CAIRO — Rowing up to the cheerful turquoise houseboat on the Nile, a fisherman saluted the white-haired woman swaying on its deck.
“How are you holding up?” he called to the woman, Ekhlas Helmy, 88, as his wife dragged back the oars. “May God bring down the bully!”
This week may be their last sharing that particular stretch of the Nile, a narrow tract in central Cairo that, since the 1800s, has been lined with wooden houseboats — homes that double as living lore. This month, the government suddenly ordered Ms. Helmy’s houseboat and 31 others demolished, saying they were unsafe and unlicensed.
famous films were set on others. On the riverbank, life was peaceful, airy and private, nothing like the dusty, frenzied metropolis whose imagination the floating homes had captured for so long.
modernize — and monetize — much of Cairo by handing it over to private developers or the military, bulldozing several historic neighborhoods to build new high-rises, roads and bridges.
singers Jalila, Zubayda and Zanuba.
Mounira al-Mahdia, a celebrated 1920s diva. The houseboat of another singer, Badia Masabni, was said to be so popular among Cairo’s elite that a rumor spread at the time that governments were formed aboard.
Back then, there were at least 200 houseboats up and down the Nile. But under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, many of the structures were moved to clear the river for water sports, said Wael Wakil, 58, who was born and raised in the houseboat he still lives on.
That left about 40 boats moored where they sit now, next to Kit Kat, a neighborhood named after a local World War II-era nightclub popular among Allied soldiers.
installed a pair of German spies on one houseboat in the area — with the help, in some tellings, of a belly dancer.
largely open to the public, became crowded with private clubs and cafes.
The authorities have made clear that they want more of those: The houseboat owners say they have been told that they can pay more than $6,500 to temporarily dock elsewhere while they apply for commercial licenses to open cafes or restaurants in their former homes. But that, they argue, is hardly a fair or attractive option.
“They’re destroying the past, they’re destroying the present, and they’re destroying the future, too,” said Neama Mohsen, 50, a theater instructor who has lived on one of the houseboats for three decades. “I see this as a crime, and no one can stop it. They’re taking away our lives as if we’re criminals or terrorists.”
Today, some of the houseboats are owned by politicians and businessmen, others by bohemians, still others by middle-class Egyptians who know no other life.
Mr. Wakil said his family moved to their houseboat in 1961. He remembers growing up fishing off its deck. Whenever he dropped a toy in the Nile, he said, a passing boatman would rescue it.
Now Mr. Wakil, a retired finance manager, has packed up, and is getting ready to move to an apartment his wife owns in the desert.
“But nothing will come close to compensating for this,” he said.
From Ms. Soueif’s favorite place in the house, the dressing room where she gives her grandchildren baths, she can see a mango tree in her riverbank garden that has not fruited for four years. Suddenly, this year, it produced what promises to be a bumper crop.
But this type of mango cannot be picked before mid-July. By then, if nothing changes, she and her houseboat will be gone.
DONETSK REGION, Ukraine — Nearly four months after Russia invaded, the Ukrainian military is running low on ammunition for its Soviet-era artillery and has not received enough supplies from its allies to keep the Russians at bay, Ukrainian officials and artillery officers in the field say.
The shortage has put Ukrainian troops at a growing disadvantage in the artillery-driven war of attrition in the country’s east, with Russia’s batteries now firing several times as many rounds as Ukraine’s. While the West is sending in weapons, they are not arriving fast enough or in sufficient numbers to make up for Ukraine’s dwindling arsenal.
The Western weapons, heavy, long-range artillery pieces and multiple-launch rocket systems, are more accurate and highly mobile, but it takes time to deploy them and train soldiers to use them. In the meantime, Ukraine is running out of ammunition for the older weapons.
The Guardian newspaper that Ukraine was losing the artillery battle with Russia on the front lines because of the shortage of artillery shells for its older guns. He said Ukraine was firing 5,000 to 6,000 artillery rounds a day and had “almost used up all of our ammunition.”
By contrast, Russian forces are firing about 60,000 artillery shells and rockets each day in the Donbas fighting, according to a senior adviser to the Ukrainian military command who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at CNA, a research institute in Arlington, Va., said ammunition supplies would be critical to the final outcome in the battle for eastern Ukraine.
“This war is far more about attrition by artillery than maneuver, which means one of the deciding factors is who has more ammunition,” he said.
That Ukraine was running low on ammunition has hardly been a secret. Ukrainian officials flagged the problem months ago. On the front lines, commanders watched, alarmed, as stocks dwindled mid-battle. Soldiers say requests for artillery support go unanswered, for lack of shells.
