reported.

Michael D. Shear and David E. Sanger reported from Washington, Steven Erlanger from Brussels, and Andrew E. Kramer from Moscow.

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Biden Administration to Impose Tough Sanctions on Russia

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden spoke with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, warning Mr. Putin about the Russian troop buildup on Ukraine’s border and in Crimea. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Wednesday that the call was meant to emphasize the consequences of Russia’s activities, but it was unclear if Mr. Biden telegraphed any of his administration’s pending moves.

The Biden administration has already carried out one round of sanctions against Russia, for the poisoning of the opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny.

Those sanctions were similar to a series of actions that European nations and Britain took in October and expanded in March. Allied officials said that while the American response on Mr. Navalny was closely coordinated, the sanctions imposed for the election interference, bounties and hacking were meant to be more unilateral.

While Biden administration officials were for a while considering taking action only in response to the hacking, they decided to join that move with retaliations for other Russian actions, according to officials. Additionally, penalties coordinated with allies for Russia’s increased threat to Ukraine were expected, said one person familiar with the announcement.

The C.I.A. presented the Trump administration with an intelligence assessment that Russia had covertly offered to pay bounties to militant fighters to incentivize more killings of Americans in Afghanistan. But while the National Security Council at the Trump White House initially led an interagency effort to come up with response options, months passed and the White House did not authorize anything — not even the mildest option, delivering a diplomatic warning.

After the existence of the C.I.A. assessment and the White House’s inaction on it became public, there was bipartisan outrage in Congress. As a candidate, Mr. Biden raised the issue of the suspected bounties, and once in office, he ordered his intelligence officials to put together a full report on Russian efforts against Americans.

While the Biden administration has not released any new information on the suspected bounties, it did make public a report on Russian election interference. That report said that Mr. Putin had authorized extensive efforts to hurt Mr. Biden’s candidacy during the 2020 election, including by mounting covert operations to influence people close to President Donald J. Trump.

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Intelligence Chiefs Warn of Russian Troops Near Ukraine and Other Threats

WASHINGTON — The Russian military buildup at the Ukraine border and in Crimea could provide enough forces for a limited military incursion, the C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, told senators on Wednesday as he and other senior officials outlined a range of threats facing the United States.

Russia could simply be sending a signal to the United States or trying to intimidate the Ukrainian government, but it had the abilities in place to do more, Mr. Burns told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“That buildup has reached the point that it could provide the basis for a limited military incursion, as well,” Mr. Burns said. “It is something not only the United States but our allies have to take very seriously.”

Mr. Burns testified alongside Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, and other officials about an array of threats from global powers like Russia and China as well as challenges that have been less of a focus of intelligence agencies in the past, including domestic extremism and climate change.

annual threat assessment report, released Tuesday ahead of the hearing, the intelligence community said that China’s push for global power posed a threat to the United States through its aggression in its region, its expansion of its surveillance abilities and its attempts to dominate technological advances.

Russia has also pushed for a sphere of influence that includes countries that were part of the Soviet Union, like Ukraine, the report said.

Both China and Russia, however, wanted to avoid direct confrontation with the United States, the report said.

Mr. Burns said the Russian actions have prompted internal briefings as well as consultations with allies. President Biden’s call on Tuesday to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was intended to “register very clearly the seriousness of our concern,” Mr. Burns said.

The United States has been tracking the Russian troops for some time, at least since late March. American officials have said privately that the Russians have done little to hide their troop buildup, unlike in 2014 when they first attacked Ukraine. That has convinced some, but not all, officials briefed on the intelligence that the Russian activities may be mostly for show.

penetrated nine federal agencies, and another by China that compromised Microsoft Exchange servers. The Biden administration is expected to respond to the Russian hacking soon, most likely with sanctions and other measures.

Ms. Haines said Russia used hackings to sow discord and threaten the United States and its allies. “Russia is becoming increasingly adept at leveraging its technological prowess to develop asymmetric options in both the military and cyberspheres in order to give itself the ability to push back and force the United States to accommodate its interests,” she said.

Lawmakers also raised the issue of a series of mysterious episodes that have injured diplomats and C.I.A. officers overseas. Some former officials believe Russia is behind the episodes, which they have called attacks.

Mr. Burns said he was working with his colleagues to ensure better medical care for C.I.A. officers. He also said he was working to “get to the bottom of the question of what caused these incidents and who might have been responsible.”

Questions on China dominated the earlier Senate confirmation hearings for Ms. Haines and Mr. Burns, and lawmakers again pressed on Wednesday for assessments on China and its efforts to steal American technology. Ms. Haines outlined how China uses technological might, economic influence and other levers of power to intimidate its neighbors.

