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Russia-Ukraine WarRussian Missile Strike Kills 3 Seeking Shelter in Kyiv

Follow live news updates on Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The overnight attack left very little time for residents to take shelter.

Emergency personnel at a clinic compound in Kyiv, Ukraine, after a Russian attack on Thursday.Credit...Nicole Tung for The New York Times
Municipal workers clearing debris from apartments near the clinic compound.Credit...Nicole Tung for The New York Times
Watching investigators examine pieces of debris in Kyiv.Credit...Nicole Tung for The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine — Russia targeted the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, yet again with a missile attack in the early hours of Thursday, killing two women and a child who were not able to get into a closed shelter. Loud explosions were heard just minutes after air-raid sirens sounded throughout the city, waking residents worn out by a month of relentless attacks.

Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said on the Telegram messaging app that an additional 16 people were injured by debris from air defense systems shooting down incoming attacks. Ukraine’s general staff headquarters said Kyiv had been attacked by a volley of 10 Iskander ballistic missiles, all of which were shot down.

The city’s military administration said some of the debris fell on a clinic and an adjacent building. A mother and child were killed minutes after the air-raid alert while trying to get into a bomb shelter at the clinic that was locked, according to Mr. Klitschko and two emergency workers at the scene who declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the news media. The woman and her child were not immediately identified.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his nightly address, was sharply critical of local officials for failing to ensure all bomb shelters were open when sirens sounded. The people responsible for the locked shelter door should be prosecuted, he said.

“Never again should a situation like this night in Kyiv, when people came to the shelter, and the shelter is closed, happen,” he said. “It is the duty of local authorities — a very specific duty — to ensure the availability and availability of shelters 24 hours a day. It is painful to see a careless attitude toward this duty. It hurts to see losses.”

City officials said they had opened a criminal investigation into the clinic and the administrators responsible for operating the shelter there, focused on whether the shelter was properly maintained and why it may have been inaccessible, Mr. Klitschko said. Police officers will now patrol bomb shelters during air raids to make sure they are open, he added.

Later in the day, the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said four people had been detained in connection with the incident: the first deputy of Kyiv’s Desnyansky district, the director and deputy director of the clinic, and a security guard.

A man who lives near the clinic and who gave his name as Yaroslav told the Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne that his 33-year-old wife, Natalya, was also killed after she and their 9-year-old daughter, Polina, were unable to get into the shelter.

Yaroslav said people were trying desperately to get in. “People were knocking, knocking for a very long time,” he said, adding, “There were women and children and nobody opened it.”

After what he described as an explosion, Yaroslav found Natalya bleeding alongside a blanket she brought for their daughter and a blue bag carrying family documents, according to the Suspilne report. His daughter, who was not injured, saw what happened to her mother, Yaroslav said.

Credit...Nicole Tung for The New York Times
Credit...Nicole Tung for The New York Times

While Kyiv has been attacked since the first days of the war, the pace and intensity of the Russian assaults over the past month have been jarring even for civilians now accustomed to spending hours in bomb shelters and sleepless nights huddled in corridors. Thursday’s strikes seemed to suggest that the campaign would continue into June.

Andrew E. Kramer and Nicole Tung reported from Kyiv, Ukraine, and Victoria Kim from Seoul. Marc Santora contributed reporting from Kyiv, and Juston Jones and Anushka Patil from New York. Dmitriy Khavin contributed translation.

Even on an especially tense day in Kyiv, a children’s hospital pauses to try to create some fun.

Patients of Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital entertained by clowns in Kyiv, Ukraine, in observance of International Children’s Day on Thursday.Credit...Nicole Tung for The New York Times
Credit...Nicole Tung for The New York Times
Credit...Nicole Tung for The New York Times

Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv, has endured days of Russian attacks so intense they have jarred civilians accustomed to spending hours in bomb shelters and sleepless nights huddled in corridors. Still, one hospital still made an effort to take note of International Children’s Day on Thursday.

At the Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital, music and excited laughs filled a hallway that was serving as a bomb shelter on Thursday morning after deadly strikes hit the city overnight. The shelter, which is also the hospital’s oncology ward, was packed with young patients — many of whom have been receiving treatment for war-related injuries — and their parents.

Volunteers performed as clowns and served cotton candy, while others dressed as action heroes and encouraged the children to play as music played in the background. In a dimly lit room off to the side, artists painted faces and added glittery extensions to girls’ hair.

