linked to Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman who has led the Russian region of Chechnya since 2007. Around the time of his murder, Mr. Nemtsov was compiling a report on the involvement of Russian soldiers in the war that had begun in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Mr. Yashin finished and released the report, and became one of the few politicians willing to openly criticize the Chechen leader.

In 2017, Mr. Yashin and fellow opposition candidates won seven out of 10 seats on the local council in the Krasnoselsky district of Moscow.

seven years in a penal colony.

Ms. Kotenochkina said the case against her and Mr. Gorinov had been a “hint” to Mr. Yashin that he should leave the country or face prison.

government label tantamount to enemy of the state.

“Now people see: We are not running anywhere, we stand our ground and share the fate of our country,” he wrote.

“This makes our words worth more and our arguments stronger. But most importantly, it leaves us a chance to regain our homeland. After all, the winner is not the one who is stronger right now, but the one who is ready to go to the end.”

Alina Lobzina contributed reporting.

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Putin Aims to Shape a New Generation of Supporters, Through Schools

Starting in first grade, students across Russia will soon sit through weekly classes featuring war movies and virtual tours through Crimea. They will be given a steady dose of lectures on topics like “the geopolitical situation” and “traditional values.” In addition to a regular flag-raising ceremony, they will be introduced to lessons celebrating Russia’s “rebirth” under President Vladimir V. Putin.

And, according to legislation signed into law by Mr. Putin on Thursday, all Russian children will be encouraged to join a new patriotic youth movement in the likeness of the Soviet Union’s red-cravatted “Pioneers” — presided over by the president himself.

Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian government’s attempts at imparting a state ideology to schoolchildren have proven unsuccessful, a senior Kremlin bureaucrat, Sergei Novikov, recently told thousands of Russian schoolteachers in an online workshop. But now, amid the war in Ukraine, Mr. Putin has made it clear that this needed to change, he said.

end 30 years of openness to the West.

even a hockey player with suspect loyalties.

But nowhere are these ambitions clearer than in the Kremlin’s race to overhaul how children are taught at Russia’s 40,000 public schools.

militarize Russian society, building on officials’ ad hoc efforts after the invasion to convince young people that the war was justified.

“Patriotism should be the dominant value of our people,” another senior Kremlin official, Aleksandr Kharichev, said at last month’s workshop for teachers, which was hosted by the education ministry.

His presentation defined patriotism bluntly: “Readiness to give one’s life for the Motherland.”

Mr. Novikov, the head of the Kremlin’s “public projects” directorate, said that with the invasion of Ukraine in February, teachers faced “a rather urgent task”: to “carry out explanatory work” and answer students’ “difficult questions.”

“While everything is more or less controllable with the younger ones, the older students receive information through a wide variety of channels,” he said, acknowledging the government’s fears about the internet swaying young people’s views. A poll last month by the independent Levada Center found that 36 percent of Russians aged 18 to 24 opposed the war in Ukraine, compared with just 20 percent of all adults.

published by the education ministry last month shows that Mr. Putin’s two decades in power are set to be enshrined in the standard curriculum as a historical turning point, while the teaching of history itself will become more doctrinal.

The decree says that Russian history classes will be required to include several new topics like “the rebirth of Russia as a great power in the 21st century,” “reunification with Crimea,” and “the special military operation in Ukraine.”

And while Russia’s existing educational standard says students should be able to evaluate “various versions of history,” the new proposal says they should learn to “defend historical truth” and “uncover falsifications in the Fatherland’s history.”

As government employees, teachers generally have little choice but to comply with the new demands — though there are signs of grass-roots resistance. Mr. Ken says the Alliance of Teachers, his union, has provided legal guidance to dozens of teachers who have refused to teach this spring’s propaganda classes, noting that political agitation in schools is technically illegal under Russian law. In some cases, he says, principals have simply canceled the classes, knowing they were unpopular.

“You just need to find the moral strength not to facilitate evil,” Sergei Chernyshov, who runs a private high school in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk and has resisted promoting government propaganda, said in a phone interview. “If you can’t protest against it, at least don’t help it.”

Come September, such resistance could become more difficult, with schools directed to add an hour of class every Monday promoting the Kremlin’s version of patriotism. Virtual guest speakers in those classes will include Ramzan Kadyrov, the brutal strongman leader of the Chechnya region, and Patriarch Kirill I, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church who has called the invasion a righteous fight, according to a presentation at last month’s workshop.

schedule of the weekly classes posted by the education ministry. In October, fifth graders and up will have a session apparently meant to discourage emigration; its title: “Happiness is being happy at home.”

Also beginning in September is the Kremlin’s new youth movement, an idea endorsed by Mr. Putin in a televised meeting in April and enshrined in legislation he signed on Thursday.

A co-sponsor of the legislation, the lawmaker Artyom Metelev, said the creation of a new youth movement had long been in the works, but that the West’s online “information war” targeting young people amid the fighting in Ukraine made that measure more urgent.

“This would have also all appeared without the military operation,” Mr. Metelev, who is 28 and a member of Mr. Putin’s United Russia party, said in a phone interview. “It’s just that the military operation and those, let’s say, actions being carried out in relation to our country have accelerated it.”

Moscow’s propaganda infrastructure aimed at children remains far more limited than it was during the Soviet era — a time when young people actively sought out underground cultural exports smuggled in from the West. Mr. Chernyshov, the Novosibirsk school director, believes that the Kremlin’s attempts to sell its militarism to children will now also eventually run up against the young mind’s common sense.

“A 10-year-old child is much more of a humanist than the typical Russian citizen,” he said. “It’s simply impossible to explain to a child in plain language why, right now, some people are killing others.”

Alina Lobzina contributed reporting.

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In Ukraine, Some Ethnic Hungarians Feel Ambivalence About the War

TRANSCARPATHIA, Ukraine — Beneath dark clouds unleashing a summer rain, officials in a southwestern Ukrainian border village gathered silently, slowly hanging wreaths on branches to commemorate the destruction of a nation.

The wreaths were not decorated with the yellow and blue of the Ukrainian flag; they were laced, instead, with the red, white and green of Hungary’s. And the nation they honored this month was not their besieged country, but a homeland from their collective history, torn up more than 100 years ago.

