Central bankers around the world are lifting interest rates at an aggressive clip as rapid inflation persists and seeps into a broad array of goods and services, setting the global economy up for a lurch toward more expensive credit, lower stock and bond values and — potentially — a sharp pullback in economic activity.
It’s a moment unlike anything the international community has experienced in decades, as countries around the world try to bring rapid price increases under control before they become a more lasting part of the economy.
Inflation has surged across many advanced and developing economies since early 2021 as strong demand for goods collided with shortages brought on by the pandemic. Central banks spent months hoping that economies would reopen and shipping routes would unclog, easing supply constraints, and that consumer spending would return to normal. That hasn’t happened, and the war in Ukraine has only intensified the situation by disrupting oil and food supplies, pushing prices even higher.
is expected to make its first rate increase since 2011, one that officials have signaled will most likely be only a quarter point but will probably be followed by a larger move in September.
Other central banks have begun moving more aggressively already, with officials from Canada to the Philippines picking up the pace of rate increases in recent weeks amid fears that consumers and investors are beginning to expect steadily higher prices — a shift that could make inflation a more permanent feature of the economic backdrop. Federal Reserve officials have also hastened their response. They lifted borrowing costs in June by the most since 1994 and suggested that an even bigger move is possible, though several in recent days have suggested that speeding up again is not their preferred plan for the upcoming July meeting and that a second three-quarter-point increase is most likely.
As interest rates jump around the world, making money that has been cheap for years more expensive to borrow, they are stoking fears among investors that the global economy could slow sharply — and that some countries could find themselves plunged into painful recessions. Commodity prices, some of which can serve as a barometer of expected consumer demand and global economic health, have dropped as investors grow jittery. International economic officials have warned that the path ahead could prove bumpy as central banks adjust policy and as the war in Ukraine heightens uncertainty.
blog post on Wednesday. Ms. Georgieva argued that central banks need to react to inflation, saying that “acting now will hurt less than acting later.”
rising consumer prices and declining spending, the American economy is showing clear signs of slowing down, fueling concerns about a potential recession. Here are other eight measures signaling trouble ahead:
Consumer confidence. In June, the University of Michigan’s survey of consumer sentiment hit its lowest level in its 70-year history, with nearly half of respondents saying inflation is eroding their standard of living.
The housing market. Demand for real estate has decreased, and construction of new homes is slowing. These trends could continue as interest rates rise, and real estate companies, including Compass and Redfin, have laid off employees in anticipation of a downturn in the housing market.
Copper. A commodity seen by analysts as a measure of sentiment about the global economy — because of its widespread use in buildings, cars and other products — copper is down more than 20 percent since January, hitting a 17-month low on July 1.
Oil. Crude prices are up this year, in part because of supply constraints resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but they have recently started to waver as investors worry about growth.
The bond market. Long-term interest rates in government bonds have fallen below short-term rates, an unusual occurrence that traders call a yield-curve inversion. It suggests that bond investors are expecting an economic slowdown.
In recent years, emerging markets have often raised interest rates in anticipation of the Fed’s slow and steady moves to avoid big swings in their currency values, which depend partly on interest rate differences across borders. But this set of rate increases is different: Inflation is running at its fastest pace in decades in many places, and a range of developed-economy central banks, including the European Central Bank, the Swiss National Bank, the Bank of Canada and the Reserve Bank of Australia, are joining — or may join — the Fed in pushing rates quickly higher.
“It’s not something we’ve seen in the last few decades,” said Bruce Kasman, chief economist and head of global economic research at JPMorgan Chase.
The last time so many major nations abruptly raised rates in tandem to fight such rapid inflation was in the 1980s, when the contours of global central banking were different: The 19-country euro currency bloc that the E.C.B. sets policy for did not exist yet, and global financial markets were less developed.
That so many central banks are now facing off against rapid inflation — and trying to control it by slowing their economies — increases the chance for market turmoil as an era of very low rates ends and as nations and companies try to adjust to changing capital flows. Those changing flows can influence whether countries and businesses are able to sell debt and other securities to raise money.
“Financial conditions have tightened due to rising, broad-based inflationary pressures, geopolitical uncertainty brought on by Russia’s war against Ukraine, and a slowdown in global growth,” Janet L. Yellen, the U.S. Treasury secretary, said in speech last week. “Now, portfolio investment is beginning to flow out of emerging markets.”
fastest pace since 1983. In the United Kingdom, it is similarly at a 40-year-high.
kick off rate increases back in December and has been steadily raising rates since. Policymakers are increasingly worried about inflation creating a cost-of-living crisis in Britain and worry that higher rates could compound economic pain. At the same time, they have signaled that they could act more forcefully, taking their cue from their global peers. There is a “willingness — should circumstances require — to adopt a faster pace of tightening,” Huw Pill, the chief economist of the Bank of England, said this month.
Understand Inflation and How It Impacts You
“Many central banks are looking at this as a sort of existential question about getting inflation and inflation expectations down,” said Matthew Luzzetti, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank.
The Fed raised rates by a quarter point in March, half a point in May, and three-quarters of a percentage point in June. While its officials have predicted that they will maintain that pace in July, they have also been clear that an even bigger rate increase is possible.
“Inflation has to be our focus, every meeting and every day,” Christopher Waller, a Fed governor, said during a speech last week. “The spending and pricing decisions people and businesses make every day depend on their expectations of future inflation, which in turn depend on whether they believe the Fed is sufficiently committed to its inflation target.”
The Bank of Canada has already gone for a full percentage point move, surprising investors last week with its largest move since 1998, while warning of more to come.
said in a statement.
of other central banks have made big moves. More action is coming. Central banks around the world have been clear that they expect to keep moving borrowing costs higher into the autumn.
“I wouldn’t say we’re at peak tightening quite yet,” said Brendan McKenna, an economist at Wells Fargo. “We could go even more aggressive from here.”
A key question is what that will mean for the global economy. The World Bank in June projected in a report that global growth would slow sharply this year but remain positive. Still, there is “considerable” risk of a situation in which growth stagnates and inflation remains high, David Malpass, head of the World Bank, wrote.
If inflation does become entrenched, or even show signs of shifting expectations, central banks may have to respond even more aggressively than they are now, intentionally crushing growth.
Mr. Kasman said the open question, when it comes to the Fed, is: “How far have they gone toward the conclusion that they need to kick us in the teeth, here?”