In another hallway, children laughed with delight as Patron, a large mascot based on the famed Ukrainian mine-detecting dog, played games with the children.

Patron, a Ukrainian de-mining dog, was popular with the children on Thursday.Credit...Nicole Tung for The New York Times
Children who just finished a performance at the children’s hospital on Thursday.Credit...Nicole Tung for The New York Times

“It’s important for kids to have good emotions even under such circumstances like last night’s attack,” said Anastasia Magerramova, a spokeswoman for the children’s hospital. “With our daily activities and events like the ones here today, the kids draw more positive pictures, and speak more openly with psychologists about what they’ve seen.”

“These children come from many different places around Ukraine: from areas occupied by Russian forces, to places that were retaken by Ukraine,” she said. “We have many patients who are displaced, including some who have nowhere else to go.”

She added that the missile strikes overnight and the stepped-up attacks on Kyiv led the hospital to adjust plans for the event on Thursday.

“We were originally planning to have the Children’s Day events outside, but because of the threat, we have had to change our plans to do it here in the shelter.”

Young patients of Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital, their faces painted, gathered in the shelter of the hospital complex in Kyiv on Thursday.Credit...Nicole Tung for The New York Times



The U.S. follows Russia’s move on a nuclear treaty and ends the notification of many exercises.

A U.S. military test firing an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in 2017.Credit...Ringo Chiu/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The United States announced Thursday that it would stop providing key information about its nuclear arms to Russia, in retaliation for Moscow’s decision to withdraw from the New START treaty.

The move has the potential of raising nuclear tensions, especially if Moscow continues to make nuclear threats against Ukraine or the West.

Biden administration officials said they did not believe that the suspension of the information swap would raise the risk of nuclear weapons being used in Ukraine, but they said the treaty had in the past helped the United States and Russia better understand how each country operated.

In February, Russia announced it would suspend participation in New START. For several months, the United States continued the notifications required under the treaty. But on Thursday, Washington said it would take the same actions as Russia has.

The State Department said that the United States would no longer allow the inspections of nuclear sites mandated by the treaty, would cease providing information about the movement of missiles or launchers, and would no longer provide key telemetry data about its intercontinental and submarine missile tests.

The announcement came ahead of remarks scheduled for Friday by Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, at the annual meeting of the Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan group that promotes arms control policies, in Washington.

The United States said it would still notify Russia when it intends to conduct a test launch of missiles. Russia has also agreed to provide notification when it moves strategic bombers, and the United States said it would do the same.

Problems with New START’s provisions began well before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February. New START inspections were halted during the coronavirus pandemic when travel restrictions prevented inspectors from getting into either country.

But as those restrictions lifted, Russia still denied U.S. inspectors access. (Russia accused the United States of also not allowing inspections, but U.S. officials have insisted they were ready to allow them as long as Russia did.)

Kyiv opens investigations into bomb shelters amid concerns that many are kept locked.

Residents watched the scene where a woman and her daughter were killed by missile debris in Kyiv on Thursday.Credit...Nicole Tung for The New York Times

The Kyiv police opened multiple investigations into the operation of bomb shelters in the Ukrainian capital after a young woman and her daughter were killed outside a locked shelter during Russian missile strikes on Thursday, drawing attention to an issue that has been a concern for months.

Mariana Reva, the chief spokeswoman for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, said the Kyiv police had started two criminal inquiries and that the National Police and the State Emergency Service were taking measures to ensure public access to bomb shelters in all Ukrainian cities.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday night the people responsible for the shelter being closed should be prosecuted, adding that “never again” should residents be locked out of a shelter.

The bomb shelter where the people were killed was inside a health clinic. The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said four people had been detained for questioning: a local government official, a security guard, and the director and deputy director of the clinic.

Fifteen months into Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, during which time Ukrainian officials say Russia has launched more than 5,000 missiles and drones at Ukrainian towns and cities, people are still finding shelters locked when they need them most, according to residents and independent analysts.

In Kyiv, a city of 3.6 million people, more than 41,000 people took shelter in subway stations when air-raid sirens began ringing out on Monday during another Russian aerial assault. But shelters in other locations, including residential and commercial buildings and hospitals, are less reliable.

