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New York Times: Russia Claims It Foiled a Ukrainian Drone Attack on the Kremlin

By May 3, 2023June 7th, 2023Mailchimp, News, Print

 

May 3, 2023, 3:00 p.m. ET20 minutes ago

20 minutes ago

Live Updates: Russia Claims It Foiled a Ukrainian Drone Attack on the Kremlin

Russia accused Ukraine of launching drones at the Kremlin aimed at killing President Vladimir V. Putin. The Ukrainian president denied the claim, and officials in Kyiv warned that Russia could use it to launch “a large-scale terrorist provocation.”

Here are the latest developments.

Two explosions occurred 15 minutes apart over the Kremlin early Wednesday, video footage verified by The New York Times showed, in an incident that set off a flurry of accusations and escalated tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

Russia claimed the Ukrainian government had orchestrated a drone attack, describing it as a deliberate attempt to strike President Vladimir V. Putin’s residence that was foiled by Russian “electronic warfare systems.” Russia did not release any evidence to show that Ukraine was behind the explosions.

Ukraine denied any involvement, asserting that Russia had manufactured the incident to distract attention from Ukraine’s looming counteroffensive. An attack in the heart of Moscow would represent an audacious move by Kyiv, with the potential to create serious repercussions.

On Wednesday, U.S. intelligence agencies were still trying to determine what happened, according to two American officials briefed on the situation. U.S. officials have in the past voiced concern about Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil, concerned they could provoke Moscow without having a direct effect on the battlefield.

Kyiv is readying tens of thousands of soldiers for its counteroffensive and stepping up strikes aimed at weakening Russian forces. Mr. Putin is preparing to preside over a major military parade in Red Square next Tuesday, on Russia’s main patriotic holiday — the May 9 celebration of the Soviet Union’s World War II victory over Nazi Germany.

Whatever the provenance of the explosions, it was clear that the Kremlin had made an usually deliberate choice to publicize the incident. About 12 hours after the blasts, Mr. Putin’s press service issued a rare, five-paragraph statement alleging that the “Kyiv regime” had used drones to carry out an unsuccessful “attempt on the life of the president.” Mr. Putin’s spokesman said the president was not in the Kremlin when the explosions occurred, at around 2:30 a.m. Moscow time.

If the explosions were indeed a drone attack, the penetration of central Moscow’s air defenses would represent the latest embarrassing failure by a Russian military that has struggled throughout the 14-month war. Either way, the incident could serve as a pretext for Mr. Putin to launch new strikes on Ukraine, as happened after the fiery attack on Russia’s bridge to Crimea last October.

Ukraine, for its part, has largely maintained a policy of deliberate ambiguity over whether it has played a role in attacks inside Russia. In this case, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, directly denied responsibility.

“We don’t attack Putin or Moscow,” he told the Nordic broadcaster TV2 during a visit to Finland. “We fight on our territory. We’re defending our villages and cities. We don’t have enough weapons for these.” Dealing with Mr. Putin, he added, would be left to an international tribunal.

Here are the latest developments:

  • The Kremlin statement said that drones had targeted the Russian president’s official residence, calling it “a planned terrorist attack and an attempt on the life of the president.” Russia reserved the right to retaliate, it said.

  • Shortly after the Kremlin issued its statement, air raid alarms wailed across the Kyiv, but the alert was lifted within an hour and a half. Russian drones have targeted the city three of the last six nights.

  • Besides Mr. Zelensky, other Ukrainian officials categorically denied Russia’s claim. Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Mr. Zelensky, suggested in a statement to The New York Times that Russia would use the claim to launch a “large-scale terrorist provocation” against Ukraine in the coming days.

  • There have been a string of drone strikes and acts of sabotage on Russian territory since Russia began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022, including a car bombing outside Moscow that killed the daughter of a prominent pro-war Russian commentator last August. Ukraine denied involvement in the car bombing at the time, but U.S. intelligence agencies believe that parts of the Ukrainian government authorized the attack.

  • Ukraine appears to be intensifying attacks on Russian military strongholds before an expected counteroffensive. Explosions hit targets in and near occupied Crimea overnight. In the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, a 58-hour stay-at-home order has been imposed because of threats posed by Russian forces, a Ukrainian official said.

A secret Vatican ‘mission’ to try to bring an end to the war may the show the limits of the pope’s influence.

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Pope Francis waves to attendees as he arrives in the popemobile car for the weekly general audience at St. Peter’s square in The Vatican, on Wednesday.
Credit…Andreas Solaro/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

ROME — A secret mission revealed days ago by Pope Francis to bring peace between Russia and Ukraine is so secret that Russia and Ukraine claim to know nothing about it.

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that it had no idea what the pope was talking about. “Ukraine doesn’t know about it,” Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See, Andrii Yurash, said in an interview Wednesday, adding that he had scheduled a meeting for Thursday with the pope’s foreign minister. “I will for sure ask him what it is.”

Later Wednesday evening, the pope’s second-in-command and chief diplomat, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, told reporters, “to my knowledge, they were and are aware” of the peace plan, saying that the denial by the governments “surprises me.”

The apparent bewilderment of the war’s parties, and confusion around the existence of a plan contributed to the sense that the pope’s influence as a geopolitical player and peacemaker — already chastened in countries like Cuba, South Sudan and Myanmar — did not extend to Ukraine.

Some supporters of Ukraine worry that in his eagerness to play a constructive role, Francis may be reducing himself to a pawn for the likes of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia or the Russian Orthodox Church, which has sought to give religious legitimacy to the invasion.