Transcarpathia — now a hardscrabble region of Ukraine bordering Hungary — has been home to as many as 150,000 ethnic Hungarians who, through the complex horse-trading, conquests and boundary adjustments of over a century of European geopolitics, ended up within Ukraine’s borders.

war with Russia, the yearnings of Ukraine’s Hungarian minority were mostly brushed off as benign nostalgia for a time when they lived in one nation with other ethnic Hungarians. Now, divided loyalties within the tiny community — which has soaked up Hungary’s ambivalence toward Russia’s invasion — are being seen as something more worrisome by their fellow Ukrainians, some of whom fear they are susceptible to pro-Russia propaganda from Hungary.

Viktor Orban, is able to cause for his neighbors, in this case by playing on ethnic Hungarians’ feelings of discrimination by their government. And it adds another layer of complexity for Ukraine’s leaders as they try to keep their sprawling, multiethnic country united in the face of a brutal Russian invasion, even as they struggle to win allegiance from minorities including ethnic Russians and Hungarians.

tensions have risen as Mr. Orban has increasingly sought to bring ethnic Hungarian enclaves in Ukraine and elsewhere under his sway. Among other things, he has encouraged Hungarians beyond the country’s borders to claim citizenship, which allowed him to win over new voters to keep him in power.

In this poor region of Ukraine, along the Hungarian border, he doled out funding to run schools, churches, businesses and newspapers, winning gratitude — and helping fan resentments. The ceremony for a lost homeland did not exist before Mr. Orban came to power.

The feelings of otherness intensified as Ukraine, under constant threat by Russia, passed a law that mandates more classes be taught in Ukrainian in public schools. The law was mainly meant to rein in the use of the Russian language, but for the conservative Hungarian community where many still learn, and pray, almost exclusively in Hungarian, the law was seen as an unfair infringement on constitutional rights.

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: 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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Live Updates: Russians Seize Dozens of Small Towns in Ukraine’s East as Fighting Intensifies

Ukrainian officials acknowledged Friday that Russian forces had taken more than three dozen small towns in their initial drive this week to seize eastern Ukraine, offering the first glimpse of what promises to be a grinding brawl by the Kremlin to achieve broader territorial gains in a new phase of the two-month-old war.

The fighting in the east — along increasingly fortified lines that stretch across more than 300 miles — intensified as a Russian commander signaled even wider ambitions, warning that the Kremlin’s forces aimed to take “full control” of southern Ukraine all the way to Moldova, Ukraine’s southwest neighbor.

While it seemed unlikely that the commander, Maj. Gen. Rustam Minnekayev, would have misspoken, his warning still drew skepticism, based on Russia’s probable difficulty in starting another broad offensive and the general’s relatively obscure role in the hierarchy. But his threat could not be ruled out.

The broader war aims that he outlined at a defense industry meeting in a Russian city more than 1,000 miles away from the fighting would be far more ambitious than the downscaled goals set out by President Vladimir V. Putin in recent weeks, which have focused on gaining control of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Some political and military experts suggested the general’s statement could have been part of Russia’s continuing efforts to distract or confuse Ukraine and its allies. General Minnekayev’s official job involves political propaganda work and does not typically cover military strategy.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

On Friday, fierce fighting was underway across a band of southeastern Ukraine, engulfing communities on the banks of the Dnipro River. While Ukrainian officials acknowledged that Russia had taken control of 42 small towns and villages in recent days, they said those same places could be back in Ukrainian hands before long.

Western analysts said Russia’s forces, in both the slow but largely successful fight for the southern city of Mariupol and the unsuccessful battle for Kyiv, had been battered and weakened. But rather than resting, reinforcing and re-equipping the forces, Moscow is pressing forward in the east.

The Russian military appears to be trying to secure battlefield gains — including capturing all of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, or oblasts — ahead of May 9, when Moscow holds its annual celebration of its World War II victory.

“They’re not taking the pause that would be necessary to re-cohere these forces, to take the week or two to stop, and prepare for a wider offensive,” said Mason Clark, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington. “They’ll likely be able to take some territory. We do not think they’re going to be able to capture the entirety of the oblasts in the next three weeks.”

In his remarks on Friday, General Minnekayev asserted that one of Russia’s goals was “full control of the Donbas and southern Ukraine.”

He said that would allow Russia to control Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, “through which agricultural and metallurgical products are delivered” to other countries. Still, despite repeated attacks, Russia has failed to seize those ports, including Odesa, a fortified city of 1 million people.

“I want to remind you that many Kremlin plans have been destroyed by our army and people,” Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote on social media in response to General Minnekayev’s remarks.

General Minnekayev also issued a veiled warning to Moldova, where Moscow-backed separatists seized control of a 250-mile sliver of land known as Transnistria in 1992.

“Control over the south of Ukraine is another connection to Transnistria, where there is also evidence of oppression of the Russian-speaking population,” the general said, echoing false claims of a “genocide” against Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine that Mr. Putin used to help justify the Feb. 24 invasion.

Transnistria has never been recognized internationally — not even by Russia. But Russia keeps 1,500 soldiers there, nominally to keep the peace and guard a large Soviet-era munitions cache.

Credit…Laetitia Vancon for The New York Times

Moldova had no immediate response to the general’s statement. A poor country of 2.6 million, Moldova is considered vulnerable to further Russian incursions. It is not a member of NATO or the European Union, but it hastily applied for E.U. membership last month.

Yuri Fyodorov, a Russian military analyst, said that the broader aims detailed by General Minnekayev “from the military standpoint are unreachable.”

“All of Russia’s combat-ready units are now concentrated in the Donbas, where Russia failed to achieve any significant advances over the past five days,” Mr. Fyodorov said in an interview. General Minnekayev’s rank, he said, would generally not allow him to make such sweeping policy statements that also contradict what has been said by the country’s top leaders.

Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, declined to comment on General Minnekayev’s remarks.

As Western allies race to arm Ukraine with increasingly heavy, long-range weapons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, on a visit to India on Friday, said his country was considering sending tanks to Poland so that Warsaw could then send its own tanks to Ukraine. The Biden administration said this month that it would also help transfer Soviet-made tanks to Ukraine.