HAILEY, Idaho — Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, flies in a Gulfstream G650. So do Jeff Bezos and Dan Schulman, PayPal’s chief executive. The jets, roughly 470 of which are in operation, retail for about $75 million each.
Most days, those planes are spread out, ferrying captains of industry to meetings around the globe. But for one week in July, some of them converge on a single 100-foot-wide asphalt runway beside the jagged hills of Idaho’s Wood River Valley.
The occasion is the annual Sun Valley conference, a shoulder-rubbing bonanza organized by the secretive investment bank Allen & Company. Known as “summer camp for billionaires,” the conference kicks off this year on Tuesday, and it draws industry titans and their families — some of whom are watched over by local babysitters bound by nondisclosure agreements. In between organized hikes and fly-fishing at past gatherings, there have been sessions on creativity, climate change and immigration reform.
the ninth hole of the golf course, the head of General Electric expressed interest in selling NBC to Comcast. It is where Mr. Bezos met with the owner of The Washington Post before agreeing to buy the paper, and where Disney pursued a plan to purchase ABC — with Warren Buffett at the center of the discussions.
a year-round population of 1,800.
During a 24-hour period last year as the conference began, more than 300 flights passed through Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey, a small town near Sun Valley, according to data from Flightradar24, an industry data firm. They ranged from tiny propeller planes to long-wing commercial jets. By comparison, two weeks ago, when Mr. Pomeroy gave me a brief tour of the airport, just 44 flights took off or landed there over 24 hours, according to the data firm.
“This is empty right now,” Mr. Pomeroy said, smoothly steering his white 2014 Ford Explorer (what he calls his “mobile command center”) past a swath of freshly paved asphalt. “But in the summer, and during the event in particular, there’s airplanes parked everywhere up here.”
Much like the activities of the conference, elements of the travel there are shrouded in secrecy. Many jets flying in are registered to obscure owners and limited liability companies, some with only winking references to their passengers. The jet that carried Mr. Kraft last year, for example, is registered under “Airkraft One Trust,” according to records from the Federal Aviation Administration. The plane that Mr. Bezos flew in on is registered to Poplar Glen, a Seattle firm.
Representatives for Mr. Kraft and Mr. Bezos declined to comment. Mr. Bezos is not expected to turn up at Sun Valley this year, according to an advance list of guests that was obtained by The New York Times.
Mr. Pomeroy plans well in advance to deal with the intense air traffic generated by the conference, which he refers to obliquely as “the annual fly-in event.” Without proper organization, flocks of private jets could stack up in the airspace around Friedman, creating delays and diversions while pilots burn precious fuel.
That was the case for the 2016 conference, which coincided with Mr. Pomeroy’s first week on the job. That year, some aircraft circled overhead or sat on the tarmac for more than an hour and a half, waiting for the airspace and runway to clear.
“I saw airplanes literally lined up to take off from the north end of the field almost all the way down to the south end of the field,” Mr. Pomeroy said, referring to the 7,550-foot runway. “Tail to nose, all the way up the taxiway.”
After that episode, Mr. Pomeroy enlisted Greg Dyer, a former district manager at the F.A.A., to help unclutter the tarmac. The two coordinated with an F.A.A. hub in Salt Lake City to line up flights, sometimes 300 to 500 miles outside Sun Valley. For some flights, the staging begins before the planes take off.
“Before, it looked like an attack — it was just airplanes coming from all points of the compass, all trying to get here at the same time,” said Mr. Dyer, an airport consultant for Jviation-Woolpert.
Last year, delays were kept to a maximum of 20 minutes, and no commercial travelers missed connecting flights because of air traffic caused by the conference, Mr. Pomeroy said.
When moguls are forced to circle in the air, they often loiter in great style. Buyers willing to shell out tens of millions for a high-end private plane are unlikely to balk at an additional $650,000 to outfit the aircraft with Wi-Fi, said Lee Mindel, one of the founders of SheltonMindel, an architectural firm that has designed the interiors of Gulfstream and Bombardier private jets. Some owners, he said, have opted for bespoke flatware from Muriel Grateau in Paris, V’Soske rugs or other luxe features.
“If you have to ask what it costs, you really can’t afford to do it,” Mr. Mindel said.
During the pandemic, when commercial travel slowed because of restrictions, corporate jaunts increased among a subset of executives who didn’t want to be held back, said David Yermack, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He added that it might be cheaper in the long run to compensate chief executives with jet travel than pay them with cash.
“I think it was Napoleon who said, ‘When I realized people would lay down their lives for little pieces of colored ribbon, I knew I could conquer the world,’” Mr. Yermack said.
The glut of flights certainly raises practical concerns. The residents of Hailey, as well as nearby Ketchum and Sun Valley, have complained in the past about the noise created by the jets zooming into Friedman Memorial Airport.
To deal with the complaints, Mr. Pomeroy and the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority curtailed flights between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. and limited the number of takeoffs and landings from the north, over the little city of Hailey.
Before the conference, Mr. Pomeroy sends a letter to incoming pilots about what to expect, admonishing them to keep the noise to a minimum.
“While the overwhelming majority of users during this event are respectful of our program and community, only a few operators who blatantly disregard our program, or who are negligent in educating themselves about our program, leave a negative impression on all of us,” Mr. Pomeroy wrote this year.
Allen & Company’s stinginess about some conference details extends to the airport. But Mr. Pomeroy and his team get enough information to conclude when the moguls will arrive and are about to leave town.
When the schmoozing is over next week, Mr. Pomeroy will begin the arduous task of ushering the corporate titans out of Idaho. Often that means closing the airport briefly to arrivals while they hustle out departures for an hour.
As the last jets get ready to leave, Mr. Pomeroy said, he and his team breathe a sigh of relief.
“Afterward, I am ready to hit the river for some serious fly-fishing for a day or two,” he said.
KRAMATORSK, Ukraine — Just to enter Sievierodonetsk, Ukrainian soldiers run a gantlet of Russian artillery shells zeroed in on the only access route: a bridge littered with the burned husks of cars and trucks that didn’t make it.
And once inside the city in eastern Ukraine, the focus of both armies for the past several weeks, Ukrainian soldiers battle Russians in back-and forth combat for control of deserted, destroyed neighborhoods.
Ukraine’s leaders now face a key strategic decision: whether to withdraw from the midsize city and take up more defensible positions, or to remain and risk being boxed in if the bridge is blown up. It reflects the choices the country has had to make since the Russian invasion began, between giving ground to avert death and destruction in the short term, and holding out against long odds in hopes it will later pay off.