During a visit to Budapest last weekend, Francis met privately with Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, who has been a frequent defender of Russia, and a top Russian Orthodox Church prelate in Hungary, Metropolitan Hilarion. On the plane home, Francis was asked by journalists whether he thought the two men could accelerate the peace process or facilitate a meeting between Francis and Mr. Putin.

Francis answered with a cryptic reference to “a mission going on now, but it is not public yet” to bring peace, adding “when it is public I will talk about it.”

Asked about the comments, the office of Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the foreign minister, responded that since the “matter is under consideration,” it could not provide information for now, “but will do so in the near future.”

But what little is actually known about that effort has drawn either denial (the metropolitan on Wednesday said he had no conversation about a peace plan with Francis), bafflement or deep skepticism from informed observers.

“The pope is out of the picture,” said Lucio Carraciolo, the editor of the leading Italian foreign affairs journal Limes. In December, he organized an event at the Italian Embassy to the Holy See featuring Cardinal Parolin, who called for a “European peace conference” to help end the war.

“How can a Catholic pope be a mediator in an Orthodox environment?” Mr. Carraciolo said, adding that with Francis, the church “has no relevance in this kind of war.”

Still, the Vatican has actively tried to engage with both sides, working on prisoner releases and promising the Ukrainians that it would do what it could to help return children taken by Russia. One former Vatican official on Wednesday told the Italian press about a seven-point plan for a peace process that included getting major stakeholders around a table mediated by the Vatican.

Mr. Yurash, the Ukrainian ambassador, said the Vatican has consistently expressed a desire to be involved in an eventual peace negotiation, and that to do that, its officials told him, it had to keep open “bridges” and “lines” to Russia.

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Pope Francis shaking hands with Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See, with a statue behind them.
A photograph released by the Vatican showing Pope Francis and Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See, Andrii Yurash, in August.Credit…Vatican Media/EPA, via Shutterstock

But he noted that the Kremlin had repeatedly stymied Vatican overtures for a papal meeting with Mr. Putin, which Francis has repeatedly said would be a prerequisite for a meeting with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Mr. Yurash argued the Russian Orthodox Church was trying to gain “legitimacy” through its relationship with the Vatican for “obvious aims of Russian propaganda.”

“It’s not absolutely clear for my side why the Holy See is always trying to still continue this very special relation with the Russian church and the Russian state,” he said, adding that the Ukrainian people, already suffering under an invasion, “cannot understand” the pope’s positioning.

Francis has repeatedly recalled that on the first day of the war he called Mr. Zelensky, and then, to make what he has called a “clear gesture” of his openness to talk, visited Aleksandr Avdeyev, the Russian ambassador to the Holy See.

On the flight back from Budapest he called Mr. Avdeyev “a great man, a man comme il faut, a serious, cultured and balanced person.”

Mr. Avdeyev did not return a request for comment.

Francis’ openness to dialogue has also, especially in the beginning of the war, drawn criticism for assuming a neutrality that critics considered morally questionable in the face of clear Russian aggression.

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President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Pope Francis in a room in 2019, standing with other officials.
A photograph released by Russian state media showing President Vladimir V. Putin and other Russian officials with Francis at the Vatican in 2019.Credit…Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik

The pope’s early reluctance to name Russia as the aggressor eventually led to criticism from Ukraine and warnings that he was in danger of ending up on the wrong side of history, with historians invoking Pius XII, who stayed essentially silent about Hitler’s Holocaust.

In May 2022, Francis wondered in an interview with the Corriere della Sera, an Italian newspaper, whether “NATO barking at Russia’s doors” may have “facilitated” anger from Kremlin that led to the invasion.

But in the same interview, he seemed to damage his status as an honest broker when he said he had pointed out to Patriarch Kirill I, the leader of the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church, who he spent years courting to mend a split between the Western and Eastern churches going back to 1054, “the patriarch cannot be transformed into Putin’s altar boy.”

After eventually condemning Russia as the aggressor, Francis has since compared Russia’s behavior to massacres under Stalin and has consistently supported Ukrainians and called attention to their plight.

But Mr. Carraciolo said, the pope’s differing views could charitably be characterized as a “puzzle” that generated confusion and effectively disqualified the pontiff as a potential interlocutor.

Revealing an effort after meeting with players closer to the Russian side in Budapest was “not smart,” he said, also adding, “if it’s secret, you have to keep it secret.”

Since the beginning of his pontificate, Francis has thrown himself into real conflicts in the hopes of having a real, and not just moral, impact on the world stage. But after early success in playing a role in a historic diplomatic breakthrough between Cuba and the United States in 2015, his efforts have rarely borne fruit.

Cuba, where he has sent an envoy to secure the release of political prisoners, has not freed them. In 2019, he knelt in the Vatican and kissed the feet of the warring leaders of South Sudan, imploring them to stop a yearslong civil war. But in February, he upbraidedthe leaders in the country’s capital, Juba, for slipping back into violence.

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A crowd greeting the papal motorcade in Juba, South Sudan, in February.
Credit…Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

Flavio Lotti, who organizes a yearly peace march from Perugia to Assisi, said that the pope’s strong voice on issues of peace, disarmament and support for migrants, “makes Francis unique, but doesn’t make him stronger.”

Still, Mr. Lotti said Francis served as an important “lighthouse” for everyone who seeks to put “the conditions of real people also at the heart of geopolitical problems. It’s in the trying.”

While even some supporters of Francis worry he risks coming off as geopolitically impotent if no plan materializes or gets traction, it is clear for now that the pope had again become a center of attention. Mr. Yurash said he had received a barrage of calls from fellow ambassadors to the Vatican, including from the United States, asking what he knew.