“We appeal to all owners of shelters to provide unimpeded access,” Ms. Reva said. “If the shelter is closed during the air raid, citizens should immediately call the police — each such fact will be recorded and an appropriate response will follow.”

Like most cities and towns in Ukraine, Kyiv has an extensive network of hundreds of officially designated shelters, with many added after Russia first fomented a war in eastern Ukraine and illegally annexed Crimea in 2014.

The Center for Civil Liberties, the Nobel Prize-winning Ukrainian human rights organization, and volunteers at OZON, a watchdog monitoring Ukrainian law enforcement agencies and local government, have been conducting a large-scale survey of bomb shelters around the country since November. They found “many are closed,” according to a report published in April by the Center for European Policy Analysis.

Ivanna Malchevska, the project manager at the Center for Civil Liberties, was quoted in the report as saying that the problem first came to the group’s attention because of difficulties its own staff had finding shelter.

There are very few penalties for leaving a shelter locked, she said. If a shelter is on private property and it is regularly closed when needed as a shelter, the lease can be terminated But for local authorities, there are no consequences, the report cited her as saying.



Macron says the Moldova meeting shows unity in support for Ukraine but that joining NATO has to wait.

President Emmanuel Macron of France and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in Bulboaca, Moldova, on Thursday.Credit...Ludovic Marin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Emmanuel Macron of France said on Thursday that a gathering of European leaders in Moldova showed Europe’s unity in supporting Ukraine and in standing up to Russian aggression, but he reiterated France’s position that full-fledged NATO membership for Ukraine was still premature.

Speaking at a news conference in Bulboaca, Moldova, which is only about 15 miles from the Ukrainian border, Mr. Macron said that the summit meeting was a “strong symbol” of how “we will not abandon any member of the European family.”

“It’s a message of unity and of clear, unanimous support for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, to lead its counteroffensive, to obtain security guarantees and to build a lasting peace,” Mr. Macron said at the summit, where heads of state and government from 47 countries and top European Union officials had convened.

But he repeated his stance from a day earlier, during a trip to Slovakia, that Western allies could provide Ukraine with “tangible” security guarantees without going as far as full NATO membership, “which is not immediately accessible.”

Mr. Macron also met with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine on the sidelines of the summit for a one-on-one conversation.

The gathering in Moldova was the second meeting of the European Political Community, or E.P.C. — a group of over 40 nations that includes European Union members but also countries that are not part of the bloc, such as Britain, Moldova, Turkey and Ukraine.

The idea for the group came from Mr. Macron in the months after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February of last year. He wanted a somewhat informal but highly symbolic gathering of a wide circle of leaders, bringing countries that are not part of the European Union closer to it, to discuss important European issues like energy policy or security.

On Thursday, Mr. Macron said the summit had shown the “pertinence of this idea and the strength of this format.”

“I see many colleagues who sometimes were doubtful of that and who are now convinced of it,” he added.

Mr. Macron has insisted that the group is a way to keep Europe united and a practical solution to include non-E.U. countries in important debates about the continent’s future — not a substitute for E.U. expansion into Eastern Europe, nor an indefinite waiting room for E.U. membership candidates.

Ukraine and Moldova both became official E.U. candidates last year, with Mr. Macron’s support, although the process is long and uncertain. In keeping with the longtime French idea of a “multispeed Europe,” Mr. Macron also said that a one-size-fits-all approach to expansion had become impractical and that it was unwise to throw the bloc’s doors wide open without significantly reforming its internal rules.

But he has signaled a shift in France’s reluctance to expansion, arguing from Slovakia on Wednesday that “the question is not whether we should expand, nor when we should do it. To me, it should be as quickly as possible — but how to do it.”

“We already function too slowly with 27 members,” he added from Moldova on Thursday. “No one can credibly say that we will function better with eight more.”

At least 20,000 Russian troops died fighting to take Bakhmut, a Western official says.

A Ukrainian soldier with the 93rd Mechanized Brigade outside of Bakhmut, Ukraine, in May.Credit...Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

At least 20,000 Russians have been killed and another 40,000 wounded just in the yearlong grinding battle for the small eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, a senior Western official said on Thursday in a new estimate of casualties.

Overall, Western officials now estimate that the total of Russian casualties, including dead and wounded, is well over 200,000 since the beginning of the war in February 2022, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

The figures track very well with those provided publicly late last month by the head of the Wagner Group, which claims to have done all the fighting for Bakhmut and took credit for finally seizing it.

