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

“The surrounding forces draw in closer, tighten the flanks and then methodically destroy” those trapped inside with artillery, he said, recalling a strategy that nearly cost him his life.

designated a single theater commander, Gen. Aleksandr V. Dvornikov, a former commander of the Russian army in Syria known for brutal tactics there.

And the fight in the east will begin closer to supply lines stretching back to the Russian border; that could be key for a mechanized Russian army advancing in a major conventional assault across the countryside.

“They are now prepared to fight the war that they really want,” the retired Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, a former NATO supreme allied commander for Europe, said of the Russians. “They want to meet force on force in open fields and go at it.”

Andrew E. Kramer reported from Kyiv, Ukraine; Eric Schmitt from Washington; Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kharkiv, Ukraine; and Michael Schwirtz from Lviv, Ukraine.

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Ukraine Live Updates: Putin Says Peace Talks Hit ‘Dead End’ and Vows That War Will Go On

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Tuesday that peace talks with Ukraine had reached a “dead end” and he falsely called the evidence of Russian atrocities in a Kyiv suburb “fake,” using his first extended remarks about the war in nearly a month to insist that Russia would persist in its invasion.

Speaking at a news conference at a newly built spaceport in Russia’s Far East, Mr. Putin said that Ukraine’s negotiating position at the talks, last held in Istanbul two weeks ago, was unacceptable. He pledged that Russia’s “military operation will continue until its full completion.”

But the operation’s goals, he said, centered on the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russia separatists have been fighting since 2014. It was the first time that Mr. Putin himself had effectively defined a more limited aim for the war, focusing on control of the Donbas — and not all of Ukraine, which Mr. Putin and his subordinates have said should not even be an independent country.

“We will act rhythmically and calmly, according to the plan that was initially proposed by the general staff,” Mr. Putin said. “Our goal is to help the people who live in the Donbas, who feel their unbreakable bond with Russia.”

Credit…Ronaldo Schemidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Just over a month ago, by contrast, Mr. Putin warned that Ukraine’s leaders risked “the future of Ukrainian statehood” by resisting the Russian invasion, which Kremlin military planners appeared to have mistakenly thought could be achieved with relative ease.

Still, Mr. Putin’s assertion of Russia’s more limited war aims in Ukraine cannot necessarily be taken at face value, and he may yet harbor an ultimate goal of taking control of the former Soviet republic. For months leading up to the Feb. 24 invasion, as Russian forces massed on Ukraine’s border, Russian officials insisted there were no plans to invade and that the buildup was merely a military exercise.

Ukrainian and Western officials have said they expect that Russia, having failed to seize the capital Kyiv and most other key cities in an invasion hampered by poor logistics, would soon mount an intense offensive in the Donbas, where the Russian military has been pouring in troops.

But almost seven weeks into the war, the Russians have yet to conquer Mariupol, the strategically important southern Donbas port that has come to symbolize the death and destruction wrought by the invaders so far. Western officials said they were evaluating unverified accounts that Russian forces may have dropped chemical weapons on a Mariupol steel mill that has become a bastion of Ukrainian army resistance. The use of chemical weapons is a war crime.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, referring to the unverified accounts from Mariupol, said he took them “as seriously as possible.”

“Even during the Second World War, the Donbas did not see such cruelty in such a short period of time,” Mr. Zelensky said in a video released early Wednesday. “And from who? From Russian troops.”

Russian forces also have repeatedly fired missiles and artillery indiscriminately at civilian targets they have little or no hope of taking, including those in and around the eastern city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest. On Tuesday, New York Times journalists witnessed the aftermath of a Russian cluster munitions attack on a Kharkiv suburb that left a trail of casualties, craters and punctured roofs.

And the outside pressure on Mr. Putin continued to rise. On Tuesday evening, Ukraine’s security service said it had detained Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Russian oligarch and politician who is Mr. Putin’s closest ally in Ukraine, releasing a photo of him handcuffed and disheveled. President Biden took a new swipe at Mr. Putin, calling him a “dictator” who has committed “genocide,” and a U.S. official said the White House would soon announce new military assistance for Ukraine worth $750 million.

Credit…Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Mr. Putin’s appearance on Tuesday — coming after several weeks in which the public glimpsed the Russian leader mainly in Kremlin footage showing him holding meetings by videoconference — appeared intended to shore up domestic support for a war with no clear end in sight.

