team was reloading, aiming and firing again.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
Credit… Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

Along the same front, a dozen members of the 95th Air Assault Brigade camped in a concrete building at an abandoned farmhouse. Throughout the night, in pairs, they took turns on sentry duty from inside a trench system worming down a hillside, overlooking a valley of rolling wheat fields pockmarked with dark clumps of dirt kicked up by the impact of recent shelling by Russian artillery.

Several nearby buildings had been shattered by shelling, and the thump of artillery exchanges between Ukrainian and Russian troops a few miles north rumbled day and night.

Artem Sandul, 20, pulled on a cigarette under the cover of a wood and mud bunker in the trenches as dawn broke. Until Russia invaded on Feb. 24, he had been flipping burgers at a McDonald’s. Now he was cooking for his fellow soldiers, his commander seemingly keeping him back from the most dangerous shelling a couple of miles up the road, where Ukrainian lines were only 400 yards from Russian lines in some places.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Near Izium, jets, most likely Russian, flew low over Ukrainian positions, firing defensive flares to confuse antiaircraft batteries, then made a sharp turn toward the trenches and screamed by so low that they disappeared behind a tree line before vanishing over the horizon.

On Tuesday, in Vuhledar, about 30 miles southeast of the Russian-occupied Donetsk, an artillery team from the 53rd Brigade responded to Russian artillery fire the soldiers said was coming from inside a church about four miles away.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

In Barvinkove, a Ukrainian-held town 20 miles southwest of Izium, a cyclist pedaled past blown-out buildings and a barricade, while at a small base, soldiers drank coffee and a sniper prepared his rifle for a mission. Nearby, Russian forces were trying to push southward, part of a pincer move to trap the Ukrainian troops still holding a pocket of territory in the two eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

On the seesawing front line of that pocket lies Bakhmut, a largely evacuated town of blasted building shells, rubble and incinerated vehicles, where two huge craters bracket the administrative building. In newly reinforced defensive positions, Ukrainian soldiers tried to hold off the Russian advance, amid the constant din and ground shudder of artillery fired by both sides.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

In that region, Times photographers encountered evidence of Russian losses, too. Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces, mostly volunteer fighters, managed to retake the village of Novopil. With Russian troops still less than half a mile away, the evidence of a fierce battle was everywhere, in the wreckage of houses and the stench of dead bodies.

In front of a small shed, the body of a Russian soldier lay where he had been cut down, his clean, well-polished boots at odds with the surrounding devastation. His brown suede belt bore the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union.

Near Bilohorivka were the ravaged bodies and tanks of hundreds of Russian troops whose disastrous attempt to cross the Seversky Donets River fell to deadly Ukrainian heavy artillery.

But many of those caught in the destruction did not wear uniforms. Vitaliy Kononenko, 47, had just built a new home for his family in the Zaporizhzhia region in southern Ukraine, but before he could bring his wife and children to see it, it was destroyed.

In the train station in Pokrovsk, in the Donetsk region, Anna Vereschak, 43, boarded a westbound evacuation train with her daughters Milana, 5, and Diana, 4, after bombardment forced them from their village. Another woman, Valentina, ushered her blind 87-year-old mother, Nina, onto the train.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times
Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times
Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Millions of Ukrainians have fled their homes, particularly from the east, taking only what they can cram into a bag or two, often after holding out for weeks or months in basements despite bombardment, hunger and isolation. Some of the fiercest fighting now is around Sievierodonetsk, in the Luhansk region, the easternmost city still held by Ukraine.

In Lysychansk, just across the bombed-out bridge from Sievierodonetsk, three police officers braved artillery fire to collect the bodies of the dead, like a 65-year-old woman known to neighbors as Grandma Masha. Her dog growled and barked from his kennel as they loaded her into a body bag and then their white van.

Grandma Masha could not get the medicine she needed to treat her diabetes, according to a neighbor, Lena, 39. Her son had left with his family and was not able to return when she fell ill.

“It’s a completely stupid war — but no one asked for my opinion,” said Lena, who, like most people interviewed, gave only her first name because she feared for her safety.

In an apartment block in Sievierodonetsk, already partially blasted and burned by shelling, residents huddled in the basement, resigned, at last, to evacuation. They barely reacted to the sounds of explosion and nearby gunfire.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Across the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, and the southern part of the Kharkiv region, Times photographers found Ukrainian troops in every imaginable phase of daily life in a combat zone.

In an underground bunker were dozens of members of the Carpathian Sich Battalion — eating, sleeping, cleaning their weapons and chatting on cellphones with their wives and girlfriends. Some gathered around a monitor to watch drone video of a recent attack. Most smoked.

The floor and walls of the bunker quaked as a tank round hit a nearby building, and small-arms fire followed. Bullets ricocheted off walls outside. The Russians were close.

A handful of Ukrainian soldiers dashed outside to repel the attack, while others collected their weapons and waited by the door in case they were needed. They weren’t; the shooting subsided.

One soldier lit a stove and began frying buckwheat.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times
Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times
Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

At a well-guarded and heavily fortified checkpoint, fighters built more trenches and bunkers, using sandbags and rough-hewn logs, in preparation for a possible Russian advance in their direction. Warned of incoming artillery fire, they ducked into a bunker, and a medic in the group boasted that their hideouts could take almost anything the Russians might fire at them.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

The evidence of war was strewn across the ravaged landscape. Wreckage was everywhere, from collapsed buildings and buckled streets to burned-out tanks. A common sight was the tail of a rocket sticking out of the ground, a reminder of the constant danger from above.

The smells and sounds of war were everywhere, too. Few civilians were around, but troops were omnipresent, patrolling, scavenging, resting and building fortifications when they were not fighting.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
Credit… Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

After their armored vehicle broke down, a dozen soldiers from Ukraine’s 95th Air Assault Brigade recently stood by a roadside near the city of Kramatorsk, smoking, like stranded commuters waiting for a lift.

An attempt to tow them failed, so the soldiers, with their weapons, piled aboard another armored vehicle and set off in the day’s fading light toward the front.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

The men of the 93rd Brigade are at the forefront of efforts to hold off the Russian advance south of Izium. Small units of mortar teams have camped out in destroyed villages, battling Russian forces that have thrown everything at them.

They spoke of enduring days of near-constant shelling, sheltering in dank basements, surrounded by jars of pickled vegetables.

Thoughts rarely strayed far from the lethal stakes, but between such harrowing episodes, it was striking how the ordinary business of life, like a highway breakdown, never quite disappeared.

A kiosk in Bakhmut did a brisk trade serving coffee, burgers and sandwiches to soldiers coming and going from the fighting.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
Credit… Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

In Barvinkove, which has come under heavy Russian bombardment, a few local women were still hawking vegetables and dairy products under the shade of a tree in the town center. A passing soldier, back from the front to refuel, asked to buy some herbs.

