a hunger strike and said by his lawyer to be near death, Mr. Navalny this week wrote in a letter to his allies that he had grown so thin he resembled a “skeleton walking, swaying in his cell.”

Police detained dozens of opposition activists earlier on Wednesday, including Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, and a top lieutenant in his political organization, Lyubov Sobol. To curb turnout at protests, universities compelled students to sit for unscheduled exams, TV Rain, an independent news station, reported on Tuesday.

Mr. Putin’s speech was closely watched for hints of his intentions in Ukraine, after massing the largest military force on the border since the outset of Kyiv’s war with Russian-backed separatists seven years ago.

highest per capita in the world.

“Solar Winds” hacking of government agencies and corporations, various disinformation efforts and earlier military interventions in Ukraine.

Mr. Putin’s allies had also erupted in fury when President Biden in an interview last month agreed with a characterization of Mr. Putin as a “killer.” In Wednesday’s speech, Mr. Putin lingered on a grievance that has not gained much traction outside Russian state news media: an accusation that the C.I.A. had been plotting an assassination of its own, targeting President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus, a Russian ally.

Over the weekend, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, arrested two men who it said had coordinated with American and Polish intelligence agencies to plot the murder of Mr. Lukashenko. This, Mr. Putin said, “crossed all the boundaries.”

In Mr. Putin’s telling, Russia, far from pursuing a militaristic policy, has been the victim of a Western scheme to contain and hobble the country. “They attack Russia here and there without any reason,” Mr. Putin said. He cited Rudyard Kipling’s novel “Jungle Book” with a comparison of the United States to Shere Khan, a villainous tiger, nipping at Russia.

And Mr. Putin lingered on descriptions of Russia’s modernized arsenal of atomic weapons. These include a hypersonic cruise missile, called the Dagger, and a nuclear torpedo, called the Poseidon. The torpedo, Russian officials have said, is designed to set off a radioactive tsunami.

The foreign policy message was a stark warning, said Andrei A. Klimov, deputy chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Russian Senate.

“We aren’t joking any longer,” Mr. Klimov said. ““We won’t every day tell our opponents they will be punished. But when it comes, they will understand.”

Anton Troianovski contributed reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine and Ivan Nechepurenko from Moscow.

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Biden to Declare Atrocities Against Armenia Were Genocide

WASHINGTON — More than a century after the Ottoman Empire’s killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenian civilians, President Biden is preparing to declare that the atrocities were an act of genocide, according to officials familiar with the internal debate. The action would signal that the American commitment to human rights outweighs the risk of further fraying the U.S. alliance with Turkey

Mr. Biden is expected to announce the symbolic designation on Saturday, the 106th anniversary of the beginning of what historians call a yearslong and systematic death march that the predecessors of modern Turkey started during World War I. He would be the first sitting American president to do so, although Ronald Reagan made a glancing reference to the Armenian genocide in a 1981 written statement about the Holocaust, and both the House and the Senate approved measures in 2019 to make its recognition a formal matter of U.S. foreign policy.

At least 29 other countries have taken similar steps — mostly in Europe and the Americas, but also Russia and Syria, Turkey’s political adversaries.

A U.S. official with knowledge of the administration’s discussions said Mr. Biden had decided to issue the declaration, and others across the government and in foreign embassies said it was widely expected.

said in an interview with the Turkish broadcaster Haberturk. “If the United States wants to worsen ties, the decision is theirs.”

The legal definition of genocide was not accepted until 1946, and officials and experts said Mr. Biden’s declaration would not carry any tangible penalties beyond humiliating Turkey and tainting its history with an inevitable comparison to the Holocaust.

“We stand firmly against attempts to pretend that this intentional, organized effort to destroy the Armenian people was anything other than a genocide,” a bipartisan group of 38 senators wrote in a letter to Mr. Biden last month, urging him to make the declaration. “You have correctly stated that American diplomacy and foreign policy must be rooted in our values, including respect for universal rights. Those values require us to acknowledge the truth and do what we can to prevent future genocides and other crimes against humanity.”

Mr. Biden appears intent on showing that his commitment to human rights — a pillar of his administration’s foreign policy — is worth any setback.

Turkey’s tenuous cease-fire with Russia has allowed for already-narrowing humanitarian access, and in the Black Sea, to which American warships must first pass through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles on support missions to Ukraine.

“It may be harder to get Erdogan to agree to specific policies,” Mr. Jeffrey said.

He also raised the prospect that Turkey could force meticulous reviews to slow non-NATO operations at Incirlik Air Base, a way station for American forces and equipment in the region. Or, Mr. Jeffrey said, Turkey could do something to provoke new sanctions or reimpose ones that have been suspended, like taking military action against Kurdish fighters allied with American forces against the Islamic State in northeast Syria.

Pentagon officials have also noted the value of Turkish forces remaining in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of U.S. and other coalition troops by Sept. 11; Kabul and Ankara have a longstanding relationship that will allow some troops to remain in Afghanistan after the NATO nations leave.