The Russian Defense Ministry, in its first statement on casualties from the April 14 sinking of the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, said that one crew member had died, 27 were missing and 396 had been evacuated. Relatives of at least 10 Moskva crew members had voiced frustration over the Kremlin’s silence, which was turning into a test of its strong grip on information that Russians receive about the war.

Ukraine said it had sunk the Moskva with two missiles — an assertion corroborated by U.S. officials — while Russia claimed that an onboard fire had caused a munitions explosion that doomed the ship.

Credit…Russian Defense Ministry Press

As Russia hardened its crackdown on any domestic opposition to the war, it opened a criminal case against Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian pro-democracy activist and a contributing columnist for The Washington Post, for spreading “false information,” his lawyer said Friday.

Mr. Kara-Murza, 40, arrested earlier this month, faces 10 years in prison, according to the official decree against him posted online by his lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov.

It said he was being investigated for remarks he had made before Arizona lawmakers on March 15. Mr. Kara-Murza told a local news outlet in Phoenix that month that Russia was committing “war crimes” in Ukraine but that “Russia and the Putin regime are not one and the same.”

“Americans should be infuriated by Putin’s escalating campaign to silence Kara-Murza,” Fred Ryan, the publisher of The Post, said in a statement.

Mr. Putin, who has become increasingly vilified in the West over the war, has not completely rejected diplomatic engagement. On Friday, he agreed to meet with the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, in Moscow next week, a stark change from his refusal to even take Mr. Guterres’s phone calls. Still, the meeting did not signal a softening of Mr. Putin’s views on Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that he has said should not even be a sovereign country.

Ukraine’s government said the fighting had made it too dangerous to organize any evacuations from a war that Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, called a “horror story of violations perpetrated against civilians.”

After another attack on the northeastern city of Kharkiv on Friday, residents watched as smoke rose over shops. In the ruined port of Mariupol, hundreds of civilians and the last organized Ukrainian fighters remained trapped in a sprawling steel plant, issuing urgent pleas for help from underground bunkers. Newly released satellite images of the city showed hundreds of hastily dug graves, lending credibility to Ukrainian claims that Russia was trying to cover up atrocities.

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And in the Zaporizhzhya region of south-central Ukraine, Ukrainian troops were dug in about two miles from Russian forces that were trying to push north in an effort to fortify a land bridge connecting Russian territory with the Crimean Peninsula, which Mr. Putin annexed in 2014.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

The Ukrainian army’s 128th Separate Mountain Assault brigade, armed with anti-tank missiles provided by the Americans and the British as well as other advanced weapons systems, claimed to have destroyed two Russian T-72 tanks that had strayed too close to its positions.

“We are on our own land,” Captain Vitaliy Nevinsky, the brigade’s commander, said. “We are defending ourselves and knocking out this horde, this invasion of our territory.”

Anton Troianovski reported from Hamburg, Germany, Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia, and Michael Levenson from New York. Reporting was contributed by Marc Santora from Krakow, Poland, Michael Schwirtz from Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine, Tyler Hicks from Kharkiv, Ukraine, Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva, Julian E. Barnes from Washington, Farnaz Fassihi from New York and Sameer Yasir from New Delhi.

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Live Ukraine Updates: Calling Off Steel Plant Assault, Putin Prematurely Claims Victory in Mariupol

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia claimed victory in Mariupol on Thursday despite persistent fighting there, publicly calling off an assault on the final Ukrainian stronghold in the devastated city in a stark display of the Kremlin’s desire to present a success to the Russian public.

Mr. Putin ordered his defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, in a choreographed meeting shown on Russian television, not to storm the sprawling, fortress-like Azovstal steel mill complex where 2,000 Ukrainian fighters were said to be holed up, and instead to blockade the plant “so that a fly can’t get through.” That avoids, for now, a bloody battle in the strategic port city that would add to Russia’s mounting casualty toll and tie down troops who could be deployed to the broader battle for eastern Ukraine.

“Of course, getting control of such an important center in the south as Mariupol is a success,” Mr. Putin was shown telling Mr. Shoigu, though the city is not yet fully under Russian control. “Congratulations.”

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President Vladimir V. Putin used a choreographed meeting with his defense minister to claim major progress in the war, saying that he ordered Russian troops to blockade a steel plant where Ukrainian fighters and civilians have taken refuge.CreditCredit…Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

The fight for Mariupol carries enormous significance for both sides. It is the last pocket of serious resistance in the land bridge the Kremlin has created between territory it already holds in the Donbas region in the east and the Crimean Peninsula in the south. It is also home to much of Ukraine’s Azov Battalion, filled with far-right fighters who give a sheen of credibility to Mr. Putin’s false claim that Ukraine is run by Nazis and that he is “denazifying” the country.

The battle for the city also illustrates both the brutality of the Russian invasion and its struggles — truths that have galvanized much of the world but that Moscow has worked hard to conceal from its own people. Mariupol has been under siege for more than a month, much of it lies in ruins, and satellite images show a growing mass grave on the city’s outskirts. Roughly three-quarters of the residents have fled and, according to Ukrainian officials, about 20,000 civilians there have been killed — yet it is still not fully conquered.

Russia is shifting the focus of the war to gaining territory and wiping out Ukrainian forces in Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukraine since 2014. Britain’s Defense Ministry said Thursday in an intelligence assessment that the Kremlin is eager to make swift gains that it can trumpet on May 9, at the annual celebrations of victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.

At the White House, President Biden said the fight for Donbas was “going to be more limited in terms of geography but not in terms of brutality,” compared to the early phase of the war. But, he added, Russia will “never succeed in dominating and occupying all of Ukraine.”

Mr. Biden announced another $800 million package of weapons for Ukraine, including dozens of heavy howitzers, 144,000 shells for them, and tactical drones, bringing total military aid this year to well above $3 billion. The weapons supplied by NATO nations are becoming increasingly heavy and sophisticated, reflecting an expected shift in the nature of combat as the war pivots to Donbas, but the president said some of armaments will remain secret.

Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times

“We won’t always be able to advertise everything that we, that our partners are doing,” Mr. Biden said. Referring to the U.S.-made antitank missile that Ukrainians have used to devastating effect, he added, “To modernize Teddy Roosevelt’s advice, sometimes we will speak softly and carry a large Javelin.”

Mr. Biden also banned ships tied to Russia from U.S. ports, and announced $500 million in economic aid to Ukraine — though the government in Kyiv told the International Monetary Fund that over the next three months it will need $15 billion. The White House also detailed plans for accepting up to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine, saying that U.S. citizens can begin applying to sponsor the immigrants on Monday.

The war in Ukraine took center stage in the French presidential campaign in a televised debate Wednesday night between President Emmanuel Macron and his far-right challenger, Marine Le Pen, who has in the past praised Mr. Putin. She spoke against arming Ukraine and said Mr. Macron’s efforts to cut imports of Russian energy would hurt France economically. He replied, “you are, in fact, in Russia’s grip,” noting that Ms. Le Pen’s party had borrowed from a Kremlin-linked bank.

The Kremlin worked quickly to portray the battle for Mariupol as a success. Dmitri S. Peskov, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, told reporters that there was now “an opportunity to start establishing a peaceful life” in Mariupol and start “returning the population to their homes.”

Mr. Peskov described the Azovstal steel plant — an immense Soviet-era complex near the city center — as “a separate facility” with no impact on life elsewhere in the city. Ukrainian fighters have been hiding for weeks in the plant’s underground bunkers, along with about 1,000 civilians, amid rising concerns they lack food and water.

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Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of the southern Russian republic of Chechnya, said on Wednesday that his troops would soon help Russia capture the Azovstal plant in its entirety. In Thursday’s televised meeting, Mr. Shoigu told Mr. Putin that it would take three to four days to clear the plant.

But Mr. Putin responded by calling the storming of the plant “impractical,” and added, “I order it to be canceled.”

It was not clear what that would mean on the ground; shelling and rocket attacks on the steel mill complex continued on Thursday, Staff Sgt. Leonid Kuznetsov of the Ukrainian National Guard, one of the soldiers there, said via text message. He said that shortly before he heard about Mr. Putin’s public order, Russian troops had attempted to storm the plant, coming within about 20 meters of his hide-out. The Ukrainians, he said, were running out of ammunition.

In directing Mr. Shoigu on a national broadcast, Mr. Putin, who made the decision to go to war, presented himself as a rational and humane leader. “This is the case when we must think — that is, we must always think, but even more so in this case — about preserving the life and health of our soldiers and officers,” he said. “There is no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities.”

Implicit in his statement was a potential credibility challenge for Mr. Putin, stemming from his unwillingness to admit setbacks and blunders in the war to his own people. The government and military have not acknowledged the deaths of Russian sailors on the missile cruiser Moskva, pride of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, which was sunk last week, but information about missing troops is increasingly circulating online.

Coming after Russia’s decision last month to abandon its stalled campaign in the north of Ukraine, the sinking of the Moskva — Ukraine claims to have hit it with two missiles — and the morass in Mariupol, once a thriving industrial and shipping hub, underscore the systemic weaknesses bedeviling the Russian military.

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On Jan. 20, The New York Times captured drone video over the sprawling Azovstal Steel and Iron works complex in Mariupol, Ukraine. Now, it is a battered fortress for the last Ukrainian defenders.

But costly as Mariupol has been for Russia, it is far costlier for Ukraine. Civilian casualties are high, though for now there are only rough estimates, and nearly all the vital infrastructure — including some of Ukraine’s biggest export-oriented enterprises — have been destroyed. Hospitals, theaters, schools and homes have been reduced to rubble.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said on Thursday that he would trade Russian soldiers who had been taken prisoner for the civilians sheltered at Azovstal, but he said that Russia had not yet responded to the offer.

Agreements to evacuate civilians en masse or bring in vital aid have mostly been thwarted, and have sometimes turned deadly, largely because Russian units have halted or fired on aid convoys. But day by day, people have managed to escape, on their own or in small groups.

On Thursday, a yellow bus carrying dozens of people from Mariupol arrived in the central Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, where passengers described weeks hiding in basements, cold and hungry, amid endless shelling. They escaped in a harrowing, all-night drive through Russian-held territory, past countless checkpoints manned by jumpy Russian soldiers.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

“In the city everything is destroyed, it’s terrifying,” said Matvei Popko, 10, who had fled with his mother, father and grandmother. “At any moment your home could get hit and collapse. For a little more than a month we lived in the basement.”

Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of forcibly deporting hundreds of thousands of civilians, including a large number from the Mariupol area, to Russian territory, for use as propaganda fodder and a bargaining chip. Russia denies the charge, which is a potential war crime.

The weeks of heavy fighting in Mariupol tied up a significant chunk of Russia’s combat power; at one point the battle was estimated by military analysts to include roughly 10 percent of all the Russian forces in Ukraine.

On Thursday, a Russian video news report from the scene showed a convoy of armored vehicles moving out of Mariupol. Seymon Pegov, a pro-Kremlin reporter embedded with the Russian forces in the city, interviewed Timur Kurilkin, a commander of a separatist battalion from Donetsk, a city in separatist-held eastern Ukraine.

“We are going home, to Donetsk,” said Mr. Kurilkin, walking past the vehicles. “Our next battle is tomorrow,” he said, without specifying where.

In Mariupol, Russia is already seeking to establish authority over civilian life. Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, promised high school seniors that they would receive diplomas certified by the separatist entity.

On Wednesday, Andrei Turchak, a top official in Mr. Putin’s party, visited a school in Mariupol, which has already switched to Russian-language curriculum. In a video of his visit, posted to social media, he said, “Many textbooks have already been delivered and these deliveries will continue.”

Anton Troianovski reported from Hamburg, Germany, Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia, and Richard Pérez-Peña from New York. Reporting was contributed by Michael Schwirtz from Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, David E. Sanger and Zach Montague from Washington, Neil MacFarquhar from Istanbul, Matthew Mpoke Bigg from London, Alan Yuhas from New York, and Cora Engelbrecht from Krakow, Poland.