The woman refused to take payment for her goods, waving him off and wishing him well.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

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Live Updates: War Raises Famine Fears as Russia Chokes Off Ukraine’s Grains

DAVOS, Switzerland — Fears of a global food crisis are swelling as Russian attacks on Ukraine’s ability to produce and export grain have choked off one of the world’s breadbaskets, fueling charges that President Vladimir V. Putin is using food as a powerful new weapon in his three-month-old war.

World leaders called on Tuesday for international action to deliver 20 million tons of grain now trapped in Ukraine, predicting that the alternative could be hunger in some countries and political unrest in others, in what could be the gravest global repercussion yet of Russia’s assault on its neighbor. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where worries about the war’s consequences have eclipsed almost every other issue, speakers reached for apocalyptic language to describe the threat.

“It’s a perfect storm within a perfect storm,” said David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Program, a United Nations agency. Calling the situation “absolutely critical,” he warned, “We will have famines around the world.”

The world’s food distribution network was already strained by pandemic-related disruptions, and exports from Ukraine, ordinarily among the world’s biggest suppliers, have plummeted because of the war. Russia has seized some the country’s Black Sea ports and blockaded the rest, trapping cargo vessels laden with corn, wheat, sunflower seeds, barley and oats.

Russian forces have taken control of some of Ukraine’s most productive farmland, destroyed Ukrainian infrastructure that is vital to raising and shipping grain, and littered farm fields with explosives. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Union’s executive branch, told the political and business leaders gathered in Davos that Russia — an even bigger exporter — had confiscated Ukrainian grain stocks and agricultural machinery.

“On top of this,” she said, “Russia is now hoarding its own food exports as a form of blackmail, holding back supplies to increase global prices, or trading wheat in exchange for political support.”

Credit…Diego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

The fighting in Ukraine is increasingly concentrated in a small pocket of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where Russia’s battered forces are making slow, bloody progress as they try to encircle the strategically important city of Sievierodonetsk, the easternmost Ukrainian stronghold.

Within the city, once an industrial hub, the devastation from Russian artillery is evident on every street in the form of shattered buildings, burned-out vehicles and cratered pavement. Russian pincers approaching the city from the north and south are separated by just 16 miles, but face “strong Ukrainian resistance,” the British Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

Three months into the war, the United States and its allies have shown remarkable solidarity so far in supporting Ukraine with weapons and other aid, and in punishing Russia with economic sanctions, but the limits of that unity are being tested. Finland and Sweden have signaled that they want to abandon their long-held neutrality to join NATO, but that plan is being held up by one member country, Turkey. At the same time, Hungary is blocking an E.U. plan to embargo imports of Russian oil.

Within both blocs, officials have offered assurances, without specifics, that the roadblocks will soon be overcome. Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, said Tuesday that he was confident Sweden and Finland would join the alliance, though “I cannot tell you exactly how and when.” Diplomats from the two Nordic countries traveled to Turkey for talks on the issue.

The European Union, heavily dependent on Russian fuels, has already agreed to a phased embargo on natural gas from Russia, and the head of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, warned that Europe could face gas rationing next winter.

“I’m advising several European governments to prepare a contingency plan,” Mr. Birol said at Davos. He added that “Europe is paying for its over-dependence on Russian energy.”

Ukraine has applied to join the European Union, and on Tuesday its government rejected a French proposal for something short of full membership. Russia has vehemently opposed any expansion of NATO and E.U. membership for Ukraine, but its aggression has backfired, making those associations more attractive to its neighbors.

Increasingly isolated, the Kremlin has looked to Beijing for support, and Russia held joint military maneuvers on Tuesday with China, their first since the war in Ukraine began. The show of force included bomber flights over the Sea of Japan, while President Biden was not far away, in Tokyo, for meetings with world leaders.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

But the food crisis took center stage at Davos, where President Andrzej Duda of Poland warned that famine in Africa and elsewhere would prompt a flood of migration to Europe, where searing memories are fresh of the 2015-2016 migration wave that strained E.U. unity and empowered xenophobic nationalist movements.

Ukraine and Russia ordinarily account for about one-quarter of the grain traded internationally; in recent years, Ukraine had exported an average of about 3.5 million tons of per month. In March, only 300,000 tons were shipped out, though exports rebounded somewhat to more than a million tons in April and could reach 1.5 million tons in May, said Roman Slaston, the chief of Ukraine’s agricultural industry group.

Ukraine’s agriculture ministry says that the Black Sea blockade has prevented 14 million tons of corn, 7 million tons of wheat and 3 million tons of sunflower seeds from reaching world markets. Ukrainian officials have accused Moscow of stealing Ukraine’s produce and then selling it abroad as Russian.

Western officials are circulating proposals for getting grain out of Ukraine, such as having multiple countries send warships to escort cargo ships from Ukrainian ports and run the blockade, but that runs the danger of a shooting confrontation with Russian vessels. Sending ships from NATO countries is considered particularly risky — like the rejected idea of having NATO members enforce a no-fly zone to keep Russian warplanes away from Ukraine — so much of the talk has been about countries outside the alliance taking part.

But Mr. Stoltenberg, the NATO chief, warned that breaking the Black Sea blockade would be very hard.

“Is it possible to get it out on ships? That is a difficult task. It’s not an easy way forward,” he said.

Ukraine has continued to ship grain overland through Europe, and work is underway to expand such routes, Ms. von der Leyen and Mr. Slaston said — but doing so on a scale great enough to replace seagoing shipment would be very difficult. The railways in Eastern Europe use different gauges, which means switching equipment when going long distances, and many of Ukraine’s railroads, highways and bridges have been damaged by Russian attacks.

Credit…Diego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

One farmer said he lost 50 rail cars full of grain when his cargo got stranded between Russian airstrikes in front of and behind the train.

But the problem is not limited to shipping — farming, itself, has been greatly diminished by the war. In some places, fighting has simply made the work too dangerous. In others, Russian strikes on fuel depots have left farmers unable to power their tractors.

Farmers accuse Russian forces of regularly targeting their grain silos and seizing their grain stores, particularly in the south.

And perhaps most frightening are the countless mines left by retreating Russian forces, especially in the north. The Ukrainian Deminers Association, a group that locates and removes explosives, says nearly 45 percent of the fields it has inspected in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions were mined.

Gordie Siebring, a farmer based near the Belarusian border, said Ukrainian military authorities warned him he could not sow the fields closest to the frontier because of the mine threat, meaning he has been unable to plant 8 to 10 percent of his field. Neighboring farmers have it much worse, he said, because Russian mines have made over two-thirds of their fields too dangerous to use.