In Sievierodonetsk, that calculation has taken on significance beyond the city’s limited military importance. In remarks to journalists on Monday, President Volodymyr Zelensky referred to Sievierodonetsk and its neighbor across the river, Lysychansk, as “dead cities” ravaged by Russian attacks and nearly empty of civilians.
And yet he insisted there was a compelling reason to stay and fight: Ukraine’s position throughout the war has been that it intends to hold onto its sovereign territory, and not yield it to Moscow.
Retreating now to better positions on higher ground across the Seversky Donets River, and then fighting to retake the city later, he said, would be harder and carry a higher price in bloodshed than holding on.
“It will be very costly for you to return, in terms of the number of people killed, the number of losses,” Mr. Zelensky said.
“Our heroes are not giving up positions in Sievierodonetsk,” he added. “Fierce urban combat continues in the city.”
It was a rare public rumination by Mr. Zelensky on strategic decision-making in the war, providing a window into the goals of his government and its military. Sievierodonetsk is the last major city in the breakaway region of Luhansk that the Russians have not taken; capturing it would give them near-total control of that enclave.
There are other factors as well. Falling back could be demoralizing to Ukraine’s forces. And some Ukrainian soldiers said it is worth drawing out the phase of urban combat to inflict more casualties on the already depleted Russian forces, and possibly damage their morale.
It was also possible Mr. Zelensky was aiding the military with misdirection by signaling one intention while quietly pursuing an opposite course of action.
The government has not said how many military casualties Ukraine has suffered overall since the Russian leader Vladimir V. Putin ordered the invasion in February. But Mr. Zelensky said last week that in the recent, intense fighting, each day his country was losing 60 to 100 soldiers killed and 500 wounded. Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, said Tuesday that 6,489 Ukrainian service members had been captured.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry this week estimated civilian casualties at 40,000 killed or wounded, though some government officials say the true figures are higher. Ukrainian officials said Tuesday that ruptured sewer and water pipes in the southern city of Mariupol, seized by Russia after a devastating siege, have created a risk of severe disease outbreaks that would raise the civilian toll.
The battle for Sievierodonetsk, part of Luhansk and the broader Donbas region in the east, has raged now for weeks, and some Ukrainian soldiers have questioned why the army has not ordered a tactical retreat.
“They are killing a lot of our guys,” said a soldier who asked to be identified only by his nickname, Kubik, interviewed last week while smoking beside a road in the town of Siversk, a staging area to the west of the fighting. He had recently rotated away from positions near Sievierodonetsk.
“Let them come forward a little bit, let them think they have captured the town, and then we will meet them beautifully” from the more advantageous position, he said.
The city lies on the mostly flat, eastern bank of the Seversky Donets. The western bank, in contrast, rises in a prominent hill that provides commanding views and firing positions.
Earlier in the war, Ukrainian soldiers were surrounded in Mariupol and fought for weeks, eventually retreating to hold just a tiny pocket of ground in a steel factory complex where they sheltered in bunkers, before Mr. Zelensky ordered the holdouts to surrender rather than be killed.
Ukrainian commanders decided to avert a smaller-scale version of that siege earlier this week in Sviatohirsk, a town lying on the low bank of the Seversky Donets.
Trying to trap Ukrainian troops in the town, Russian forces had been firing artillery at their only remaining route across the river, a bridge near an Orthodox monastery that was also frequently hit. On Monday, the Ukrainian army pulled back, blew up the bridge and took up positions on the river’s high bank, Ukrainian officials said.
Sievierodonetsk was once a sleepy, provincial backwater of about 100,000 residents, with streets lined with poplar trees and a skyline dominated by smokestacks of a fertilizer factory.
Now it is a largely abandoned ruin where battle lines sway often, with each side at times claiming to have expelled the other from part of the city. On Tuesday, Serhiy Haidai, the Ukrainian military governor of the Luhansk region, said Russian forces were again storming positions. “Combat continues,” he said.
Russian artillery fire into the potential fallback position on the high bank, where Lysychansk lies, has also been ferocious. Shelling hit a market, a mining academy and a school, Mr. Haidai said. The strike on the market touched off a fire that burned through the day Monday. Two civilians were wounded.
The Ukrainian government has been emphasizing the tenuousness of its positions in the battle for Donbas, the mining and farming region now mostly controlled by Russian forces.
The pivotal access bridge to Sievierodonetsk is a panorama of destruction, testifying to the difficulty and risk to Ukraine in holding even some portion of the city.
A video recorded by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reporters who entered on a resupply run last week showed the mayhem on the span: crossing it meant weaving between the burned husks of cars and shell craters in the bridge deck.
The debris has piled up over the past two weeks. In an interview in late May, a soldier at a sandbagged checkpoint at the western edge of the bridge cautioned that Russian artillery spotters had the span — clear of debris at the time — under observation and opened fire whenever a car drove over. Two other bridges into the city were destroyed earlier in May.
Mr. Haidai has justified Ukraine’s efforts to hold Sievierodonetsk as partly a matter of symbolic resistance.
“Strategically, the city of Sievierodonetsk is not of great importance,” he said over the weekend. The high opposite riverbank is more significant militarily, he said. “But politically, Sievierodonetsk is a regional center. Its liberation will lift our morale substantially and demoralize the Russians.”
Still, Mr. Zelensky said he was open to reconsidering his decision based on developments. Either command — to hold ground or to retreat — had potential downsides, he said.
“In the first option there is risk, in the second option there is risk,” he said.
Women, children and elderly evacuated, deputy PM says
Not clear if other civilians remain
Russian forces try to storm Azovstal, Ukraine military says
CIA director says Putin ‘doubling down’ on conflict
WHO documents 200 attacks on healthcare facilities in Ukraine
KYIV, May 7 (Reuters) – All women, children and elderly civilians have been evacuated from the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said on Saturday, after a week-long effort rescued hundreds of people during an ongoing Russian assault at the plant.
“This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation is over,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
The Soviet-era steel mill, the last holdout in Mariupol for Ukrainian forces, has become a symbol of resistance to the Russian effort to capture swathes of eastern and southern Ukraine in the 10-week-old war.
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Under heavy bombardment, fighters and civilians have been trapped for weeks in deep bunkers and tunnels criss-crossing the site, with little food, water or medicine.