As the ambassador showed pictures in his office of himself with Francis and Cardinal Parolin and pointed out a stuffed animal, shredded in a Russian attack, that he hoped to give to the pope as a reminder of the suffering of the country’s children, his phone rang.

“The Polish ambassador,” he said, excusing himself. “Everybody is calling me.”

May 3, 2023, 2:05 p.m. ET1 hour ago

1 hour ago

Reporting from Helsinki

 

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who has denied that his country was behind any attack on the Kremlin, appeared at a news conference with Nordic leaders at the presidential palace in Finland on Wednesday. Asked why Russia would accuse Ukraine, Zelensky answered through an interpreter that Russia “has no victories to report” and that Putin must find other ways to maintain Russian morale. “Because of that, he has to do some unexpected moves like surprise drone attacks,” Zelensky said.

Marc Santora

May 3, 2023, 1:57 p.m. ET1 hour ago

1 hour ago

Reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine

 

After a day of intense shelling in the southern port city of Kherson, the death toll has risen to 18 with another 46 people injured, Andriy Yermak, a senior adviser to the Ukrainian president, said in a statement. Ukrainian officials have imposed a 58-hour curfew in and around the city, starting Friday night and stretching until Monday morning. People have been ordered to stay in their homes for security reasons, officials said.

Eric Schmitt

May 3, 2023, 1:54 p.m. ET1 hour ago

1 hour ago

 

A senior U.S. military official said the Pentagon had not detected any unusual Russian air, land or sea military movements in or around Ukraine since the Kremlin accused Ukraine of a drone attack. But U.S. analysts are monitoring the situation closely, the official said.

Neil MacFarquhar

May 3, 2023, 1:50 p.m. ET1 hour ago

1 hour ago

 

The Kremlin is at the heart of Putin’s security bubble, but his movements are guarded and obscured.

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A statue of Vladimir, the patron saint of the Russian Orthodox Church, in the foreground of an image of Kremlin buildings, which are surrounded by red walls.
The Kremlin complex sits in the center of Moscow, and contains the Russian president’s official residence and main office.Credit…Yuri Kochetkov/EPA, via Shutterstock

President Vladimir V. Putin has long operated within the confines of a tight security bubble, which became even tighter and more isolating during the coronavirus pandemic. The sprawling red fortress of the Kremlin, which Russian officials claimed was the target of a Ukrainian drone attack on Wednesday, contains both the president’s official residence and his main office, making it the heart of that bubble.

The agency responsible for protecting the president, the Federal Guard Service — known by its Russian initials, F.S.O. — rarely confirms Mr. Putin’s whereabouts or discusses his movements. It sometimes closes areas adjacent to the Kremlin, particularly Red Square, to the public.

Over the past few years, drones have been banned from flying over the Kremlin and the surrounding area. Security officers deploy special devices to down any in the vicinity.

When the Russians claimed to take out two Ukrainian drones above the Kremlin — around 2:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday, according to videos reviewed by The New York Times — Mr. Putin was at a sprawling compound about 20 miles to the west, his spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told reporters. The compound is located in the elite suburb of Novo-Ogaryovo, along the Moscow River.

Mr. Putin travels frequently between the compound and the Kremlin in a lengthy motorcade. The rich residents of nearby compounds grumble quietly that the F.S.O. closes the road to other traffic while the president is in transit.

Russian media reports have suggested that, since the start of the coronavirus crisis, Mr. Putin has spent more time at the compound or at another rural spread northeast of Moscow, near Lake Valdai.

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A line of black sedans and an S.U.V. driving down a busy street lined with traffic cones.
Vladimir Putin’s motorcade approaching the Kremlin in March.Credit…Natalia Kolesnikova/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

While the vast grounds of the Kremlin contain the official presidential residence, it is more ceremonial than practical. Only recently did Mr. Putin publicly mention the existence of a private apartment that he claimed to use frequently — an unusual instance of him discussing his living arrangements.

“I have an apartment here, where I have been spending a lot of time lately, working, spending nights very often,” he told reporters when President Xi Jinping of China visited Moscow at the end of March.

Both his main office and his apartment are in the Senate Palace, a yellow domed structure that was visible in video footage showing what appears to be a drone exploding. The palace also contains Catherine Hall, a soaring blue and white circular reception room where Mr. Putin hold ceremonies, such as handing out state awards, and the dome itself covers the presidential library.

The Kremlin fortress holds various tourist attractions, like a museum of Czarist artifacts and jewels, and a medieval Russian Orthodox church where some czars are interred. It is also the central working venue of the presidential administration, although only the closest advisers to Mr. Putin spend time working near his office. The rest are in an office building outside the Kremlin walls.

Even when Mr. Putin appears to be in the Kremlin, he may not actually be there, according to a former F.S.O. captain who defected. The Russian president has established identical offices in multiple locations, all furnished and decorated the same in every detail, including matching desks and wall hangings, according to the former captain, Gleb Karakulov. Official reports have sometimes described him as being in one place when he was actually somewhere else, Mr. Karakulov told a London-based opposition news outlet, the Dossier Center, in early April.

The security measures around the Kremlin can obfuscate others’ locations, too. Since the advent of G.P.S. tracking, the signal in the vicinity of the fortress sometimes disappears or is teleported to an airport more than 20 miles outside Moscow. Taxi fares have been known to jump accordingly, as if the passenger traveled to the airport, not central Moscow.

Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting.

