Maryna Lialko had raised the girls alone after their father left the family, their grandmother, Nina Lialko, said.

“She was devoted to these two girls,” she said.

Kateryna was discharged this fall from Ohmadyt hospital, where she received psychiatric and physical therapy, and the girls are now in Kyiv living with their grandmother and aunt.

The aunt, Olha Lialko, said she has seen a shift in their personalities. Kateryna is increasingly turning inward; she speaks very little and struggles to maintain eye contact. Yuliia still can’t fully comprehend the loss.

“Katya is very closed; she keeps it all to herself,” Olha Lialko said. “Yuliia is missing mom a lot. She needs attention, she likes to cuddle.”

The family is trying to help the girls process their loss. And occasionally they see glimpses of the girls they knew before the war.

They dye their hair wild colors and play with makeup. They fight as only sisters can, and cling closely to each other for company.

But no one knows what will come next for them. Their life is on hold. They attend school online and have few friends in the new city. The family is unable to return home to Donetsk but unwilling to commit to staying in Kyiv.

“It will be very difficult for them to live without her,” their grandmother said. “This life has no sense at all.”

Oleksandra Mykolyshyn contributed reporting

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Ukrainians Struggle to Conserve Energy After Strikes Damage Power Stations

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

DONETSK PROVINCE, Ukraine — After chasing retreating Russian troops across a stretch of rolling hills and forests for a month, Ukrainian troops in the eastern Donbas region have slowed almost to a halt. And in recent days, Russian reinforcements have rushed to the front line, attempting a counterattack to break Ukraine’s momentum.

Moscow is waging war on two fronts, one on the battlefield, where it has sustained steady losses, including in the Donbas region, the main focus of its invading force since April.

On another front, Russia has escalated its attacks with long-range weapons on civilian targets across Ukraine — including drone strikes far off in Kyiv, the capital, that left at least four people dead on Monday.

The military campaign in the east, meanwhile, has become a battle of shelling, positioning and surveillance where Russian and Ukrainian troops square off just a few hundred yards apart.

In a village near the front line on Sunday, a steady volley of mortars rained down on a Ukrainian position as a radio crackled in a small farmhouse, calling for assistance to find where the Russians were firing from.

“Let’s get to work,” one of the Ukrainian soldiers said, picking up a small drone and heading out the door near the border between Donetsk and Luhansk Provinces, which together make up the Donbas region.

He was part of a drone reconnaissance team from the National Guard’s Dnipro 1 battalion that was working close to the front line, sheltering from shelling while sending up drones to hunt for a range of Russian targets, from tanks to the elusive mortar team.

Russian troops had been grinding forward slowly until the Ukrainian Army mounted a successful counteroffensive at the beginning of September, sweeping across a large swath of northeastern Ukraine, recapturing strategic cities in Donetsk and threatening Russia’s hold on Luhansk.

The Russian side is trying to hang on to the important transport hubs of Svatove and Kreminna. If Ukraine can recapture those two towns, it could break Moscow’s grip on much of Luhansk Province.

But Russian troops seem to have regrouped after their headlong flight last month. They have tanks, artillery and mortars and hold positions on high ground across a valley. The men of Dnipro 1 also said there were signs of newly mobilized Russian soldiers on the ground.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

The villages now behind the Ukrainian front line are almost deserted; burned-out tanks and military trucks sit beside the road and in the pine forests.

Svetlana, who was sitting near the road on Sunday afternoon selling mushrooms gathered from the woods behind her house, said she had come back home as soon as Ukrainian troops recaptured her village. She had been jobless and found it hard to survive as a refugee. “For two weeks now, we have been feeling some relief,” she said.

Closer to the front line, fresh craters from mortar fire pocked the road.

The Ukrainian reconnaissance team’s confidence was buoyed by recent successes. Five days earlier, the Russians had attacked with a large force of 50 to 60 men but were repelled, said one of the officers, Filin, who gave only his code name in keeping with military protocol. The next day, they tried again with a smaller force but also were pushed back, said Filin, 32.

Then the Dnipro 1 team carried out an improvised attack, dropping a grenade from a small commercial drone onto a Russian armored vehicle where a group of soldiers was gathered. The next day they surveilled the area and saw one man dead on the ground where the grenade had hit, apparently abandoned by his comrades.

“After that they stopped the attacks,” said another member of the team, who uses the code name Kon. “They don’t like the sound of drones.”

The Russians have resumed their incessant artillery and mortar strikes but have not tried to advance again, the soldiers said.

Some of the Russian soldiers seemed poorly trained and inexperienced, they said. But others were skilled operators: They have jamming devices that interfere with the drones and can maneuver their tanks to avoid Ukrainian attacks — hiding in the forest and moving out to fire before swiftly disappearing, according to the reconnaissance team’s leader, who goes by Android.

Still, after a month on the move, the Ukrainians said they were confident that they would keep advancing.