Russian forces backed by tanks and artillery tried again on Saturday to storm Azovstal, seeking to dislodge the last Ukrainian defenders in the strategic port city on the Azov Sea, Ukraine’s military command said.
Weeks of Russian bombardment have left Mariupol in ruins. The steel mill has been largely destroyed. During pauses in fighting, evacuations of civilians began last weekend, brokered by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a late night address that more than 300 civilians had been rescued from the plant. Authorities would now focus on evacuating the wounded and medics, and helping residents elsewhere in Mariupol and surrounding settlements to safety, he said.
Russian-backed separatists have also reported a total of 176 civilians evacuated from the plant. It was not clear if civilian men were still there.
Ukrainian fighters in the plant have vowed not to surrender. It was unclear how many remained, and Ukrainian officials fear Russian forces want to wipe them out by Monday, when Moscow commemorates the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two. read more
In Washington, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns said Russian President Vladimir Putin is convinced “doubling down” on the conflict will improve the outcome for Russia.
“He’s in a frame of mind in which he doesn’t believe he can afford to lose,” Burns said at a Financial Times event.
Putin declared victory in Mariupol on April 21, ordered the plant sealed off and called for Ukrainian forces inside to disarm. Russia later resumed its assault. read more
Moscow calls its actions since Feb. 24 a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Ukraine and the West say Russia launched an unprovoked war.
In Kyiv on Saturday, the World Health Organization said it had documented 200 attacks on healthcare facilities in Ukraine, the latest allegations of war crimes by Russian forces. Russia has denied attacking civilian targets. read more
Mariupol, which lies between the Crimean Peninsula seized by Moscow in 2014 and parts of eastern Ukraine taken by Russia-backed separatists that year, is key to linking the two Russian-held territories and blocking Ukrainian exports.
A service member of pro-Russian troops stands in front of people, who were evacuated from Mariupol in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict, outside a bus near a temporary accommodation centre in the village of Bezimenne in the Donetsk region, Ukraine May 7, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
Ukraine’s general staff said Russia’s offensive in eastern Ukraine aimed to establish full control over the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and maintain the land corridor between these territories and Crimea.
Ukrainian armed forces fighting in the two eastern regions controlled by Russian-speaking separatists said in a Facebook post they fought off nine enemy attacks on Saturday, destroying 19 tanks and 24 other armoured vehicles as well as downing a helicopter.
Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russia dropped a bomb on a school in the village of Bilohorivka, where about 90 people were sheltering. Around 30 have been rescued so far, he said on Facebook.
The Russian defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the alleged bombing.
Zelenskiy in his address expressed outrage over Russian shelling overnight that destroyed a museum dedicated to the 18th century philosopher and poet Hryhoriy Skovoroda in the village of Skovorodynivka near Kharkiv. read more
Other Russian attacks near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second biggest city, blew up three road bridges to slow counter-offensive actions, the Ukrainian military’s general staff said.
Russia’s defence ministry said it destroyed a large stockpile of military equipment from the United States and European countries near the Bohodukhiv railway station in the Kharkiv region.
Russian forces hit 18 Ukrainian military facilities overnight, including three ammunition depots in Dachne, near the southern port city of Odesa, the ministry said.
Reuters could not independently verify either side’s statements about battlefield events.
Russia’s lower house of parliament speaker Vyacheslav Volodin accused Washington of coordinating military operations in Ukraine, which he said amounted to direct U.S. involvement in military action against Russia. read more
U.S. officials have said the United States has provided intelligence to Ukraine to help counter the Russian assault, but have denied this intelligence includes precise targeting data.
Washington and European members of the transatlantic NATO alliance have supplied Kyiv with heavy weapons, but say they will not take part in the fighting.
A senior Russian commander said last month Russia planned to take full control of southern Ukraine to improve Russian access to Transdniestria, a breakaway region of Moldova.
Pro-Russian separatists in Moldova said Transdniestria was hit four times by suspected drones overnight near the Ukrainian border. read more
Ukraine has repeatedly denied any blame for the incidents, saying it believes Russia is staging the attacks to provoke war. Moscow, too, has denied blame. read more
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Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Reuters bureaus; additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Writing by William Maclean, Frank Jack Daniel and Simon Lewis
Editing by William Mallard, Frances Kerry and David Gregorio
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
WASHINGTON — President Biden signaled a vast increase in America’s commitment to defeating Russia in Ukraine on Thursday as he asked Congress to authorize $33 billion for more artillery, antitank weapons and other hardware as well as economic and humanitarian aid.
The request represented an extraordinary escalation in American investment in the war, more than tripling the total emergency expenditures and putting the United States on track to spend as much this year helping the Ukrainians as it did on average each year fighting its own war in Afghanistan, or more.
“The cost of this fight is not cheap,” Mr. Biden said at the White House. “But caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen. We either back the Ukrainian people as they defend their country or we stand by as the Russians continue their atrocities and aggression in Ukraine.”
Mr. Biden also sent Congress a plan to increase the government’s power to seize luxury yachts, aircraft, bank accounts and other assets of Russian oligarchs tied to President Vladimir V. Putin and use the proceeds to help the Ukrainians. Just hours later, Congress passed legislation allowing Mr. Biden to use a World War II-era law to supply weapons to Ukraine on loan quickly.
The latest American pledge came as Moscow raised the prospect of a widening conflict with the West. Russian officials accused the United States and Poland of working together on a covert plan to establish control over western Ukraine and asserted that the West was encouraging Ukraine to launch strikes inside Russia, where gas depots and a missile factory have burned or been attacked in recent days.
A Russian missile strike setting off a fiery explosion in central Kyiv shattered weeks of calm in the capital and served as a vivid reminder that the violence in Ukraine has not shifted exclusively to the eastern and southern portions of the country, where Russia is now focusing its efforts to seize and control territory. Russian forces are making “slow and uneven” progress in that part of Ukraine but are struggling to overcome the same supply line problems that hampered their initial offensive, the Pentagon said.
The strike came on the same day that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was meeting with António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, just a few miles away in Kyiv, a visit that was no secret in Moscow. Mr. Guterres arrived in Ukraine, after sitting down with Mr. Putin in Moscow, in hopes of securing evacuation routes for besieged Ukrainian civilians and support for the prosecution of war crimes.