Vadym Mischuk, 32, a Ukrainian soldier who had just rotated off the frontline near the eastern city of Bakhmut, said Thursday that there is so much Russian artillery fire that “we don’t even hear ours.” One soldier, who declined to provide his name for security reasons, estimated that for every one Ukrainian shell fired, the Russians fired 10.
The Ukrainian military has been honest about the shortfalls — something an army would not typically telegraph to the enemy in a war — perhaps because doing so adds a sense of urgency to appeals for more powerful Western weaponry.
“In early March we were already well aware that during intensive war with Russia our resources were depleting,” Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, wrote on Facebook on Thursday. He added, “Relying solely on Soviet weapons was definitely a losing strategy.”
Even before the invasion, Ukraine’s ammunition depots had been targets for saboteurs, regularly blowing up like gigantic, lethally dangerous fireworks displays.
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Spies or drones dropping incendiary devices were blamed in many cases. Between 2015 and 2019, six ammunition depots blew up in Ukraine, burning about 210,000 tons of ammo, or three times more than the Ukrainian army expended in the same time span fighting Russian-backed separatists, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Following Russia’s invasion, NATO countries have stepped in to bolster Ukraine’s supply of ammunition, but the transfers have not always gone smoothly. Countries of the old Warsaw Pact and NATO countries used different calibers of ammunition — an enduring legacy that means much of Ukraine’s arsenal, built decades ago to Soviet specifications, cannot fire Western ammunition.
Ukraine’s newly acquired hoard of NATO’s 155-millimeter artillery shells is now larger than its entire artillery ammunition stockpile before the war started, Mr. Reznikov said. But the Ukrainian forces have too few guns at the front to fire the munitions, and are facing extensive logistics challenges not only to get them into the fight, but also to maintain them once there.
Some European countries have shipped so many of their own ammunition reserves to Ukraine — in some cases up to 30 percent — that they’re increasingly anxious about replenishing their stocks, European Union officials said.
Officials said that while there was still a relatively steady flow of military equipment from the E.U. and its allies, Ukraine was not receiving as much heavy artillery as it needs.
With artillery shells in short supply, Ukrainian forces have adjusted their tactics to compensate for the lack of artillery support. On Friday, for example, a tank unit in Donbas was using a Ukrainian T-64BV tank more like an artillery piece than a main battle tank.
Instead of attacking targets directly, the tank drove several kilometers toward the front, positioned itself in a tree line, and lobbed shells at Russian positions while a Ukrainian officer adjusted its aim over the radio and using a drone overhead — the procedure typically used with mortars or howitzers.
“It is a fact already that the tanks are used because there is not enough artillery,” said the artillery unit commander, who asked to go by his nom de guerre, Razor. His unit of 122-millimeter, self-propelled howitzers had run out of Ukrainian ammunition and was now using Czech-supplied shells.
But ammunition can be fickle. Decades-old ammunition can become unreliable if not stored properly over time, potentially leading to more duds. Another soldier, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that a batch of Czech-supplied rockets were faulty, with only three out of 40 firing.
Ukrainian soldiers wounded in combat have also voiced dismay about the paltry artillery support, which they blamed on a lack of ammunition.
“There is not an hour with a pause” in Russian bombardments, Lt. Oleksandr Kolesnikov, who was wounded late last month, said in an interview in an ambulance while being evacuated to a hospital to the west. “The artillery is very intense.” He said his commander called in artillery in response but received only one salvo.
The Russian artillery superiority has frightened soldiers, he said. “In war, everything is scary and we fear everything. Only idiots are not afraid.”
Reporting was contributed by Oleksandr Chubko from Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Maria Varenikova from Barvinkove, Ukraine, Matina Stevis-Gridneff from Brussels and Helene Cooper and John Ismay from Washington.
One hundred days ago, before sunrise, Russia launched artillery strikes on Ukraine before sending troops racing toward major cities, beginning a war against a much smaller country and outnumbered military that seemed destined to quickly topple the government in Kyiv.
But the brutal invasion has ripped apart those predictions, reawakening old alliances, testing others and spreading death and destruction across the country. Both armies are now locked in fierce and bloody battles across a 600-mile-long front for control of Ukraine’s east and to gain the upper hand in the conflict.
The winner, if there is one, is not likely to emerge even in the next 100 days, analysts say. Some foresee an increasingly intractable struggle in eastern Ukraine and a growing confrontation between President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and the West.