Marking Cosmonauts’ Day — the anniversary of the Soviet Cold War triumph in which Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space — Mr. Putin used the new spaceport, the Vostochny Cosmodrome, as his stage.

He was accompanied to the spaceport by President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, Mr. Putin’s closest ally, an apparent reminder to Russians that they were not completely isolated in the war.

Mr. Putin parried a question from a Russian journalist about the atrocities in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha by retreating into his familiar arguments about Western “double standards.” He claimed that the world had been silent when the United States bombed Syria in the campaign against the Islamic State, and that Mr. Lukashenko had provided evidence that the scenes in Bucha were an orchestrated, British “provocation.”

“We discussed in detail this psychological special operation that the English carried out,” Mr. Lukashenko said in a news conference alongside Mr. Putin, referring to Bucha.

Credit…Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik

In fact, independent investigators, including journalists for The New York Times, have documented evidence of numerous execution-style killings, rapes and acts of torture against civilians in Bucha that had been carried out by Russian occupation troops before they retreated last month.

But inside Russia, Mr. Putin’s pronouncements are going increasingly unchallenged, with access to Facebook and Instagram and many independent news websites blocked, and a draconian wartime censorship law punishing any deviation from the Kremlin line with as much as 15 years in prison. While prices are rising and layoffs loom as Western companies pull out of Russia, there has been no sign yet of widespread public discontent, and pollsters see significant public support for the war.

It was the alliance of Western countries, Mr. Putin insisted, that would soon feel the political backlash from the economic pain wrought by the sanctions, as evidenced by rising prices for food and fuel. European countries, in particular, had shown yet again that they were collectively acting as a “poodle” of the United States, he said.

“They always miscalculate, not understanding that in difficult conditions, the Russian people always unite,” Mr. Putin said.

Ever since he appeared before tens of thousands at a Moscow stadium on March 18, Mr. Putin’s public appearances have been limited to brief clips showing him meeting with government officials, mostly by video link, in which he does not comment on the peace talks or the war. Instead, he lets his Defense Ministry and other officials do the talking.

Mr. Putin emerged from his cocoon on Monday for an off-camera meeting at his residence outside Moscow with Chancellor Karl Nehammer of Austria, the first Western leader to visit with him since the Feb. 24 invasion. Mr. Nehammer said the session left him convinced that Mr. Putin was planning a large and violent military assault on the Donbas.

On Tuesday, Mr. Putin arrived in the Amur Region of Russia’s Far East and was shown in video released by the Kremlin chatting informally with workers at the Vostochny Cosmodrome, a sprawling facility that has been plagued by construction delays and remains unfinished.

While a key initial thrust of Russia’s invasion ended in a retreat, Mr. Putin insisted on Tuesday — as he did in the first weeks of the war — that the plan for what he calls the “special military operation” had not been altered. And he argued that what he called the West’s economic “blitzkrieg” to humble Russia had failed, pointing back to Soviet achievements in the space race as evidence that Russians could thrive despite sanctions.

Mr. Putin said Russia would move ahead with its lunar program, which includes a moon lander scheduled to be launched this year. And in a nod to Belarus’s status as Russia’s key ally in the war, Mr. Putin promised to send a Belarusian cosmonaut into space as early as next year.

“We are not going to isolate ourselves, and it is generally impossible to isolate anyone in the modern world, and most certainly not as huge a country as Russia,” Mr. Putin said.

Western countries have promised to continue to strengthen sanctions against Russia, with Europe increasingly discussing limits on Russian energy imports and more international businesses quitting Russia entirely. On Tuesday, Nokia, the Finnish telecommunications giant, joined its Swedish rival Ericsson in leaving Russia, portending new problems for the country’s internal communications.

Mr. Putin offered no hint on Tuesday that he was prepared to make peace before assaulting Ukrainian troops in the Donbas, which Western officials fear could be the most violent phase of the war so far. He insisted, as he has before, that Russia had no choice but to invade, alleging that the West was turning the country into an “anti-Russian bridgehead.”

“What is happening in Ukraine is a tragedy,” Mr. Putin said. “They just didn’t leave us a choice. There was no choice.”

Reporting was contributed by Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Natalia Yermak from Babai, Ukraine; Ivan Nechepurenko from Istanbul; Marc Santora from Warsaw; and Shashank Bengali and Megan Specia from London.