In the hours before the latest strike, Mr. Guterres toured the stunning wreckage in Borodianka, Bucha and Irpin, three suburbs of Kyiv that have borne the heavy cost of the fighting. Standing in front of a row of scorched buildings where dozens of people were killed, he called Russia’s invasion “an absurdity” and said, “There is no way a war can be acceptable in the 21st century.”
In his nightly address, Mr. Zelensky condemned the strike, saying it revealed Russia’s “true attitude to global institutions” and was an effort to “humiliate the U.N.” He vowed a “strong response” to that and other Russian attacks. “We still have to drive the occupiers out,” he said.
Just as the United States was ramping up its flow of arms to the battlefield, the German Parliament voted overwhelmingly to deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine, a largely symbolic move to show unity after the government announced the plan earlier this week.
A day after Russia cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said his country must be prepared for the possibility that Germany could be next. “We have to be ready for it,” Mr. Scholz told reporters in Tokyo, where he paid Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan a visit to shore up ties between the two countries.
Russian strikes and Ukrainian counterattacks continued to batter eastern and southern battlegrounds in Ukraine, but Russian troops are advancing cautiously in this latest phase, able to sustain only several kilometers of progress each day, according to a Pentagon official speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational details.
Despite having much shorter supply lines now than they did during the war’s first several weeks in Ukraine’s north, the Russians have not overcome their logistics problem, the Pentagon official said, citing slow shipments of food, fuel, weapons and ammunition.
Moscow now has 92 battalion groups fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine — up from 85 a week ago, but still well below the 125 it had in the first phase of the war, the official said. Each battalion group has about 700 to 1,000 troops.
Russia has amassed artillery to support its troops near the city of Izium, according to the latest assessment by the Institute for the Study of War, a research group. Russian forces have used the city as a strategic staging point for their assault in the east and probably seek to outflank Ukrainian defensive positions, the analysts said.
Since Wednesday, Russian troops have captured several villages west of the city, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, with the likely aim of bypassing Ukrainian forces on two parallel roads running south, toward the cities of Barvinkove and Sloviansk.
A senior American diplomat accused Russia of engaging in systematic campaigns to topple local governments in occupied Ukraine and to detain and torture local officials, journalists and activists in so-called “filtration camps,” where some of them have reportedly disappeared.
The diplomat, Michael R. Carpenter, the American ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said the United States has information that Russia is dissolving democratically elected local governments and has forced large numbers of civilians in occupied areas into camps for questioning.
The Ukrainian military said it was moving more troops to the border with Transnistria, a small breakaway region in Moldova, on Ukraine’s southwest flank, hundreds of miles from the fighting on the eastern front.
Ukraine ordered the reinforcements after it accused Russia this week of orchestrating a series of explosions in Transnistria, potentially as a pretext to attack Ukraine from the south and move on Odesa, Ukraine’s major Black Sea port. Russia has thousands of troops in Transnistria, which is controlled by Kremlin-backed separatists.
Russia sought to turn the tables by accusing Ukraine and its allies of being the ones to widen the war, citing the supposed secret Polish-American plan to control western Ukraine and the recent attacks on targets inside Russia. Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, urged Kyiv and Western capitals to take seriously Russia’s statements “that further calls on Ukraine to strike Russian facilities would definitely lead to a tough response from Russia.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Mr. Zelensky, said Ukraine had a right to strike Russian military facilities and “will defend itself in any way.” Britain’s defense minister, Ben Wallace, also said Ukraine would be justified in using Western arms to attack military targets inside Russia, as he warned that the war could turn into a “slow-moving, frozen occupation, like a sort of cancerous growth in Ukraine.”
Speaking at the White House, Mr. Biden rejected Russian suggestions that the United States was waging a proxy war against Moscow. “It shows the desperation that Russia is feeling about their abject failure in being able to do what they set out to do in the first instance,” Mr. Biden said.
He likewise condemned Russian officials’ raising the specter of nuclear war. “No one should be making idle comments about the use of nuclear weapons or the possibility that they could use that,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s irresponsible.”
The massive aid package Mr. Biden unveiled on Thursday would eclipse all the spending by the United States so far on the war. There is widespread bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for more aid, but it remained uncertain whether the issue could get tied up in negotiations over ancillary issues like pandemic relief or immigration.
The request, more than twice the size of the $13.6 billion package lawmakers approved and Mr. Biden signed last month, was intended to last through the end of September, underscoring the expectations of a prolonged conflict.
It includes more than $20 billion for security and military assistance, including $11.4 billion to fund equipment and replenish stocks already provided to Ukraine, $2.6 billion to support the deployment of American troops and equipment to the region to safeguard NATO allies and $1.9 billion for cybersecurity and intelligence support.
The request also includes $8.5 billion in economic assistance for the government in Kyiv to provide basic economic support, including food and health care services, as the Ukrainian economy reels from the toll of the war. An additional $3 billion would be provided for humanitarian assistance and food security funding, including medical supplies and support for Ukrainian refugees and to help stem the impact of the disrupted food supply chain.
When combined with the previous emergency measure, the United States would be authorizing $46.6 billion for the Ukraine war, which represents more than two-thirds of Russia’s entire annual defense budget of $65.9 billion. Mr. Biden said he expected European allies to contribute more as well.
By comparison, the Pentagon last year estimated that the total war-fighting costs in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 at $816 billion, or about $40.8 billion a year. (That did not count non-Defense Department expenditures, and private studies have put the total cost higher.)
Without waiting for the latest aid plan, Congress moved on Thursday to make it easier for Mr. Biden to funnel more arms to Ukraine right away. The House voted 417 to 10 to invoke the Lend-Lease Act of 1941 to authorize Mr. Biden to speed military supplies to Ukraine. The Senate passed the legislation unanimously earlier this month, meaning it now moves to Mr. Biden’s desk for his signature.
The original act, proposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, authorized the president to lease or lend military equipment to any foreign government “whose defense the president deems vital to the defense of the United States” and was used originally to aid Britain and later the Soviet Union in their battle against Nazi Germany.
“Passage of that act enabled Great Britain and Winston Churchill to keep fighting and to survive the fascist Nazi bombardment until the United States could enter the war,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland. “President Zelensky has said that Ukraine needs weapons to sustain themselves, and President Biden has answered that call.”
The legislation targeting oligarchs would streamline ongoing efforts to find and confiscate bank accounts, property and other assets from the Russian moguls.
Among other things, it would create a new criminal offense for possessing proceeds from corrupt dealings with the Russian government. It would also add the crime of evading sanctions to the definition of “racketeering activity” in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO.