New Western arms promised to Ukraine — such as long-range missiles announced by President Biden this week — could help it reclaim some towns, which would be significant for civilians in those areas, said Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting organization. But they are unlikely to dramatically alter the course of the war, he said.
Squeezed by tightening Western sanctions, Russia, he said, was likely to retaliate with cyberattacks, espionage and disinformation campaigns. And a Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian grain is likely to worsen a food crisis in poor countries.
“What we’re looking at now is what the war in Ukraine is likely to look like in 100 days, not radically different,” Mr. Bremmer said. “But I think the confrontation with the West has the potential to be significantly worse.”
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said defiantly Friday that “victory will be ours,” and noted overnight that 50 foreign embassies had resumed “their full-fledged activities” in Kyiv, a sign of the fragile sense of normalcy returning to the capital.
Nevertheless, more than three months into a war that has radically altered Europe’s security calculus, killed thousands on both sides, displaced more than 12 million people and spurred a humanitarian crisis, Russian forces now control one-fifth of the country — an area greater than the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg combined.
Asked during a briefing with reporters what Russia had achieved in Ukraine after 100 days, Dmitri S. Peskov, the presidential spokesman, said that many populated areas had been “liberated” from the Ukrainian military, whom he described as “Nazi-minded,” doubling down on a false narrative the Kremlin has used to justify the invasion.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday that the invasion had caused destruction that “defies comprehension,” adding, “It would be hard to exaggerate the toll that the international armed conflict in Ukraine has had on civilians over the last 100 days.”
More than 4,000 civilians have been killed since Feb. 24, according to U.N. estimates. Ukrainian officials place the death toll much higher.
The war has also set off the largest exodus of refugees in Europe since World War II. More than 8 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced, and more than 6.5 million have fled to other countries, according to the United Nations.
Half of Ukraine’s businesses have closed and 4.8 million jobs have been lost. The U.N. estimates the country’s economic output will fall by half this year. Ninety percent of the population risks falling near or below the poverty line. At least $100 billion in damage has been done to infrastructure.
“We may not have enough weapons, but we are resisting,” said Oleh Kubrianov, a Ukrainian soldier who lost his right leg fighting near the front line, speaking in a raspy voice as he lay in a hospital bed. He still had shrapnel lodged in his neck. “There are many more of us, and we are motivated, and convinced by our victory,” he said.
Indeed, a recent poll found that almost 80 percent of Ukrainians believe the country is “moving in the right direction.”
“The idea of Ukrainian identity expanded,” said Volodymyr Yermolenko, a Ukrainian writer, describing the national sentiment. “More people feel themselves Ukrainian, even those who were doubting their Ukrainian and European identity.”
Russia, too, is suffering from the invasion, geopolitically isolated and facing years of economic dislocation. Its banks have been cut off from Western finance, and with oil production already off by 15 percent, it is losing energy markets in Europe. Its industries are grappling with developing shortages of basic materials, spare parts and high-tech components.
The decisions by Finland and Sweden to abandon more than 70 years of neutrality and apply for membership in NATO have underscored the disastrous strategic costs of the invasion for Russia.
Major Western companies like McDonald’s, Starbucks and Nike have vanished, ostensibly to be replaced by Russian brands. The impact will be less noticeable outside major cities, but with nearly 1,000 foreign companies having left, some consumers have felt the difference as stocks ran low.
While existing stocks have kept much of the country ticking, Russia will soon have much more of a Soviet feel, reverting to an era when Western goods were nonexistent. Some importers will make a fortune bringing in everything from jeans to iPhones to spare engine parts, but the country will become much more self-contained.
“In Russia, the most important economic thing in the last 100 days is that Putin and the elite firmly settled on an autocratic, isolationist course, and the wider elite and public seem supportive,” said Konstantin Sonin, a Russian economist at the University of Chicago.
“It seems that the course is settled, and it will be hard to reverse even if the war ended miraculously quickly,” he added. The next step will likely be a return to more centralized economic planning, he predicted, with the government setting prices and taking over the allocation of certain scarce goods, particularly those needed for military production.
The war is reverberating globally as well. On Friday, Macky Sall, the president of Senegal and chairman of the African Union, appealed directly to Mr. Putin to release Ukraine’s grain as countries across Africa and the Middle East face alarming levels of hunger and starvation.
At a news conference with Mr. Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Mr. Sall also blamed Western sanctions on Russia for compounding Africa’s food crisis.
“Our countries, although they are far from the theater,” Mr. Sall said, “are victims of this crisis on an economic level.”
Tens of millions of people in Africa are on the brink of severe hunger and famine.