“China is employing a comprehensive approach to demonstrate its growing strength and compel regional neighbors to acquiesce to Beijing’s preferences,” she told senators.

another recent intelligence report, on global trends, highlighted how the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, along with technological change, were testing “the resilience and adaptability” of society. The “looming disequilibrium,” she said, compels intelligence agencies to broaden their definition of national security.

But at least one lawmaker, Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, also asked a more practical question: How many intelligence officers have received coronavirus vaccines?

Mr. Burns said 80 percent of the C.I.A. work force was fully vaccinated and another 10 percent have had their first shot. He said all C.I.A. officers serving overseas “have the vaccine available to them directly.”

Mr. Wray was unable to give an estimate of how many of his agents had received a shot, saying that the vaccination rates varied in field offices in different states. Ms. Haines said 86 percent of her work force had had at least one shot, with a “fair percentage” being fully vaccinated. General Nakasone also had no estimate but said a vaccination center had been set up at Fort Meade, Md., where the National Security Agency’s headquarters is.

Lawmakers have also been pressing intelligence agencies to help examine the problem of domestic extremism. Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia and the chairman of the intelligence committee, linked the rise of domestic extremism to the same trends promoting disinformation produced by Russia and others. And he said he wanted the intelligence chiefs to outline how they could help provide better warnings of potential violence like the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“go back to school.” Mr. Trump’s last director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, chose not to release a threat assessment or testify before Congress last year.

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NATO Is Expected to Confirm Its Troop Withdrawal From Afghanistan

BRUSSELS — Now that the United States has decided to pull its troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, NATO’s foreign and defense ministers are meeting to discuss “a safe, deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan,” the American secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, said on Wednesday at the alliance’s headquarters.

Ministers from NATO member countries, many of them attending the Wednesday meeting virtually, are expected to formally back the American withdrawal date. The alliance’s mantra has always been “in together and out together,” so the ministers are expected to confirm that their troops will leave alongside the Americans, though some smaller contingents may leave before.

At the moment, of the 9,600 NATO troops officially in Afghanistan, about 2,500 of them are American, though that number can be as many as 1,000 higher. The second-largest contingent is from Germany, with some 1,300 troops.

“We have achieved the goals we set out to achieve,” Mr. Blinken said. “Now it’s time to bring our forces home.”

liberate women, help girls to attend school and shift agriculture away from growing heroin poppies.

After the attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, “Together we went into Afghanistan to deal with those who attacked us and to make sure that Afghanistan would not again become a haven for terrorists who might attack any of us,” Mr. Blinken said. Those goals have been achieved, he asserted.

Some current and former American officials agree that Afghanistan is not expected to emerge as a terrorist threat to the United States in the short term, but they say that the question is more difficult to assess in the long run.

Even as the Atlantic alliance withdraws its troops, Mr. Blinken said, “our commitment to Afghanistan and its future will remain.”

The German defense minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, referring to NATO, told the German television station ARD on Wednesday: “We always said, ‘We’ll go in together, we’ll leave together.’ I am for an orderly withdrawal and that is why I assume that we will agree to that today.”

a buildup of Russian troops at the border with Ukraine, the alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Wednesday, appearing alongside Mr. Blinken. “Russia must end this military buildup, stop provocations and de-escalate,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.

a visit to Israel and Germany.

After the gathering, Mr. Blinken will meet with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, the other members of “the Quad,” to discuss Afghanistan, Ukraine and the continuing talks in Vienna about how to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.

the blackout at the Natanz nuclear enrichment plant in Iran, which was reportedly the result of an attack by Israel, and by the responses from Tehran, which have included an attack on an Israeli ship and a vow to begin enhancing uranium enrichment from 20 percent to 60 percent, levels banned under the accord and closer to weapons-grade.

The Iranian moves were criticized in a joint statement from the British, French and German foreign ministers on Wednesday.

“This is a serious development since the production of highly enriched uranium constitutes an important step in the production of a nuclear weapon,” the statement said.

The statement called Iran’s moves “particularly regrettable” when the Vienna meetings had made progress. “Iran’s dangerous recent communication is contrary to the constructive spirit and good faith of these discussions,” it noted.

Iran maintains that its nuclear program is purely civilian.

The German Foreign Ministry said that the main topic of the separate meeting of foreign ministers from the Quad would be Afghanistan. Although France pulled its troops out of Afghanistan years ago, the country remains deeply involved in the Iran talks. The Vienna negotiations are trying to bring both the United States and Iran back into compliance with the accord, from which President Donald J. Trump withdrew in May 2018. In response, Iran began to breach enrichment levels, calling its actions “remedial.”