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Live Updates: Russian Warship Ukraine Claimed to Have Hit Has Sunk, Moscow Says

BRUSSELS — Russia’s faltering war against Ukraine suffered a pair of setbacks Thursday when the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet sank after a catastrophic explosion and fire, as the European Union moved closer to an embargo on Russian oil imports.

Ukraine claimed to have struck the vessel, the guided missile cruiser Moskva, with two of its own Neptune missiles, while Russia said the blast was caused by ammunition aboard the ship. If confirmed, the missile attack would be a serious blow to Russia, both militarily and symbolically — proof that its ships can no longer operate with impunity, and another damaging blow to morale.

It would also give a lift to Ukrainian hopes, while demonstrating the defenders’ homegrown technological capacity and exposing an embarrassing weakness in the Russian navy’s antimissile defenses.

Moscow also faces the possible loss of European markets in fossil fuels, which are providing billions of dollars a month to support its war effort. The European Union has long resisted calls to reduce its energy dependency on Russia, but officials revealed on Thursday that an oil embargo is in the works and is likely to be adopted in the coming weeks.

That comes on top of a previously announced ban on imports of Russian coal. Taken together, the steps are bound to raise fuel and electricity prices in Europe, potentially disrupting the economy and provoking a political backlash.

Ukraine continues to brace for a Russian offensive in the eastern Donbas region — where Moscow has said it will focus its war efforts after its failure to capture the capital, Kyiv — while Russian forces squeeze the shrinking pocket of resistance in the ruined southern port of Mariupol. The devastation rained there has offered a dire warning of what may befall other cities in the event of a prolonged Russian siege, prompting a mass exodus of civilians from the Donbas.

Credit…Pavel Klimov/Reuters

Its international isolation deepening, the Kremlin reacted ominously to the growing indications that Finland and Sweden would join the NATO alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On Thursday, the government warned that any such expansion of NATO would prompt an increased Russian military presence, including nuclear weapons, in the region.

The C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, warned on Thursday of the possibility that Mr. Putin, facing a debacle in Ukraine, might use a tactical or low-yield nuclear weapon, though he stressed that he had seen no “practical evidence” that such a step was pending. It was the first time he discussed publicly a concern that has been much debated in the White House.

“Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far, militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons,” Mr. Burns said, in answering questions after a speech in Atlanta.

Prominent voices in Russian state media have made increasingly incendiary statements recently, calling for more brutality in battles that have already sparked calls for war-crimes investigations of the Russian forces.

Much remained unclear about Russia’s setback in the western Black Sea, where a blast on Thursday morning — Wednesday night in the United States — and subsequent fire forced many of the Moskva’s roughly 500 crew members to abandon ship. There was no word on casualties. Ukraine said it had struck the vessel with two Neptune missiles and sunk it.

Russia’s Defense Ministry initially said its sailors had managed to put out the fire and the Moskva, commissioned in 1983, remained afloat. But hours later, it said, the ship sank while being towed to port in a storm.

Western defense officials said they could not be sure what caused the explosion aboard the 12,000-ton ship. Three American officials briefed on the incident said all indications were that it had been hit by missiles. The officials cautioned that early battlefield reports can sometimes change, but expressed deep skepticism over the Russian account of an accidental fire.

Ukraine has been stressing the need for coastal defense weapons, and the U.S. announced this week that it would send more of them. Pentagon officials said that other Russian ships had moved farther from the Ukrainian shoreline, lending credence to the claim of missile strikes.

“It’s going to have an impact on their naval capabilities, certainly in the near term,” but the long-term picture is unclear, said the Pentagon spokesman, John F. Kirby, a former Navy rear admiral.

Until now, Russian ships have been able to fire missiles at will against coastal cities. They have blockaded Ukraine’s south coast and threatened an amphibious landing in the southwestern region. The presence of an effective Ukrainian anti-ship weapon — Ukraine says the Neptune has a range of about 190 miles — could change those calculations, though Ukraine’s commercial shipping is unlikely to resume anytime soon.

Current and former American naval commanders said a successful missile attack would represent a shocking lack of Russian combat readiness.

“This is not supposed to happen to a modern warship,” said Adm. James G. Foggo III, a former commander of the United States Sixth Fleet, whose area of operations includes Europe. “If this was a Neptune missile strike, it’s indicative of complacency and lack of an effective integrated air and missile defense capability.”

Ukraine has endured most of the suffering in the war that began on Feb. 24, with untold thousands of casualties, widespread destruction and millions of people displaced, but the blowback on Russia has also been severe. Moscow’s vaunted military has often seemed hapless, absorbing unexpectedly heavy losses of men and equipment, while unprecedented sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies have shaken the Russian economy.

President Vladimir V. Putin acknowledged some of that cost on Thursday in a videoconference with top government officials and oil and gas executives, referring to “the disruption of export logistics” in that industry and “setbacks in payments for Russian energy exports.”

Credit…Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik

Fossil fuels are Russia’s biggest export product, a huge part of the Russian economy that employs millions of people and supplies the government with much of the revenue needed to support its war-making machinery.

Now E.U. officials and European diplomats say the bloc is moving toward barring oil imports from Russia, a ban that would be phased in over months to allow countries to arrange alternative supplies. They said European leaders will not make a final decision until after April 24, when France will hold its presidential runoff; a rise in fuel prices could hurt the prospects of President Emmanuel Macron and boost his right-wing opponent, Marine Le Pen, who has praised Mr. Putin.

The government of Germany, the most influential country in the European Union, has been particularly reluctant to cut off Russian fuel, which would come at a steep cost and could lead to shortages. But pressure from allies and mounting evidence of Russian atrocities in Ukraine have, step by step, overcome that resistance. Germany refused to allow the virtually completed, $10 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to go into service, supported the coal ban and now appears to be on board with an oil embargo.

Credit…Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

The shifting stance of the neutral Scandinavian states is another unintended consequence for Mr. Putin. In waging a war that he said was intended to keep Ukraine out of NATO — a distant prospect at best — he may have succeeded in driving two countries that had been steadfastly nonaligned for generations into the arms of the alliance.