“For us, every meter of recaptured land, gives us power,” said Duke, the team’s company commander.”

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Buzzing Drones Herald Fresh Attacks on Kyiv, Killing Four

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Russia attacked Ukraine’s capital with Iranian-made drones, which explode on impact, during morning rush hour in the city.CreditCredit…Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine — Noisy and slow-flying, the drones buzzed over the city, eerily announcing their arrival with a hum that sounded like a moped. The first explosions rang out shortly before 7 a.m., as residents of Kyiv were preparing for work and children were just waking up.

By the time the attack was over, at least four people were killed in a capital at once defiant and buffeted by fear.

In strikes early in the war and last week, destruction arrived in Kyiv as a bolt from the blue, with missiles streaking in at tremendous speeds. Monday’s drone attack was different, with residents aware of the drones overhead, seeking their targets.

The strikes highlighted Russia’s growing use of Iranian-made drones, which explode on impact and are easier to shoot down, as Western analysts say Moscow’s stocks of precision missiles are running low. While Iran has officially denied supplying Russia with drones for use in Ukraine, U.S. officials said that the first batch of such weapons was delivered in August.

Drones flew low over office buildings and apartment blocks in the center of Kyiv, visible from the streets below and adding a frisson of terror. Soldiers at checkpoints or other positions in the city opened fire with their rifles.

Among the dead were a young couple, including a woman who was six months pregnant, pulled from the wreckage of a residential building, according to the mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko.

Instead of heading to classrooms, children, some already dressed in their school uniforms, made their way to basements to take shelter just as they had a week ago, when Kyiv came under sustained attack.

Yulia Oleksandrivna, 86, huddled in a basement with her young grandson. She said anger was too soft a word to describe how she was feeling. A retired professor, she had lived through World War II, fleeing her birthplace in Russia with her family when she was 5 and a half years old.

“The sound of the sirens that we have these days, I know this sound from my childhood,” she said. “At the start and at the end of my life, this is the music of my life.”

At least two more blasts hit at about 8:15 a.m. Thick white smoke blanketed parts of central Kyiv along with an acrid burning smell. The city stayed under an air raid alert for nearly three hours.

Credit…Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

“I was smoking on my balcony, and one flew by,” said Vladislav Khokhlov, a cosmetologist who lives in a 13th-floor apartment. He said he saw what looked like a small metallic triangle buzz past not much higher than the rooftops, sounding like a chain saw.

One explosion hit a residential building. Shortly after emergency workers recovered a body from the rubble, the mayor of Kyiv stood before the damaged four-story block.

“This is the true face of this war,” Mr. Klitschko said. .

Steps away, the body of a woman lay in a half-unzipped black body bag. An investigator held her thin wrist, covered in dirt and debris, and then folded her arms across her body.

In one area of central Kyiv, plumes of smoke from fires rose from both sides of a street. “What a horror,” said Anna Chugai, a retiree.

“Again! This is now happening all the time,” she said.

Credit…Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

One apparent target of the strikes, a municipal heating station, appeared undamaged. Soldiers had opened fire with their rifles when the drones drew near, said Viktor Turbayev, a building manager for a department store a block away.

“They want us to freeze,” he said of the Russians’ continued attacks against electricity, heating and other key services.

Below ground, a hushed community of families formed in the safety of subway stations, in scenes recalling the early days of Russia’s invasion in February. Mothers sat with children, playing cards. Some women lay infants to sleep on mats. For a time passing trains would wake the children and they would cry, until they fell so deeply asleep that the sound no longer bothered them.

Anastasia Havryliuk, 34, said she takes her daughter to work most days now, so they can dash together to a bomb shelter if the air raid sirens blare.

“I can’t imagine her being without me in the bomb shelter,” she said.

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How Ukraine’s Surrogate Mothers Have Survived the War

KYIV, Ukraine — After months huddled in a basement to escape shelling, a surrogate mother named Viktoria was able to get her family, and the unborn child she carried for foreign clients, away from the fighting in northeastern Ukraine.

She could do so, she said, because her employer, a surrogacy agency, had offered financial aid and an apartment in the capital, Kyiv, to ensure her safety and the baby’s. And although she had initially been reluctant to leave her home, Kharkiv, even under artillery attacks, she is now glad to live in relative security.

“I would not have left if the clinic had not persuaded me,” she said.

Viktoria is one of hundreds of surrogate mothers who have brought pregnancies to term over seven harrowing months, running for safety as air-raid sirens sounded, surviving in bomb shelters, then fleeing from ruined towns to deliver children for parents abroad.

Before Russia invaded in February, Ukraine was a major provider of surrogacy, one of the few countries that allows it for foreign clients. After a pause in the spring, surrogacy agencies are resuming their work, reviving an industry that many childless people rely on but that critics have called exploitative and that, in peacetime, was already ethically and logistically complex.

the business would unravel — especially as Russia tried and failed to seize Kyiv in the war’s early weeks — have proved overblown. Life in western and central Ukraine has largely stabilized despite fighting in southern and eastern regions and the continued risks of long-range missile strikes.