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Ukraine Live Updates: In Congress and at U.N., Votes to Further Isolate Moscow

BRUSSELS — Western nations on Thursday escalated their pressure on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, with the European Union approving a ban on Russian coal and the United States moving to strip Russia’s trading privileges and prohibit its energy sales in the American market.

The new punishments came as the United Nations General Assembly took a symbolically important vote to penalize Russia by suspending it from the Human Rights Council, the 47-member U.N. body that can investigate rights abuses. Western diplomats called the suspension a barometer of global outrage over the war and the growing evidence of atrocities committed by Russian forces.

That evidence includes newly revealed radio transmissions intercepted by German intelligence in which Russian forces discussed carrying out indiscriminate killings north of Kyiv, the capital, according to two officials briefed on an intelligence report. Russia has denied any responsibility for atrocities.

Together, the steps announced Thursday represented a significant increase in efforts led by Western nations to isolate and inflict greater economic pain on Russia as its troops regroup for a wave of attacks in eastern Ukraine, prompting urgent calls by Ukrainian officials for civilians there to flee.

“These next few days may be your last chance to leave!” the regional governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Haidai, declared in a video on Facebook. “The enemy is trying to cut off all possible ways to leave. Do not delay — evacuate.”

But the Western penalties were unlikely to persuade Russia to stop the war, and they revealed how the allies were trying to minimize their own economic pain and prevent themselves from becoming entangled in a direct armed conflict with Moscow.

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

In some ways, the efforts underscored internal tensions among Russia’s critics over how best to manage the next stage of the conflict, which has created the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. The war is also indirectly worsening humanitarian and economic problems far from Ukraine, including rising food and energy prices that are exacerbating hunger and inflation, particularly in developing nations.

It took two days of protracted talks in Brussels for the European Union to approve a fifth round of sanctions against Russia that included its first ban on a Russian energy source, coal. But the measures were softened by several caveats, highlighting Europe’s diminishing appetite to absorb further economic fallout from the war.

The ban would be phased in over four months, instead of three as originally proposed, according to E.U. diplomats. Germany had been pushing for a longer transition period to wind down existing contracts, even though Russian coal is easier to replace with purchases from other suppliers, compared with oil and gas.

European diplomats also agreed to ban Russian-flagged vessels from E.U. ports, block trucks from Russia and its ally, Belarus, from E.U. roads, and stop the import of Russian seafood, cement, wood and liquor and the export to Russia of quantum computers and advanced semiconductors.

Ukrainian officials had urged Western nations to go further and completely cut off purchases of Russian oil and gas, contending that existing sanctions would not cripple Russia’s economy quickly or severely enough to affect President Vladimir V. Putin’s campaign to subjugate Ukraine by force.

“As long as the West continues buying Russian gas and oil, it is supporting Ukraine with one hand while supporting the Russian war machine with the other hand,” Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said Thursday at NATO headquarters in Brussels, where he urged members of the alliance to accelerate promised help to Ukraine’s outgunned military.

The NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said the alliance would “further strengthen and sustain our support to Ukraine, so that Ukraine prevails in the face of Russia’s invasion.” But he did not offer details.

Credit…Olivier Matthys/Associated Press

At the United Nations, the General Assembly’s resolution suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council, a step advocated by the United States and its allies, was the strongest measure the organization has taken to castigate the Kremlin.

Although the decision carries little practical impact, Russia’s suspension, approved on a 93 to 24 vote, with 58 countries abstaining, was still a diplomatic slap that Russia, one of the United Nations’ founding members, had hoped to avoid.

“The country that’s perpetrating gross and systematic violations of human rights should not sit on a body whose job it is to protect those rights,” Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state, said at NATO headquarters.

Russia, which resigned its seat on the Human Rights Council in protest, denounced the vote as “an attempt by the U.S. to maintain its domination and total control” and to “use human rights colonialism in international relations.”

China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Syria and Vietnam were among the countries that joined Russia in opposing the measure, while India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico were among those that abstained. Some of those countries argued the move could worsen the war, and called for further investigation of reports of Russian atrocities.

The last country to lose its seat on the panel was Libya in 2011, after President Moammar al-Qaddafi launched a ferocious crackdown on antigovernment protesters.

Russia remains one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council with a veto power that it has already used to block a resolution calling on it to stop the war and withdraw its forces.

Credit…Andrew Kelly/Reuters

As U.N. members were deliberating, the United States Senate voted unanimously to strip Moscow of its preferential trade status and to ban the import of Russian energy into the United States. The legislation would allow the United States to impose higher tariffs on Russian goods. Russian energy, however, represents only a small fraction of American imports, and Moscow is already having trouble exporting its oil.