Dmitri A. Medvedev, a senior Russian security official, said on Thursday that if Sweden and Finland joined NATO, there would be “no more talk of a nuclear-free Baltics” region. Moscow would be compelled to “seriously strengthen” its air and ground forces in the area, said Mr. Medvedev, a former president and prime minister, and could deploy nuclear-armed warships “at arm’s length” from Finnish and Swedish shores.

Vladimir Solovyov, a television host who is considered a leading voice of Kremlin propaganda, said on Wednesday that Russia should destroy all Ukrainian infrastructure, including basic utilities.

Russia “must bring these terrorists to their senses in the cruelest way,” he said on his show on the state-owned Russia-1 channel. “We need to talk differently with terrorists,” he added. “There shouldn’t be any illusions that they can win.”

Russia has forced independent news outlets to shut down or leave the country, and has criminalized disputing the Kremlin’s account of the war. Yet Margarita Simonyan, the head of the state-owned RT news organization, said earlier this week that the government should restrict information even more.

No major power can exist “without having information under its control,” she said, adding, “we are all waiting for this.”

Matina Stevis-Gridneff reported from Brussels, and Richard Pérez-Peña from New York. Reporting was contributed by Ivan Nechepurenko and Anton Troianovski from Istanbul, Michael Schwirtz from London, and Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt David E. Sanger and Julian E. Barnes from Washington.

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Live Updates: Putin’s Military Advisers Misinformed Him on Ukraine, U.S. Intelligence Says

BELGRADE, Serbia — Mindful of the angry and still-unhealed wounds left by NATO’s bombing of Serbia more than 20 years ago, Ukraine’s ambassador appeared on Serbian television after Russia invaded and bombed his country in the hope of rousing sympathy.

Instead of getting time to explain Ukraine’s misery, however, the ambassador, Oleksandr Aleksandrovych, had to sit through rants by pro-Russian Serbian commentators, and long videos of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, denouncing Ukraine as a nest of Nazis. The show, broadcast by the pro-government Happy TV, lasted three hours, more than half of which featured Mr. Putin.

Angry at the on-air ambush, the ambassador complained to the producer about the pro-Kremlin propaganda exercise, but was told not to take it personally and that Mr. Putin “is good for our ratings.”

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

That Russia’s leader, viewed by many in the West, including President Biden, as a war criminal, serves in Serbia as a lure for viewers is a reminder that the Kremlin still has admirers in Europe.

While Germany, Poland and several other E.U. countries display solidarity with Ukraine by flying its flag outside their Belgrade embassies, a nearby street pays tribute to Mr. Putin. A mural painted on the wall features an image of the Russian leader alongside the Serbian word for “brother.”

Part of Mr. Putin’s allure lies in his image as a strongman, an appealing model for President Aleksandr Vucic, the increasingly authoritarian leader of Serbia, and Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the belligerently illiberal leader of Hungary. Facing elections on Sunday, the Serbian and Hungarian leaders also look to Russia as a reliable source of energy to keep their voters happy. Opinion polls suggest both will win.

Then there is history, or at least a mythologized version of the past, that, in the case of Serbia, presents Russia, a fellow Slavic and Orthodox Christian nation, as an unwavering friend and protector down the centuries.

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

But perhaps most important is Mr. Putin’s role as a lodestar for nations that, no matter what their past crimes, see themselves as sufferers, not aggressors, and whose politics and psyche revolve around cults of victimhood nurtured by resentment and grievance against the West.

Arijan Djan, a Belgrade-based psychotherapist, said she had been shocked by the lack of empathy among many Serbs for the suffering of Ukrainians but realized that many still bore the scars of past trauma that obliterated all feeling for the pain of others.

“Individuals who suffer traumas that they have never dealt with cannot feel empathy,” she said. Societies, like trauma-scarred individuals, she added, “just repeat the same stories of their own suffering over and over again,” a broken record that “deletes all responsibility” for what they have done to others.

A sense of victimhood runs deep in Serbia, viewing crimes committed by ethnic kin during the Balkan wars of the 1990s as a defensive response to suffering visited on Serbs, just as Mr. Putin presents his bloody invasion of Ukraine as a righteous effort to protect persecuted ethnic Russians who belong in “Russky mir,” or the “Russian world.”

“Putin’s ‘Russian world’ is an exact copy of and what our nationalists call Greater Serbia,” said Bosko Jaksic, a pro-Western newspaper columnist. Both, he added, feed on partially remembered histories of past injustice and erased memories of their own sins.

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

The victim narrative is so strong among some in Serbia that Informer, a raucous tabloid newspaper that often reflects the thinking of Mr. Vucic, the president, last month reported Russia’s preparations for its invasion of Ukraine with a front-page headline recasting Moscow as a blameless innocent: “Ukraine attacks Russia!” it screamed.

The Serbian government, wary of burning bridges with the West but sensitive to widespread public sympathy for Russia as a fellow wronged victim, has since pushed news outlets to take a more neutral stand, said Zoran Gavrilovic, the executive director of Birodi, an independent media monitoring group in Serbia. Russia is almost never criticized, he said, but abuse of Ukraine has subsided.

Mr. Aleksandrovych, the Ukrainian ambassador to Serbia, said he welcomed the change of tone but that he still struggled to get Serbians to look beyond their own suffering at NATO’s hands in 1999. “Because of the trauma of what happened 23 years ago, whatever bad happens in the world is seen as America’s fault,” he said.

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Hungary, allied with the losing side in two world wars, also nurses an oversize victim complex, rooted in the loss of large chunks of its territory. Mr. Orban has stoked those resentments eagerly for years, often siding with Russia over Ukraine, which controls a slice of former Hungarian land and has featured prominently in his efforts to present himself as a defender of ethnic Hungarians living beyond the country’s border.

In neighboring Serbia, Mr. Vucic, anxious to avoid alienating pro-Russia voters ahead of Sunday’s election, has balked at imposing sanctions on Russia and at suspending flights between Belgrade and Moscow. But Serbia did vote in favor of a United Nations resolution on March 2 condemning Russia’s invasion.