“If they are as close as 10 to 15 kilometers away, they can launch mines with artillery,” he said. “These mines have small parachutes and land in the fields and have sensors that cause detonation later. Those are really causing havoc.”

Another threat to global supplies, experts say, is that countries will hoard their own food stocks. Robert Habeck, the vice chancellor and minister of economic affairs of Germany, said countries should curb their use of grain to make biofuel and to feed livestock.

“Markets have to stay open,” Mr. Habeck said in an interview. “The worst thing that can happen now is that every country cares for its own supply, saves all the wheat, saves all the food, and does not give it to the market, because then we have no chance of securing the food supply.”

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Before the war, droughts in North America and the Horn of Africa, poor harvests in China and France, and the pandemic were already squeezing food supplies, leaving the world uncommonly vulnerable. By December, global wheat prices had risen about 80 percent in a little over a year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Even before Russian tanks rolled across Ukraine’s border, experts were warning of “a massive surge in food insecurity and the threat of famine,” said Adam Tooze, director of the European Institute at Columbia University.

The war, he said, is “impacting an incredibly fragile food system.”

At the same time, the spike in oil and gas prices caused by the war has triggered an even sharper increase in the cost of fertilizers made in part from those fuels.

Ms. von der Leyen said E.U. countries were increasing their own grain production and working with the World Food Program to ship available stocks to vulnerable countries at affordable prices.

“Global cooperation is the antidote to Russia’s blackmail,” she said.

Mark Landler, Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Patricia Cohen reported from Davos, Switzerland, and Erika Solomon from Lviv, Ukraine. Reporting was contributed by Carlotta Gall from Sievierodonetsk, Ukraine; Edward Wong from Washington; Matthew Mpoke Bigg from Krakow, Poland; and Monika Pronczuk from Brussels.

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Live Updates: Ukrainian Holdouts in Mariupol Surrender to an Uncertain Fate

BUCHA, Ukraine — A breeze rustles through the cherry blossoms in bloom on almost every block in this small city, the white petals fluttering onto streets where new pavement covers damage left by Russian tanks just weeks ago.

Spring has arrived in Bucha in the six weeks since Russian soldiers withdrew from this bedroom community outside Kyiv, leaving behind mass graves of slaughtered citizens, many of them mutilated, as well as broken streets and destroyed buildings.

A semblance of normal life has returned to the city. Residents have been coming back to Bucha over the past few weeks, and the city has raced to repair the physical damage wrought by the invading Russian troops and their weapons. Now, on the leafy springtime streets of the city, it is hard to imagine the horrors that unfolded here.

On a newly paved street with freshly painted white lines, the rotating brushes of a street cleaning machine whisked away what was left of shattered glass and bits of iron shrapnel. In one of the neighborhoods where many of the roughly 400 bodies of Ukrainian citizens were discovered in April, technicians were laying cable to restore internet service. At one house, a resident was removing pieces of destroyed Russian tanks still littering his garden.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Sweeping away as many traces as possible of the destruction caused by the Russian occupation was an important step in healing the wounds suffered by Bucha’s residents, said Taras Shapravsky, a City Council official.

Mr. Shapravsky said 4,000 residents had stayed in the city while it was occupied, terrified and many hiding in basements without enough food. Even after the Russian soldiers withdrew, many residents remained traumatized.

“They were in very bad psychological condition,” he said. “Specialists explained to us that the faster we clear away all possible reminders of the war, the faster we will be able to take people out of this condition.”

Mr. Shapravsky said phone reception was restored a few days after the Russians left, and then water and electricity. He said about 10,000 residents had returned so far — roughly a quarter of the prewar population of this small city 20 miles from Kyiv, the capital.

In a sign of life returning to normal, he said the marriage registration office reopened last week and almost every day, couples are applying for marriage licenses.

Bucha was a city where many people moved to for quieter lifestyles, a place where they could raise families away from the bustle of the capital, to which many commuted to work. It was a place where people from Kyiv might drive to on a nice weekend to have lunch.

Six years ago, Sergo Markaryan and his wife opened the Jam Cafe, where they served Italian food, played old jazz and sold jars of jam. He described the cafe as almost like their child, and he has decorated it with an eclectic mix of hundreds of pictures and strings of photos of customers.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

When Russia invaded, Mr. Markaryan, 38, drove his wife and 3-year-old son to the border with Georgia, where he is from. As a Georgian citizen he could have stayed outside the country, but he came back to Ukraine to volunteer, sending food to the front lines.

Two weeks ago, when the electricity was restored, Mr. Markaryan came back on his own to Bucha to see what was left of the cafe and repair the damage caused by the Russian soldiers.

“They stole the knives and forks,” he said, ticking off missing items. He said the soldiers dragged the dining chairs out to use at checkpoints and stole the sound system. And, he said, despite the working toilets, they had defecated on the floor before leaving.

Two days before it was due to reopen last week, the cafe and its outdoor terrace looked spotless and Mr. Markaryan was taste-testing the espresso to see if it was up to par.

“Many people have already returned but some are still afraid,” Mr. Markaryan said. “But we have all definitely become much stronger than we were. We faced things that we never thought could happen.”

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

On the other side of town, in a row of closed shops with peaked roofs and boarded-up windows, Mr. B — a former cocktail bar run by Borys Tkachenko has been patched up and turned into a coffee bar.

Mr. Tkachenko, 27, came back to Bucha a month ago, repaired the roof, which like most of the buildings on the street appeared to have been damaged by shrapnel, and found that the espresso machine was still there. He reopened to sell coffee — or in the case of customers who were soldiers or medical workers, give it away.

Mr. Tkachenko, who had worked in clubs in Florida and Canada and studied the hotel business in Switzerland, opened the bar with his savings last December. Russia invaded two months later.

He said he knew they had to leave when his 14-month-old daughter started running around their apartment, covering her ears and saying “boom, boom, boom” at the sound of explosions.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Mr. Tkachenko drove his family to the border with Slovakia, where they eventually made their way to Switzerland. He returned to Ukraine to volunteer, helping to send supplies to the front and to displaced civilians.

“We had big plans for this place,” Mr. Tkachenko, who despite everything had a wide smile that matched a tattoo on his arm reading, “Born to be happy,” said of his bar.

He said that when the war ended he would probably join his wife and daughter in Switzerland.

“I don’t see a future here right now,” he said.

While the frenetic activity of city workers and residents has helped clear the city of much of the debris of the Russian occupation, the scars of what happened here run deep.

On one quiet street corner, a bunch of dandelions and lilies of the valley had been laid out on a flowered scarf in a modest sidewalk memorial.

Volodymyr Abramov, 39, said the memorial honored his brother-in-law, Oleh Abramov, who was taken out of his house at gunpoint by Russian soldiers, ordered to kneel and shot. (Oleh Abramov and his wife, Iryna, were the subject of a Times article published this month.)