The House approved the bills later on Thursday, sending them to President Biden, who was expected to sign them.

The latest efforts to punish Russia over the Feb. 24 invasion were energized partly by international outrage over the discovery of many dead civilians by Ukrainian soldiers who reclaimed areas north of Kyiv that had been vacated by retreating Russian forces.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has said hundreds of bodies including children were found, many of them in the suburb of Bucha, and that many victims had been bound, tortured and shot in the head.

Mr. Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, was asked at NATO headquarters about reports of atrocities that may have been committed by Ukrainian troops.

He said he had heard about, but not seen, a video showing a group of Ukrainian soldiers killing captured Russian troops outside a village west of Kyiv. The video has been verified by The New York Times.

Mr. Kuleba said his country’s military observes the rules of warfare and would investigate any “isolated incidents” of atrocities.

“You don’t understand how it feels that Russian soldiers rape children,” he said. “This is not an excuse to those who violate the rules of warfare on either side of the front line. But there are some things which you simply can’t understand. I’m sorry.”

Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Blinken spoke with disgust about the atrocities attributed to Russian soldiers, saying “the sickening images and accounts coming out of Bucha and other parts of Ukraine have only strengthened our collective resolve.”

“The revulsion against what the Russian government is doing is palpable,” he said.

Russia has described evidence of the Bucha killings by Russian forces — including satellite images verified by The New York Times that show bodies on streets while still under Russian occupation — as fabricated.

Mr. Kuleba said the expected Russian assaults on the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk made it more urgent that NATO members expedite delivery of weapons to help Ukraine defend itself.

“The discussion is not about the list of weapons,” Mr. Kuleba said. “The discussion is about the timeline. When do we get them?”

Mr. Blinken did not offer any new details on military assistance.

He noted that the United States had supplied Ukraine with arms for months, totaling more than $1.7 billion since Russia’s invasion began. That aid includes an additional $100 million worth of Javelin anti-tank missiles that the Biden administration approved for shipment this week.

Mr. Blinken expressed skepticism about the peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, saying he had “heard nothing from the Russians suggesting that they’re serious” about a negotiated settlement.

The mayor of the eastern city of Sloviansk, Vadim Lyakh, said it was “preparing for the worst” and stocking bomb shelters and hospitals with medical supplies and food.

“We have been watching closely how the Russians have encircled and seized nearby cities like Mariupol and Izium,” he said referring to two Ukrainian cities devastated by Russian attacks. “It’s clear that these cities were not evacuated in time, but in Sloviansk we have some notice, and that’s why we are actively pushing people to leave.”

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels and Michael Levenson from New York. Reporting was contributed by Jane Arraf from Lviv, Ukraine, Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kharkiv, Ukraine, Cora Engelbrecht and Megan Specia from Krakow, Poland, Ivan Nechepurenko from Istanbul, Catie Edmondson from Washington, Michael Crowley from Brussels, Farnaz Fassihi from New York and Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva.

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Ukraine Live Updates: Civilians Flee as Battered Russian Forces Bear Down on Eastern Ukraine

WASHINGTON — As Russian troops retreat from northern Ukraine and focus operations on the country’s east and south, the Kremlin is struggling to scrape together enough combat-ready reinforcements to conduct a new phase of the war, according to American and other Western military and intelligence officials.

Moscow initially sent 75 percent of its main ground combat forces into the war in February, Pentagon officials said. But much of that army of more than 150,000 troops is now a spent force, after suffering logistics problems, flagging morale and devastating casualties inflicted by stiffer-than-expected Ukrainian resistance, military and intelligence officials say.

There are relatively few fresh Russian troops to fill the breach. Russia has withdrawn the forces — as many as 40,000 soldiers — it had arrayed around Kyiv and Chernihiv, two cities in the north, to rearm and resupply in Russia and neighboring Belarus before most likely repositioning them in eastern Ukraine in the next few weeks, U.S. officials say.

The Kremlin is also rushing to the east a mix of Russian mercenaries, Syrian fighters, new conscripts and regular Russian army troops from Georgia and easternmost Russia.