“We did not lose a single one,” said Ihor Pechenoha, the medical director at BioTexCom, Ukraine’s largest surrogacy agency and clinic. “We managed to bring all our surrogate mothers out from under occupation and shelling.”

marooned in a basement nursery in Kyiv. For weeks and months, it was difficult or impossible for biological parents to reach their children in Ukraine, but by August, all of the babies had gone home.

The war has not diminished the appeal of surrogacy for couples desperate to have children, said Albert Tochylovsky, the director of BioTexCom. “They are in a hurry,” he said. “To explain, ‘We have a war going on,’ doesn’t work.”

Before Russia launched its full-scale invasion, BioTexCom was impregnating about 50 women per month. Since the beginning of June, the company has begun at least 15 new pregnancies.

With the money that the business brings in, Mr. Tochylovsky said, surrogate mothers have been moved from frontline towns and Russia-occupied regions to safer places, like Kyiv.

criticism that it leaves poor women vulnerable to exploitation by clients and agencies. Advocates of gestational surrogacy, in which surrogate mothers undergo in vitro fertilization to deliver the babies of clients who cannot have children on their own, say the practice is invaluable to such couples and offers a potentially life-changing sum for surrogates.

“I do it for money, but why not?” said Olha, 28, who started a new surrogate pregnancy this summer. “I have good health and can help people who have money” and want children, she added.

Before the war, the business thrived in Ukraine, where surrogate mothers typically earn about $20,000 per child they deliver. The war has made financial security even more urgent.

One 30-year-old surrogate mother, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she had evacuated from Melitopol in Russia-occupied southern Ukraine and feared she could be targeted for reprisal, said she credited the job with getting her family out. “With the help of surrogacy,” she said, “I saved my family.”

many new quandaries for the women, clients and medical personnel. Viktoria and her family face one such dilemma: Her payment will help them survive, but it is far from clear where they should go after her recovery from a C-section. The family has remained in the apartment rented by the clinic in Kyiv; her hometown, Kharkiv, is still hit by regular shelling.

For many surrogate mothers, the question was about where to deliver. Threats included not just fighting, but how the authorities established by the Russian occupation government would handle a surrogate birth.

A surrogate named Nadia lived in a village in Russia-occupied territory that was not at risk of artillery shelling. But she decided to evacuate to Ukrainian-controlled territory to deliver the baby, lest the biological parents be deprived of custody, and she lose the fee.

She spent two days with her husband and 11-year-old daughter sleeping in a car on a roadside that is sometimes shelled, waiting to cross the front line.

Ms. Burkovska, the small-agency owner, went into the war with two stranded surrogate babies in her care. In contrast to most surrogacy agencies, she cares for newborns in her own home before biological parents pick them up. For a time, she had to shelter in a basement with the newborns, her partner and her own children.

As more babies arrived in the first months of war, she wound up with seven newborns whose biological parents could not immediately retrieve them, as travel to wartime Ukraine became difficult and as some remaining coronavirus restrictions, like China’s, caused delays.

Ms. Burkovska’s own children helped care for the infants until their parents could get them. By August, most of the parents had arrived to pick up their children.

A Chinese client with BioTexCom, Zhang Zong, was one of those who struggled to reach Kyiv through travel delays. He said the wait had been excruciating. “I was very worried because of the war,” he said.

Meeting his 6-month-old son, he said, was both thrilling and a little strange. “I was extremely excited when they let me hug him,” Mr. Zhang said. “He has been here for a long time and everyone hugs him, everyone likes him, and I am not so special.”

But he added that was only for now. “When he grows up,” Mr. Zhang said, “I can tell him this story.”

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Gunmen kill 11 at Russian military base in latest blow to war in Ukraine

  • Ukraine official: religious dispute led to base shootings
  • Fighting rages in eastern Ukraine, southern Kherson region
  • Ukrainian forces damage administration building in Donetsk

KYIV, Oct 16 (Reuters) – Russia has opened a criminal investigation after gunmen shot dead 11 people at a military training ground near the Ukrainian border, authorities said on Sunday, as fighting raged in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Russia’s RIA news agency, citing the defence ministry, said two gunmen opened fire with small arms during a firearms training exercise on Saturday, targeting personnel who had volunteered to fight in Ukraine. RIA said the gunmen, who it referred to as “terrorists,” were shot dead.

The incident in the southwestern Belgorod region was the latest blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine. It came a week after a blast damaged a bridge linking mainland Russia to Crimea, the peninsula it annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

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Russia’s defence ministry said the attackers were from a former Soviet republic, without elaborating. A senior Ukrainian official, Oleksiy Arestovych, said the two men were from the mainly Muslim Central Asian republic of Tajikistan and had opened fire on the others after an argument over religion.