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

“He was not even interrogated,” he said.

Mr. Abramov’s home was destroyed by Russian soldiers who tossed grenades into his house. But he said that was nothing compared with the suffering of his 48-year-old sister, Iryna Abramova, who lost her husband as well as her house.

“I try to help her and take care of her so she doesn’t kill herself,” he said. “I tell her that her husband is watching her from heaven.”

Mr. Abramov, a glazier, said he was now wondering if he should rebuild his house. “I want to run away from here,” he said.

Outside the city’s morgue, where French and Ukrainian investigators are still working to identify bodies from the massacres by Russian troops, a small group of residents gathered, hoping to find out what happened to family members.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Yulia Monastyrska, 29, said she had come to try to get a death certificate for her husband, whose body was among those discovered in April. His hands were bound, he had been shot in the back and the legs, and one of his eyes was burned out, she said.

Ms. Monastyrska said her husband, Ivan, was a crane operator who disappeared while she and her 7-year-old daughter, Oleksandra, hid in the basement of their apartment building.

Oleksandra, wearing glasses and sneakers with princesses on them, leaned against her mother as she listened to details that were clearly now familiar to her.

“As far as I know, everyone wants to come back here, but they are still afraid,” Ms. Monastyrska said. “We were born here, we lived here, a lot of good things happened here.”

Yulia Kozak, 48, accompanied by her daughter Daryna, 23, and Daryna’s 3-year-old son, Yehor, had come to take a DNA test to see if there was a match among the unidentified remains of her missing son, Oleksandr, 29, who had fought in the war against Russia in 2017.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Prosecutors found his military ID, dirty and moldy, in a basement where the Russians held prisoners.

Sobbing, she said the last time she spoke by phone with her son, in March, he had told her he was being shot at. In his apartment, there is a bullet hole in the window, on which the sign of the cross had been etched.

Ms. Kozak, a cook, said she planned to stay in Bucha until she found her son.

“I am sure he is alive, 100 percent sure,” she said. “I feel that he is somewhere, I just don’t know where.”

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

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North Korea fires likely submarine-launched ballistic missile, South Korea says

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets troops who have taken part in the military parade to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) April 29, 2022. KCNA via REUTERS

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  • Submarine launch an escalation before key diplomatic events
  • N.Korea may conduct nuclear test as soon as this month-officials
  • S.Korea to seek deterrence against North’s nuclear threat-aide

SEOUL/TOKYO, May 7 (Reuters) – North Korea fired a ballistic missile from a submarine on Saturday, South Korea said, an escalation just before the inauguration of a South Korean president who has vowed to take a hard line against the North and the visit of the U.S. president.

South Korean military said North Korea fired what is believed to be a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) into the sea off its east coast around 0507 GMT on Saturday from near Sinpo, where North Korea keeps submarines as well as equipment for test-firing SLBMs.

Japan also said the projectile was a short-range ballistic missile. Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said North Korea’s recent development in nuclear missile-related technology and repeated launches of ballistic missiles threatened the region and the international community.

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“This is absolutely unacceptable,” he told reporters, adding that Japan will continue to “strengthen defence capabilities drastically” to protect its citizens from such security threats, in close cooperation with the United States, South Korea and other allies.

The launch comes three days before Tuesday’s inauguration of Yoon Suk-yeol as South Korea’s president, and ahead of his May 21 summit with U.S. President Joe Biden in Seoul.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service chief Park Jie-won said North Korea may conduct a nuclear test between the inauguration and the Biden visit, Yonhap news agency reported.

Kishi said it is possible for North Korea to complete nuclear test preparations as early as this month, and take further provocative acts.

This was also in line with a U.S. assessment that Pyongyang was preparing its Punggye-ri nuclear test site and could be ready to conduct a test there as early as this month. read more

“This is aiming at the (South’s) new administration beginning next week, and applying preemptive pressure to take control of the situation before the U.S.-South Korea summit,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

“It also creates tension to strengthen the regime’s internal coherence in the face of circumstances such as prevention of COVID-19 spreading.”

The United States condemned the launch as a threat to North Korea’s neighbors and the world. A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said Washington’s commitment to defending South Korea and Japan “remains ironclad.”

YOON TO SEEK DETERRENCE

Intelligence chief Park told Yonhap that Tunnel No. 3 at the Punggye-ri site is designed to test smaller nuclear devices, without elaborating.

Analysts and South Korean and U.S. officials have said the North appears to be restoring Tunnel No. 3 at the east coast site, which was used for underground nuclear blasts before it was closed in 2018 amid denuclearisation talks with Washington and Seoul. read more

Japan and South Korea estimated Saturday’s missile had flown as high as 50-60 km (30-40 miles) and as far as 600 km (370 miles).

The Yoon administration will muster its capabilities as soon as possible for fundamental measures against North Korean provocations and practical deterrence against nuclear missile threats, Yoon’s nominee for national security adviser, Kim Sung-han, said in a statement.

On Wednesday, North Korea fired a ballistic missile toward the sea off its east coast, South Korea and Japan said, after Pyongyang vowed to develop its nuclear forces “at the fastest possible speed”. read more

“Instead of accepting invitations to dialogue, the Kim regime appears to be preparing a tactical nuclear warhead test. The timing will depend most on when the underground tunnels and modified device technology are ready,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

“A seventh nuclear test would be the first since September 2017 and raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula, increasing dangers of miscalculation and miscommunication between the Kim regime and the incoming Yoon administration.”

Last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to speed up development of his country’s nuclear arsenal. He presided over a huge military parade that displayed intercontinental ballistic missiles as well as what appeared to be SLBMs being carried on trucks and launch vehicles. read more

In October, North Korea test-fired a new, smaller ballistic missile from a submarine, a move that analysts said could be aimed at more quickly fielding an operational missile submarine. read more

Yoon, in an interview with Voice of America released on Saturday, said that a meeting with Kim Jong Un is not off the table but would need to have concrete results.

“There’s no reason to avoid meeting” Kim, Yoon said. “However, if we are not be able to show any results, or results are just for show and does not have actual outcomes in denuclearisation… it’s not going to help the relationship between the two Koreas progress.”

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Reporting by Joyce Lee in Seoul and Kantaro Komiya in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Soo-hyang Choi and Hyonhee Shin; Editing by William Mallard and Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Ukraine Live Updates: Amid Hardening Western Resolve, Russia’s Eastern Drive Seems to Stall

Western support of Ukraine hardened Friday as the European Union was poised to approve an embargo on Russian oil, amid fresh assessments that the Russian military’s eastern offensive was faltering, hampered by logistical issues and stiff Ukrainian resistance.