On Friday, Chad, a landlocked nation of 17 million people, declared a food emergency and the United Nations has warned that nearly a third of the country’s population would need humanitarian assistance this year.
For now, peace in Ukraine appears to be nowhere in sight.
On Friday, the skies around Sievierodonetsk, the last major city in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine still under Ukrainian control, were heavy with smoke as both armies traded blows in a fierce battle.
Ukrainian troops were moving heavy guns and howitzers along the roads toward the frontline, pouring men and armor into the fight. Russian rockets pummeled an area near Sievierodonetsk late Friday afternoon, landing with multiple heavy explosions that were audible from a nearby village. Missiles streaked through the sky from Ukrainian-held territory toward Russian positions.
Bruno Tertrais, deputy director of the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, said both sides could become bogged down for months or years in a war of “positions,” rather than movement.
“This is not a bad scenario for Russia, which would maintain its country in a state of war and would wait for fatigue to win over the Westerners,” Mr. Tertrais wrote in a paper for the Institut Montaigne. Russia would already win to some degree, “by putting the occupied regions under its thumb for a long time.”
Nevertheless, Mr. Tertrais believes a progressive material and moral collapse of the Russian effort remains more probable, given Russian troops’ low morale and Ukraine’s general mobilization.
Amin Awad, the United Nations’ crisis coordinator for Ukraine, said that regardless of who wins the conflict, the toll has been “unacceptable.”
“This war has and will have no winner,” Mr. Awad said in a statement. “Rather, we have witnessed for 100 days what is lost: lives, homes, jobs and prospects.”
Reporting was contributed by Carlotta Gall, Dan Bilefsky, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Cassandra Vinograd, Elian Peltier and Kevin Granville.
HAVANA, May 7 (Reuters) – Cuban rescue workers on Saturday picked through rubble for bodies and possible survivors after a Havana boutique hotel was devastated by what authorities said was a gas explosion, leaving at least 26 dead.
The blast at the Hotel Saratoga, just a block from the iconic capitol building in a renovated area of downtown Havana, seriously damaged two adjoining upscale apartment buildings and inflicted lighter damage to 17 structures within a two-block radius. Debris fell on pedestrians in the heavily traveled area and glass and debris went flying at a nearby grammar school.
Local authorities said 50 adults and 14 children were injured. Four of the dead were children, they said, providing few details. One of the dead was a Spanish tourist.
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Authorities and local media said rescuers were working to get to a passage way to the basement in hopes there were survivors. They said it was slow going as engineers had to check the stability of what remained of the building.
The hotel, housed in a more than century-old building, had been closed and only workers were inside at the time of the explosion, state-run TV said.
Emergency personnel are lifted by a crane to survey the damage of the Saratoga Hotel a day after it suffered an explosion, in Havana, Cuba May 7, 2022. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Residents of the adjoining apartment building often rented out to tourists.
The neoclassical-style hotel was remodeled by a British company after the fall of the Soviet Union and for many years was considered the place to stay by visiting government officials and celebrities.
Recently, it had lost some of its shine with the opening of new hotels in Havana, but was still a five-star venue just a minute away from various historic sites such as the renovated, century-old Marti Theater, which sustained moderate damage.
“Well, its just more bad news. There was Trump, Biden, the pandemic, shortages, and I could go on and on,” Michael Serano, a nurse who doubles as a handyman,” said, shrugging his shoulders and looking to the sky.
The Cuban tourism industry was largely shuttered for the last two years and is in the process of reopening now that locally developed vaccines appear to have tamed the new coronavirus, though arrivals remain at around 30% of pre-pandemic levels.
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Reporting by Marc Frank
Editing by Alistair Bell
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“The Russians were sitting on the curb, drinking water from plastic bottles, just watching me,” she said. “They didn’t say anything, they didn’t show any emotion. They were like an audience at the theater.”
That’s when she let out a “wild cry, like something I have never heard,” her father said.
“Shoot me!” she screamed. “Shoot me and the cat!”
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Mariupol evacuation. Ukrainian officials vowed to continue a large-scale evacuation from Mariupol, despite renewed Russian shelling. The evacuation is seen as the best and possibly last hope for hundreds of civilians sheltering in bunkers beneath the wreckage of the Azovstal steel plant.
Moscow’s next move? Russia appears to be preparing to annex two regions in eastern Ukraine and possibly a third in the country’s south, a senior American diplomat said. The official said that the Kremlin would most likely stage “sham” elections to formally seize control.
She was looking at the soldiers, staring at their boots, but the commander eventually lowered his gun and said, “I do not kill women.”
He gave Iryna and her father three minutes to leave.