Reuters was not immediately able to confirm the comments by Arestovych, a prominent commentator on the war, or independently verify casualty numbers and other details.

“As a result of the incident at a shooting range in Belgorod region, 11 people died from gunshot wounds and another 15 were injured,” Russia’s Investigative Committee said, announcing the criminal investigation. It gave no other details.

Some Russian independent media outlets reported that the number of casualties was higher than the official figures.

The governor of Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said no local residents were among those killed or wounded.

Two witnesses later told Reuters they had seen Russian air defence systems repelling air strikes in Belgorod.

Putin said on Friday Russia should be finished calling up reservists in two weeks, promising an end to a divisive mobilisation in which hundreds of thousands of men have been summoned to fight in Ukraine and many have fled the country.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a strong Putin ally, said last week that his troops would deploy with Russian forces near the Ukrainian border, citing what he said were threats from Ukraine and the West.

The Belarusian defence ministry in Minsk on Sunday said just under 9,000 Russian troops would be stationed in Belarus as part of a “regional grouping” of forces to protect its borders.

RUSSIAN SHELLING

Russian forces shelled Ukrainian positions on several fronts on Sunday, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said, with the targets including towns in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Kherson regions. Russian forces were trying to advance on Bakhmut in Donetsk region and in and around Avdiivka.

Intense fighting is taking place around Bakhmut as well as the town of Soledar, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday in his nightly video address.

“The key hot spots in Donbas are Soledar and Bakhmut,” Zelenskiy said. “Very heavy fighting is going on there.”

Bakhmut has been the next target of Russia’s armed forces in their slow move through the Donetsk region since taking the key industrial towns of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk in June and July. Soledar is located just north of Bakhmut.

Fighting has been particularly intense this weekend in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and the strategically important Kherson province in the south, three of the four provinces Putin proclaimed as part of Russia last month.

Shelling by Ukrainian forces damaged the administration building in the city Donetsk, capital of the Donetsk region, the head of its Russian-backed administration said on Sunday.

“It was a direct hit, the building is seriously damaged. It is a miracle nobody was killed,” said Alexei Kulemzin, surveying the wreckage, adding that all city services were still working.

There was no immediate reaction from Ukraine to the attack on Donetsk city, which was annexed by Russian-backed separatists in 2014 along with swathes of the eastern Donbas region.

Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday its forces had repelled efforts by Ukrainian troops to advance in the Donetsk, Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, inflicting what it described as significant losses.

Russia also said it was continuing air strikes on military and energy targets in Ukraine, using long-range precision-guided weapons.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield reports.

In the city of Mykolaiv, residents queued on Sunday – as they do every day – to fill water bottles at a distribution point after supplies were severed by fighting early in the war.

“This is not war, this is a war crime. War is when soldiers fight with each other, but when civilians are being fought, it’s a war crime,” said Vadym Antonyuk, a 51-year-old sales manager, as he stood in line.

A spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Southern Military Command said Russian forces were suffering severe shortages of equipment including ammunition as a result of the damage inflicted last weekend on the Crimea Bridge.

“Almost 75% (of Russian military supplies in southern Ukraine) came across that bridge,” Natalia Humeniuk told Ukrainian television, adding that strong winds had also now stopped ferries in the area.

“Now even the sea is on our side,” Humeniuk said.

Putin blamed Ukrainian security services for the bridge blast and last Monday, in retaliation, ordered the biggest aerial offensive against Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv, since the start of Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24.

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Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Writing by David Ljunggren, Matt Spetalnick, Gareth Jones and James Oliphant; editing by Michael Perry, Tomasz Janowski, Will Dunham and Nick Macfie

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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NATO to kick off nuclear drills involving B-52 bombers on Monday

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BRUSSELS, Oct 14 (Reuters) – NATO said on Friday it would launch its annual nuclear exercise “Steadfast Noon” on Monday, with up to 60 aircraft taking part in training flights over Belgium, the North Sea and Britain to practise the use of U.S. nuclear bombs based in Europe.

The nuclear drills – which do not involve live bombs – are taking place amid heightened tensions after Russia repeatedly threatened nuclear strikes in Ukraine following major military setbacks on the battlefield there.

“Steadfast Noon” is likely to coincide with Moscow’s own annual nuclear drills, dubbed “Grom”, which are normally conducted in late October and in which Russia tests its nuclear-capable bombers, submarines and missiles.

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NATO said the Western drills were not prompted by the latest tensions with Russia.

“The exercise, which runs until 30 October, is a routine, recurring training activity and it is not linked to any current world events,” the alliance declared on its webpage, adding that no live weapons would be used.

“This exercise helps ensure that the alliance’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective,” said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu.

Belgium is hosting the drills that will involve 14 countries and up to 60 aircraft, including the most advanced fighter jets on the market and U.S. B-52 long-range bombers that will fly in from Minot Air Base in North Dakota, the statement said.