Whether this weakened but still very lethal Russian force can overcome its blunders of the first six weeks of combat and accomplish a narrower set of war aims in a smaller swath of the country remains an open question, senior U.S. officials and analysts said.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

“Russia still has forces available to outnumber Ukraine’s, and Russia is now concentrating its military power on fewer lines of attack, but this does not mean that Russia will succeed in the east,” Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, said on Monday.

“The next stage of this conflict may very well be protracted,” Mr. Sullivan said. He added that Russia would probably send “tens of thousands of soldiers to the front line in Ukraine’s east,” and continue to rain rockets, missiles and mortars on Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv, Lviv and other cities.

U.S. officials have based their assessments on satellite imagery, electronic intercepts, Ukrainian battlefield reports and other information, and those intelligence estimates have been backed up by independent analysts examining commercially available information.

Earlier U.S. intelligence assessments of the Russian government’s intent to attack Ukraine proved accurate, although some lawmakers said spy agencies overestimated the Russian military’s ability to advance quickly.

As the invasion faltered, U.S. and European officials have highlighted the Russian military’s errors and logistical problems, though they have cautioned that Moscow’s ability to regroup should not be underestimated.

The Ukrainian military has managed to reclaim territory around Kyiv and Chernihiv, attacking the Russians as they retreat; thwarted a ground attack against Odesa in the south and held on in Mariupol, the battered and besieged city on the Black Sea. Ukraine is now receiving T-72 battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons — in addition to Javelin antitank and Stinger antiaircraft missiles — from the West.

Anticipating this next major phase of the war in the east, the Pentagon announced late Tuesday that it was sending $100 million worth of Javelin anti-tank missiles — roughly several hundred missiles from Pentagon stocks — to Ukraine, where the weapon has been very effective in destroying Russian tanks and other armored vehicles.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

American and European officials believe that the Russian military’s shift in focus is aimed at correcting some of the mistakes that have led to its failure to overcome a Ukrainian army that is far stronger and savvier than Moscow initially assessed.

But the officials said it remained to be seen how effective Russia would be in building up its forces to renew its attack. And there are early signs that pulling Russian troops and mercenaries from Georgia, Syria and Libya could complicate the Kremlin’s priorities in those countries.

Some officials say Russia will try to go in with more heavy artillery. By focusing its forces in smaller geographic area, and moving them closer to supply routes into Russia, Western intelligence officials said, Russia hopes to avoid the logistics problems its troops suffered in their failed attack on Kyiv.

Other European intelligence officials predicted it would take Russian forces one to two weeks to regroup and refocus before they could press an attack in eastern Ukraine. Western officials said that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was desperate for some kind of win by May 9, when Russia traditionally celebrates the end of World War II with a big Victory Day parade in Red Square.

“What we are seeing now is that the Kremlin is trying to achieve some kind of success on the ground to pretend there is a victory for its domestic audience by the 9th of May,” said Mikk Marran, the director general of the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service.

Mr. Putin would like to consolidate control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine, and establish a land bridge to the Crimean Peninsula by early May, a senior Western intelligence official said.

Russia has already moved air assets to the east in preparation for the renewed attack on the heart of the Ukrainian military, and has increased aerial bombardment in that area in recent days, a European diplomat and other officials said.

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

“It’s a particularly dangerous scenario for the Ukrainians now, at least on paper,” said Alexander S. Vindman, an expert on Ukraine who became the chief witness in President Donald J. Trump’s first impeachment trial. “In reality, the Russians haven’t performed superbly well. Whether they could actually bring to bear their armor, their infantry, their artillery and air power in a concerted way to destroy larger Ukrainian formations is yet to be seen.”

Russian troops have been fighting in groups of a few hundred soldiers, rather than in the bigger and more effective formations of thousands of soldiers used in the past.

“We haven’t seen any indication that they have the ability to adapt,” said Mick Mulroy, a former senior Pentagon official and retired C.I.A. officer.

The number of Russian losses in the war so far remains unknown, though Western intelligence agencies estimate 7,000 to 10,000 killed and 20,000 to 30,000 wounded. Thousands more have been captured or are missing in action.

The Russian military, the Western and European officials said, has learned at least one major lesson from its failures: the need to concentrate forces, rather than spread them out.

But Moscow is trying to find additional forces, according to intelligence officials.

Russia’s best forces, its two airborne divisions and the First Guards Tank army, have suffered significant casualties and an erosion of combat power, and the military has scoured its army looking for reinforcements.