Tensions between Turkey and the United States flared in December, when the Trump administration imposed sanctions against Ankara for its purchase and then test of a Russian missile defense system that Western officials said could expose NATO’s security networks to Moscow. The sanctions were imposed in the final month of Mr. Trump’s presidency, three years after Turkey bought the missile system, and only after Congress required them as part of a military spending bill.

had pointedly promised to help Armenia last fall during its war against Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, noting the politically influential Armenian diaspora in the United States. His administration took a more evenhanded approach in trying to broker a peace agreement alongside Russia and France and, ultimately, Armenia surrendered the disputed territory in the conflict with Azerbaijan, which was backed by Turkey.

In the Wednesday interview, Mr. Aivazian, Armenia’s foreign minister, seized on Turkey’s military role in the Nagorno-Karabakh war as an example of what he described as “a source of expanding instability” in the region and the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

He said the genocide designation would serve as a reminder to the rest of the world if malign values are not countered.

“I believe bringing dangerous states to the international order will make our world much more secure,” Mr. Aivazian said. “And we will be witnessing less tragedies, less human losses, once the United States will reaffirm its moral leadership in these turbulent times.”

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Biden Preparing to Declare That Atrocities Against Armenia Were Genocide

WASHINGTON — More than a century after the Ottoman Empire’s killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenian civilians, President Biden is preparing to declare that the atrocities were an act of genocide, according to officials familiar with the internal debate. The action would signal that the American commitment to human rights outweighs the risk of further fraying the U.S. alliance with Turkey

Mr. Biden is expected to announce the symbolic designation on Saturday, the 106th anniversary of the beginning of what historians call a yearslong and systematic death march that the predecessors of modern Turkey started during World War I. He would be the first sitting American president to do so, although Ronald Reagan made a glancing reference to the Armenian genocide in a 1981 written statement about the Holocaust, and both the House and the Senate approved measures in 2019 to make its recognition a formal matter of U.S. foreign policy.

At least 29 other countries have taken similar steps — mostly in Europe and the Americas, but also Russia and Syria, Turkey’s political adversaries.

A U.S. official with knowledge of the administration’s discussions said Mr. Biden had decided to issue the declaration, and others across the government and in foreign embassies said it was widely expected.

said in an interview with the Turkish broadcaster Haberturk. “If the United States wants to worsen ties, the decision is theirs.”

The legal definition of genocide was not accepted until 1946, and officials and experts said Mr. Biden’s declaration would not carry any tangible penalties beyond humiliating Turkey and tainting its history with an inevitable comparison to the Holocaust.

“We stand firmly against attempts to pretend that this intentional, organized effort to destroy the Armenian people was anything other than a genocide,” a bipartisan group of 38 senators wrote in a letter to Mr. Biden last month, urging him to make the declaration. “You have correctly stated that American diplomacy and foreign policy must be rooted in our values, including respect for universal rights. Those values require us to acknowledge the truth and do what we can to prevent future genocides and other crimes against humanity.”

Mr. Biden appears intent on showing that his commitment to human rights — a pillar of his administration’s foreign policy — is worth any setback.

Turkey’s tenuous cease-fire with Russia has allowed for already-narrowing humanitarian access, and in the Black Sea, to which American warships must first pass through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles on support missions to Ukraine.

“It may be harder to get Erdogan to agree to specific policies,” Mr. Jeffrey said.

He also raised the prospect that Turkey could force meticulous reviews to slow non-NATO operations at Incirlik Air Base, a way station for American forces and equipment in the region. Or, Mr. Jeffrey said, Turkey could do something to provoke new sanctions or reimpose ones that have been suspended, like taking military action against Kurdish fighters allied with American forces against the Islamic State in northeast Syria.

Pentagon officials have also noted the value of Turkish forces remaining in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of U.S. and other coalition troops by Sept. 11; Kabul and Ankara have a longstanding relationship that will allow some troops to remain in Afghanistan after the NATO nations leave.

Tensions between Turkey and the United States flared in December, when the Trump administration imposed sanctions against Ankara for its purchase and then test of a Russian missile defense system that Western officials said could expose NATO’s security networks to Moscow. The sanctions were imposed in the final month of Mr. Trump’s presidency, three years after Turkey bought the missile system, and only after Congress required them as part of a military spending bill.

had pointedly promised to help Armenia last fall during its war against Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, noting the politically influential Armenian diaspora in the United States. His administration took a more evenhanded approach in trying to broker a peace agreement alongside Russia and France and, ultimately, Armenia surrendered the disputed territory in the conflict with Azerbaijan, which was backed by Turkey.

In the Wednesday interview, Mr. Aivazian, Armenia’s foreign minister, seized on Turkey’s military role in the Nagorno-Karabakh war as an example of what he described as “a source of expanding instability” in the region and the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

He said the genocide designation would serve as a reminder to the rest of the world if malign values are not countered.