That was enough to win praise for Mr. Vucic from Victoria Nuland, an American under secretary of state, who thanked Serbia “for its support for Ukraine.” But it did not stop Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, from on Monday suggesting Belgrade as a good place to hold peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv.

Serbs who want their country to join the European Union and stop dancing between East and West accuse Mr. Vucic of playing a double game. “There are tectonic changes taking place and we are trying to sleep through them,” said Vladimir Medjak, vice president of European Movement Serbia, a lobbying group pushing for E.U. membership.

Serbia, he said, is “not so much pro-Russian as NATO-hating.”

Instead of moving toward Europe, he added: “We are still talking about what happened in the 1990s. It is an endless loop. We are stuck talking about the same things over and over.”

More than two decades after the fighting ended in the Balkans, many Serbs still dismiss war crimes in Srebrenica, where Serb soldiers massacred more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in 1995, and in Kosovo, where brutal Serb persecution of ethnic Albanians prompted NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign, as the flip side of suffering inflicted on ethnic Serbs.

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Asked whether she approved of the war unleashed by Mr. Putin as she walked by the Belgrade mural in his honor, Milica Zuric, a 25-year-old bank worker, responded by asking why Western media focused on Ukraine’s agonies when “you had no interest in Serbian pain” caused by NATO warplanes in 1999. “Nobody cried over what happened to us,” she said.

With much of the world’s media focused last week on Russia’s destruction of Mariupol, the Ukrainian port city, Serbia commemorated the start of NATO’s bombing campaign. Front pages were plastered with photos of buildings and railway lines destroyed by NATO. “We cannot forget. We know what it is to live under bombardment,” read the headline of Kurir, a pro-government tabloid.

A small group of protesters gathered outside the United States Embassy and then joined a much bigger pro-Russia demonstration, with protesters waving Russian flags and banners adorned with the letter Z, which has become an emblem of support for Russia’s invasion.

Damnjan Knezevic, the leader of People’s Patrol, a far-right group that organized the gathering, said he felt solidarity with Russia because it had been portrayed as an aggressor in the West, just as Serbia was in the 1990s, when, he believes, “Serbia was in reality the biggest victim.” Russia had a duty to protect ethnic kin in Ukraine just as Serbia did in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, Mr. Knezevic said.

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Bosko Obradovic, the leader of Dveri, a conservative party, said he lamented civilian casualties in Ukraine but insisted that “NATO has a huge responsibility” for their fate.

Mr. Obradovic on Sunday gathered cheering supporters for a pre-election rally in a Belgrade movie house. A stall outside the entrance sold Serbian paratrooper berets, military caps and big Russian flags.

Predrag Markovic, director for the Institute of Contemporary History in Belgrade, said that history served as the bedrock of nationhood but, distorted by political agendas, “always offers the wrong lessons.” The only case of a country in Europe fully acknowledging its past crimes, he added, was Germany after World War II.

“Everyone else has a story of victimization.” Mr. Markovic said.

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

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How War in Ukraine Roiled Facebook and Instagram

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, took an unusual step last week: It suspended some of the quality controls that ensure that posts from users in Russia, Ukraine and other Eastern European countries meet its rules.

Under the change, Meta temporarily stopped tracking whether its workers who monitor Facebook and Instagram posts from those areas were accurately enforcing its content guidelines, six people with knowledge of the situation said. That’s because the workers could not keep up with shifting rules about what kinds of posts were allowed about the war in Ukraine, they said.

Meta has made more than half a dozen content policy revisions since Russia invaded Ukraine last month. The company has permitted posts about the conflict that it would normally have taken down — including some calling for the death of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and violence against Russian soldiers — before changing its mind or drawing up new guidelines, the people said.

The result has been internal confusion, especially among the content moderators who patrol Facebook and Instagram for text and images with gore, hate speech and incitements to violence. Meta has sometimes shifted its rules on a daily basis, causing whiplash, said the people, who were not authorized to speak publicly.

contended with pressure from Russian and Ukrainian authorities over the information battle about the conflict. And internally, it has dealt with discontent about its decisions, including from Russian employees concerned for their safety and Ukrainian workers who want the company to be tougher on Kremlin-affiliated organizations online, three people said.

Meta has weathered international strife before — including the genocide of a Muslim minority in Myanmar last decade and skirmishes between India and Pakistan — with varying degrees of success. Now the largest conflict on the European continent since World War II has become a litmus test of whether the company has learned to police its platforms during major global crises — and so far, it appears to remain a work in progress.

“All the ingredients of the Russia-Ukraine conflict have been around for a long time: the calls for violence, the disinformation, the propaganda from state media,” said David Kaye, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and a former special rapporteur to the United Nations. “What I find mystifying was that they didn’t have a game plan to deal with it.”

Dani Lever, a Meta spokeswoman, declined to directly address how the company was handling content decisions and employee concerns during the war.

After Russia invaded Ukraine, Meta said it established a round-the-clock special operations team staffed by employees who are native Russian and Ukrainian speakers. It also updated its products to aid civilians in the war, including features that direct Ukrainians toward reliable, verified information to locate housing and refugee assistance.

Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s chief executive, and Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer, have been directly involved in the response to the war, said two people with knowledge of the efforts. But as Mr. Zuckerberg focuses on transforming Meta into a company that will lead the digital worlds of the so-called metaverse, many responsibilities around the conflict have fallen — at least publicly — to Nick Clegg, the president for global affairs.

announced that Meta would restrict access within the European Union to the pages of Russia Today and Sputnik, which are Russian state-controlled media, following requests by Ukraine and other European governments. Russia retaliated by cutting off access to Facebook inside the country, claiming the company discriminated against Russian media, and then blocking Instagram.

This month, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine praised Meta for moving quickly to limit Russian war propaganda on its platforms. Meta also acted rapidly to remove an edited “deepfake” video from its platforms that falsely featured Mr. Zelensky yielding to Russian forces.

a group called the Ukrainian Legion to run ads on its platforms this month to recruit “foreigners” for the Ukrainian army, a violation of international laws. It later removed the ads — which were shown to people in the United States, Ireland, Germany and elsewhere — because the group may have misrepresented ties to the Ukrainian government, according to Meta.