The Wagner head, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, said that Wagner alone had 20,000 dead in Bakhmut — 10,000 of them prisoners who joined the fighting to get pardons, and 10,000 more regular Wagner recruits.

Mr. Prigozhin, who has been sharply critical of Russia’s defense ministers and top generals, also claimed that Ukraine had lost at least 50,000 in Bakhmut. He said the whole purpose of the battle was to exhaust the Ukrainian forces and give some breathing space to the Russian military. The Western official, following normal practice, declined to comment on Ukrainian casualties.

The role of Mr. Prigozhin now is puzzling, the official said. The mercenary leader has said his fighters need a month of rest and have been withdrawing from Bakhmut, replaced in defensive positions by regular Russian military units, including Russian airborne forces, a move that is likely to be resented by its officers as a misuse of elite troops, the Western official said.

The official also said it was unclear whether the Wagner Group is still being given tasks by Russian commanders, as it used to be, or whether Mr. Prigozhin, who has close ties to President Vladimir V. Putin, now has more autonomy.

Ukrainian troops have suspended their efforts to advance around Bakhmut, a senior Ukrainian general, Oleksandr Syrskyi, said on Thursday.

Ukrainian officials maintain their forces are preparing for a major counteroffensive against dug-in Russian lines, and the Western official said that the Ukrainians are well-equipped with tanks, armored vehicles, ammunition and air defense for the attack. The timing, he said, would depend on drier weather. The offensive was likely take place within weeks, the official said, declining to be more specific.



Kyiv cancels some Children’s Day events as Ukraine loses another young life.

The grandparents of the 9-year-old girl who was killed, speaking to the police outside the clinic on Thursday.Credit...Nicole Tung for The New York Times

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine read a passage from “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank at a conference focusing on children on Wednesday afternoon as he sought to highlight the toll that Russia’s invasion of his country has taken on its youngest citizens.

Over 15 months of war, he said, at least 483 children had been killed, and other estimates suggest that the toll is even higher.

“When there are missile attacks every night and waking up in the morning is truly priceless,” he said, noting that even simple sleep is precious in the maelstrom of violence unleashed by modern warfare.

Hours after he spoke, a 9-year-old girl and her 34-year-old mother were woken in the predawn hours by the wail of an air-raid alarm in Kyiv, the police said. The two raced to what they thought would be the safety of a bomb shelter at a children’s hospital in the city, but, according to Mayor Vitali Klitschko, they died just outside the door.

Russian ballistic missiles had been flying toward the city at around five times the speed of sound as the two stood outside the hospital building, the police said. Just minutes after the alarm sounded, according to the mayor, one of the missiles was struck by a Ukrainian interceptor missile in the skies above, and the child and her mother were killed by the fiery debris. As dawn broke, the child’s grandmother arrived to identify the bodies.

The girl’s death, in the early hours of International Children’s Day in Ukraine, served as a reminder that the most innocent are among those paying a high price in the war. It also sparked renewed outrage across Ukraine. Mr. Klitschko said an investigation was underway into why the door had been closed.

A woman, surrounded by emergency workers in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Thursday, identified the body of her daughter, who was killed in an overnight strike. The woman’s granddaughter was also killed in the attack.Credit...Nicole Tung for The New York Times

A 33-year-old woman was also killed by falling debris nearby, according to the police, and at least 16 people were injured, the mayor said.

In his remarks a day earlier, Mr. Zelensky had made an emotional appeal, saying the killing of children should not become normalized.

“Russia killed — and this is why I will use such wording — Russia killed 483 children at least,” he said. “It killed them. This is not something that can be called ‘they were victims of Russian aggression’ or ‘they died as a result of the armed conflict.’ No, Russia killed these children. Russia maimed almost 1,000 more children.”

Mr. Zelensky’s decision to quote from Anne Frank’s diary was particularly poignant because he is Ukraine’s first Jewish president. Ms. Frank was a teenager when she hid from the Nazis for more than two years during the World War II-era occupation of the Netherlands and kept a diary that went on to become an international best seller.

Mr. Zelensky quoted Ms. Frank as writing: “Man has a drive and rage to destroy and kill. Until humanity undergoes a major change, there will be wars.”