“I believe bringing dangerous states to the international order will make our world much more secure,” Mr. Aivazian said. “And we will be witnessing less tragedies, less human losses, once the United States will reaffirm its moral leadership in these turbulent times.”

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Putin Says Any Nation That Threatens Russia’s Security Will ‘Regret Their Deeds’

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Wednesday delivered an annual address replete with threats against the West but, despite intense tensions with Ukraine, stopped short of announcing new military or foreign policy moves.

Russia’s response will be “asymmetric, fast and tough” if it is forced to defend its interests, Mr. Putin said, pointing to what he claimed were Western efforts at regime change in neighboring Belarus as another threat to Russia’s security.

He pledged that Russia “wants to have good relations with all participants of international society,” even as he noted that Russia’s modernized nuclear weapons systems were at the ready.

“The organizers of any provocations threatening the fundamental interests of our security will regret their deeds more than they have regretted anything in a long time,” Mr. Putin told a hall of governors and members of Parliament. “I hope no one gets the idea to cross the so-called red line with Russia — and we will be the ones to decide where it runs in every concrete case.”

that could be prepared to move into neighboring Ukraine.

In Washington, the Biden administration reacted mildly to Mr. Putin’s tough words.

“We don’t take anything President Putin says personally,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said when asked for a response. “We have tough skin.”

Asked if the sharpened rhetoric from Mr. Putin would affect the prospects for a possible meeting with President Biden later this year, Ms. Psaki said discussions were ongoing. “Obviously,” she said, “it requires all parties having an agreement that we’re going to have a meeting and we issued that invitation.”

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Putin, Addressing Russia, Warns West Not to Cross Red Line: Live Updates

that could be prepared to move into neighboring Ukraine.

President Volodymyr Zelensky on the front line in Ukraine’s Mariupol region this month.
Credit…Ukrainian Presidential Press Service, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed his nation on Tuesday evening, warning citizens of the possibility of war. He addressed President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia directly, urging him to step back from the brink and proposing that the two meet.

The unusual videotaped appearance by Mr. Zelensky — a former comedian elected in 2019 on a promise to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine — was the clearest signal yet that Ukraine is girding for the possibility of a full-fledged war with Russia. Moscow’s buildup of troops on the Ukrainian border, he said, had created “all the preconditions for escalation.”

“Does Ukraine want war? No. Is it ready for it? Yes,” Mr. Zelensky said. “Our principle is simple: Ukraine does not start a war first, but Ukraine always stands to the last man.”

It appeared to be no coincidence that Mr. Zelensky’s address came on the eve of Mr. Putin’s annual state of the nation address on Wednesday. At the end of his video, Mr. Zelensky switched from Ukrainian to Russian, speaking to Mr. Putin directly. He pushed back at Mr. Putin’s contention that Russian forces would be used in Ukraine only if the Russian-speaking population in the east was threatened, and proposed a summit in the war-torn eastern region known as Donbas.

“It is impossible to bring peace on a tank,” Mr. Zelensky said.

“I am ready,” he continued, “to invite you to meet anywhere in the Ukrainian Donbas where there is war.”

There was no immediate response from the Kremlin to Mr. Zelensky’s invitation.

Aleksei A. Navalny, left, at a court hearing in February. 
Credit…Yuri Kochetkov/EPA, via Shutterstock

Russia is moving ahead with efforts to outlaw the organization led by the opposition figure Aleksei A. Navalny, a step that could result in the most intense wave of political repression in the post-Soviet era. But supporters of the jailed opposition leader say they are determined to take to the streets.

Opponents of President Vladimir V. Putin have called for protests across Russia on Wednesday in support of Mr. Navalny, whose allies say he is on a hunger strike and near death in a Russian prison. The police are expected to intervene forcefully to break up the protests, which started in the country’s Far East immediately after Mr. Putin delivered his state of the nation speech.

Mr. Putin has rarely mentioned Mr. Navalny by name and did not do so in his speech. He did not refer to him in any way.

Mr. Navalny is insisting that he be allowed to be seen by doctors of his choosing. A lawyer who visited him, Vadim Kobzev, said on Tuesday that Mr. Navalny’s arms were punctured and bruised after three nurses had unsuccessfully tried six times to hook him up to an intravenous drip.

“If you saw me now, you would laugh,” Mr. Navalny said in a letter that his team posted to social media. “A skeleton walking, swaying, in its cell.”

The Kremlin depicts Mr. Navalny as an agent of American influence, and Russian prosecutors filed a lawsuit on Friday to declare his organization “extremist” and illegal.

The extremism designation, which a Moscow court will consider in a secret trial starting next week, would effectively force Russia’s most potent opposition movement underground and could result in yearslong prison terms for pro-Navalny activists.

The White House has warned the Russian government that it “will be held accountable” if Mr. Navalny dies in prison. Western officials — and Mr. Navalny’s supporters and allies — reject the idea that he is acting on another country’s behalf.