The oil embargo, which would be phased in over a period of some months, is expected to be approved by E.U. ambassadors next week, in a step that should avoid the time-consuming process of gathering heads of state.

Word of the European oil embargo came amid a surge of activity to provide Ukraine with more weapons and support, while shoring up NATO’s defenses, as the Kremlin and Western allies seemed to gird for a drawn-out struggle that risked spilling over Ukraine’s borders.

President Biden’s request Thursday for Congress to approve $33 billion to bolster Ukraine’s arsenal and economy was followed by more commitments by allies. Britain’s military said on Friday that it would deploy 8,000 soldiers to Europe, who were to join tens of thousands of troops from NATO countries in exercises meant to deter further Russian aggression.

While the NATO allies’ commitments to Ukraine grew, the Russian offensive in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine showed signs of stalling amid heavy battlefield losses and was now “several days behind” schedule, a senior Pentagon official said on Friday.

Britain’s Defense Intelligence agency largely concurred, saying on Friday that “Russian territorial gains have been limited and achieved at significant cost to Russian forces.”

In a video released on Friday, an aide to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, called the Russian losses “colossal.”

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

The Russian military is trying to encircle Ukrainian troops in the Donbas region by attacking from the north, east and south, but has made little progress, experts and Pentagon officials say.

Victory in the Donbas campaign is vital to Moscow’s plans of carving out a large chunk of southern and eastern Ukraine, from Odesa in the south through Mariupol and up to Kharkiv in the north, and bringing it under Russian domination or even outright annexation.

Moscow now has 92 battalion groups fighting in Donbas — up from 85 a week ago, but still well below the 125 it had in the first phase of the war, the Pentagon official said. Each battalion group has about 700 to 1,000 troops.

Russia still has massive firepower in the region, but many of those battalions were badly damaged in early fighting around the capital, Kyiv, and have been rushed back into action in Donbas before being restored to full fighting strength, the Pentagon official said.

Some military experts gave a grimmer assessment of Russia’s prospects on Friday. Dr. Mike Martin, a visiting fellow in war studies at King’s College London, told the BBC that Russia’s offensive had “sort of fizzled” and that the battle for eastern Ukraine could be over in two to four weeks.

Russia’s early failures, its inability to do “some bold maneuver” in recent fighting and Ukraine’s growing prowess on the battlefield is behind a “major strategic shift” among Western countries, he said, as they expand their aims beyond defending Ukraine to defeating Russia and degrading its military.

In an effort to shore up its forces, Russia has unleashed a barrage of missile and artillery strikes all along the front, continuing its strategy of targeting civilian as well as military targets. “It’s brutality of the coldest and the most depraved sort,” the Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, told reporters on Friday.

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Ukrainian troops on Friday staged a counterattack in the northern Donbas, retaking Ruska Lozova, a town of around 6,000 people about 12 miles north of Kharkiv that had been occupied by Russian forces since March.

Many of the town’s remaining residents quickly evacuated, taking advantage of the now-open road to Kharkiv. Cars, some riddled with bullet holes, limped into the city, fully packed with luggage, people and pets.

The battle for Ruska Lozova is part of a broader campaign launched by Ukrainian forces in recent weeks to push Russian troops away from Kharkiv, and hopefully put it outside of Russian artillery range. Fighting has been fierce, as the Russian border is roughly 20 miles from the city.

Before the war, Kharkiv was Ukraine’s second-largest city with a population of around 1.4 million people. But it is now a shell of itself, with many of its neighborhoods emptied, after relentless bombardment.

In another sign of Moscow’s sense of urgency, several of the dozen battalion groups that had been fighting in Mariupol were sent to fight in Donbas, the Pentagon official said, even as Ukrainian fighters resisted in the beleaguered city.

The remaining Russian forces continued to pound Mariupol in their struggle to eliminate the last pocket of resistance there. The city’s mayor made a desperate appeal to the international community Friday to save those still trapped at an enormous steel plant that has become the last holdout for Ukrainian fighters and civilians.

Vadym Boychenko, Mariupol’s mayor, said there were more than 600 wounded — including soldiers and civilians — at the Azovstal complex. “They have been there for more than 60 days and they are begging to be saved,” he said, reiterating that supplies of water, medicine and ammunition were quickly depleting. “It is not a matter of days, it’s a matter of hours.”

About 20,000 civilians have been killed, he said, but denied that the city had been fully conquered.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

The European Union move to ban Russian oil imports, a long-postponed step that has divided the bloc’s members and highlighted their dependence on Russian energy sources, was another sign that Ukraine’s Western allies were dialing up their support by taking difficult measures to punish Russia.

It has taken weeks for E.U. countries to agree on the contours of the measure, and intensive talks will continue over the weekend before the European Commission, the bloc’s executive, puts a finalized proposal on paper for E.U. ambassadors to approve, several E.U. officials and diplomats involved in the process said.

The diplomats and officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the progress of the sensitive talks.

Russia is Europe’s biggest oil supplier, providing about one quarter of the bloc’s yearly needs, according to 2020 data, about half of Russia’s total exports. As the oil embargo is phased in, officials said the bloc would seek to make up the shortfall by increasing imports from other sources, like Persian Gulf countries, Nigeria, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

That the European Union is now seemingly able to hammer out a compromise among its 27 member countries on a measure this difficult highlights a fundamental miscalculation by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in his assault on Ukraine: Instead of sowing discord, the war has forged a united front that is making tough compromises easier to reach.

“More important than the oil embargo is the signal that Europe is united and taking back the initiative,” said Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at Eurasia Group, a consultancy. Mr. Rahman said that a more abrupt cut to oil imports would have been more painful for Russia, but also too costly for Europe, risking erosion of public support for Ukraine.

If enacted next week, as expected, the oil embargo will be the biggest and most important new step in the E.U.’s sixth package of sanctions since Russia invaded Ukraine. It will also include sanctions against Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank, which had so far been spared, officials said.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Germany’s position has been critical in finalizing the new measure; the country, the bloc’s economic leader, was importing about a third of its oil from Russia at the time of the Ukraine invasion. But its influential energy minister, Robert Habeck, said this week that Germany had been able to cut that to just 12 percent in recent weeks, making a full embargo “manageable.”

“The problem that seemed very large for Germany only a few weeks ago has become much smaller,” Mr. Habeck told the news media during a visit to Warsaw on Tuesday. He added, “Germany has come very, very close to independence from Russian oil imports.” But he did not explain how it was able to accomplish that so quickly.

Matina Stevis-Gridneff reported from Brussels and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kharkiv, Ukraine. Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington, and Cora Engelbrecht from Krakow, Poland.