The quote from a victim of the Nazi genocide against Jews served as a rebuke of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who has used the spurious argument that Russia is somehow fighting Nazis in Ukraine to justify his full-scale invasion.

The Ukrainian president also read from the diary of another child caught in the maelstrom of war: Yehor, a 9-year-old boy from the city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine. The boy wrote about how he slept well one night, “woke up and smiled,” an acknowledgment, Mr. Zelensky said.

“I have a wound on my back, the skin is torn off,” the child wrote while the city was under siege by Russian forces last year, as Mr. Zelensky relayed. “My sister has a head wound. My mom has flesh torn out of her arm and a wound on her leg.”

“My grandmother, Galya, two dogs, and my favorite city of Mariupol died,” the boy wrote, according to Mr. Zelensky.

The Ukrainian leader said that his country was fighting for the rights of all children so that “there will never again be new diaries by Anne Frank and Yehor from Mariupol.”

“Where it is safe,” he said. “Where it is free.”

A correction was made on 
June 1, 2023

An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed a quotation to Anne Frank. “War. I slept well, woke up and smiled” did not come from the World War II memoir “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank but from the unpublished diary of a Ukrainian boy named Yehor who lived through the siege of Mariupol last year.

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A Russian border town becomes a front line in the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

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Videos verified by The New York Times show a building on fire in the Russian border town of Shebekino, and two Russian vehicles hit in the region as well.CreditCredit...Reuters

Shelling, raids, evacuations. Witnesses described the Russian border town of Shebekino as a ghost town on Thursday, as a war that the Russian government initially portrayed as a brief and remote mission against Kyiv spilled across the border.

On Thursday, regional authorities and local residents said heavy shelling by Ukraine’s forces had damaged Shebekino’s residential buildings, knocked out power and water supply and triggered the evacuation of residents.

Russian officials and military correspondents also said Russian forces fended off an attempted incursion from Ukraine by anti-Kremlin paramilitary groups, even as the fighters posted footage they said showed battles on the town’s outskirts. Neither side’s account could be confirmed.

Anxiety in the Belgorod region has grown since the two Russian paramilitary groups, who are aligned with Kyiv, staged a brazen two-day attack in a nearby area, briefly taking several villages, in an operation that exposed the weakness of Russian border defenses. Ukraine publicly denied involvement, but the fighters said they were supported by Ukrainian authorities.

“People were running out of the buildings, throwing belongings in the car and rapidly, rapidly speeding out,” one Belgorod resident named Elena said in a telephone interview. She said she helped evacuate people from Shebekino on Thursday, describing driving past destroyed apartments and smoking fields and taking fleeing people to a shelter set up by authorities in the sports arena of the regional capital.

“It was scary; the town has emptied out,” said Elena, who asked to withhold her last name for fear of breaking Russia’s draconian speech laws.

Another Belgorod resident who was in Shebekino on Thursday described a night of heavy shelling that forced people to take shelter in cellars and to flee for safer areas after sunrise, with minimal support from authorities. She asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.

The seriousness of the attacks in Shebekino was indirectly acknowledged by the Kremlin, whose spokesman on Thursday told reporters that President Vladimir V. Putin is receiving regular updates from the town, a previously little-known agricultural and light industry hub of 40,000 near Ukraine. The comment broke with the Kremlin’s recent silence on border area attacks.

Members of the Free Russia Legion and Russian Volunteers Corps held a news conference in northern Ukraine last week, after staging attacks in Russia.Credit...Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times

Russian border regions have been targets of missile strikes and sabotage raids since the early stages of the war, but the intensity of attacks has grown since Kyiv pushed the Russian Army from northeastern Ukraine in the fall and approached the Russian borders. have reached a new high in recent weeks.

“We live in the conditions of de facto war,” the Belgorod governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said on a Russian state television broadcast on Sunday, breaking with the Kremlin’s usual euphemism of “special military operation” for the conflict. “Whether you like it or not, this war is going on. The enemy is coming in.”

On Thursday, Mr. Gladkov said that hundreds of Shebekino residents, mostly the elderly and families with children, were being evacuated into the Russian hinterland.

Fighters with the anti-government paramilitary groups, Russian Volunteer Corp and Free Russia Legion, on Thursday posted videos purportedly showing its members fighting on the outskirts of the town. The video could not be independently verified.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces had repelled the attacks. A video posted on Thursday and verified by The New York Times showed Russian tanks near Shebekino heading toward the border, indicating reinforcements to the area.