Neil MacFarquhar

May 3, 2023, 1:32 p.m. ET2 hours ago

2 hours ago

 

The Kremlin was the site of one of the most spectacular breaches of Soviet air defenses during the Cold War. In May 1987, an 18-year-old German managed to fly a Cessna from Finland, over Estonia, and land it in Red Square — ostensibly on a peace mission.

Image

Credit…Associated Press

Neil MacFarquhar

May 3, 2023, 1:33 p.m. ET2 hours ago

2 hours ago

President Gorbachev used the incident as the reason to fire scores of top military brass. The teenager, Mathias Rust, spent a little more than a year in a Soviet prison.

May 3, 2023, 1:18 p.m. ET2 hours ago

2 hours ago

Video journalist

 

Two drones exploded at the Kremlin around 2:30 a.m., according to videos reviewed by The Times.

Anton Troianovski

May 3, 2023, 1:06 p.m. ET2 hours ago

2 hours ago

 

The Kremlin made an intentional choice to publicize the drone episode. The question is why.

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Russian police officers stationed outside the Kremlin in Moscow on Wednesday.
Credit…Yuri Kochetkov/EPA, via Shutterstock
Russian police officers stationed outside the Kremlin in Moscow on Wednesday.

 

Whatever the provenance of the two drones that approached the Kremlin early Wednesday morning, one thing was clear: The Russian government wanted the world to know about them.

The Kremlin made a deliberate choice to quickly make public what it claimed was a drone attack aimed at assassinating President Vladimir V. Putin. It published an unusual, five-paragraph statement on its website that named the Ukrainian government as the perpetrator and asserted the right to retaliate against Kyiv.

The Ukrainian government denied any involvement in the alleged episode and there was no way to independently confirm the Kremlin’s claim of an attack.

The Kremlin’s messaging diverged significantly from its response to previous episodes involving attacks on Russia or Russian-occupied territory. They include last August’s car bombing outside Moscow that killed Daria Dugina, the daughter of a leading Russian ultranationalist; the explosion in October that damaged the bridge linking Russia to the occupied peninsula of Crimea; and the assassination of a pro-Kremlin military blogger in St. Petersburg last month.

In those cases, the fiery attacks on prominent Russian targets were impossible to ignore, but the Kremlin did not publish a lengthy statement about them.

This time, the Russian government’s publicity was made all the more notable by the fact that reports on social media of explosive sounds in central Moscow early Wednesday had attracted little attention before the Kremlin’s statement. And publicizing the alleged attack came with a downside: Even though there was no evidence of serious damage, the apparent ability of two unmanned aircraft to penetrate central Moscow’s defenses and approach the Kremlin served as the latest embarrassment for a Russian military that has suffered numerous failures throughout the war.

“The last time the enemy bombed Moscow was in 1942,” said one widely circulated post on Wednesday by a pro-Kremlin blogger.

Now the question is whether Russia will use the incident to justify more and even deadlier strikes against Ukraine. Russia escalated its bombardment of Ukrainian infrastructure after last year’s blast on the bridge to Crimea, and pro-Kremlin voices on social media on Wednesday quickly called for new retaliation.

“We will demand the use of weapons capable of stopping and destroying the Kyiv terrorist regime,” said Vyacheslav Volodin, the chairman of Russia’s lower house of Parliament.

The drone incident comes at a particularly tense moment in Russia’s 14-month war. Ukraine is gearing up to launch a counteroffensive against Russian troops dug in in Ukraine’s south and east. Mr. Putin is preparing for a major public appearance next Tuesday, when Russia celebrates the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany, Russia’s main patriotic holiday.

By trumpeting the attack rather than denying it, Russian officials were acknowledging their “lack of air defenses, their vulnerability, weakness and helplessness,” Leonid Volkov, an exiled associate of the imprisoned opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, wrote in a social media post. “That means they found some pluses in this and, evaluating them, decided that the pluses would be able to outweigh the minuses.”

Those “pluses” could be to galvanize Russians into more fervently backing the war effort, or to presage a new escalation, Mr. Volkov wrote. The Kremlin’s statement on the attack said Russia reserved the right for “retaliatory measures where and when it sees fit.”

There were no further details on what those measures might be or on Mr. Putin’s next moves. Dmitri S. Peskov, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, refused to even confirm whether the president would return to the Kremlin on Thursday after working from his suburban Moscow residence on Wednesday.

“We’ll let you know in due time,” Mr. Peskov said, according to Russia’s RIA Novosti state news agency.

May 3, 2023, 12:04 p.m. ET3 hours ago

3 hours ago

Reporting from Helsinki

 

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, on a visit to Finland, said his country did not attack the Kremlin. “We don’t attack Putin or Moscow,” he told the Nordic broadcaster TV2. “We fight on our territory. We’re defending our villages and cities. We don’t have enough weapons for these.” Dealing with Putin, he added, would be left to an international tribunal.

Image

Credit…Reuters

Marc Santora

May 3, 2023, 11:38 a.m. ET4 hours ago

4 hours ago

Reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine

 

Russia’s claim comes as Ukraine is readying for a counteroffensive.

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A soldier wearing camouflage crouches in a field, surrounded by trees.
A Ukrainian soldier on the outskirts of Ivanivske, in eastern Ukraine, last month. Ukraine has been expected to start a counteroffensive to retake territory lost to Russian forces last year.Credit…Mauricio Lima for The New York Times
A soldier wearing camouflage crouches in a field, surrounded by trees.

 

The Russian claim that Ukraine targeted the Kremlin with attack drones comes at a pivotal moment in the war, with Ukraine readying tens of thousands of soldiers and stepping up strikes aimed at weakening Russian forces before an expected counteroffensive.