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‘They Are Gone, Vanished’: Missing Persons Haunt Ukrainian Village

In a Russian-occupied village, five men went off to feed cattle. Their relatives and neighbors are wondering what happened to them.


HUSARIVKA, Ukraine — The cows wouldn’t stop screaming.

Russian soldiers had occupied this remote village in eastern Ukraine for about two weeks and were using a farm as a base. But the animals at the farm hadn’t been fed. Their incessant bleating was wearing on both occupiers and townspeople.

A group of five residents from Husarivka, an unassuming agricultural village of around 1,000 people, went to tend the cattle.

They were never heard from again.

“My two nephews disappeared. They went to feed the cows on the farm,” said Svitlana Tarusyna, 70. “They are gone, vanished.”

What transpired in Husarivka has all the horrifying elements of the more widely publicized episodes involving Russian brutality: indiscriminate killings, abuse and torture taking place over the better part of a month.

considering applying for membership in the alliance. Dmitri A. Medvedev, Russia’s former president and prime minister, said Moscow would be forced to “seriously strengthen” its defenses in the Baltics if the two countries were to join.

The five men fed the cows and tended to their duties. But as they left, something on the farm exploded, residents recalled. Whether it was an artillery strike or an attempt at sabotage is unclear, but it seemed to contribute to their disappearance; Mr. Doroshenko stated that the Russians captured the men after the explosion. It is possible they were behind some type of attack on the Russian headquarters.

“They only got to the crossroad and were seized,” Mr. Doroshenko said.

Two other people near the farm also went missing that day, Mr. Doroshenko added. Roughly a week later, on March 24, a Russian sniper shot and killed Andriy Mashchenko as he rode home on his bicycle. He had been sheltering in a neighbor’s basement during an artillery barrage. He died on Peace Street.

Under heavy bombardment, the Russians retreated from Husarivka about two days later, and Ukrainian forces swept through afterward. The town’s casualty tally during the occupation: seven people missing, two killed by gunfire and at least two by shelling.

Evidence scattered around the town showed how artillery had ruled the day. Spent rockets lay in fields. Roofs were caved in. The rusted hulks of Russian vehicles were seemingly everywhere. In one armored personnel carrier, the corpse of what was presumed to be a Russian soldier remained, barely recognizable as someone’s son.

But as Ukrainian soldiers sifted through the battlefield wreckage after their victory, they found something on Petrusenko Street. It was in a backyard basement sealed shut by a rusted metal door.

“In this cellar the bodies were found,” said Olexiy, a chief investigator in the region who declined to provide his last name for security reasons. He gestured down into a soot-covered hole. “They were covered by car tires and burned,” he said.

“There is no way to tell the cause of their death,” he added, “We found three hands, two legs, three skulls.”

The bodies have yet to be identified, he said. Residents of Husarivka believe the three had been part of the group of five who disappeared. Images provided to The New York Times clearly showed that a rubber work boot was melted to the foot of one leg.

But hauntingly, no one knows for sure what happened to the five men. Many of the cows they went to feed ended up being killed by the shelling.

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China’s ‘Zero Covid’ Mess Proves Autocracy Hurts Everyone

After the city locked down its 25 million residents and grounded most delivery services in early April, many people encountered problems sourcing food, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Some set alarms for the different restocking times of grocery delivery apps that start as early as 6 a.m.

In the past few days, a hot topic in WeChat groups has been whether sprouted potatoes were safe to eat, a few Shanghai residents told me. Neighbors resorted to a barter system to exchange, say, a cabbage for a bottle of soy sauce. Coca-Cola is hard currency.

After nearly two weeks under lockdown, Dai Xin, a restaurant owner, is running out of food to provide for her household of four. Now she slices ginger paper thin, pickles vegetables so they won’t spoil and eats two meals a day instead of three.

Even the moneyed class is facing food supply shortages. The head of a big retailer told me last week that she got many requests from Shanghai-based chief executives. But there was little she could do under lockdown rules, the executive said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity given the political sensitivities.

Wang Lixiong, the author of the apocalyptic novel “China Tidal Wave,” which ended with a great famine in the aftermath of a nuclear winter, believes that a man-made crisis like the one in Shanghai is inevitable under China’s authoritarian system. In recent years, he said in an interview, the risk increased after Beijing clamped down on nearly every aspect of civil society.

After moving into a friend’s vacant apartment in Shanghai last winter, he stocked up on rice, noodles, canned food and whiskey to sustain him for a few months in case of a crisis.

But many residents in the luxury apartment complex, with units valued at more than $3 million, weren’t as prepared when the lockdown started. He saw his neighbors, who dashed around in designer suits a month ago, venture into the complex’s lush garden to dig up bamboo shoots for a meal.

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Ukraine Live Updates: Russia Prepares for Stepped-Up Assault on the East

Austria’s chancellor visited President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Monday — the first Western leader to see him in person since the Ukraine invasion — and said he came away feeling not only pessimistic about peace prospects but fearing that Mr. Putin intended to drastically intensify the brutality of the war.

Describing Mr. Putin as dismissive of atrocities in Ukraine, the visiting chancellor, Karl Nehammer, said it was clear that Russian forces were mobilizing for a large-scale assault in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, the next phase of a war now in its seventh week.

“The battle being threatened cannot be underestimated in its violence,” Mr. Nehammer said in a news conference after the 75-minute meeting at Mr. Putin’s residence outside Moscow that the visitor described as blunt and direct.

The Austrian chancellor said he had told the Russian president that as long as people were dying in Ukraine, “the sanctions against Russia will stay in place and will be toughened further.”

The Kremlin, playing down the meeting’s significance in a terse statement, said only that it was “not long by the standards of recent times.”

Even as Mr. Nehammer was visiting, Russian forces were bombarding Ukrainian cities and towns, and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said “tens of thousands are dead” in Mariupol, the besieged southern city that has been the scene of the most intense destruction of the war.

Credit…Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

And Mr. Putin, despite Russia’s military blunders in the war, and for all the Western efforts to ostracize him, still appeared in control of the crisis. He has severely repressed any dissent and benefited from widespread domestic support, continuing revenues from oil and gas sales to Europe, the implicit backing of China and the refusal of much of the world to join sanctions against Russia.

Many commentators in the West had criticized the Austrian chancellor — his country is a member of the European Union but not of NATO — for having visited Moscow at all, seemingly playing into Mr. Putin’s narrative that American-led efforts to isolate Russia would necessarily end in failure.

Mr. Nehammer told reporters afterward that he had tried to confront Mr. Putin with the horrors of war and of the war crimes that Russian troops are accused of having committed in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha and elsewhere. He said he also had told Mr. Putin about the destroyed Russian tanks he saw on a recent visit to Ukraine, to make clear the enormous loss of life that Russia was suffering.