But in the Kremlin’s logic, Mr. Navalny is a threat to Russian statehood, doing the West’s bidding by undermining Mr. Putin. It is Mr. Putin, Mr. Trenin said, who is keeping Russia stable by maintaining a balance between competing factions in Russia’s ruling elite.

“If Putin leaves, a battle between different groups breaks out, and Russia withdraws into itself, has no time for the rest of the world and no longer gets in anyone’s way,” said Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center. “The West is, of course, using Navalny, and will use him to create problems for Putin and, in the longer term, help Putin become history in one way or another.”

Lyubov Sobol, center, was among the close allies of Aleksei A. Navalny to be detained before the planned rallies. 
Credit…Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters

MOSCOW — Dozens of opposition activists were arrested in 20 cities across Russia before a rally scheduled for Wednesday night in Moscow in support of the imprisoned Kremlin critic Aleksei A. Navalny.

Some of the activists were beaten and sentenced to administrative arrests, according to OVD Info, an independent rights group that tracks arrests. Many were members of Mr. Navalny’s political organization, but some were arrested simply for sharing social media posts about the rally.

Among those detained were two prominent associates of Mr. Navalny: his spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh; and Lyubov Sobol.

In Russia’s Far East — where protests started before rallies were expected to sweep across the vast nation with 11 time zones — the police detained eight people in the city of Magadan, according to Vesma, a local news website. About 40 people came out to protest in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the capital of the Kamchatka region, with no arrests reported.

In Vladivostok, a major port on the eastern tip of Russia, about 100 people marched through the city with no arrests reported so far, Vl.ru, a local news website reported.

“Freedom to political prisoners,” people chanted. The police warned protesters through loudspeakers that they could be arrested. “We will not stay silent,” was the response.

In recent weeks, the Russian authorities have conducted raids on Mr. Navalny’s offices across the country, looking for leaflets and other materials calling for protests. Those items would presumably be used in the Kremlin’s drive to have his organization labeled “extremist,” which would expose its members to potentially lengthy prison terms.

In Kurgan, a city in central Russia, an unknown person sneaked into Mr. Navalny’s office on Monday morning and destroyed a radiator, flooding the premises.

Under various pretexts, the authorities in cities across Russia blocked central squares and streets. In Yekaterinburg, they rescheduled a Victory Day parade rehearsal to ensure that it overlapped with a scheduled protest. In Kostroma, the central square was closed down, ostensibly for pest control measures.

In universities across the country, students were ordered to sit for unscheduled tests and other gatherings with mandatory attendance, TV Rain, an independent news station reported on Tuesday.

The authorities in Moscow denied Mr. Navalny’s allies a permit for the rally they have planned for Wednesday evening, citing coronavirus concerns. The Prosecutor General’s office warned parents that they would be subject to fines and arrest if their underage children are detained at a rally.

More than 450,000 people nationwide registered online to declare their intent to take part in demonstrations against Mr. Navalny’s incarceration and treatment in prison. More than 100,000 people did so in Moscow, and more than 50,000 in St. Petersburg.

President Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus in Sochi, Russia, in February.
Credit…Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In a speech filled with bluster and bromides against the West, President Vladimir V. Putin on Wednesday lingered on a grievance that has not gained much traction outside the Russian state news media: an unfounded accusation that the C.I.A. has been plotting to assassinate the leader of Belarus.

Even as he raised the subject, Mr. Putin acknowledged that it was not being taken seriously outside Russia.

“Characteristically, even such lamentable actions are not discussed in the so-called collective West,” Mr. Putin said. “They pretend nothing happened.”

Over the weekend, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, arrested two men whom it said were plotting to murder President Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus and to seize television and radio stations.

It said the men had coordinated with U.S. and Polish intelligence agencies and come to Russia to meet Belarusian generals sympathetic to the opposition. The Russian authorities released video that showed the men casually discussing their improbable plot over a meal at a Moscow restaurant.

One of the men, Aleksandr Feduta, is a former spokesman for Mr. Lukashenko. The other, Yuras Zyankovich, has dual U.S. and Belarusian citizenship. The United States and Polish governments denied any role in a murder and coup plot in Belarus.

The arrests aligned with Mr. Putin’s casting of Russia in his state of the nation speech on Wednesday as victimized and pressured by a hypocritical and aggressive Western world that poses imminent threats.

The encroaching West, Mr. Putin said, has “crossed all the boundaries.”

Policies to pressure Russia that were previously limited to economic sanctions “have been reborn as something more dangerous,” he said. “I have in mind the recent facts that came to light of a direct attempt to organize a coup in Belarus and the murder of the leader of that country.”

In an interview in March, President Biden assented when asked whether Vladimir V. Putin was a “killer.”
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

The election of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as president of the United States, despite his promise to be tough on Russia, initially gave the Kremlin hope, analysts say.