Riley Mellen contributed reporting.



Security guarantees for Ukraine are discussed as Blinken meets with NATO officials in Oslo.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, far left, with some of his NATO counterparts in Oslo on Thursday.Credit...Pool photo by Javad Parsa

OSLO — Western officials debated the prospect of security guarantees and even full membership of NATO for Ukraine, as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with his counterparts from the alliance in the Norwegian capital on Thursday.

Also under discussion was the state of Sweden’s application to join the 31-member alliance, following months of obstruction by alliance member Turkey, and whether the standoff can be resolved before a summit of NATO leaders in Vilnius, Lithuania, scheduled for July 11 and 12.

The meeting occurred as the world waits for what Ukrainian officials say will be a counteroffensive to recapture occupied territory, a move that Western officials believe could reframe broader debates about the war.

American officials are concerned that Russia will still likely occupy large swathes of Ukraine even after the Ukrainian military’s push, so talk of cease-fires and peace deals after the counteroffensive could play to Moscow’s advantage.

Western officials are also turning their focus to longer-term means of providing support to Ukraine and how to shape its relationship with NATO.

Ukrainian membership has been a stated goal of NATO since 2008, and Ukraine applied in September to join the alliance. But many officials and analysts see that as a distant prospect, given Russia’s partial occupation of the country and the list of military and political reforms that Ukraine would still have to make before joining.

Russia is adamantly opposed to Ukrainian membership in NATO and that prospect was one of the driving forces behind the Kremlin’s decision to invade Ukraine. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has cast the entire conflict as a larger struggle for influence between Russia and NATO.

Speaking at a news conference after a joint meeting of NATO foreign ministers, as well as a sit-down with the alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, Mr. Blinken said the officials had discussed Ukraine’s future relationship with the alliance.

But he declined to address whether it might provide Kyiv with specific security guarantees, saying only that his conversations were focused on “strengthening the political relationship between Ukraine and NATO,” and shoring up military ties by improving the interoperability of NATO and Ukrainian forces.

Mr. Blinken added that he expected next month’s NATO summit in Vilnius to produce “a very strong package of support on both the political side and the practical side.”

A Russian diplomat visits South Africa amid a debate over an arrest warrant for Putin.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, with officials from China, Brazil and India in Cape Town, South Africa, on Thursday.Credit...Nic Bothma/Reuters

JOHANNESBURG — Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, attended a meeting in Cape Town on Thursday amid a diplomatic storm over whether South Africa would honor an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Mr. Putin is expected to travel to South Africa, a member of the court, in August to attend a summit meeting of BRICS nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — with the court’s arrest warrant hanging over his visit. His foreign minister, Mr. Lavrov, is in South Africa this week to prepare for that meeting.

The issue has set off a public debate over South Africa’s membership in the court, pitting the governing African National Congress’s historical ties with Russia against the country’s economic ties with the United States and Europe.

Mr. Lavrov appeared briefly alongside foreign ministers from the three other countries, and an official statement made no mention of the warrant or the possible arrest of a sitting president. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s foreign affairs minister, called interest in the meeting “a matter of satisfaction and a testimony of our growing influence.”

Mr. Lavrov is fresh off a whirlwind trip around East Africa that included meetings with leaders of Burundi, Kenya and Mozambique as Moscow shores up the support of its allies in Africa. Mr. Lavrov met with his South African counterpart, Naledi Pandor, behind closed doors. South Africa must balance its obligations to the court charged with investigating war crimes and the country’s ties with Russia.

Mr. Putin’s expected attendance at the August meeting has become a fraught political issue for South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, and his government. The international warrant, which cites Mr. Putin’s role in the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children, has isolated Mr. Putin, a leader with an aura of impunity.

This week, South Africa’s Foreign Ministry said the summit would be protected by diplomatic immunity. That immunity, however, is “not for specific individuals,” the ministry said.

“These immunities do not override any warrant that may have been issued by any international tribunal against any attendee of the conference,” the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, a division of the Foreign Ministry, said in a statement.