Bucha’s population is normally around 40,000, but all but 3,000 to 4,000 residents had fled before the Russian occupation, city officials said. Around 400 civilians are thought to have been killed, meaning about one of 10 people who were here.
Some were shot execution style with hands tied behind their backs. Others were horribly beaten. Many were like Oleh: no military experience, unarmed and posing no obvious threat.
So many bodies were left on Bucha’s streets that city officials said they were worried about a plague. But they didn’t have enough workers to collect the dead. So they drafted volunteers. One of them was Vladyslav Minchenko, a tattoo artist.
“The most blood I had ever seen was in a piercing,” he said wryly.
But soon he was picking up dead people and body parts, zipping them into black bags and taking them to a communal grave outside Bucha’s main church. He retrieved Oleh’s body, with its shattered head, he said, which was verified by video evidence.
Many entertainment executives, tired of playing catch-up to a Silicon Valley interloper, have been waiting for the comeuppance of Netflix. But this may not have been the way they hoped it would happen.
Netflix said this week that it lost more subscribers than it signed up in the first three months of the year, reversing a decade of steady growth. The company’s shares nose-dived 35 percent on Wednesday while it shed about $50 billion in market capitalization. The pain was shared across the industry as the stock of companies like Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount also declined.
Netflix blamed a number of issues, ranging from increased competition to its decision to drop all its subscribers in Russia because of the war in Ukraine. To entertainment executives and analysts, the moment felt decisive in the so-called streaming wars. After years of trying, they may see a chance to gain ground on their giant rival.
But Netflix’s stunning reversal also raised a number of questions that will have to be answered in the coming months as more traditional media companies race toward subscription businesses largely modeled after what Netflix created. Is there such a thing as too many streaming options? How many people are really willing to pay for them? And could this business be less profitable and far less reliable than what the industry has been doing for years?
advertising-supported tier in the next year or two. Netflix also said it would crack down on password sharing, a practice that in the past it said it had no problem with.
“We’ve been thinking about that for a couple of years, but when we were growing fast it wasn’t a high priority to work on,” Mr. Hastings said. “And now, we’re working superhard on it.”
Netflix has no advertising sales experience, while rivals like Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount have vast advertising infrastructure. And the password crackdown led some analysts to wonder whether Netflix has already reached market saturation in the United States.
Mr. Hastings tried to reassure everyone that Netflix had been through tough times before and that it would solve its problems. He said the company was now “superfocused” on “getting back into our investors’ good graces.”
KYIV, Ukraine — There are fields instead of city streets, farmsteads instead of apartment buildings. Open highways stretch to the horizon.
The battles in the north that Ukraine won over the past seven weeks raged in towns and densely populated suburbs around the capital, Kyiv, but the war is about to take a hard turn to the southeast and into a vast expanse of wide-open flatland, fundamentally changing the nature of the combat, the weapons at play and the strategies that might bring victory.
Military analysts, Ukrainian commanders, soldiers and even Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, acknowledge that a wider war that began with a failed attempt to capture the capital will now be waged in the eastern Donbas region.
With few natural barriers, the armies can try to flank and surround each other, firing fierce barrages of artillery from a distance to soften enemy positions.
Russia invaded in February, Ukraine had been fighting Russia-backed separatists there since 2014, when Moscow fomented an uprising and sent in forces to support it. That war had settled into a stalemate, with each side controlling territory and neither gaining much ground.
Now, what may be the decisive phase of Mr. Putin’s latest war is returning to that same region, blighted by eight years of conflict and littered with land mines and trenches, as he tries to conquer the portion of Donbas still held by Ukraine. Neither side has made a major move in recent days, and analysts say it will most likely require a long and bloody conflict for either one to prevail.
Slovakia this week provided Ukraine with a potent, long-range antiaircraft missile system, the S-300. And on Wednesday, President Biden announced an $800 million military aid package to Ukraine that for the first time included more-powerful weaponry, including 18 155-millimeter howitzers, 40,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and 200 armored personnel carriers.
warn the United States of “unpredictable consequences” of shipping such arms, American officials said on Friday.
Perhaps the biggest difference from the northern phase of the war, fought among towns, woods and hills, will be the terrain. Military analysts are forecasting an all-out, bloody battle on the steppe.
“There’s nowhere to hide,” said Maksim Finogin, a veteran of Ukraine’s conflict in Donbas.
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.