He was seen as more professional, reliable and pragmatic than President Donald J. Trump, with a worldview shaped by a Cold War era of diplomacy in which Washington and Moscow engaged as equal superpowers with a responsibility for global security. In their first phone call in January, Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin agreed to extend the New Start arms-control treaty, a Russian foreign policy goal that the Kremlin had not been able to achieve with Mr. Trump.

Then came the television interview in March in which Mr. Biden assented when asked whether Mr. Putin was a “killer.” A month later, that moment — to which Russian officials and commentators responded with a squall of prime-time-televised, anti-American fury — looks like a turning point. It was followed by last week’s raft of American sanctions against Russia, combined with Mr. Biden’s call for a summit meeting with Mr. Putin, which to many Russians looked like a crude American attempt to negotiate from a position of strength.

“This is seen as an unacceptable situation — you won’t chase us into the stall with sanctions,” said Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, a think tank.

How far Mr. Putin will go in striking back against the West’s real or imagined hostility is an open question. In the state news media, the mood music is dire. On the flagship weekly news show on the Rossiya 1 channel on Sunday, the host Dmitri Kiselyov closed a segment on Mr. Putin’s showdown with Mr. Biden by reminding viewers of Poseidon — a weapon in Russia’s nuclear arsenal that Mr. Putin revealed three years ago.

“Russia’s armed forces are ready to test-fire a nuclear torpedo that would cause radioactive tsunamis capable of flooding enemy cities and making them uninhabitable for decades,” a translation of a Danish newspaper report intoned.

Still, there are signs that Mr. Putin does not want tensions with the West to spiral out of control.

As Europe and the United States scrambled to assess the Russian troop buildup in late March, Russia’s top military officer, Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, spoke on the phone with his American counterpart, Gen. Mark A. Milley. On Monday, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Mr. Putin’s Security Council, discussed the prospect of a presidential summit with Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser. And the Kremlin said this week that Mr. Putin would speak at Mr. Biden’s online climate change meeting on Thursday.

Ms. Stanovaya, the analyst, says she was convinced that Mr. Putin is more interested than his hawkish advisers in looking for ways to work with the United States. She pointed to Mr. Putin’s determination to return Russia to the ranks of great powers.

“Putin very much believes in his mission as a great historic figure with responsibility not only for Russia, but also for global security,” Ms. Stanovaya said. “He doesn’t understand how it is that the American president doesn’t feel the same way.”

A satellite image of Russian military equipment at the Opuk training area on Crimea’s Black Sea coast.
Credit…Maxar Technologies, via Associated Press

The Russian authorities closed airspace to commercial traffic near the Ukrainian border starting on Tuesday in another sign of rising military tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

The warning to commercial pilots covers parts of the Crimean Peninsula — annexed by Russia seven years ago — and international airspace over the Black Sea. It formalized what had already become obvious: The region is in the grips of an increasingly ominous military crisis.

Ukraine objected last week to Russia’s closing of areas in the Black Sea to shipping, a ban that the U.S. State Department spokesman, Ned Price, on Monday called an “unprovoked escalation in Moscow’s ongoing campaign to undermine and destabilize Ukraine.”

Over the past month, Russia has massed the largest military force along Ukraine’s eastern border and in Crimea since the outset of war in 2014, according to Western governments. Analysts say that the deliberately high visibility of the buildup indicates that its purpose is more a warning to the West than a prelude to invasion.

“They are deploying in a very visible way,” said Michael Kofman, a senior researcher at CNA, a policy research group in Arlington, Va. “They are doing it overtly, so we can see it. It is intentional.”

The Russian military says it is conducting exercises in response to Ukrainian threats to two Russian-backed separatist regions and to what it calls heightened NATO military activity in the Black Sea area.

Military tensions have also risen elsewhere. On Tuesday, Russia’s Air Force flew two nuclear-capable Tu-160 strategic bombers over the Baltic Sea for eight hours. In the Arctic Ocean, the Northern Fleet has been conducting a huge naval drill, the Defense Ministry said.

President Vladimir V. Putin on Wednesday hailed Russians’ “singular cohesion, their spiritual and moral values that in a number of countries are forgotten.”
Credit…Maxim Shipenkov/EPA, via Shutterstock

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has often sought to bolster domestic support through rally-around-the-flag, aggressive foreign policy moves. But on Wednesday he opened his annual address to the nation by focusing on the bread-and-butter economic issues that polls show most worry Russians.

He rattled off a laundry list of social subsidies that he said his government would begin to provide to new mothers, single parents and low-income families.

“For our entire history, our people triumphed, overcoming challenges thanks to their singular cohesion, their spiritual and moral values that in a number of countries are forgotten, but we on the contrary have strengthened,” Mr. Putin said.

He outlined programs to subsidize summer camp for children, smooth the system for child-support payments to single mothers and move more social services online.