At the same time, South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, approached a high court for a declaratory order on South Africa’s obligation to honor the I.C.C. warrant. The party hopes that the court order will leave no ambiguity about whether South African officials are legally bound to detain Mr. Putin and extradite him to The Hague. The party also wants a judge to clarify the process of arresting a sitting president, said Glynnis Breytenbach, a party lawmaker.

The pre-emptive court action would “avoid a repeat of the al-Bashir saga,” Ms. Breytenbach said. In 2015, South African officials failed to enact an I.C.C. warrant and arrest the former Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, who was in Johannesburg to attend an African Union meeting. A South African court ruled that the government was legally required to arrest Mr. al-Bashir hours after he had left the country.

The court has not set a date for the hearing on Mr. Putin’s visit.

The legal proceedings illustrate the confusion over South Africa’s stance toward Russia. The United States has criticized South Africa over its warm relations with Moscow, while Mr. Ramaphosa said his country was facing enormous pressure to abandon its policy of nonalignment in the face of Russia’s war against Ukraine.



Zelensky pushes for E.U. and NATO membership at a meeting of European leaders in Moldova.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and President Maia Sandu of Moldova arriving at the European Political Community summit in Bulboaca, Moldova, on Thursday.Credit...Ludovic Marin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

NATO should decide this year whether to admit Ukraine as a member, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said on Thursday, intensifying his case, at a summit of European leaders in Moldova, for the country’s accession to the alliance.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine more than 15 months ago has given added urgency to the country’s application in September to join NATO, a body set to hold a summit meeting in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, next month.

The government in Kyiv views membership as the ultimate guarantee of its security. The United States and other NATO allies, while supporting the government in Kyiv with billions of dollars in military aid, have so far proved reluctant to take that step given that it could bring the alliance into direct conflict with Moscow.

“This year is for decisions,” Mr. Zelensky said at the European Political Community summit at a castle outside the Moldovan capital. He spoke in English. “In summer in Vilnius at the NATO summit, a clear invitation from members of Ukraine is needed, and security guarantees on the way to NATO membership are needed.” His comments were reported by Reuters.

Few expect concrete progress at the one-day summit of 47 leaders.

But the gathering — a forum for almost all of Europe’s leaders — sought to showcase Western solidarity in defiance of the Kremlin’s calculation that political and economic fatigue would undermine support for Ukraine. Russia and its close ally, Belarus, were not invited and the newly re-elected president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, chose not to attend.

Kaja Kallas, the prime minister of Estonia, said the attendance of so many leaders sent “a signal that multilateralism actually works, and also that we are behind Moldova and we are behind Ukraine.” The West, she added, needed to show President Vladimir V. Putin that he cannot wait out Ukraine and the West. “As soon as Putin realizes and Russia realizes they made a mistake with the war in Ukraine, the war will be over.”

Thursday’s meeting had a loose agenda, focusing on issues such as fostering political dialogue and strengthening security, stability and prosperity, according to a description of the forum on a European Union website.

Some analysts have doubted its value, not least given disagreements within Europe on the war. But others argue that, while the European Political Community is new — the first meeting was held in October — it could provide opportunities for dialogue.

Arriving at the summit, Mr. Zelensky said that security guarantees were also important for Moldova. The war in Ukraine and its economic fallout have reverberated in the Eastern European country, which has taken in large numbers of Ukrainian refugees.

Moldova has faced growing pressure on its leadership, and this year President Maia Sandu accused Russia of trying to topple her government through protests organized by pro-Russian forces.

“I think security guarantees are very important, not only for Ukraine. For all the neighbors,” Mr. Zelensky told journalists after a meeting with Ms. Sandu. “What is very important — our future in E.U. and NATO,” he said. Ukraine took some of its first steps toward European Union membership around a decade ago.

Mr. Zelensky, who spent the first months after the invasion in Kyiv as a show of defiance, has traveled extensively in Europe in recent weeks and attended a summit of the Group of 7 leaders in Japan last month. In every forum, he has pressed his case for greater military and diplomatic support for his country.

Ukraine, however, was not the only issue being discussed at the summit.

The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan were also expected to meet at the summit in the latest talks focused on a long-running dispute over their common border and the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Discussions on the issues have also been held outside Washington and in Brussels in recent weeks.

Charles Michel, the European Council president, who has led negotiations, said before the summit that the two leaders had “made some progress and I hope today will be an occasion to confirm a common political will to normalize the relation between both countries,” according to a Reuters report.