On Tuesday, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg made clear that the alliance would proceed with its drills despite the tense international situation.

Cancelling the drills because of the war in Ukraine would send a “very wrong signal”, he told reporters, arguing that NATO’s military strength was the best way to prevent any further escalation of tensions.

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Reporting by Sabine Siebold
Editing by John Chalmers and Gareth Jones

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Putin Says 16,000 New Recruits Have Deployed

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine — They exploded with dull thuds on the outskirts of towns and detonated in the center of cities with deafening booms. Strikes in Kyiv, the capital, left cars burning and splatters of blood on the sidewalks.

Through the week, the Russian military fired its most intense barrage of missiles at Ukraine since the start of the war in February, killing at least three dozen civilians, knocking out electricity across swaths of the country and overwhelming air defenses. One thing the missiles didn’t do was change the course of the ground war.

Fought mostly in trenches, with the most fierce combat now in an area of rolling hills and pine forests in the east and on the open plains in the south, these battles are where control of territory is decided — and where Russia’s military continued to lose ground this week, despite the missile strikes.

“They use their expensive rockets for nothing, just to frighten people,” Volodymyr Ariev, a member of Parliament with Ukraine’s European Solidarity party, said of the paltry military effect of the Russian cruise missiles, rockets and self-destructing drones used in the strikes. “They think they can scare Ukrainians. But the goal they achieved is only making us angrier.”

The war in the south and east continued apace through the strikes, with Russia mostly falling back but also attacking on one section of front in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.

On Monday and Tuesday, the most intense days of Russia’s missile strikes, the Ukrainian Army continued its offensive in the Kherson region in the south, reclaiming five villages over the two days, according to the military command. Ukrainian forces also took back a village in the east.

“The Kremlin continues to struggle to message itself out of the reality of mobilization and military failures,” the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based research group, wrote in an analysis published Thursday. “The Kremlin continued its general pattern of temporarily appeasing the nationalist communities by conducting retaliatory missile strikes.”

The war is now separated into two largely unconnected arenas: the battles in the sky, in which Russia is seeking to demoralize Ukrainian society and cripple the economy by using cruise missiles and drones to destroy heating, electricity and water infrastructure as winter sets in; and the battles on the ground, in which Ukraine continues to advance against Russian forces in two areas of the front line.

Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times

Russia has been using even the newest addition to its arsenal, Shahed-136 kamikaze drones purchased from Iran, principally for strategic strikes far from the front line, rather than in efforts to slow the Ukrainian attacks.

“Shahed-136s will not generate asymmetric effects for Russian forces because they are not being used to strike areas of critical military significance in a way that directly influences the frontline,” the Institute for the Study of War wrote.

The drones that get past air defenses instead buzz into cities, blowing up electrical power stations and municipal boilers used to heat neighborhoods in the centralized heating systems used in Ukraine.

Over the past 24 hours, the Russian army and air force attacked around the country with missiles, rockets and self-destructing drones, from the region around Kyiv, the capital, to Mykolaiv in the south, near the Black Sea, the Ukrainian General Staff said in its regular morning report.

“The enemy is not halting strikes on critical infrastructure and civilian objects,” it said, listing 88 strikes, including with short-range rocket systems near the front line.

The strikes have refocused Ukrainians’ attention on the war in cities where a sense of normalcy had been returning, including Kyiv, the capital.

Even successful advances for the Ukrainian army have been bloody and costly as the Russian military has been skirmishing and firing artillery to cover its retreat and continuing attacks in Donbas. Fighting raged along the entire front and in cross-border skirmishing with Russia in northern Ukraine overnight Thursday to Friday, the military command said in a morning statement.

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Toll of Russian Strikes Mounts, Adding Urgency to Ukraine’s Pleas for Weapons

Credit…Jean-Francois Badias/Associated Press

PARIS — France began pumping natural gas directly to Germany for the first time on Thursday, part of a landmark agreement struck by both governments to help each other confront Europe’s energy crisis as Russia cuts off gas supplies to Europe.

Volumes of gas capable of producing around 31 gigawatt-hours per day of electricity began flowing early on Thursday into Germany, the French network operator GRTgaz said. The connection has a maximum capacity of 100 gigawatt-hours per day, equal to the power output of four nuclear reactors, or about 10 percent of the amount of liquefied natural gas that France imports each day, the company said.

GRTgaz said that months ago it had begun modifying its pipeline networks to be able to send gas to Germany. For years, the German economy has relied on Russian gas exports, but this year Moscow has slashed them in response to Western sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine.

France gets its gas from the Netherlands, Norway and Russia, according to the International Energy Agency, although supplies from Russia were cut off in September. It also receives deliveries of liquefied natural gas from several L.N.G. terminals.

To face the energy crunch, France has been storing gas and getting more of it from its European partners and Qatar. Recently, President Emmanuel Macron has burnished relations with Algeria, a former French colony, which has agreed to sharply increase gas exports to France.