Ukrainian officials denied Russia’s claim, with one senior official warning that it was an attempt by the Kremlin to set the stage for “a large-scale terrorist provocation in the coming days.”

“Russia is extremely fearful of Ukraine launching an offensive and is trying to seize the initiative,” said the official, Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukrainian officials emphasize that Moscow has often used misinformation and lies to justify its invasion, rally support at home and cover up its shortcomings during the 14-month-old conflict — which it launched based on the false claim that the Ukrainian government was run by Nazis.

As another example, when Russian forces were forced to withdraw from parts of the southern Kherson region in the fall, Moscow sought to frame its military failure as a “gesture of good will.”

While Moscow’s monthslong effort to advance in eastern Ukraine has gained little ground, Ukraine has stepped up its attacks on Russian targets in recent days. It has claimed responsibility for attacks on Russian supply lines, oil depots, ammunition dumps, command centers and concentrations of soldiers across occupied parts of Ukraine, including in Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.

It was too soon to assess the impact of the recent strikes on Russia’s combat capabilities, which have been severely degraded after more than a year of combat and heavy losses. But a similar campaign last year helped pave the way for successful Ukrainian counterattacks.

Ahead of the looming counteroffensive, there has also been an uptick in explosions at military-related sites inside Russia itself, with local Russian officials quick to blame Ukraine. Kyiv has maintained a policy of strategic ambiguity on attacks in Russia, often celebrating them while not taking direct responsibility.

Now, Ukrainian officials say, Moscow is also trying to undermine Western support for Kyiv by raising the specter of escalation — something Russia has previously done when suffering military failures.

Even though Ukraine denied involvement in any attack on the Kremlin, some inside Russia were already calling for an intensification of violence. In a social media post, Vyacheslav Volodin, the chairman of Russia’s lower house of Parliament, said on Wednesday: “We will demand the use of weapons capable of stopping and destroying the Kyiv terrorist regime.”

Marc Santora

May 3, 2023, 11:37 a.m. ET4 hours ago

4 hours ago

Reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine

 

Yurii Ihnat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, said that his personal opinion was that Russia had staged the attack on the Kremlin to try to “show some kind of escalation on the part of Ukraine.” Russia is constantly promoting similar false narratives to try and paint Ukraine as the aggressor, he said in an appearance on national television.“They even say that we are hitting our residential buildings with missiles,” he said.

Marc Santora

May 3, 2023, 11:21 a.m. ET4 hours ago

4 hours ago

Reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine

 

Shortly after the Kremlin made public its claim of the drone attack, air raid alarms wailed across Kyiv. But that is by now a grimly familiar sound in the Ukrainian capital, which Russia first tried to seize and having failed at that, bombard into submission. And Russian drones have targeted the city three of the last six nights. The alert was lifted by 6 p.m. local time.

Julian E. BarnesAdam Entous

May 3, 2023, 11:19 a.m. ET4 hours ago

4 hours ago

 

U.S. officials say Washington had no advance warning of any attack on the Kremlin.

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A large building with a golden spire next to a white building with golden onion domes set back from a tree-lined river.
Part of the Kremlin complex, next to the Moskva River, in Moscow on Wednesday.Credit…Associated Press
A large building with a golden spire next to a white building with golden onion domes set back from a tree-lined river.

 

The United States had no advance warning of the purported drone strike on the Kremlin, according to two American officials briefed on the situation.

The officials could offer no details about the claimed incident. The U.S. government, they added, has not determined what actually happened.

The Biden administration has been concerned about the possibility of a Ukrainian strike on the Kremlin, because of fears that any such attack could trigger a dramatic escalation in the war. Among a trove of U.S. intelligence documents leaked recently on the Discord social media site was a slide created by the Defense Intelligence Agency examining possible Russian responses to an attack on the Kremlin, from escalating the conflict to negotiating a settlement. The document did not offer any analysis of which of the various responses was more likely.

Ukrainian officials are not always transparent with their American counterparts about their plans for military operations, especially those that take place on Russian territory.

Current and former officials said it was possible the reported attack could be a false flag operation carried out by Russia, but that it was too soon to know. The United States exposed a series of so-called false flag operations Russia planned ahead of the invasion of Ukraine, designed to create a pretext for Russia to attack Ukraine.

“Russia may be fabricating this to use as a pretext to target President Zelensky,” said Mick Mulroy, a former top Pentagon official and C.I.A. officer. “Something they have tried to do in the past.”

Lara Jakes

May 3, 2023, 11:06 a.m. ET4 hours ago

4 hours ago

 

The E.U. plans more funding for aging weapons factories, partly to speed ammunition deliveries to Ukraine.

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Thierry Breton, wearing a dark suit and glasses, speaks at a podium.
European Union Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton speaking in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday.Credit…Olivier Matthys/EPA, via Shutterstock
Thierry Breton, wearing a dark suit and glasses, speaks at a podium.

 

Aging European weapons factories could receive a boost of 500 million euros ($551 million) under a new plan announced by the European Union on Wednesday that would upgrade and expand production and, potentially, speed more ammunition to Ukraine.

The proposal largely seeks to ramp up weapons production for European militaries for years to come. But it also could help the economic bloc’s member nations meet a deadline to deliver a million rounds of ammunition to Ukraine this year, said Thierry Breton, the European Union’s trade commissioner.

It does not, however, settle an internal rift over whether a separate E.U. fund could be used to buy munitions from outside Europe — including the United States and South Korea — to make good on the promise to Ukraine.

Announcing the new plan in Brussels, Mr. Breton said Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine had exposed shortfalls in Europe’s defense industry, and the effect that years of relative peace had taken on its production capacity.