The British Defense Ministry and the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank that analyzes the Ukraine war, both reported on Tuesday that the Russian troops withdrawing from Kyiv and Chernihiv would not be fit for redeployment soon.

“The Russians have no ability to rebuild their destroyed vehicles and weapon systems because of foreign components, which they can no longer get,” said Maj. Gen. Michael S. Repass, a former commander of U.S. Special Operations forces in Europe who has been involved with Ukrainian defense matters since 2016.

Russian forces arriving from Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two secessionist statelets that broke away from Georgia during the 1990s and then expanded in 2008, have been conducting peacekeeping duties and are not combat ready, General Repass said.

Russia’s problems finding additional troops is in large measure why it has invited Syrian fighters, Chechens and Russian mercenaries to serve as reinforcements. But these additional forces number in the hundreds, not thousands, European intelligence officials said.

The Chechen force, one of the European intelligence officials said, is “clearly used to sow fear.” The Chechen units are not better fighters and have suffered high losses. But they have been used in urban combat situations and for “the dirtiest kind of work,” the official said.

Russian mercenaries with combat experience in Syria and Libya are gearing up to assume an increasingly active role in a phase of the war that Moscow now says is its top priority: fighting in the country’s east.

The number of mercenaries deployed to Ukraine from the Wagner Group, a private military force with ties to Mr. Putin, is expected to more than triple to at least 1,000 from the early days of the invasion, a senior American official said.

Wagner is also relocating artillery, air defenses and radar that it had used in Libya to Ukraine, the official said.

Moving mercenaries will “backfire because these are units that can’t be incorporated into the regular army, and we know that they are brutal violators of human rights which will only turn Ukrainian and world opinion further against Russia,” said Evelyn N. Farkas, the top Pentagon official for Russia and Ukraine during the Obama administration.

Hundreds of Syrian fighters are also heading to Ukraine, effectively returning the favor to Moscow for its helping President Bashar al-Assad crush rebels in an 11-year civil war.

A contingent of at least 300 Syrian soldiers has already arrived in Russia for training.

“They are bringing in fighters known for brutality in the hopes of breaking the Ukrainian will to fight,” said Kori Schake, the director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. But, she added, any military gains there for Russia will depend on the willingness of the foreign fighters to fight.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

“One of the difficult things about putting together a coalition of disparate interests is that it can be hard to make them an effective fighting force,” she said.

Finally, Mr. Putin recently signed a decree calling up 134,000 conscripts. It will take months to train the recruits, though Moscow could opt to rush them straight to the front lines with little or no instruction, officials said.

“Russia is short on troops and is looking to get manpower where they can,” said Michael Kofman, the director of Russian studies at C.N.A., a research institute in Arlington, Va. “They are not well placed for a prolonged war against Ukraine.”

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Live Updates: Biden Arrives in Brussels for Summits as U.S. Accuses Russian Forces of War Crimes

KYIV, Ukraine — The Israeli government rejected requests from Ukraine and Estonia in recent years to purchase and use Pegasus — the powerful spyware tool — to hack Russian mobile phone numbers, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

Israel feared that selling the cyberweapon to adversaries of Russia would damage Israel’s relationship with the Kremlin, they said.

Both Ukraine and Estonia had hoped to buy Pegasus to gain access to Russian phones, presumably as part of intelligence operations targeting their increasingly menacing neighbor in the years before Russia carried out its invasion of Ukraine.

But Israel’s Ministry of Defense refused to grant licenses to NSO Group, the company that makes Pegasus, to sell to Estonia and Ukraine if the goal of those nations was to use the weapon against Russia. The decisions came after years of Israel providing licenses to foreign governments that used the spyware as a tool of domestic repression.

Pegasus is a so-called zero-click hacking tool, meaning that it can stealthily and remotely extract everything from a target’s mobile phone, including photos, contacts, messages and video recordings, without the user having to click on a phishing link to give Pegasus remote access. It can also turn the mobile phone into a tracking and secret recording device, allowing the phone to spy on its owner.

In the case of Ukraine, the requests for Pegasus go back several years. Since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014, the country has increasingly seen itself as a direct target of Russian aggression and espionage. Ukrainian officials have sought Israeli defense equipment to counter the Russian threat, but Israel has imposed a near-total embargo on selling weapons, including Pegasus, to Ukraine.

In the Estonian case, negotiations to purchase Pegasus began in 2018, and Israel at first authorized Estonia to have the system, apparently unaware that Estonia planned to use the system to attack Russian phones. The Estonian government made a large down payment on the $30 million it had pledged for the system.