Reporting was contributed by Marc Santora from Krakow, Poland; Jeffrey Gettleman and Maria Varenikova from Kyiv, Ukraine; Emily Cochrane, Catie Edmondson, Eric Schmitt and Michael D. Shear from Washington; Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia; Shashank Bengali and Matthew Mpoke Bigg from London; and Farnaz Fassihi from New York.
BRUSSELS — Reverberations from the Ukraine war widened on Wednesday, jolting energy markets and spilling across borders, as Russia responded to the West’s escalating arms shipments and economic penalties by halting gas supplies to two European nations and threatening further unspecified retaliation.
The European Union’s top official described as “blackmail” the announcement that Russia was suspending shipments of natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria. Though the immediate impact was likely to be limited, the cutoff was the Kremlin’s toughest retaliation yet against a U.S.-led alliance that President Vladimir V. Putin has accused of waging a proxy war aimed at weakening Russia.
Even as news of a U.S.-Russia prisoner exchange offered a glimmer of hope for diplomatic engagement, Mr. Putin warned that he would order more “counterstrikes” against any adversaries that “create threats of a strategic nature unacceptable to Russia.”
At the same time, a series of explosions across Ukraine’s borders stoked fears that the war, now in its third month, might spread. Blasts were reported in three Russian districts on Wednesday morning, and suspicion fell on Ukrainian forces, which are benefiting from increasingly sophisticated weapons and intelligence from the United States and its allies.
Those blasts came a day after explosions shook Transnistria, a pro-Russian breakaway region of Moldova, on Ukraine’s southwestern flank. Some analysts — and Ukrainian and Moldovan officials — said it was likely that Russia, which has thousands of troops in Transnistria, had orchestrated the explosions to create a pretext to invade Ukraine from that direction.
Taken together, the developments raised the risk of worse to come.
“What’s the ‘so what’ of this escalatory cycle? Further escalation becomes more likely as animosity builds,” said Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting organization. “The chance that Russia hits a staging facility in Poland goes up. The risk that NATO supplies aircraft to Ukraine goes up. Ukraine could strike bigger targets in Russia. Moscow could cut gas to more European nations.”
Economists warned that Europe could face a sharp slowdown of growth if the cutoff of sales by Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned gas company, spreads — or if Europe imposes an embargo on Russian gas. European natural gas prices surged as much as 28 percent on Wednesday and the euro’s value fell below $1.06 for the first time in five years on rising concerns about energy security and a slowdown in European growth. The currency has fallen nearly 4 percent against the U.S. dollar in April alone.
Gazprom’s stated reason for halting gas deliveries was the refusal by Poland and Bulgaria to pay in rubles, a new requirement Russia announced last month, despite the fact that its foreign contracts generally call for payment in dollars or euros. Most European buyers have not complied, which would subvert European Union financial sanctions imposed on Russia after the Ukraine invasion and help prop up the battered ruble.
The European Union had been preparing for the possibility that Russia might halt natural gas deliveries, said Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president. Nonetheless, she told a news conference, the Russian move was an attempt “to use gas as an instrument of blackmail.”
Poland and Bulgaria will quickly receive gas supplies from neighboring E.U. countries to compensate for the loss of Russian gas, she said, declaring that “the era of Russian fossil fuels in Europe is coming to an end.”
Both Poland and Bulgaria said the Russian cutoff would have little impact. In Poland, where electricity is largely generated with coal, not gas, the government sought to assuage any public fears. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki assured Poles that gas storage tanks were three-quarters full — much higher than in other countries.
And if the Kremlin’s plan was to intimidate Poland and Bulgaria with a future of unheated homes and cold meals in the hope of fracturing Western unity to aid Ukraine, it may have miscalculated. On a sunny spring day in Warsaw, the Polish capital, many people reacted with shrugs to the news — mixed with disbelief that anyone would ever view Russia as a trustworthy supplier.
“We have nothing to worry about if the weather stays like this,” said Joanna Gres, a ballet dancer with a troupe attached to the Polish military.
Bulgaria, too, has sufficient gas supplies for the next month, Alexander Nikolov, the energy minister, told Bulgarian news media, vowing that the country would “not negotiate under pressure and with its head bowed. ”
A top German official said the flow of Russian gas to Germany, Russia’s biggest energy customer, remained steady, while adding that the country could live off existing reserves until at least next winter.
Russia announced the cutoff a day after 40 U.S.-led allies met at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany and pledged to provide Ukraine with long-term military aid, following a weekend visit to the country by top Biden administration officials who said they want to see Russia not only defeated but degraded militarily.
That toughened American message is viewed by Mr. Putin and his subordinates as validation of their argument that the Ukraine war is really about the American desire to weaken Russia, and they are indirectly at war with NATO.
Despite fears of a broadened war, there was also a small measure of cooperation on Wednesday between Russia and the United States, which announced a prisoner swap.
They confirmed that Trevor R. Reed, a former Marine convicted on charges that his family said were bogus, had been freed, an unexpected diplomatic success. Mr. Reed, first detained in 2019, was released in exchange for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot sentenced to a lengthy term in the United States on cocaine-trafficking charges.
Other Americans remain in detention in Russia, including Paul Whelan, who was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison on espionage charges during a trial that was closed to the public; and Brittney Griner, a basketball star arrested in mid-February on drug charges that could carry a sentence of up to 10 years.
Neither the American nor Russian sides gave any indication that the exchange signaled a broader diplomatic effort to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis.
Ukraine appeared to have attempted to strike deeper into Russian territory overnight, although officials on both sides were vague about the details. Three local governors described drone flights and explosions as attacks.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a close adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, also described the explosions inside Russia as attacks on sites that Russia had used to launch the invasion, but he attributed them to “karma” — not the Ukrainian military.
As described by the three Russian governors and Russian media, an ammunition depot was set afire near Belgorod, a city less than 20 miles from the border, two explosions were reported in Voronezh, nearly 200 miles from the border, and a Ukrainian drone was shot down over Kursk, about 70 miles from the border. If Ukraine was responsible, the attacks in Kursk and Voronezh would be the deepest inside Russia since the Feb. 24 invasion.
In Moscow, Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary for Mr. Putin’s security council, urged Russian officials across a wide swath of the southwestern region near Ukraine to ensure emergency alerts and civil defense facilities were “working reliably.”