In recent visits to 11 European countries, Mr. Breton toured weapons manufacturers that he said could still build the kinds of ammunition that Ukraine needs most — namely NATO-caliber 155-millimeter rounds and Soviet-era 122-millimeter shells — but not quickly.

“When it comes to the timing, it’s not aligned with our immediate needs,” he said. “And that’s why we needed to give them a boost.”

“The European defense industry has to see how we can move into this war economy mode, and they’re not ready for that yet,” Mr. Breton said. “So the will is there, but they’re not ready yet in practice.”

Beyond providing the money to weapons producers, the plan also requires closer monitoring of supply chains to make sure that gunpowder, parts, machinery and other equipment needed to build ammunition is not delayed.

Only weapons manufacturers in the E.U. and Norway — a major ammunition producer — are eligible for the new funding because it comes out of the bloc’s operating budget.

The new plan comes on top of an earlier, €2 billion proposal in March that set the 12-month deadline for supplying ammunition to Ukraine.

At that point, officials said arms manufacturers in the E. U. were able to produce about 650,000 rounds of all types of ammunition annually. Experts have said production of 155-millimeter shells — in high demand in Ukraine — amounted to about 300,000 rounds in 2022.

Importantly, Mr. Breton said that the one million rounds could include different types of munitions — whether 155-millimeter caliber shells, missiles or otherwise. That is a shift from commentsmade in March by E.U. officials who said then that the goal was to arm Ukraine with one million 155-millimeter shells this year.

Although Mr. Breton expressed anew on Wednesday that the deadline would be met — he said he was “confident” that Europe could scale up production to meet its goal — other E.U. member states are skeptical.

That has set off a disagreement over whether funds allocated to the earlier €2 billion proposal should be used to buy ammunition from producers outside Europe. Half of the money in that plan would also be used to reimburse member states that are donating ammunition from their own military stockpiles.

In the meantime, Mr. Breton said, the new funds could be approved as soon as next month if, as expected, the plan introduced on Wednesday breezes through the bloc’s sometimes complex lawmaking process.

But it could take months or even years before Europe’s defense industry can churn out the number of munitions that Ukraine desperately needs, given the time it takes to buy new machines, build new warehouses and hire skilled workers to produce them.

Camille Grand, a former NATO assistant secretary general for defense investment who now works at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the new proposal would have a “very positive role” in supplying Ukraine. But, he added, “I’m not 100 percent sure that it will have an immediate effect.”

Edward Wong

May 3, 2023, 10:33 a.m. ET5 hours ago

5 hours ago

 

The U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, was asked at a public event at The Washington Post about the Kremlin reports of a drone attack. He answered: “I’ve seen the reports. I can’t in any way validate them. We simply don’t know.” He added: “I would take anything coming out of the Kremlin with a very large shaker of salt.”

Edward Wong

May 3, 2023, 10:36 a.m. ET5 hours ago

5 hours ago

When asked about the U.S. position on any possible attacks by Ukraine on Russia, he said, “These are decisions for Ukraine to make about how it’s going to defend itself.”

Video

CreditCredit…Washington Post Live

Edward Wong

May 3, 2023, 10:41 a.m. ET5 hours ago

5 hours ago

Blinken was also asked how the U.S government assessed Ukraine’s likelihood of success in its expected spring counteroffensive. He said that any analysis of Ukraine’s capabilities was “not static” and that the Pentagon had been working with more than 50 partner nations over many months to bolster the country. “I feel confident they will have success in regaining more of their territory,” he said.

May 3, 2023, 10:30 a.m. ET5 hours ago

5 hours ago

Video journalist

 

Videos verified by The New York Times show what appears to be a drone flying toward and exploding over the Kremlin Senate building. By synchronizing the footage, Times reporters were able to confirm that two videos filmed from different angles captured the same explosion over the building, which houses the president’s executive office. Another video shows the dome of the building on fire.

Anton Troianovski

May 3, 2023, 9:55 a.m. ET5 hours ago

5 hours ago

 

Even though Ukraine has denied involvement, pro-Kremlin voices are already calling for revenge. In a social media post, Vyacheslav Volodin, the chairman of Russia’s lower house of Parliament, said: “We will demand the use of weapons capable of stopping and destroying the Kyiv terrorist regime.”

Marc Santora

May 3, 2023, 9:55 a.m. ET5 hours ago

5 hours ago

Reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine

 

An adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky denied Moscow’s claim that Ukraine had targeted the Kremlin with drones. “Ukraine definitely has nothing to do with the drone attacks on the Kremlin,” the adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said in a statement to The New York Times.

May 3, 2023, 9:41 a.m. ET6 hours ago

6 hours ago

Reporting from Helsinki

 

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is in Finland today on a rare trip outside the country. In a joint news conference with Finland’s president, Sauli Niinisto, Mr. Zelensky thanked Finland for its continuous support of “our freedom and territorial integrity and sovereignty.” The alleged attack on the Kremlin did not come up at the news conference.

Image

Credit…Kimmo Brandt/EPA, via Shutterstock

Neil MacFarquhar

May 3, 2023, 9:37 a.m. ET6 hours ago

6 hours ago

 

Putin has established identical offices in multiple locations, all furnished and decorated the same in every detail, with matching desks and wall hangings, according to Gleb Karakulov, a captain in the Federal Protection Service responsible for guarding the president who defected and recently gave interviews about his experiences. In live broadcasts it would be impossible to discern where he was.

Neil MacFarquhar

May 3, 2023, 9:38 a.m. ET6 hours ago

6 hours ago

Official reports sometimes described Putin as being in one place when he was actually somewhere else, Mr. Karakulov told the opposition news outlet the Dossier Center in early April.