In exchange for the gas from France, Germany has pledged to export more electricity to that country as it grapples with an unprecedented crisis in its nuclear power industry that has reduced power production.

“Germany needs our gas, and we need the electricity produced in the rest of Europe, and in particular in Germany,” President Emmanuel Macron said last month after speaking with the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, about the agreement. “We will contribute to European solidarity in gas and benefit from European solidarity in electricity.”

“Merci beaucoup,” Klaus Müller, the head of Germany’s federal network agency, wrote in a Twitter message to GRTGaz on Thursday. “The gas deliveries from France, through Saarland, help Germany’s energy security.”

European countries have pledged to work together to get through winter as Russia’s aggression in Ukraine raises the prospect of a prolonged energy crisis. On Thursday, Spain proposed increasing its gas deliveries to France by 18 percent in the coming months, Spain’s ecological transition minister, Teresa Ribera, said.

As Europe’s largest economy and the one most dependent on Russian gas, Germany has been among the countries worst affected by the energy crisis rippling across Europe, where natural gas costs about 10 times what it did a year ago. Both Berlin and Paris have imposed a broad range of conservation measures, including lowering thermostats and hot water heaters, encouraging the use of public transport and requiring public buildings to turn off lights early.

The energy crunch has forced European governments to fall back on less-desirable power sources that they had been trying to phase out in a push to go green. Germany, for instance, has decided to keep coal-fired power plants online and restart several others that had been mothballed.

In addition, Germany decided to keep two of its three remaining nuclear power plants operational as an emergency reserve for its electricity supply, breaking a political taboo and delaying its plans to become the first industrial power to go nuclear-free for its energy.

And in France, the government is facing an energy crisis of its own after half its fleet of nuclear power plants — the largest in Europe — was taken offline earlier this year for inspections and repairs. The electricity shortage has driven prices to record levels, forcing factories to cut production and put tens of thousands of employees on furlough.

Bruno Le Maire, France’s economy minister, warned Thursday that high energy prices continued to pose a “major risk” to French industry and would lead to a 10 percent decline in industrial production this winter.

Berlin this month announced a 200 billion euro (about $196 billion) aid plan for German households, businesses and industries. It includes policies to curb natural gas and electricity prices domestically. And France has already spent around €100 billion since last winter doing the same.

But with Mr. Scholz facing pushback over his government’s decision to keep nuclear plants running, Germany’s ability to uphold its end of the energy-swap deal with France may wind up depending on the French themselves: GRTgaz said that the exported French gas would allow Germany to produce more electricity, which in turn would be sent back to the French grid during peak hours.

“If we did not have European solidarity,” Mr. Macron said in a televised interview on Wednesday, “we would have serious problems.”

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Live Updates: Germany Rushes Air Defense System to Ukraine as Allies Discuss More Military Aid

KYIV, Ukraine — Six and a half feet down a ladder inside a small shed at the back of Oleksandr Kadet’s home is an underground room with a cement hatch that he hopes he never has to use.

For the past two weeks, Mr. Kadet, 32, said that he and his wife, who live outside the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, had been preparing for the possibility of a nuclear attack by stocking the room — an old well that they converted into a bunker — with bottled water, canned food, radios and power banks.

“We are more anxious now, especially after yesterday’s attacks,” Mr. Kadet said on Tuesday, a day after a series of Russian missile attacks across Ukraine. “But we do think that in case of a nuclear explosion, we will be able to survive if we stay in the shelter for some time.”

Credit…Oleksandr Kadet

The fears of escalation rose on Saturday after an attack on the 12-mile Kerch Strait Bridge connecting Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014. Initially, Ukrainians celebrated, but that quickly gave way to worry that such a brazen assault on a symbol of President Vladimir V. Putin’s rule could prompt a severe retaliation.

Even before these recent events, though, concerns about the potential for a nuclear disaster had increasingly been making their way into Ukraine’s national psyche. The fear is that Russia could either use tactical nuclear arms or launch a conventional attack on one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.

U.S. officials have said they think the chances of Russia’s using nuclear weapons are low, and senior American officials say they have seen no evidence that Mr. Putin is moving any of his nuclear assets.

On Sunday, Mr. Putin called the assault on the bridge a “terrorist attack aimed at destroying the critically important civilian infrastructure of the Russian Federation.”

But his spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, appeared to tamp down fears of a nuclear reprisal, saying that the attack on the bridge did not fall within the category under Russia’s defense doctrine that allowed for such a response.

Last month, Mr. Putin raised fears that he could resort to nuclear weapons when he warned that he would “use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” if Russian-controlled territory was threatened.

“This is not a bluff,” he said.

Days later, Russia illegally annexed four Ukrainian territories.

Mr. Kadet, who noted that he had begun preparing two weeks ago, said it felt better to have an action plan.

“It’s psychologically easier because you know you are at least somehow prepared for it,” he said. “It’s not a guarantee it will save you, but at least you’re ready.”