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US to Increase Military Presence in Germany

BERLIN — The United States will increase its military presence in Germany by about 500 personnel to better defend Europe, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during a visit to the country on Tuesday.

The statement not only reverses the previous administration’s plans to withdraw up to 12,000 of the roughly 36,000 U.S. troops stationed in Germany. It also expands the U.S. footprint at a time when Europe is growing uneasy over Russian troop movements near the border with Ukraine.

“These forces will strengthen deterrence and defense in Europe,” Mr. Austin said after meeting his German counterpart, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. “They will augment our existing abilities to prevent conflict and, if necessary, fight and win.”

He did not elaborate on the added troops’ specific mission, saying only that the change would “create more space, more cyber and more electronic warfare capabilities in Europe.”

The new contingent will be stationed in Wiesbaden, home to one of the U.S. military’s most modern installations in Germany. It is the headquarters of the U.S. Army Europe and about 3,000 troops and their families.

The change “will greatly improve our ability to surge forces at a moment’s notice to defend our allies,” Mr. Austin said.

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After Going ‘Free of L.G.B.T.,’ a Polish Town Pays a Price

KRASNIK, Poland — When local councilors adopted a resolution two years ago declaring their small town in southeastern Poland “free of L.G.B.T.,” the mayor didn’t see much harm in what appeared to be a symbolic and legally pointless gesture.

Today, he’s scrambling to contain the damage.

What initially seemed a cost-free sop to conservatives in the rural and religiously devout Polish borderlands next to Ukraine, the May 2019 decision has become a costly embarrassment for the town of Krasnik. It has jeopardized millions of dollars in foreign funding and, Mayor Wojciech Wilk said, turned “our town into a synonym for homophobia,” which he insisted was not accurate.

A French town last year severed a partnership with Krasnik in protest. And Norway, from which the mayor had hoped to get nearly $10 million starting this year to finance development projects, said in September that it would not give grants to any Polish town that declares itself “free of L.G.B.T.”

“We have become Europe’s laughingstock, and it’s the citizens not the local politicians who’ve suffered most,” lamented Mr. Wilk, who is now lobbying councilors to repeal the resolution that put the town’s 32,000 residents in the middle of a raucous debate over traditional and modern values. The situation also illustrates the real-life consequences of political posturing in the trenches of Europe’s culture wars.

rally its base before a presidential election in 2020, did not bar gay people from entering or threaten expulsion for those already present. Instead they vowed to keep out “L.G.B.T. ideology,” a term used by conservatives to describe ideas and lifestyles they view as threatening to Polish tradition and Christian values.

Cezary Nieradko, a 22-year-old student who describes himself as Krasnik’s “only open gay,” dismissed the term “L.G.B.T. ideology” as a smoke screen for homophobia. He recalled how, after the town adopted its resolution, his local pharmacist refused to fill his prescription for a heart drug.

will cut funding to any Polish town that violates Europe’s commitment to tolerance and equality.

The European Parliament also passed a resolution last month declaring all 27 countries in the bloc an L.G.B.T. “Freedom Zone,” although like the Polish resolutions declaring the opposite, the declaration has no legal force.

All the posturing, however, has begun to have concrete consequences.

Krasnik’s mayor said he worried that unless his town’s “free of L.G.B.T.” status is rescinded, he has little chance of securing foreign funds to finance electric buses and youth programs, which he said are particularly important because young people keep leaving.

called off the visit to Krasnik after what he described as pressure from Polish officials not to go, a claim that Poland’s foreign ministry said was untrue.

When Krasnik and other towns adopted “free of L.G.B.T.” resolutions in early 2019, few people paid attention to what was widely seen as a political stunt by a governing party that delights in offending its foes’ “political correctness.”

But that changed early last year when Bartosz Staszewski, an L.G.B.T. activist from Warsaw began visiting towns that had vowed to banish “L.G.B.T. ideology.” Mr. Staszewski, a documentary filmmaker, took with him an official-looking yellow sign on which was written in four languages: “L.G.B.T.-FREE ZONE.” He put the fake sign next to each town’s real sign, taking photographs that he posted on social media.

The action, which he called “performance art,” provoked outrage across Europe as it put a spotlight on what Mr. Staszewski described in an interview in Warsaw as a push by conservatives to “turn basic human rights into an ideology.”