Mr. Nehammer said that Mr. Putin had brushed aside the accusations of war crimes as having been staged by Ukraine.

At the end, Mr. Putin told him: “It would be better if it” — the war — “ended soon,” Mr. Nehammer said, but the meaning of those words was unclear, since they could either signal that Mr. Putin was prepared for further peace talks or that he could be readying a quick and brutal assault in the Donbas, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukraine’s military since 2014.

“We can have no illusions: President Putin has totally adopted the logic of war, and is acting accordingly,” Mr. Nehammer said. “This is why I believe it is so important to permanently confront him with the facts of the war.”

Credit…Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press

How much more brutal the war could become was signaled in an interview with Eduard Basurin, a separatist commander, aired on Russian state television. Mr. Basurin said that with Ukrainian forces ensconced in underground fortifications at a steel plant in Mariupol, storming the redoubt did not make sense. Instead, he said, Russian forces needed to first block the exits and then “turn to the chemical troops who will find a way to smoke the moles out of their holes.”

Mr. Putin was silent on Monday but was expected to speak publicly on Tuesday, when he will travel to the Vostochny spaceport in Russia’s far east with President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, his ally, to mark the annual Cosmonauts’ Day.

The Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine has increasingly been framed by Mr. Putin as not against that country, but against the West — specifically, the United States, as the supposed patron of Mr. Zelensky’s government and its aspirations to escape Russia’s sphere of influence as a former Soviet republic.

Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said in a Russian television interview that aired on Monday that what the Kremlin calls its “special operation” in Ukraine is aimed at rolling back American influence — which the Russian government characterizes as the root of the world’s ills.

“Our special military operation is designed to put an end to the reckless expansion, and the reckless course toward complete dominance, of the United States,” Mr. Lavrov said.

The United States and European Union have imposed increasingly severe economic sanctions on Russia over the invasion and are sending weapons to Ukraine’s military. But they do not want to get drawn into a war with Russia. And the European Union remains reluctant to ban Russian oil and natural gas, which remain critical to the bloc’s own economic health.

E.U. foreign ministers met on Monday in Luxembourg and the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles, said that “nothing is off the table, including sanctions on oil and gas.”

Credit…Pool photo by Chung Sung-Jun

While ministers discussed a possible phaseout of Russian oil, more easily replaceable from other suppliers than gas, the meeting also laid bare the bloc’s divisions. Austria, Hungary and Germany opposed any effort, for now, to restrict Russian gas imports.

Still, European Union leaders were expected to approve another 500 billion euros in funds to repay member states for sending weapons to Ukraine, which would mean a total of 1.5 billion euros so far — nearly equivalent to the $1.7 billion in weapons that the United States has authorized.

Russian troops, having retreated from northern Ukraine after a failed effort last month to reach the capital, Kyiv, have been resupplying and regrouping in Russia and Belarus so they can join the battle in eastern Ukraine. But Western officials said on Monday that effort may still take some time.

Ukrainian officials have been warning since last week that civilians in east Ukraine should flee while they can. Mr. Zelensky warned that tens of thousands of Russian troops were preparing a renewed assault there.

If and when the southern port city of Mariupol finally falls, Russian troops can move north to meet up with Russian troops attempting to move south from Izyum and try to encircle the bulk of Ukraine’s army, which is concentrated further east, said Mathieu Boulègue, an expert on the Russian military at Chatham House, the London research institution.

Credit…Reuters

That is easier said than done, Mr. Boulègue said, as the battered Russian troops await reinforcements. The Ukrainians, he said, were trying to block the Russians and organize a counterattack that would be more complicated than the fighting around Kyiv, which had forced the Russians to retreat.

Given the reports of Russian atrocities at Bucha, Kramatorsk, Mariupol and other cities, negotiations between the Ukrainian and Russian governments are on hold.

But few believe that the antagonists are ready for real talks, because Mr. Putin needs to show more military gains and because the Ukrainians believe that they can still repel the Russians, said Ivo Daalder, former U.S. ambassador to NATO.

“The Ukrainians think they have an opportunity not just to prevent Russia from gaining more ground in the east but expelling them from there, while Putin needs to find something he can sell as a victory,” Mr. Daalder said. “So diplomacy is not going anywhere.”

If and when talks on a settlement finally occur, Mr. Putin will inevitably be part of them, said François Heisbourg, a French defense expert. Diplomats deal with leaders of governments, no matter how distasteful, he said.

The West also hopes that increasing economic pain will encourage Mr. Putin to scale down the war and end it. Russia is already is “deep recession” and its economy is expected to shrink by 11 percent this year, the World Bank reported.

Credit…Kirill Kudryavtsev/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But the impact is severe on Ukraine, too. The bank forecast that Ukraine’s economy would shrink by about 45 percent this year because of the Russian invasion and the impact of a “deep humanitarian crisis.”

Mr. Putin originally named one goal of the war as the “denazification” of Ukraine, falsely labeling as Nazis those who resist Russian domination. An article on Monday in a Russian state newspaper, Parlamentskaya Gazeta, written by an adviser to the chairman of Russia’s lower house of Parliament, expanded on that concept to define the enemy as “Ukrainian-American neo-Nazism.”

The fight also included a “cold war” against enemies of the state inside Russia, the article said, adding: “The denazification of Ukraine is impossible without a parallel denazification of Russia.”

It was the latest sign that, even as the war in Ukraine rages, Mr. Putin is priming his security apparatus for an ever-widening intolerance for dissent. The crackdown has accelerated in recent weeks, with pro-war Russians turning in teachers and neighbors who speak out against the war.

Last Friday, Russia closed some of the last remaining independent institutions of civil society, including the Carnegie Moscow Center and the Moscow offices of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. It expanded the practice of naming government critics as “foreign agents,” for the first time adding a popular musician to the list: the rapper Ivan Dryomin, 25, who goes by the name Face.

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels and Anton Troianovski from Istanbul. Reporting was contributed by Monika Pronczuk in Brussels.

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Ukraine Live Updates: ‘This Man Cannot Remain in Power,’ Biden Says of Putin

WARSAW — President Biden delivered a forceful denunciation of Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on Saturday, declaring “for God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” as he cast the war as the latest front in a decades-long battle between the forces of democracy and oppression.

Ending a three-day diplomatic trip to Europe with a fiery speech outside a centuries-old castle in Warsaw, Mr. Biden described the Russian invasion of Ukraine as the “test of all time” in a post-World War II struggle between democracy and autocracy, “between liberty and repression, between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force.”

“In this battle, we need to be cleareyed,” Mr. Biden said in front of a crowd waving Polish, Ukrainian and American flags. “This battle will not be won in days or months, either. We need to steel ourselves for the long fight ahead.”