The pandemic accelerated the disruption. Traditional studios like Paramount, Universal, Sony, Warner Bros. and Disney rerouted dozens of theatrical films to streaming services or released them simultaneously in theaters and online. For the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, citing the coronavirus threat, allowed films to skip a theatrical release entirely and still be eligible for Oscars. The academy had previously required at least a perfunctory theatrical release of at least a week in Los Angeles.
This is about more than Hollywood egotism. The worry is that, as streaming services proliferate — more than 300 now operate in the United States, according to the consulting firm Parks Associates — theaters could become exclusively the land of superheroes, sequels and remakes. The venerable Warner Bros. has slashed annual theatrical output by almost half and built a direct-to-streaming film assembly line. Last week, Amazon boosted its Prime Video service by acquiring Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the old-line studio behind “Licorice Pizza,” which is nominated for three Academy Awards, including best picture.
In a year when Hollywood largely failed to jump-start theatrical moviegoing, streaming services solidified their hold on viewers. Global ticket sales totaled $21.3 billion in 2021, down from $42.3 billion in 2019, according to the Motion Picture Association. (Theaters were closed for much of 2020.) Some theater companies have gone out of business, others have merged; the world’s biggest theater chain, AMC Entertainment, racked up $6 billion in losses over the past two years and its stock has dropped 66 percent since June. At the same time, the number of subscriptions to online video services around the world grew to 1.3 billion, up from 864 million in 2019, the group said.
One film that struggled at the box office was Mr. Spielberg’s “West Side Story,” which received an exclusive run in theaters (per his wishes) of about three months. It collected about $75 million worldwide (against a production budget of $100 million and global marketing costs of roughly $50 million). “West Side Story” is now available on not one but two streaming services, Disney+ and HBO Max, where it has almost assuredly been viewed more widely than in theaters. But the film was never able to recover — among Oscar voters — from being branded a box office misfire. It received seven nominations, and is poised to win in one category, for Ariana DeBose as best supporting actress.
Mr. Spielberg’s also-ran presence in the current Oscar race makes the ascendance of streaming contenders all the more striking: a lion in the fight to keep the Academy Awards focused on theatrical films is pushed aside.
However unlikely, it is possible that “West Side Story” could come from behind and win the best picture trophy. So could Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast,” for that matter. Such an outcome would be a bit like 2019, when academy voters, turned off by an over-the-top campaign by Netflix to push “Roma” to best picture glory, instead gave the prize to “Green Book,” a traditional film from Universal Pictures.
KYIV, Ukraine — A tall woman with blonde and pink hair and a small dachshund stood out among the crowd of police officers and volunteers at the checkpoint on the edge of Kyiv. She looked as if she were out for a stroll, but she had just survived a dangerous evacuation under mortar fire.
The woman, Sasha Myhova, 21, and her boyfriend, Stas Burykov, 19, were evacuated Friday from their home in Irpin, the northwestern suburb that has become one of the most fiercely contested areas in the three weeks of fighting since Russia’s invading troops advanced toward the capital and Ukrainian troops blocked their way.
“It was dangerous,” she said. “They were bombing as we drove.”
The heavy boom of artillery sounded again as she spoke. “Shells were landing right in our yard,” she said, pulling out a piece of metal shrapnel she had kept.
As the war in Ukraine settles into its fourth week, the suburbs on the edge of Kyiv have become important if unlikely front lines of the war, where the Russian and Ukrainian forces are stuck in a savage give-and-take at one of the gateways to the capital, in positions that have not really moved.
Blocked and badly mauled, Russian forces have nevertheless established positions around three sides of the capital. Ukrainian forces have successfully stalled them, and on Wednesday mounted a series of coordinated counterattacks to challenge those positions.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine hailed the defense of Kyiv, led by the commander of land forces, Oleksandr Syrsky, saying that Ukrainian forces had regained control of 30 settlements around the city in the counterattack. “The enemy suffered significant losses and was driven away from the capital,” he said.
Yet the mortar fire and gunfire was so heavy in Irpin that the Ukrainians stopped attempting further evacuations after the one that included Ms. Myhova. The Ukrainian counterattack seems to have been met by a ferocious response from Russian forces. Residents and volunteers helping evacuate them said Russian artillery fire and even machine gun fire had intensified over the last few days.
One man, Vitaliy Kalman, was standing beside his suitcase hoping for a lull in the fighting. He said he had tried to go back into the district to retrieve some clothes from his apartment but came under mortar fire just beyond the ruined bridge that marks the entrance into Irpin. The bridge was destroyed by Ukrainian troops to forestall advancement by Russian troops in the first days of the war.
“They are very close,” he said of the Russians. “I saw the shell explode just near my house, and I ran back here with the evacuation team.”