Marc Santora

May 3, 2023, 9:29 a.m. ET6 hours ago

6 hours ago

Reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine

 

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Zelensky, said that the claim of an attempted drone attack on the Kremlin was a sign that “Russia is clearly preparing a large-scale terrorist attack.”

Image

Credit…Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

Marc Santora

May 3, 2023, 9:01 a.m. ETMay 3, 2023

May 3, 2023

Reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine

 

A spokesman for Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, told Radio Liberty that “we have no information about the so-called night attacks on the Kremlin.” The spokesman, Sergei Nikiforov, said that “Ukraine directs all available forces and means to liberate its own territories, and not to attack others.”

Ivan Nechepurenko

May 3, 2023, 8:49 a.m. ETMay 3, 2023

May 3, 2023

 

Putin always operates inside a heavily guarded security bubble. His security team checks every building and office that he works in ahead of his arrival, and his main working residence, the Kremlin, has been likened to a medieval fortress.

Ivan Nechepurenko

May 3, 2023, 8:44 a.m. ETMay 3, 2023

May 3, 2023

 

Moscow’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, said earlier on Wednesday that the authorities had banned the flying of drones over the city unless specially authorized. In a statement on the messaging app Telegram, he said the measure had been taken because such unmanned aerial vehicles could hamper the work of law enforcement agencies.

Image

Credit…Natalia Kolesnikova/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ivan Nechepurenko

May 3, 2023, 8:41 a.m. ETMay 3, 2023

May 3, 2023

 

The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said that Putin was not in the Kremlin at the time of the alleged attack. Peskov said that the Russian president was working from his residence outside Moscow.

Ivan Nechepurenko

May 3, 2023, 8:31 a.m. ETMay 3, 2023

May 3, 2023

 

Moscow’s claim that a drone attack had targeted the Kremlin came days before the Victory Day parade on Red Square, a highly symbolic annual demonstration of military power in Russia. The Kremlin said that the event would still take place as planned.

Matthew Mpoke BiggIvan Nechepurenko

May 3, 2023, 8:00 a.m. ETMay 3, 2023

May 3, 2023

 

The Kremlin claims Ukraine launched a drone attack aimed at Putin.

Image

A gray dome with a tricolor flag flying over it.
Russian authorities claimed to have disabled Ukrainian drones over the Kremlin overnight. Ukrainian officials have denied involvement in any attack.Credit…Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters
A gray dome with a tricolor flag flying over it.

 

The Kremlin claimed on Wednesday that Ukraine had launched a drone strike at President Vladimir V. Putin’s residence overnight. The two drones were disabled by state security services and Mr. Putin was uninjured, the Kremlin said.

It was not immediately possible to verify the Russian claim, and a Ukrainian official said Kyiv had “no information about the so-called night attacks on the Kremlin.”

In a statement, the Kremlin said it “regards these actions as a planned terrorist attack and an attempt on the president,” and reserved the right to retaliate. It said that “timely actions taken by the military and special services” had disabled the drones, causing some debris to scatter on the Kremlin grounds.

Mr. Putin was not in the Kremlin at the time of the incident, according to his spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov. There were no casualties, the Kremlin said.

If confirmed, it would be the most audacious attempted strike on Russian soil since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

Local and regional authorities in Russia have reported a series of drone strikes in recent months. Some have landed close to Ukraine’s border with Russia, but at least one has hit south of Moscow. Ukraine has not acknowledged responsibility for most of the incidents. Moscow is around 280 miles northeast of the Ukrainian border at its closest point.

Last month, The Washington Post reported that the United States had secretly monitored discussions among Ukrainian officials about possible attacks against Moscow timed to coincide with the Feb. 24 anniversary of Russia’s invasion. The White House feared that such a move would provoke an aggressive response from Moscow, and two days before the anniversary, the C.I.A. said that Ukraine’s intelligence directorate “had agreed, at Washington’s request, to postpone strikes” on Moscow. The information was part of a trove of classified U.S. intelligence documents obtained by The Post and other news organizations.

Marc Santora

May 3, 2023, 7:45 a.m. ETMay 3, 2023

May 3, 2023

Reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine

 

A 58-hour curfew is being imposed in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, officials say.

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A man in the distance crosses a long straight street with snow and bare trees on its sides.
A mostly deserted street in Kherson in January. A curfew will limit freedom of movement into and out of the city.Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
A man in the distance crosses a long straight street with snow and bare trees on its sides.

 

KYIV, Ukraine — A 58-hour stay-at-home order has been imposed for all residents living in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson because of threats posed by Russian forces, as intense shelling left 21 people dead on Wednesday.

An additional 48 people were injured, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Twitter. Officials said the victims included a people at the central train station, shoppers at a local mall and engineering crews working to restore the area’s battered infrastructure.

The stay-at-home order, which is expected to begin on Friday evening and end on Monday, also limits freedom of movement into and out of the city. Oleksandr Prokudin, the head of the Kherson regional military administration, said that residents should stock up on food, water and medicine before the curfew.

Mr. Prokudin said the measure was needed because of unspecified threats posed by Russian forces and to facilitate the unimpeded work of Ukrainian law enforcement and military.

“During these 58 hours, it is forbidden to move and be on the streets of the city,” he said.

The curfew order was among the most sweeping Ukraine has put in place since similar edicts were issued in Kyiv at the start of the invasion. The Ukrainian military ordered people off the streets for days as they worked to find spies and saboteurs and beat back the Russian advance on the capital.