Internally, Meta had also started changing its content policies to deal with the fast-moving nature of posts about the war. The company has long forbidden posts that might incite violence. But on Feb. 26, two days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Meta informed its content moderators — who are typically contractors — that it would allow calls for the death of Mr. Putin and “calls for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine invasion,” according to the policy changes, which were reviewed by The New York Times.

Reuters reported on Meta’s shifts with a headline that suggested that posts calling for violence against all Russians would be tolerated. In response, Russian authorities labeled Meta’s activities as “extremist.”

Shortly thereafter, Meta reversed course and said it would not let its users call for the deaths of heads of state.

“Circumstances in Ukraine are fast moving,” Mr. Clegg wrote in an internal memo that was reviewed by The Times and first reported by Bloomberg. “We try to think through all the consequences, and we keep our guidance under constant review because the context is always evolving.”

Meta amended other policies. This month, it made a temporary exception to its hate speech guidelines so users could post about the “removal of Russians” and “explicit exclusion against Russians” in 12 Eastern European countries, according to internal documents. But within a week, Meta tweaked the rule to note that it should be applied only to users in Ukraine.

The constant adjustments left moderators who oversee users in Central and Eastern European countries confused, the six people with knowledge of the situation said.

The policy changes were onerous because moderators were generally given less than 90 seconds to decide on whether images of dead bodies, videos of limbs being blown off, or outright calls to violence violated Meta’s rules, they said. In some instances, they added, moderators were shown posts about the war in Chechen, Kazakh or Kyrgyz, despite not knowing those languages.

Ms. Lever declined to comment on whether Meta had hired content moderators who specialize in those languages.

take action against Russia Today and Sputnik, said two people who attended. Russian state activity was at the center of Facebook’s failure to protect the 2016 U.S. presidential election, they said, and it didn’t make sense that those outlets had continued to operate on Meta’s platforms.

While Meta has no employees in Russia, the company held a separate meeting this month for workers with Russian connections. Those employees said they were concerned that Moscow’s actions against the company would affect them, according to an internal document.

In discussions on Meta’s internal forums, which were viewed by The Times, some Russian employees said they had erased their place of work from their online profiles. Others wondered what would happen if they worked in the company’s offices in places with extradition treaties to Russia and “what kind of risks will be associated with working at Meta not just for us but our families.”

Ms. Lever said Meta’s “hearts go out to all of our employees who are affected by the war in Ukraine, and our teams are working to make sure they and their families have the support they need.”

At a separate company meeting this month, some employees voiced unhappiness with the changes to the speech policies during the war, according to an internal poll. Some asked if the new rules were necessary, calling the changes “a slippery slope” that were “being used as proof that Westerners hate Russians.”

Others asked about the effect on Meta’s business. “Will Russian ban affect our revenue for the quarter? Future quarters?” read one question. “What’s our recovery strategy?”

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Analysts investigate possibility of N.Korea missile test ‘deception’, article with image

An overview of what state media reports is the launch of the “Hwasong-17” intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in this undated photo released on March 25, 2022 by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA via REUTERS/File Photo

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SEOUL, March 28 (Reuters) – Reports suggest North Korea’s biggest missile test ever may not have been what it seemed, raising new questions over the secretive country’s banned weapons programme.

North Korea said it had test-fired its new Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Thursday, the first test of a missile that size since 2017.

North Korean state media heralded the launch as an “unprecedented miracle”, and South Korean and Japanese officials independently confirmed flight data that showed it flew higher and longer than any previous test. read more

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But new details – including discrepancies spotted in the North’s heavily stylized video featuring leader Kim Jong Un overseeing the launch in a leather jacket and sunglasses – have poked holes in Pyongyang’s claims. read more

“The biggest question now is what was launched on March 24,” said Colin Zwirko, a senior analytical correspondent with NK Pro, a Seoul-based website that monitors North Korea.

He has examined commercial satellite imagery and footage released by state media and he says discrepancies in weather, sunlight, and other factors suggest the launch shown by North Korea happened on another day.

“I’ve been able to determine that there’s some sort of deception going on, but the question remains: did they test another Hwasong-17 and they’re just not showing us, or did they test something else?” Zwirko said.

The U.S.-based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) concluded that some of the North Korean footage is most likely from a test on the morning of March 16 that South Korea said failed shortly after launch, exploding in midair over Pyongyang. North Korea never acknowledged that launch or a failure.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency has cited unnamed sources who said intelligence officials in Seoul and Washington believed that North Korea then tested a Hwasong-15 ICBM on Thursday, an older and slightly smaller type it had last launched in late 2017.

South Korea’s defense ministry has not confirmed that conclusion. On Friday, a senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, deflected when asked whether the latest launch was really the new missile.

“We know this is a test of a long-range ballistic missile and clearly they try to learn from each of these tests to try to develop their capability further,” the official said. “But I am going to refrain from talking about it too specifically as we’re still analyzing our own intelligence on it.”

North Korea has a history of doctoring footage or reusing old images, but it would be “a whole new level” if they were lying about the successful test of a major new weapon such as the Hwasong-17, Zwirko said. North Korea has not responded to any outside reports that the launch may have been deceptive.

“I think it’s likely that the March 16 launch was meant to have been the inaugural launch of the Hwasong-17, but it failed shortly after ignition,” said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “This left the North Koreans with sufficient video footage and imagery to build a propaganda narrative after the March 24 launch succeeded.”

The March 24 missile may have featured a light payload, or none at all, to achieve a higher altitude and longer flight time than the 2017 Hwasong-15 test, he added.

“The North Korean state media report included specific numbers on how high and far the missile flew, suggesting that there was an intent to engineer a launch that would look like a larger missile than the Hwasong-15, even if it wasn’t,” Panda said.

Hong Min, director of North Korean Research Division of Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said no matter which ICBM was tested, North Korea has proved it can launch missiles that can strike the far side of the planet.

“We will need to check thoroughly if the video was fabricated, but it’s not like the threat is reduced at all,” Hong said.

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Reporting by Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington and Heejung Jung in Seoul. Editing by Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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