While Russia is still in the throes of a coronavirus wave, Mr. Putin minimized the threat and said Russia would swivel to “healing the wounds” and shoring up the economy. He also laid out a requirement that Russian laboratories be ready to prepare tests for potential new infectious diseases within four days of their discovery.

Mr. Putin traditionally starts his yearly address with a focus on economic issues, and despite rising tensions with the West, this year was no different.

The Russian leader is aware that empty wallets can add fuel to protest movements and that the stagnating economy is taking a toll on support for his government. Russians’ average take-home wages adjusted for inflation have been declining since the Ukraine crisis in 2014, dropping 10 percent since then.

Analysts say it is no coincidence that protests have seeped out of the wealthy cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg to Russia’s far-flung provinces, which are feeling the economic pain more acutely.

The Russian budget fell into deficit during the pandemic last year, but in the first quarter of 2021 was again in surplus, buoyed by rising oil prices. This has provided Mr. Putin room for maneuver on populist policies before parliamentary elections scheduled for the fall.

Over the years, he has padded his speeches with populist announcements that are often repetitions or minor updates on long-running policies.

Russia, for example, has for years paid a bonus of around $10,000 to women for the birth of a child, a policy intended to help reverse Russia’s long demographic decline.

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‘We Know How to Defend Our Interests’: Putin’s Emerging Hard Line

The extremism designation against Mr. Navalny’s organization, which a Moscow court will consider in a secret trial starting next week, would effectively force Russia’s most potent opposition movement underground and could result in yearslong prison terms for pro-Navalny activists.

Mr. Navalny, meanwhile, remains on hunger strike in a Russian prison hospital, insisting he be allowed to be seen by doctors of his choosing. A lawyer who visited him, Vadim Kobzev, reported Tuesday that Mr. Navalny’s arms were punctured and bruised after three nurses tried and failed six times to hook him up to an intravenous drip.

“If you saw me now, you would laugh,” said a letter from Mr. Navalny his team posted to social media. “A skeleton walking, swaying, in its cell.”

The White House has warned the Russian government it “will be held accountable” if Mr. Navalny dies in prison. Western officials — and Mr. Navalny’s supporters and allies — reject the idea that the opposition leader is acting on another country’s behalf.

But in the Kremlin’s logic, Mr. Navalny is a threat to Russian statehood, doing the West’s bidding by undermining Mr. Putin. It is Mr. Putin, Mr. Trenin said, who is keeping Russia stable by maintaining a balance between competing factions in Russia’s ruling elite.

“If Putin leaves, a battle between different groups breaks out, and Russia withdraws into itself, has no time for the rest of the world and no longer gets in anyone’s way,” Mr. Trenin said. “The West is, of course, using Navalny, and will use him to create problems for Putin and, in the longer term, help Putin become history in one way or another.”

How far Mr. Putin goes in striking back against the West’s real or imagined hostility is still an open question. In the state news media, the mood music is dire. On the flagship weekly news show on the Rossiya 1 channel Sunday, the host Dmitri Kiselyov closed a segment on Mr. Putin’s showdown with Mr. Biden by reminding viewers of Poseidon — a new weapon in Russia’s nuclear arsenal that Mr. Putin revealed three years ago.

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Alarm in Ukraine as Russian Forces Mass at Border

MARIUPOL, Ukraine — There are the booms that echo again, and parents know to tell their children they are only fireworks. There are the drones the separatists started flying behind the lines at night, dropping land mines. There are the fresh trenches the Ukrainians can see their enemy digging, the increase in sniper fire pinning them inside their own.

But perhaps the starkest evidence that the seven-year-old war in Ukraine may be entering a new phase is what Capt. Mykola Levytskyi coast guard unit saw cruising in the Azov Sea just outside the port city of Mariupol last week: a flotilla of Russian amphibious assault ships.

Since the start of the war in 2014, Russia has used the pretext of a separatist conflict to pressure Ukraine after its Westward-looking revolution, supplying arms and men to Kremlin-backed rebels in the country’s east while denying it was a party to the fight.

Few Western analysts believe the Kremlin is planning an invasion of eastern Ukraine, given the likely backlash at home and abroad. But with a large-scale Russian troop buildup on land and sea on Ukraine’s doorstep, the view is spreading among officials and wide swathes of the Ukrainian public that Moscow is signaling more bluntly than ever before that it is prepared to openly enter the conflict.

“These ships are, concretely, a threat from the Russian state,” Captain Levytskyi said over the whir of his speedboat’s engines as it plied the Azov Sea, after pointing out a Russian patrol boat stationed six miles offshore. “It is a much more serious threat.”

Many Ukrainian military officials and volunteer fighters say that they still find it unlikely that Russia will openly invade Ukraine, and that they do not see evidence of an imminent offensive among the gathered Russian forces. But they speculate over other possibilities, including Russia’s possible recognition or annexation of the separatist-held territories in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainians are awaiting President Vladimir V. Putin’s annual state-of-the-nation address to Russia on Wednesday, an affair often rife with geopolitical signaling, for clues about what comes next.