A volunteer member of the Territorial Defense Forces described the street fighting in Irpin as an all-out guerrilla war. On the attacking side are the Russian troops, which Western military analysts say are likely elite airborne Special Forces units.
Defending against them are local volunteers, many of whom had just been handed rifles a few days before the Russians arrived in their town, alongside veteran militia fighters and uniformed troops.
Street fighting had been raging for days, according to soldiers interviewed on the edge of the town on Saturday. As of then, Russians controlled one of the three main thoroughfares, one was contested and the third was under tenuous Ukrainian control.
The locals have been slipping out at night and shooting at Russian positions, said the volunteer, who asked only to be identified by his nickname, Spotter, for security reasons. “It’s understood that they will be taking no prisoners,” he said of the firefights. “These are people who have weapons and know the local area perfectly.”
A doctor at a nearby hospital said it had received 25 wounded soldiers on Wednesday on the first day of the counterattack.
Ms. Myhova said Russian troops had twice entered her home in recent days. First, two soldiers who seemed to be scouts came into the yard, then three days ago, just before the Ukrainian counterattack, 10 Russian soldiers entered the house.
“They searched everything,” she said. “They said they had picked up a telephone signal from the house.”
The soldiers warned the family that if they informed anyone about the location of the Russian troops, they would shoot them. “They pointed their guns at us,” she said. “They said, ‘We can shoot you because we know your location.’”
When Mr. Burykov’s 70-year-old grandfather, the owner of the house, began to remonstrate with them, the Russian soldiers told them that they were securing control over what was Russian land, citing the medieval kingdom of Kievan Rus, which Russia claims as its ancestral state.
“My grandfather tried to argue,” Mr. Burykov said. “He said, ‘It’s rubbish that it’s your land. I was born here. Go away.’”
On Wednesday, the day Ukraine mounted its counter-strikes, residents said the shelling worsened dramatically. There were four explosions around the house that shook the doors, and the sound of gunfire from assault rifles in the yard, Ms. Myhova said.
When they learned that volunteers were evacuating an elderly woman nearby, the couple, along with a sister of Mr. Burykov, asked to get out. But Mr. Burykov’s parents, grandfather and other siblings stayed behind.
“They want to go when there is a green corridor,” Ms. Myhova said, referring to a humanitarian evacuation with guarantees of safety. “But there will not be any,” she said, “since even if one is agreed, they shoot at the cars.”
The Ukrainian army and volunteers evacuated about 150 residents from Irpin on Thursday, many of them pensioners who were struggling to survive after the fighting disrupted water, gas and electricity.
“They are out of strength,” said a volunteer paramedic, Oleh Lutsenko, 32, who was on duty at the entrance to Irpin Thursday. He treated three wounded soldiers, one with severe wounds from artillery fire, among the evacuees, and his team also brought out the bodies of three dead civilians — all grandmothers, as he called them. “Maybe they died from hunger,” he said.
As his team pulled out just before 5 p.m., they came under machine gun fire, he said. Despite two days of counterattack, they were still in range of Russian guns.
While Ukrainian troops had success in stalling the Russian advance as it lumbered down the main highways toward Kyiv, Russian units have continued pushing south on the eastern and western flanks of the capital in an attempt to encircle it, military analysts have said.
The long columns of tanks that had backed up on highways to the north of Irpin have now fanned out into villages and forests outside of Kyiv, according to the volunteer, Spotter, who was interviewed at a gas station in a western district of the capital.
In his mid 50s, with a salt and pepper beard, he carried a walkie-talkie and said he ran an ad hoc intelligence unit, collecting information on the Russians’ positions in the suburbs and outlying villages.
“They are hiding tanks in villages between houses,” he said, adding that soldiers were also quartering in homes to avoid the cold.
Their dispersal was complicating the Ukrainian counterattack, since the Russian armor was interspersed in villages, where civilians lived, even if most people have fled the area.
After two major ambushes on Russian positions outside Kyiv, in the suburban towns of Bucha and Brovary, which together left dozens of charred tanks on main roads, the armored vehicles are now avoiding traveling in columns, he said.
“They are now digging in,” Spotter said of Russian soldiers, as Ukraine’s artillery has been pounding them from the edge of Kyiv. “They didn’t expect this resistance.”
Volunteers guarding the checkpoint on the main western highway that heads out of Kyiv to the city of Zhytomyr said Russian troops had seized control of the road and vehicles could no longer safely use the highway except to a nearby settlement of Chaika.
It was unclear, Spotter said, how far south Russian troops had moved after crossing the Zhytomyr highway, though it appeared the intention of the Russian forces was to keep encircling the capital and eventually seal off access routes.