Residents of Kyiv said that they had felt wary even before the most recent missile strikes there on Monday.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Immediately after the bridge attack, many Ukrainians had shared their glee on social media. They toasted triumphantly in the capital’s bars over the weekend, and posed for selfies in front of posters of the burning bridge.

But the worry soon set in.

“I feel this real fear about how the Russians will answer this,” said Krystina Gevorkova, 30, who was shopping with her friend in Kyiv on Sunday. “Earlier it had felt safer here,” she added. “Now, I have this feeling like something is going to happen.”

Kyiv has for months been spared the worst of the Russian onslaught while Moscow focused its attention instead on southeastern Ukraine. But on Monday, a Russian missile struck just blocks away from where Ms. Gevorkova had spoken.

She said that she had been reading up on how to stay safe during a nuclear war, but that she was skeptical that it would help.

“We can’t really do anything,” she said.

The war has felt far from Kyiv in recent months, as life’s rhythms return to a semblance of normalcy after Russian forces were ousted from parts of northeastern Ukraine. Nevertheless, the city has also been slowly preparing for a potential nuclear attack.

The Kyiv City Council said on Friday that potassium iodide pills would be distributed to residents in case of a nuclear incident “based on medical recommendations,” adding that the pills were also available in city pharmacies.

Potassium iodide is used to saturate a person’s thyroid with iodine so that radioactive iodine inhaled or ingested after exposure will not be retained by the gland.

Alina Bozhedomova, 23, a pharmacist in Kyiv, said that customers were coming in daily looking for the pills, but added, “I haven’t seen people panicking about it.”

Some elementary schools have advised parents to prepare emergency packs for their children to keep with them at school.

Nadiia Stelmakh, 50, who works in a market selling home goods, said that one mother had come to her with a list from the school that included latex gloves, a poncho, boot covers, tissues, wet wipes and a flashlight.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

“People are really concerned right now,” she said. Her husband, Volodymyr Stelmakh, who has another stall nearby, agreed.

“I have an emergency bag packed,” he said, “but I think if the nuclear threat is imminent, you will have no time to run away.

After worries grew about the security of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the country’s southeast in recent weeks, Ukraine’s Ministry of Health issued guidance about how to respond to a nuclear incident.

The risk of nuclear fallout can feel very real in Ukraine, a country that still bears the scars of the Chernobyl accident in 1986, one of the worst nuclear disasters in history. Chernobyl is only about 60 miles north of Kyiv.

And some who experienced the life-threatening fallout firsthand say that they, possibly more than anyone, understand the full risk of nuclear exposure. Oleksandr, 55, who asked that his last name not be used, said that he and his family had fled Chernobyl for Kyiv immediately after the meltdown, when he was just 18.

His family closely followed guidance to move south, as winds were pushing radioactive materials north, and he said that was the only reason they escaped unscathed.

“Now, people here are really not ready. People don’t know what to do,” he said. “There is not enough information.”

He owns a market stand that sells household necessities and said that more people had come in during the past two weeks preparing for a nuclear disaster, buying flashlights, batteries, knives, radios and small camp stoves.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

While some were preparing for the worst, others remained optimistic that Russia would never carry out such an extreme attack, which would draw international outrage.

Dmytro Yastrub, 31, said he felt more concerned about Mr. Putin using conventional weapons to target Kyiv.

“I presume something will happen” after the bridge attack, he said, standing outside a bar in the Kyiv city center on Sunday evening with a group of friends. But, he added, the risk of a nuclear attack was not weighing heavy on his mind.

Svetlana Zozulia, 47, and her husband, Vladyslav Zozulia, 37, were walking in central Kyiv with their daughter, Anastasiia, 11, on Sunday night. Ms. Zozulia said she tried to remain optimistic and did not believe that Mr. Putin would launch a nuclear attack on Ukraine.

But she did buy potassium iodide tablets just in case, she said.

“I think our success disturbs him,” Ms. Zozulia said. “But there is also a threat for him if he chooses a nuclear attack.”

Oleksandra Mykolyshyn contributed reporting

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Live Updates: Zelensky Asks G7 Nations for Better Air Defense Systems After Russia Strikes

A top British intelligence official will warn in a speech on Tuesday that while Russia’s aggression has created an urgent threat, China’s expanding use of technology to control dissent and its growing ability to attack satellite systems, control digital currencies and track individuals pose far deeper challenges for the West.

In an interview on Monday ahead of his address, the official, Jeremy Fleming, who heads GCHQ — the British electronic intelligence-gathering and cyber agency made famous for its role in breaking the Enigma codes in World War II — also said he was skeptical about how far China would go to support Russia’s aggression.

“I don’t think that this is a ‘relationship without limits,’” he said, using the term that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and President Xi Jinping of China employed when they met at the Beijing Olympics early this year, just before the invasion of Ukraine. In light of Russia’s dismal battlefield performance and its brutality, he said, China “needs to be weighing up the advantages and disadvantage of continuing to align themselves strongly with Russia.”