“I feel confused, I feel tension,” Oleksandr Tkachenko, Ukraine’s culture and information policy minister, said in an interview.

Mr. Tkachenko listed some invasion scenarios: a three-pronged Russian attack from north, south and east; an assault from separatist-held territory; and an attempt to capture a Dnieper River water supply for Crimea.

Russia, for its part, has done little to hide its buildup, insisting that it has been massing troops in response to heightened military activity in the region by NATO and Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials deny any plans to escalate the war, but there is no question that President Volodymyr Zelensky has taken a harder line against Russia in recent months.

Mr. Zelensky has closed pro-Russian TV channels and imposed sanctions against Mr. Putin’s closest ally in Ukraine. He has also declared more openly than before his desire to have Ukraine join NATO, a remote possibility that the Kremlin nevertheless regards as a dire threat to Russia’s security.

Interviews with frontline units across a 150-mile swath of eastern Ukraine in recent days underscored the fast-rising tensions in Europe’s only active armed conflict. Officials and volunteers acknowledge apprehension over Russia’s troop movements, and civilians feel numb and hopeless after seven years of war. At least 28 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in fighting this year, the military says.

“We live in sadness,” said Anna Dikareva, a 48-year-old postal service worker in the frontline industrial town of Avdiivka, where people scarcely flinch when shells explode in the distance. “I don’t want war, but we won’t solve this in a peaceful way, either.”

For much of last year, a cease-fire held.

Mr. Zelensky, a television comedian elected in 2019 on a promise to end the war, negotiated with the Kremlin for step-by-step compromises to ease the hardships of frontline residents and look for ways out of a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people. But Russia’s insistence on policies that would essentially give it a say in eastern Ukraine’s future was unacceptable to Kyiv.

“The hope that Zelensky had to solve this issue, it didn’t happen,” said Mr. Tkachenko, the information minister and a longtime associate of the president.

Instead, the fighting has picked up again.

The Ukrainians’ labyrinths of trenches and fortifications along the roughly 250-mile front is by now so well established that in one tunnel near Avdiivka, the soldiers put up multicolored Christmas lights to spruce up the darkness. The town lies just a few miles north of the city of Donetsk, the separatists’ main stronghold.

At their hillside battle position, overlooking a separatist position in a T-shaped growth of trees, the soldiers described the sound of separatist drones they said carried land mines dropped about a mile behind the line. Since December and January, they said, sniper fire from the other side increased, and they could see the separatists digging new trenches.

The lettering above the skull on their shoulder patches read: “Ukraine or death.”

“The enemy has activated lately,” said one 58-year-old soldier, nicknamed “the professor,” who said he would not give his full name for security reasons.

In Avdiivka, a volunteer unit of Ukraine’s ultranationalist Right Sector keeps a pet wolf in a cage outside the commander’s office. The commander, Dmytro Kotsyubaylo — his nom de guerre is Da Vinci — jokes that the fighters feed it the bones of Russian-speaking children, a reference to Russian state media tropes about the evils of Ukrainian nationalists.

Both sides have accused each other of increasing numbers of cease-fire violations, but Mr. Kotsyubaylo said that — to his regret — his fighters were allowed to fire only in response to attacks from the separatist side.

On the video screen above his desk, Mr. Kotsyubaylo showed high-definition drone footage depicting the quotidian violence taking place just 400 miles from the European Union’s borders. In one sequence, two of his unit’s mortar rounds explode around separatist trenches; a naked man emerges, sprinting. In another, an explosion is seen at what he said was a separatist sniper position; the clearing smoke reveals a body coated with yellow dust.

Asked what he expects to happen next, Mr. Kotsyubaylo responded: “full-scale war.”

Mr. Kotsyubaylo said he believed Russia’s troop movements north and south of separatist-held territory were a ruse meant to draw Ukrainian forces away from the front line. He said he expected Russia instead to launch an offensive using its separatist proxies in the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics,” allowing Mr. Putin to continue to claim that the war is an internal Ukrainian affair.

“If Russia wanted to do it in secret, they would do it in secret,” Mr. Kotsyubaylo said of the massing troops. “They’re doing everything they can for us to see them, and to show us how cool Putin is.”

Under the peace plan negotiated in Minsk, Belarus, in 2015, both sides’ heavy weaponry is required to be positioned well behind the front line.

Ukraine’s artillery is now stationed in places like a Soviet-era tractor yard in an out-of-the-way village reached by treacherous dirt roads an hour’s drive from Mariupol. Col. Andrii Shubin, the base commander, said he was ready to send his artillery guns and his American-provided weapon-locating radar trucks to the front as soon as the order came.

Ukrainian officials say that they are not repositioning troops in response to the Russian buildup, and that any current troop movements are normal rotations.

On Monday, dozens of tanks and armored vehicles could be seen on the move in the southwest of the government-controlled area of eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region. Soldiers relaxed on cots at a village train station under graffiti that used an obscenity to refer to Mr. Putin.