The following year, however, a senior Russian defense official contacted Israel security agencies to notify them that Russia had learned of Estonia’s plans to use Pegasus against Russia. After a fierce debate among Israeli officials, Israel’s Ministry of Defense blocked Estonia from using the spyware on any Russian mobile numbers worldwide.

Israel’s relationship with Russia has come under close scrutiny since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began several weeks ago, and Ukrainian officials have publicly called out Israel’s government for offering only limited support to Ukraine’s embattled government and bowing to Russian pressure.

During a virtual speech to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, on Sunday, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine criticized Israel for not providing his country with the Iron Dome antimissile system and other defensive weapons, and for not joining other Western nations in imposing strict economic sanctions on Russia.

Invoking the Holocaust, Mr. Zelensky said that Russia’s war was aimed at destroying the Ukrainian people just as the Nazis had wanted destruction for the Jewish people. Mr. Zelensky, who is Jewish, said “mediation can be between states, but not between good and evil.”

The New York Times reported last month that Israeli officials in August rejected a request by a Ukrainian delegation to purchase Pegasus, at a time when Russian troops were massing at the Ukrainian border. On Wednesday morning, The Washington Post and The Guardian, part of a consortium of news organizations called The Pegasus Project, reported that these discussions dated back to 2019, and first reported that Israel had blocked Estonia’s efforts to obtain Pegasus.

A senior Ukrainian official familiar with attempts to acquire the Pegasus system said that Ukrainian intelligence officials were disappointed when Israel declined to allow Ukraine to purchase the system, which could have proved critical for monitoring Russian military programs and assessing the country’s foreign policy goals.

The official said Ukraine’s view was that Israel, in making decisions about licensing Pegasus, gave more weight to a government’s relationship with the Kremlin than its human rights record.

Representatives of the Ukrainian embassy in Washington and the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment. In a statement, NSO said the company “can’t refer to alleged clients and won’t refer to hearsay and political innuendo.”

Both Ukraine and Estonia were once part of the Soviet Union, and since then have had to live in the long shadow of Russia’s military. Estonia is a member of NATO.

Russia plays a powerful role throughout the Middle East, particularly in Syria, and Israel is wary of crossing Moscow on critical security issues. In particular, Russia has generally allowed Israel to strike Iranian and Lebanese targets inside Syria — raids the Israeli military sees as essential to stemming the flow of arms that Iran sends to proxy forces stationed close to Israel’s northern border.

Israel’s government has long seen Pegasus as a critical tool for its foreign policy. A New York Times Magazine article this year revealed how, for more than a decade, Israel has made strategic decisions about which countries it allows to obtain licenses for Pegasus, and which countries to withhold them from.

Israel’s government has authorized Pegasus to be purchased by authoritarian governments, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, that have used the weapon to spy on dissidents, human rights activists and journalists in those countries. Democratically elected leaders in India, Hungary, Mexico, Panama and other countries also abused Pegasus to spy on their political opponents.

Israel has used the tool as a bargaining chip in diplomatic negotiations, most notably in the secret talks that led to the so-called Abraham Accords that normalized relations between Israel and several of its historic Arab adversaries.

“Policy decisions regarding export controls, take into account security and strategic considerations, which include adherence to international arrangements,” the Israeli defense ministry said in a statement in response to questions from The Times. “As a matter of policy, the State of Israel approves the export of cyber products exclusively to governmental entities, for lawful use, and only for the purpose of preventing and investigating crime and counter terrorism, under end use/end user declarations provided by the acquiring government.”

Since NSO first sold Pegasus to the government of Mexico more than a decade ago, the spyware has been used by dozens of countries to track criminals, terrorists and drug traffickers. But the abuse of the tool has also been extensive, from Saudi Arabia’s use of Pegasus as part of a brutal crackdown on dissents inside the kingdom, to Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary authorizing his intelligence and law enforcement services to deploy the spyware against his political opponents.

Last November, the Biden administration put NSO and another Israeli cyberfirm on a “blacklist” of firms that are barred from doing business with American companies. The Commerce Department said the companies’ tools “have enabled foreign governments to conduct transnational repression, which is the practice of authoritarian governments targeting dissidents, journalists and activists outside of their sovereign borders to silence dissent.”

Ronen Bergman reported from Kyiv, and Mark Mazzetti from Washington.

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