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has accused Mr. Staszewski of generating a fake scandal over “no-go zones” that don’t exist. Several towns, supported by a right-wing outfit partly funded by the government, have filed defamation suits against the activist over his representation of bans on “ideology” as barring L.G.B.T. people.

But even those who support the measures often seem confused about what it is that they want excluded.

Asked on television whether the region surrounding Krasnik would become Poland’s first L.G.B.T.-free zone, Elzbieta Kruk, a prominent Law and Justice politician, said, “I think Poland is going to be the first area free of L.G.B.T.” She later reversed herself and said the target was “L.G.B.T. ideology.”

For Mr. Wilk, Krasnik’s mayor, the semantic squabbling is a sign that it is time to drop attempts to make the town “free” of anyone or anything.

But Mr. Albiniak, the initiator of the resolution, vowed to resist what he denounced as blackmail by foreigners threatening to withhold funds.

“If I vote to repeal,” he said, “I vote against myself.”

Anatol Magdziarz contributed reporting.

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Russian Troop Movements and Talk of Intervention Cause Jitters in Ukraine

MOSCOW — Armored personnel carriers bristling with weapons line a highway in southern Russia. Rows of tanks are parked beside major roads. Heavy artillery is transported by train.

Videos of military movements have flooded Russian social media for the past month, shared by users and documented by researchers.

And Western governments are trying to find out why. The movements appear to be the largest deployment of Russian land forces toward the border with Ukraine in seven years, according to the U.S. government.

Whether it is a test of how the Biden administration might respond, retaliation against Ukraine for curbing Russian influence in domestic politics in Kyiv, or preparation for actual cross-border military action has divided analysts of Russian policies.

said Russia would intervene to prevent ethnic cleansing of Russian speakers by the Ukrainian government, a risk he compared to the ethnic massacres of the 1990s Balkan wars, though there are no signs that such violence is imminent in Ukraine today.

said Kyiv “lives with an illusion of a possible forceful settlement” of the conflict.

wrote, led Mr. Putin to warn in a speech given to the Davos Forum of an “increase in the risk of unilateral use of military force,” refraining from mentioning which country might be using that force.

published in the Insider, a Russian investigative news site.

A wide range of weaponry has been on public display. In March, for example, a train hauling Msta-C self-propelled howitzers rumbled over a bridge across the Kerch Strait separating Russia’s mainland from Crimea.

The Russian airwaves, too, have been chockablock with reports of a possible resumption of war in eastern Ukraine.

“Bad news from Ukraine,” the commentator Dmitry Kiselyov said in opening his Sunday talk show this week on state Channel 1. “The talk in Ukraine is increasingly about war.”

Mr. Kiselyov mocked war jitters in Ukraine, where the government has been trying to portray a calm resolve; the president, Volodymyr Zelensky, visited the front on Thursday.

The Russian state television report lingered on an incident in the Ukrainian Parliament this month when a lawmaker, Anna Kolesnik, after hearing a presentation from a military commander on the scale of Russia’s forces massed at her nation’s border, wrote a phone message to an acquaintance saying, “it’s time to split from this country.”

Mr. Kiselyov noted that in Ukraine, “the fear is inflating.”

Michael Kofman, a senior researcher at CNA, an analytical organization based in Arlington, Va., said the Russian buildup seems targeted more at shifting Ukraine’s stance in settlement talks than countering U.S. sanctions.

“Saber-rattling is an oversimplification,” he said. “It is coercive diplomacy with a purpose,” though for now that purpose is unstated and left open to interpretation by Ukraine and Western governments. “That is the situation we are in.”

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Russian Troop Movements on Ukraine Border Test Biden Administration

Russia has begun mobilizing troops along its border with Ukraine, presenting a fresh challenge at the Biden administration and threatening to upend a cease-fire between Ukraine and pro-Russian fighters.

The move follows escalated fighting along the demarcation line inside Ukraine, where one attack last week killed four Ukrainian soldiers and wounded two.

In response, Ukraine said Tuesday it had put its own forces on alert and was reinforcing units in eastern Ukraine and on the border with the Russian-occupied peninsula of Crimea.

While Mr. Biden has wrestled with Kremlin machinations such as a massive suspected Russian hack of U.S. government computer systems and the assessment by U.S. intelligence that Moscow attempted to interfere in the 2020 election, the situation in Ukraine is the first involving movements of Russian troops. Russia has denied meddling in the election and denied responsibility for the hack.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman said the department was discussing the situation with NATO allies.

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Fighting Escalates in Eastern Ukraine, Signaling the End to Another Cease-Fire

MOSCOW — The war in eastern Ukraine, which has been on a low simmer for months, drawing little international attention, has escalated sharply in recent days, according to statements Tuesday from the Ukrainian and Russian governments.