Mr. Fleming’s agency — formally called Government Communications Headquarters, the counterpart to the National Security Agency in the United States — plays an increasingly central role in tracking Russian communications and preparing for the day when China’s advances in quantum computing may defeat the kinds of encryption used to protect both government and corporate communications.

A three-decade veteran of the British intelligence services, Mr. Fleming rarely speaks in public. But in recent months, several of Britain’s spy chiefs have deliberately taken a carefully crafted public role in describing future security threats.

Mr. Fleming has gone further, detailing the capabilities and rules surrounding Britain’s use of offensive cyber capabilities, which it employed in Syria against terror groups and reportedly against Russian forces in Ukraine, a subject Mr. Fleming declined to discuss.

Yet in the interview, he described Russia as “a disrupter” that was “unpredictable in its actions at the moment.” But he said the performance of Russia’s military had revealed deep weaknesses, and excerpts from his forthcoming speech describe Mr. Putin’s decision-making as “flawed,” its forces as “exhausted” and its reliance on mobilizing 300,000 “inexperienced conscripts” as evidence of Mr. Putin’s “desperate situation.”

“The Russian population has started to understand that, too,” he argued. “They’re seeing just how badly Putin has misjudged the situation.”

He added, “They’re fleeing the draft, knowing their access to modern technologies and external influences will be drastically restricted.”

But Mr. Fleming’s warning is another reminder of the speed at which the Western allies have come to view themselves as in direct competition, and sometimes in conflict, with both of the world’s other major nuclear superpowers. Of the two, he clearly regards Russia as the more manageable.

Until recent years, most European nations have been muted in their public critiques of Beijing and its ambitions, because trade with China became critical to growth, especially for Germany. Britain even permitted Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant that the United States fears could pose a security threat, to provide some 5G equipment to Britain’s communications network — under some strict conditions — until sanctions imposed on the company by the United States made that impossible.

Mr. Fleming’s warnings about the strategies behind China’s investment in new technologies, and its effort to create “client economies and governments,” sound much like speeches given by his American counterparts for the past five or more years. But he spoke just before the opening of a Communist Party congress starting in Beijing on Sunday at which Xi Jinping is expected to be named to a third five-year term as the country’s top leader.

Mr. Fleming said that in the case of China, this could be “the sliding-doors moment in history,” in which the United States and its allies may soon discover that they are too far behind in a series of critical technologies to maintain a military or technological edge over Beijing.

He described China’s move to develop central bank digital currencies that could be used to track transactions as a shift that could also “enable China to partially evade the sort of international sanctions currently being applied to Putin’s regime in Russia.” He said that was one example of how China was “learning the lessons” from the war in Ukraine, presumably to apply them if it decided to move against Taiwan and prompted further efforts by the U.S. and its allies to isolate it economically.

Mr. Fleming also described China’s moves to build “a powerful antisatellite capability, with a doctrine of denying other nations access to space in the event of a conflict.” And he accused China of trying to alter international technology standards to ease the tracking of individuals, part of its effort to repress dissent, even the speech of Chinese citizens living abroad.

But his biggest warning surrounded dependence on Chinese companies that are closely linked to the state, or that would have no choice but to turn over data on individuals upon demand by the Chinese authorities. The Huawei experience, he said in the interview, “opened our eyes to the extent to which even the biggest businesses in China are ultimately wrapped up with the Chinese state” and have no choice but to comply “because of the way in which the Communist Party works and the national security laws operate.”

Yet in the Huawei case, the United States and its European partners have yet to offer truly competitive alternatives for much of the company’s networking equipment, officials from many countries say. “We have to be able to provide alternatives,” Mr. Fleming said. When pressed on whether Europe and the United States had provided those alternatives in the years since the campaign against Huawei gained traction, he acknowledged, “No, we don’t.”

Last week, the Biden administration announced sweeping new limits on the sale of semiconductor technology to China, hoping to cripple Beijing’s access to critical technologies that are needed for supercomputers, advanced weapons and artificial intelligence applications.

It was a sign of how fast the world’s two largest economies had become engaged in a clash over technological advantage, with the United States trying to establish a stranglehold on advanced computing and semiconductor technology that China views as essential to its own ambitions.

But Mr. Fleming conceded that over the next few months, he would be focused — as American leaders are — on the question of whether Russia might seek to use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine to make up for its failures on the battlefield.

“This is a concerning moment,” he said. But he noted that Mr. Putin had been cautious and “has been careful not to escalate beyond the borders of Ukraine.”

“He’s been careful not to escalate in terms of the types of weapons they’re using,” he said.

He added: “We’re in a situation where escalation risks are very real.” But if “Putin decided he would make use of tactical nuclear weapons,” he said, it would be a “complete departure” from his past action and from Russian military doctrine.

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