The advance was now stalled. “They are regrouping,” he said.
After weeks of laying siege to Volnovakha in eastern Ukraine, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, the Russian defense ministry’s spokesman, claimed on March 11 that it had been “liberated.”
But after a relentless bombardment of the city, Russia was asserting control over a wasteland of rubble and ash.
When Russia launched its war in Ukraine last month, the Kremlin repeatedly said it was acting to prevent a “genocide” in the breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.
As the war entered its fourth week on Thursday, Russian forces had their most complete control in territory around this area, known as the Donbas. They are also leaving a trail of death and destruction, the scope of which is only vaguely known to outside observers, as the fighting rages on. But witness testimony, photographs, video evidence, statements from local officials and satellite imagery all paint a consistent picture of destruction on a vast scale.
The city of Izyum — which is nearly 200 miles north of Mariupol, the besieged city on the Sea of Azov — has also been surrounded by Russian forces for two weeks, and officials there say that tens of thousands of people are facing a situation as dire as the one in Mariupol.
“No water, no light, no heat, no food, no medicine, no communication. The situation is no better than Mariupol,” Izyum’s deputy mayor, Volodymyr Matsokin, wrote on Facebook on Tuesday. “There is no one to bury the dead. Medical care is not provided.”
Before the war, Severodonetsk and Lysychansk were cities with populations of more than 100,000. Witnesses say both are in ruins. Russian shelling overnight targeting the city of Rubizhne, population 50,000, turned whole streets into caldrons of flames, the head of the Luhansk regional military administration, Sergiy Haidai, wrote on Telegram.
“At least 27 houses were set on fire,” he wrote.
Before it fell, Volnovakha issued the same kind of urgent pleas for help and humanitarian assistance now echoing out across the east.
About 40 miles north of Mariupol, Volnovakha was considered a key strategic target for Russian forces as they pressed to move on Mariupol, secure the region and establish a land bridge from Crimea to Russia.
Ukrainian officials estimate that 90 percent of the buildings have been destroyed and are uninhabitable. There is no official estimate of those killed.
“In general, Volnovakha with its infrastructure as such no longer exists,” Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of the Donetsk region, told the Ukrainian television channel Direct.
Dmytro, 29, described a scene of chaos and desperation when he fled with three older relatives on March 4. People rushed to the main town square, hoping to escape, when more Russian shells exploded nearby.
“All these people had to hide in buildings,” he said. “But since these buildings were all destroyed, they just hid behind the burned walls. Wherever they could.”
“Around the square there are boutique shopping buildings, stores. Everything was burned black,” he said. The train station was also burning. He said that in the main square he saw a body, which he only realized was dead after approaching.
“Thank God it didn’t last long,” he said. “Someone came to pick us up. Regular civilians came in cars to help to get people out, too. Whoever had a place in the car were picking others up. Thank God we were able to get out of there.”
Pavlo Yeshtokin, 30, also escaped. But his father, who had worked at a supermarket called the Generous Basket, remained in the city longer. Just six days into the war, he told his son that almost everything was destroyed.
All of the newer buildings and the main city market were burned down, he said. Old houses are more durable, he said, and were standing even if they were missing a wall.
Mr. Yeshtokin, a journalist, said that when he fled, he did not take much, thinking he would be able to return. He said that there were no Ukrainian authorities left in the city, and that no humanitarian aid could be brought in from the Ukrainian government.
The day after the Russians took control, the Defense Ministry in Moscow issued a statement saying that “appropriate humanitarian measures are being carried out with the population, and none of the residents are going to leave their homes.”
The claim could not be independently verified.
Mr. Yeshtoken said he had seen videos on the Russian news media showing its soldiers giving out assistance, but he thinks they were a distorted version of reality. “Nobody looks normal, lively — they are red-faced, seemingly shellshocked, scared, moving slowly, sitting on the ground,” he said.
There has been no effort to rebuild anything, he said. “People keep living in the basements and just go around from house to house,” he said.
His grandmother is among those left to survive in the ruins.
“My father went to his 92-year-old mother,” Pavlo said. “She did not understand what was happening. He wrapped her in blankets, talked to her and left.”
“The next day he was evacuated, but his grandmother stayed there. We don’t know what’s happened to her,” he said.
Attempts to reach her have failed, he said. His father has not been allowed to return to look for her, and even relatives on the Russian side of the border cannot access the city. They have been told that people can come to Russia, but no one is allowed to travel from Russia to the ruins of Volnovakha.