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry has generally declined to discuss reports of attacks on Russian soil. Ukrainian officials have, for example, declined to comment on Russia’s claim that two Ukrainian helicopters fired on an oil depot in Belgorod in early April. In more than two months of war, the fighting has largely been contained within Ukraine’s borders.
Over the past few weeks Russian forces have concentrated on a full-scale assault in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, where analysts say Russia is making slow and measured advances on the ground as it confronts entrenched Ukrainian troops.
The pace of Russia’s ground assault appears more planned and deliberate than the initial invasion in February, which aimed at seizing more Ukrainian territory and depended on swift advances of tanks — a strategy that failed, at great cost to Russian forces.
Military analysts with the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington research group, said in their Tuesday assessment that Russian forces had “adopted a sounder pattern of operational movement in eastern Ukraine,” which is allowing them to “bring more combat power to bear” in their narrower goal of capturing just the eastern region.
Ukrainian troops have been defending positions in Donbas region since 2014, when secessionists there, backed by Russia, declared themselves the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.
Matina Stevis-Gridneff reported from Brussels, Neil MacFarquhar from Istanbul, and Shashank Bengali and Megan Specia from London. Reporting was contributed by Andrew Higgins from Warsaw, Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia, Cora Engelbrechtfrom Krakow, Poland, Liz Aldermanfrom Paris, Jane Arraf from Lviv, Ukraine, Matthew Mpoke Bigg from London and Rick Gladstone from New York.
The critics typically acknowledge that the campaigns helped galvanize support for higher wages even if they fell short of unionizing workers. Defenders say the goal is to have an impact on a company- or industrywide scale rather than a few individual stores. They point to certain developments, like a pending California bill that would regulate fast-food wages and working conditions, as signs of progress.
In other cases, workers themselves have perceived the limitations of established unions and the advantages of going it alone. Joseph Fink, who works at an Amazon Fresh grocery store in Seattle with roughly 150 employees, said the workers there had reached out to a few unions when seeking to organize in the summer but decided that the unions’ focus on winning recognition through National Labor Relations Board elections would delay resolution of their complaints, which included sexual harassment and health and safety threats.
When the workers floated the idea of staging protests or walkouts as an alternative, union officials responded cautiously. “We received the response that if we were to speak up, assert our rights publicly, we’d be terminated,” Mr. Fink said. “It was a self-defeating narrative.”
The workers decided to form a union on their own without the formal blessing of the N.L.R.B., a model known as a “solidarity union,” whose roots precede the modern labor movement.
For workers who do seek N.L.R.B. certification, doing so independent of an established union also has advantages, such as confounding the talking points of employers and consultants, who often paint unions as “third parties” seeking to hoard workers’ dues.
At Amazon, the strategy was akin to sending a conventional army into battle against guerrillas: Organizers said the talking points had fallen flat once co-workers realized that the union consisted of fellow employees rather than outsiders.
“When a worker comes up to me, they look at me, then see I have a badge on and say, ‘You work here?’ They ask it in the most surprising way,” said Angelika Maldonado, an Amazon employee on Staten Island who heads the union’s workers committee. “‘I’m like, ‘Yeah, I work here.’ It makes us relatable from the beginning.”
ODESSA, Ukraine — After capturing the strategic city of Kherson, Russian forces pushed west on Thursday, moving along the southern Black Sea coast in the direction of Odessa. They continued to lay siege to the critical port city of Mariupol in Ukraine’s east, though there was no indication that they had captured it.
After eight days of war, Russian troops deployed in Ukraine’s southern theater finally appeared to be building some momentum. But their progress has been far slower than military analysts would have expected given their massive advantages over the Ukrainian military.
For eight years, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has been building what amounts to a sprawling military staging area in the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Forces stationed there should have been well equipped to charge out of their bases and seize swaths of southern Ukrainian territory the moment the order was given to invade. Russia’s near naval monopoly in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov should have provided additional fire power to assist ground troops.
Instead, their advancement has been sluggish, beset by logistical issues and a seeming inability of commanders to coordinate disparate military forces, which if combined effectively should have easily overwhelmed Ukraine’s defenses.
“I thought along the Black Sea coast was where they would have their best success immediately because of the huge advantage of having this bridgehead in Crimea,” said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe.
Mariupol continued to hold out on Thursday despite a withering Russian bombardment that cut power, water and heat to the city. But the mayor, Vadym Boichenko, painted a grim picture of the Russian siege.
“Mariupol is still being shelled,” he said in a statement on Facebook. “The women, kids and elderly people are suffering.”
Despite pounding Russian artillery strikes in Kyiv, the capital, and Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, there has been very little advancement in recent days among troops stationed in the country’s north.
In the south, the campaign to seize the southern coastline was given a boost this week with the capture of Kherson, a city of 300,000 people that is an important ship building center. From there, Russian troops have been on the move in the direction of Mykolaiv, another port city on the Black Sea.
On Thursday, Mykolaiv’s mayor, Oleksandr Senkevych, said roughly 800 Russian vehicles, including a column of grad rocket launchers, was headed toward the city, which has one of Ukraine’s three largest ports, from north, east and south. As of Thursday morning, there had been no shelling inside the city. But Ukrainian forces on the city perimeter have been fired on by long-range rockets, forcing them to move positions constantly, Mr. Senkevych said.
“The city is ready for war,” Mr. Senkevych said.
But charging further down the coastline could put Russian forces in danger of stretching themselves too thinly, said Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at CNA, a research institute based in Arlington, Va. Already, the forces in Ukraine’s south and elsewhere appear in some instances to have outpaced logistical units, forcing them to stop and wait for fuel and other supplies.
KHARKIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s military on Friday was waging a fierce battle to push Russian forces back from Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, a day after a vicious fight that littered the highway leading into the city with burned-out Russian troop carriers and at least one body.
The troop carriers had been halted at the entrance to the city, in the shadow of huge blue and yellow letters spelling KHARKIV. Nearby, the body of a Russian soldier, dressed in a drab green uniform, lay on the side of the road, dusted in a light coating of snow that fell overnight.
Soldiers sent to hold the position had few details of the fight that took place, saying only that it happened Thursday morning, shortly after Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, gave the order to attack.
“Putin wants us to throw down our weapons,” said a Ukrainian soldier named Andrei, positioned in trench hastily dug into the black mud on the side of the road. “I think we could operate more slyly, gather up our forces and launch a counterattack.”