In the most lethal fighting so far this year, four Ukrainian soldiers were killed and another was seriously wounded in a battle against Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk Region of eastern Ukraine, the country’s military said.

The exchange of artillery and machine-gun fire was unusual in that it lasted most of a day. Fighting across the so-called Line of Contact, an about 250-mile-long barricade of trenches and fortifications, are typically briefer.

But it was not the only sign of tensions in a region where Ukrainian and the Russian-backed separatist forces have settled into trenches that have barely moved over the seven years since fighting first erupted in 2014.

acknowledged the recent uptick in fighting and said that Russia “sincerely hoped” it would not escalate. The fighting, he said, was “canceling out the modest achievements made earlier.”

In Ukraine, Parliament on Tuesday approved a statement declaring an “escalation” along the front, essentially acknowledging that a cease-fire negotiated in July had broken down. The statement noted a “significant increase in shelling and armed provocations by the armed forces of the Russian Federation.”

The statement called for Western governments to “continue and increase international political and economic pressure on Russia,” something Ukraine has been requesting for years. The United States and European allies have imposed financial sanctions on Russia, targeting President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle, banks and oil companies.

The war that began in 2014 after pro-Western street protesters ousted a Russian-aligned president in Ukraine, prompting a military response by Russia, is the only active conflict in Europe today.

the cease-fire in July, one that has held longer than dozens of others that have been made over the past seven years. Eight cease-fires have broken down since 2018 alone.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have also escalated along the de facto border between the two countries at the isthmus of the Crimean Peninsula, which is to the south and west of the Line of Contact, and which was annexed by Russian forces in 2014.

In February, the Russian military announced rehearsals of paratrooper drops in Crimea that commentators in Russia and Ukraine saw as possibly telegraphing a fresh Russian incursion. The target this time: water canals supplying Crimea from the Dnieper River in Ukraine.

Ukraine cut off the supply of water from the river when Russia annexed the peninsula. Since then, water has been so scarce that a majority of residents in Crimea do not have round-the-clock supplies, according to the Interfax news agency. Most towns ration supplies by turning off water mains except for brief windows in the mornings and evenings.

The Russian military described the exercise with 3,000 paratroopers as practicing “seizure of the enemies’ objects with subsequent defense until uniting with the main force.” It did not mention water canals. The exercise also practiced marine landings by the Black Sea Fleet.

In response, the Ukrainian military announced an exercise rehearsing the defense of the flatlands between Crimea and the river against air or sea attacks, further ratcheting up tensions.

Maria Varenikova contributed research.

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The Gambling Company That Had the Best Pandemic Ever

The world that her father credits Ms. Coates with creating is reflected in a television ad for bet365 that ran before the Stoke-Watford game. It featured the actor turned pitchman Ray Winstone, who sat in the back of a luxury sedan, dressed in a dark suit, idling in traffic and exuding ease and control.

“At bet365 we’re always innovating and creating,” he said in a Cockney accent, staring at the camera. Cellphone in hand, apparently ready to place some wagers, he ticked through a list of those innovations, including something called “in-play betting.”

In-play betting allows customers to wager throughout a sporting event, on minutiae that has little bearing on the outcome. How many corner kicks will there be in the first half of a soccer game? How many players will be ejected? What will happen first during a 10-minute increment — a throw-in, a free kick, a goal kick, something else? When those minutes expire, the site takes wagers on the next 10.

“It’s very much like being in a casino,” said Jake Thomas, a former gambling industry executive who chaperoned a reporter, over the phone, through the website during the Stoke-Watford game. “Why wait 90 minutes to find out if your team is going to win? Why not get a little buzz betting on the next corner kick?”

As Mr. Thomas spoke, and the minutes ticked by, the odds of dozens of wagers were constantly repriced. A bet that Stoke would score in the first 30 minutes paid 9 to 1 at just over 25 minutes into the game. A moment later, as that outcome appeared fractionally less likely, the same bet paid 19 to 2.

The company has said it takes action on 100,000 events throughout the year, on sports and races around the world — greyhounds in New Zealand, women’s table tennis in Ukraine, golf in Dubai. There’s even a section on politics. (George Clooney is currently 100 to 1 to win the American presidency in 2024.)

If no live events appeal, virtual events beckon. These are video-generated simulations of tennis matches; games of football, soccer, basketball and cricket; and on and on. One afternoon, bicycle races in a virtual velodrome were running every three minutes, each lasting about a minute.

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