Mr. Biden used the speech to bolster a key NATO ally on Ukraine’s western border that has served as a conduit for Western arms and has absorbed more than 2 million refugees fleeing the violence, more than any other country in Europe. And he sought to prepare the public, at home and abroad, for a grinding conflict that could drag on for weeks, months or longer.

Just hours before the event, missiles struck the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, about 50 miles from the Polish border, extending Russia’s monthlong assault on major cities and civilian populations — and undercutting Russian statements a day earlier suggesting Moscow might be scaling back its goals in the war.

Credit…Vladyslav Sodel/Reuters

While declaring that “the Russian people are not our enemy,” Mr. Biden unleashed an angry tirade against Mr. Putin’s claim that the invasion of Ukraine is intended to “de-Nazify” the country. Mr. Biden called that justification “a lie,” noting that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine is Jewish and that his father’s family was killed in the Holocaust.

“It’s just cynical,” Mr. Biden said. “He knows that. And it’s also obscene.”

It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Biden’s apparent call for the ouster of Mr. Putin was one of the off-the-cuff remarks for which he is known or a calculated jab, one of many in the speech. But it risks confirming Russia’s central propaganda claim that the West, and particularly the United States, is determined to destroy Russia.

The White House immediately sought to play down the remark. “The president’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region,” a White House official told reporters. “He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”

Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said Mr. Putin’s fate was not in the hands of the American president. “It’s not for Biden to decide,” Mr. Peskov told reporters. “The president of Russia is elected by the Russians.”

Experts were divided on whether Mr. Biden’s remark was intended to signal he believed Mr. Putin should be ousted, a political escalation that could have consequences on the battlefield.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said in a tweet that the White House’s attempt to walk back the president’s comment was “unlikely to wash.”

“Putin will see it as confirmation of what he’s believed all along,” he wrote. “Bad lapse in discipline that runs risk of extending the scope and duration of the war.”

Mr. Biden’s statement that Mr. Putin could no longer remain in power could be perceived “as a call for regime change,” said Michal Baranowski, a senior fellow and director of the Warsaw office of the German Marshall Fund, a nonpartisan policy organization. But he said he did not read it that way, and that Mr. Putin was unlikely to, either. “I think just what President Biden was saying is, how can such a terrible person be ruling Russia?” said Mr. Baranowski. “In that context, I don’t think it will lead to any escalation with Russia.”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Biden stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, and assured him that the United States considered its support for NATO to be a “sacred obligation.”

“America’s ability to meet its role in other parts of the world rests upon a united Europe,” Mr. Biden said.

While Poland’s right-wing, populist government has been embraced by Washington and Brussels as a linchpin of Western security, it has provoked quarrels with both in the past. Mr. Duda, however, thanked Mr. Biden for his support, saying that Poland stood ready as a “serious partner, a credible partner.”

At a stadium in Warsaw, Mr. Biden met with Ukrainian refugees in his first personal encounter with some of the civilians ensnared in a catastrophic humanitarian crisis caused by weeks of indiscriminate Russian shelling of Ukrainian cities and towns.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

After speaking with the refugees, including several from the city of Mariupol, which has been flattened by Russian shelling, Mr. Biden called Mr. Putin “a butcher.”

That comment also prompted a retort from Mr. Peskov, who told TASS, the Russian state-owned news agency, that “such personal insults narrow the window of opportunity” for bilateral relations with the Biden administration.

Mr. Biden also met with Ukrainian ministers in his first in-person meeting with the country’s top leaders since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, part of what American officials hoped would be a powerful display of the United States’ commitment to Ukrainian sovereignty.

“We did receive additional promises from the United States on how our defense cooperation will evolve,” Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, told reporters, the Reuters news agency reported.

But Mr. Biden gave no indication that the United States was willing to budge from its previous rejection of Ukrainian requests to establish a no-fly zone over the country or to provide it with the MIG-29 warplanes that Poland offered some weeks ago.

As Mr. Biden visited Poland, two missiles struck Lviv, rattling residents who ran into underground shelters as smoke rose into the sky. Lviv’s mayor said a fuel storage facility was on fire, and a regional administrator said five people had been injured.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Although Russian missiles hit a warplane repair factory near Lviv on March 18, the city, which had 700,000 residents before many of them fled the war, has otherwise been spared the airstrikes and missile attacks that have hammered other Ukrainian population centers.

Mr. Biden ended his trip one day after a senior Russian general suggested that the Kremlin might be redefining its goals in the war by focusing less on seizing major cities and instead targeting the eastern Donbas region, where Russia-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years.

Mr. Biden’s administration was quietly exploring the implications of the statement by the Russian general, Sergei Rudskoi, which indicated that Mr. Putin might be looking for a way out of the brutal invasion he launched with confidence and bravado a month ago.

Western intelligence agencies have in recent weeks picked up chatter among senior Russian commanders about giving up the effort to take Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, and other key areas in the north and west of the country, according to two people with access to the intelligence. Instead, the commanders have talked more narrowly of securing the Donbas region.

Military analysts have cautioned that General Rudkoi’s statement could be intended as misdirection while Russian forces regroup for a new offensive.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

Only weeks ago, Mr. Putin threatened to fully absorb Ukraine, warning that, “The current leadership needs to understand that if they continue doing what they are doing, they risk the future of Ukrainian statehood.”

In the latest instance of nuclear saber-rattling, Dmitri A. Medvedev, the vice chairman of Russia’s Security Council, restated Moscow’s willingness to use nuclear weapons against the United States and Europe if its existence was threatened.

“No one wants war, especially given that nuclear war would be a threat to the existence of human civilization,” Mr. Medvedev told Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency in excerpts from an interview published on Saturday.

Hoping to rally his country and encourage negotiations with Moscow, Mr. Zelensky said that the success of a Ukrainian counteroffensive that began two weeks ago was “leading the Russian leadership to a simple and logical idea: Talk is necessary.”

For the moment, large portions of Ukraine remain a battleground in what has increasingly come to resemble a bloody stalemate between the smaller Ukrainian army and Russian troops that have struggled with logistical problems.

On Saturday, Russian forces entered the small northern city of Slavutych, near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, where they seized the hospital and briefly detained the mayor, a regional military official said.

Credit…via Reuters

In response, dozens of residents unfurled the Ukrainian flag in front of city hall and chanted, “glory to Ukraine,” prompting Russian troops to fire into the air and throw stun grenades, according to videos and the official, Oleksandr Pavliuk.

Michael D. Shear and David E. Sanger reported from Warsaw and Michael Levenson from New York. Reporting was contributed by Megan Specia from Krakow, Poland, Anton Troianovski from Istanbul, Valerie Hopkins from Lviv, Ukraine, Eric Schmitt from Washington and Apoorva Mandavilli from New York.

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