Off in the distance but close enough to feel, artillery shells boomed. Russian forces, which on Thursday pushed over the border from their staging area near Belgorod, about 40 miles from Kharkiv, have gathered in strength north of the city. It was not clear where or whether they would advance.
Most of the fighting appeared to be taking place a few miles outside the city limits, near a village called Tsyrkuny. The number of military and civilian casualties resulting from the fight were unclear, but on Friday the local police said a 14-year-old boy had been killed in a village near Kharkiv when a shell hit near his home. But strikes occasionally hit close enough to the city to elicit shrieks of terror from pedestrians, sending them fleeing into metro stations for cover.
Inside an underground station in central Kharkiv, terrified residents have been holed up for two days with their babies, pets and the few belongings — blankets, yoga mats and spare clothing — they could grab in short dashes to home and back, during breaks in the shelling. The city has parked trains in the station and allowed people to sleep in them.
Lidiya Burlina and her son, Mark, work in Kharkiv and were cut off from their home village, a two-hour train ride away, when the Russians moved in. They’ve been living in the metro station ever since. The stores in town are working only in the morning, Ms. Burlina said, and there is very little bread, which has dramatically increased in price in the two days since the war started. They cannot reach anyone in their village because the local power station was blown up.
“They’re sitting there in the cold, they can’t buy anything, and there’s no heat,” Ms. Burlina said. “And we’re here in the metro.”
Victoria Ustinova, 60, was sheltering in the metro with her daughter, two grandchildren and a fuzzy Chihuahua named Beauty, who was wearing a sweater. The family could have taken shelter in the basement of their apartment building, but from there the booms of artillery and tank fire were still audible.
“When everything started it was a total shock, when you don’t know where to run and what to expect from ‘the comrade,’” Ms. Ustinova said, referring to Mr. Putin. “Now we’ve already settled down. We’ve have accepted it and are trying to continue living. It was worse during World War II.”
For her 13-year-old grandson, Danil, the main worry now is the potential for World War III.
“If things will become totally inflamed, then Europe will join in, and if they start launching nuclear weapons then that’s it,” he said.
Up on the surface, most of the stores and restaurants were closed and few people walk the streets. One of the few exceptions was Tomi Piippo, a 26-year-old from the Finnish city of Iisalmi, who said he came to Kharkiv on holiday on Monday and now couldn’t get out.
“I don’t know how to leave. No planes,” he said.
While Russian officials have said their military was endeavoring to avoid civilian areas, the body of a Smerch rocket, which Ukrainian officials said was fired by Russian forces, was stuck vertically in the middle of the street outside the headquarters of the National Guard. A few kilometers away, the rocket’s tail section had buried itself in the asphalt across from an onion-domed Orthodox church.
A team of emergency services officers, dressed in flack jackets and helmets, was attempting to extract the tail from the pavement, but having difficulties. A member of the team said that the tail and the body were different stages of the rocket, likely jettisoned as the explosive ordnance hurtled toward its target near the front lines.
“This is 200 kilos of metal,” the emergency officer said, pointing to the rocket’s tale. “It could have fallen through a building or hit people.”
Even as the artillery barrages intensified, not everyone was ready to hide. Walking with intention toward the source of the artillery booms on the outskirts of Kharkiv was Roman Balakelyev, dressed in camouflage, a double-barreled shotgun slung over his shoulder.
“I live here, this is my home. I’m going to defend it,” said Mr. Balakelyev, who also pulled out a large knife he had strapped to his back as if to show it off. “I don’t think the Russians understand me like I understand them.”
A short while later, Mr. Balakelyev reached the edge of the city, where the Ukrainian troops were huddled around the abandoned Russian troop transports. They watched as he passed. No one moved to stop him. One soldier uttered: “Intent on victory.”
Mr. Balakelyev, his gaze fixed and his shotgun ready, headed down the road in the direction of the booms and a tall billboard that read: “Protect the future: UKRAINE-NATO-EUROPE.”
WASHINGTON — Top American officials said on Monday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine remained imminent amid continued troop movements, propaganda and bellicose language from Moscow, suggesting that prospects are dim for a summit between President Biden and President Vladimir V. Putin in the days ahead.
Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, said on NBC’s “Today Show” that the president is willing to “go the extra mile on diplomacy,” but added that “every indication we see on the ground right now in terms of the disposition of Russian forces is that they are in fact getting prepared for a major attack on Ukraine.”
Mr. Putin ratcheted up tensions further Monday morning during a meeting of his Security Council, announcing that he would decide by day’s end whether to recognize two breakaway Ukrainian regions as independent states. At the same time, Russian media broadcast claims of assaults by Ukrainian forces, charges that Ukrainian military leaders forcefully denied.
American officials have repeatedly predicted that the Russian military would stage false attacks on their own forces as a way of providing Mr. Putin a pretext to go to war.
Mr. Biden agreed “in principle” on Sunday to a proposal by President Emmanuel Macron of France for a summit with Mr. Putin. But numerous White House officials said that such a meeting in the coming days was “notional” at best, and would not happen if Russian forces cross the border into Ukraine.
Two senior administration officials said Monday that there had been no change in that thinking overnight, and that there have been no discussions about the format, timing or location for such a meting.
Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, also downplayed the immediate prospects for a summit, saying on Monday that “before we meet, especially in such a heated atmosphere, it’s important to understand how these summits and meetings will end.”
For Mr. Biden, the idea of a summit could showcase his willingness to embrace diplomacy rather than war. But a high-profile meeting with Mr. Putin is fraught with risk, especially if Russia subsequently went ahead with an invasion. And there is little that Mr. Biden could offer Mr. Putin without appearing to abandon Ukraine or NATO allies in the process — something that the United States has emphasized that it will not do.
Summit meetings are usually highly choreographed events, with outcomes negotiated in advance. So at best, no meeting between the presidents could happen until Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Mr. Lavrov laid the groundwork during a meeting between them planned for Thursday — if Russia does not begin an invasion before that time.
Senior Western officials said on Monday that Russian forces surrounding Ukraine are moving quickly into positions where they are poised to attack once given an order to do so. The numbers of Russian troops surrounding Ukraine also continues to grow, they said, with some 110 battalion tactical groups of about 1,000 soldiers each.
About two-thirds of those groups are within 50 kilometers, or 31 miles, of the Ukrainian border, and about half of those have been deployed tactically, out of staging areas, ready to attack, the officials said.