Around the region, from Mariupol’s fashionable waterfront to the shrapnel-scarred streets of Avdiivka, many residents said they were so exhausted from the war that they did not even want to consider the possibility that the fighting will flare up again.

Lena Pisarenko, a 45-year-old Russian teacher in Avdiivka, said she had never stopped keeping an emergency supply of water on hand in pots and bottles all over her apartment and her balcony. During the shelling at the height of the war, she created a ritual to keep her children calm: They would play board games and drink tea while three candles burn down three times. Then it was time for bed.

Another woman passing by, Olga Volvach, 41, said she was paying little mind to the recent escalation in shelling.

“Our balcony door isolates sound well,” she said.

Maria Varenikova contributed reporting from Mariupol, Ukraine.

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Pope Francis Delivers Sunday Blessing in Person After a Month

Pope Francis spoke to the faithful from his study overlooking St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, the first time he had done so in just over a month.

“I’ll tell you something: I miss the square when I have to recite the Angelus in the library,’ Francis said, referring to the prayer that he leads the faithful in praying on most Sundays. Throughout the pandemic, the pope has often delivered the weekly address, prayer and blessing from the apostolic library, with no public in attendance.

“I am happy, thanks be to God! And thank you for your presence,” the pope said Sunday, smiling.

The pope identified several flags among the several hundred faithful in the square, “Brazilians, Poles, Spanish people,” Francis said, offering a “warm greeting” also to the “people of Rome and pilgrims.”

Italy suffered one of the earliest and most severe outbreaks of the coronavirus in Europe. During the first lockdown, in 2020, pilgrims were not allowed to gather in St. Peter’s Square from March 8 to May 24. A huge surge over the winter brought back new restrictions, and another that peaked last month prompted another tight lockdown. That has succeeded in lowering infections, and many restrictions are expected to be eased beginning on April 26.

setting off alarms in Europe and Washington, the largest build up since the conflict in the contested region began seven years ago.

“Please, I firmly hope that the increase of tensions may be avoided and, on the contrary, gestures may be made that are capable of promoting mutual trust and fostering reconciliation and peace, both so necessary and so desired,” Francis said.

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Czechs Blame 2014 Blasts at Ammunition Depots on Elite Russian Spy Unit

The Czech Republic on Saturday blamed a series of mysterious 2014 explosions at Czech ammunition depots on an elite unit of Russia’s military intelligence service — a group that Britain has linked to a 2018 attack with a nerve agent on a former Russian spy in Salisbury, England.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis said at a Prague news conference that his government would respond by expelling 18 Russian diplomats, whom it had identified as spies. He said there was “clear evidence,” assembled by the Czech intelligence and security services, showing “reasonable suspicion” that the Russian group, known as Unit 29155, had been involved in the blasts in late 2014, which killed two Czechs.

The announcement underscored the breadth of Russia’s efforts to expand its influence and pursue aggressive actions around the world, including military-style operations, assassinations and cyberattacks.

The elite Russian unit has operated for at least a decade, focusing on subversion, sabotage and assassination beyond Russia’s borders. It first came to light after the March 2018 attack in Salisbury, England, on a turncoat Russian ex-spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, using the nerve agent Novichok. Both fell gravely ill but later recovered.

The Czech police also released photographs of the two men, who looked like the men shown in photographs released in 2018 by Britain. The police said the men had used at least two different identities and asked anyone who had seen them or knew anything about their movements in the Czech Republic to call a hotline.

Mr. Babis, the prime minister, did not accuse the two Russians directly of involvement in the arms warehouse explosions, but he said there was “unequivocal evidence” that agents working for Russian military intelligence had been involved.

“Czech Republic is a sovereign state and must react accordingly to those unprecedented revelations,” Mr. Babis added.

The Czech Republic, a member of NATO, has expelled Russian diplomats in the past but has never ordered as many out as it did on Saturday. The expulsions came just days after Washington expelled 10 Russian diplomats over interference in last year’s U.S. presidential election and the hacking of computer systems used by government agencies.

Poland, another NATO member, also expelled Russia diplomats in recent days, ordering three to leave on Thursday in what Warsaw said was a gesture of “solidarity” with the United States.

The Czech action, however, was more severe and unusually sweeping.

“I am sorry that Czech-Russian relations will suffer, however, the Czech Republic must react,” the acting foreign minister, Jan Hamacek, said in Prague.

What caused the ammunition depot blasts, which began in the village of Vlachovice and resumed at a nearby depot in December 2014, has never been fully explained.

They coincided with efforts by Ukraine to increase its supply of weapons from abroad as it struggled to recover eastern territory seized by Russian-backed rebels in the summer of 2014.

Czech media reports on Saturday also linked the blasts to what they said may have been a Russian drive to halt the delivery of Czech-made weapons to forces fighting in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Moscow.

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