Andrew Higgins contributed reporting.

Blinken finishes his Nordic trip with a focus on the war.



Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Is a ‘Strategic Failure,’ Says Blinken

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken addressed the status of the war in Ukraine during a visit to NATO’s newest member, Finland.

The United States has been working with Ukraine, and allies and partners around the world, to build consensus around the core elements of a just and lasting peace. A just and lasting peace must uphold the U.N. Charter and affirm the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. A just and lasting peace requires Ukraine’s full participation and assent. Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. As I’ve made clear by virtually every measure, President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has been a strategic failure. The Kremlin often claimed it had the second-strongest military in the world, and many believed it. Today, many see Russia’s military as the second-strongest in Ukraine — its equipment, technology, leadership, troops, strategy, tactics and morale, a case study in failure, even as Moscow inflicts devastating, indiscriminate and gratuitous damage on Ukraine and Ukrainians. Russia is estimated to have suffered more than 100,000 casualties in the last six months alone, as Putin sends wave after wave of Russians into a meat grinder of his own making.

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Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken addressed the status of the war in Ukraine during a visit to NATO’s newest member, Finland.CreditCredit...Emmi Korhonen/Lehtikuva, via Reuters

HELSINKI, Finland — Speaking from the capital of NATO’s newest member, Finland, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Friday said that strengthening Ukraine’s defenses against Russia was a “prerequisite” for diplomacy to end the war in Ukraine and warned against the allure of short-term cease-fires that might play to Moscow’s military advantage.

In a powerfully symbolic address at Helsinki’s City Hall, Mr. Blinken also cataloged what he called the many “strategic failures” that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has suffered since launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

One of them, he said, was Finland’s decision to break from decades of firm neutrality and join the NATO alliance, a blow to Mr. Putin, who calls NATO’s expansion a grave threat to Russian security.

Although Mr. Blinken’s speech, billed as an important overview of Washington’s thinking about the war, broke little new ground, its delivery from a country that shares a more than 800-mile border with Russia that the NATO alliance is now committed to defending amounted to a victory lap likely to embarrass if not infuriate Mr. Putin.

Finland’s official entry into NATO in April, Mr. Blinken said, was “a sea change that would have been unthinkable” before the war in Ukraine — and one that Mr. Putin had brought upon himself by invading his neighbor.

Mr. Blinken spoke at the end of a weeklong trip to Finland, Norway and Sweden that included meetings with NATO officials meant to highlight Western resolve against Russia and discuss the alliance’s long-term relationship with Kyiv, which is seeking NATO admission and security guarantees. Sweden is also seeking to join NATO, over Turkish opposition that U.S. officials hope can soon be defused.

More broadly, Mr. Blinken argued in a 40-minute address in Helsinki, that Mr. Putin had unwittingly exposed and compounded the weakness of Russia’s military, hobbled its economy and inspired NATO to become more united, and even larger.

But he also included cautionary notes about what he suggested would be a long and difficult road ahead for Kyiv, particularly amid what he predicted would be new worldwide calls for a halt to the fighting.

“Over the coming months, some countries will call for a cease-fire,” Mr. Blinken said. “On the surface, that sounds sensible — attractive, even. After all, who doesn’t want warring parties to lay down their arms? Who doesn’t want the killing to stop?”

But a cease-fire that freezes current lines in place, with Russia controlling large parts of Ukrainian territory, he added, “is not a just and lasting peace. It is a Potemkin peace. It would legitimize Russia’s land grab. It would reward the aggressor and punish the victim.”

While saying that the United States and Ukraine would like to see an end to the war, Mr. Blinken warned that Mr. Putin appeared to have little interest in negotiating a conclusion to the fighting.

The Russian leader is “convinced he can simply outlast Ukraine and its supporters — sending more and more Russians to their deaths, and inflicting more and more suffering on Ukrainian civilians,” Mr. Blinken said. “He thinks even if he loses the short game, he can still win the long game.”

The United States would support a peace initiative “that helps bring President Putin to the table to engage in meaningful diplomacy,” the secretary of state said, adding that such efforts must hold Russia accountable for atrocities and help pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction.

Although Mr. Blinken said that a peace deal would have to “affirm the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence,” he did not specify whether Russia would have to withdraw from all Ukrainian territory — including the strategic Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014 and which many analysts believe Mr. Putin will never surrender.