Kherson has come under sustained and withering Russian bombardment since the fall, when Ukrainian forces drove the Russian troops out of the port city and the surrounding area west of the Dnipro River. It was a significant victory for Ukraine, because the city had been the only regional capital Russia had managed to capture since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion in February of last year. But the Russian forces decamped just across the river, and from there have relentlessly shelled civilian areas.

Russian units have also been building defensive positions for months. In recent weeks, the Ukrainian military has warned that Russian occupation authorities in the Kherson region have been preparing to evacuate civilians from the territory it still controls there ahead of an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Ukrainian officials said the strike on the mall took place around 11 a.m. and those injured and killed included workers and shoppers at the complex. It was part of a broader assault by Russian forces in Kherson over the past day, which saw at least 106 attacks from Russian heavy artillery, rocket launchers, tanks, drones and aircraft, according to local Ukrainian authorities.

The influential Russian military blogger Rybar claimed that Russian forces were battling Ukrainians as they sought to gain control over the islands in the sprawling estuary that now divides the two armies. The claims could not be independently verified, though there were also unconfirmed reports last month that small groups of Ukrainian soldiers had grabbed marshy islands in the river.

The mouth of the Dnipro River, which flows into the Black Sea, forms a 350-square-kilometer basin. It is 1.2 kilometers wide and with the bridges over the waterway destroyed, it is exceedingly difficult for either army to cross. South of Kherson, the river then divides into a maze of branches, divided by strips of land large enough for settlements to be built.

May 3, 2023, 5:22 a.m. ETMay 3, 2023

May 3, 2023

Johanna Lemola and

 

Zelensky travels to Finland to meet with Nordic leaders.

Image

Mr. Zelensky, in a sweatshirt and cargo pants, and Mr. Niinisto, in a blue suit, stand on a red carpet.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, left, and President Sauli Niinisto of Finland at a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki on Wednesday.Credit…Vesa Moilanen/Lehtikuva, via Associated Press
Mr. Zelensky, in a sweatshirt and cargo pants, and Mr. Niinisto, in a blue suit, stand on a red carpet.

 

HELSINKI — President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine arrived in Finland on Wednesday to meet with Nordic leaders, a rare overseas trip for the Ukrainian leader amid the Russian invasion.

In a joint news conference with Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, Mr. Zelensky thanked Finland for its continuous support of “our freedom and territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

Mr. Niinisto and Mr. Zelensky were also expected to meet with the prime ministers of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland to “discuss the situation of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine” and “the Nordic countries’ continued support for Ukraine,” as well as Ukraine’s relationship with the European Union and NATO, according to a statement from the Finnish presidency.

The Ukrainian president has made few overseas trips since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Last month he received a hero’s welcome on an official visit to Poland.

Mr. Zelensky will also travel to Germany for an official state visit on May 13, Berlin’s police department, which is tasked with providing security, said on Wednesday.

Finland, which shares a long border with Russia, became NATO’s 31st member state last month. That was a significant blow to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, who has strongly opposed the expansion of the trans-Atlantic military alliance.

Ukraine applied for NATO membership last year, but there is division among NATO countries about whether Ukraine should be offered a pathway to membership at a summit this summer.

As Ukraine is not a member, NATO only helps to coordinate Kyiv’s requests for nonmilitary assistance and supports deliveries of humanitarian aid. But individual NATO members, such as the United States and Germany, are some of the largest providers of military assistance to Ukraine.

Though the Ukrainian leader has addressed German lawmakers by video link before, his trip to Berlin would mark his first in-person visit to Germany since the Russian invasion began. Germany is one of Ukraine’s biggest donors of military aid.

Besides the official state visit, which will include talks with both Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Mr. Zelensky is also expected to attend a ceremony in the western city of Aachen, where he will be awarded the Charlemagne Prize for his work toward unifying Europe. Previous recipients of the prize include Pope Francis, Winston Churchill, Bill Clinton, Henry A. Kissinger and Vaclav Havel.

Mr. Zelensky last visited Berlin in July 2021, where he met with the chancellor at the time, Angela Merkel.

Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting.

Marc Santora

May 3, 2023, 4:47 a.m. ETMay 3, 2023

May 3, 2023

Reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine

 

A Russian border guard post and a fuel depot are hit in the latest blasts.

Video

 

0:09Smoke Billows From Russian Fuel Depot Near Crimea
Russian authorities said a fire broke out at a fuel depot after a drone attack in the village of Volna, Russia.CreditCredit…Reuters

KYIV, Ukraine — Explosions hit Russian targets in and near occupied Crimea overnight into Wednesday, as Ukraine appeared to be intensifying attacks on Russian military strongholds before an expected counteroffensive.

In Crimea, drones struck a border guard post in Simferopol on Tuesday night, according to photos and video shared on social media and geolocated by Radio Liberty, a U.S. government-funded broadcaster. Ukraine did not directly claim responsibility for the incident, but Ukraine’s military intelligence spokesman, Andriy Chernyak, said in a statement on Wednesday morning: “Of course, the enemy must be cut off from Crimea.”

Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Russia illegally annexed in 2014, has served as a key staging ground for Moscow’s full-scale invasion and a hub for the supply of troops and weapons to its occupying force in southern Ukraine.

Just east of Crimea, inside Russian territory in the village of Volna, the Russian authorities reported an explosion at a fuel depot after a drone attack before dawn on Wednesday. Videos showed dark smoke rising from a fire visible on the nearby bridge linking Crimea to Russia.

Russian state media reported that the fire was caused by a drone falling on the oil facility, in Russia’s Krasnodar region.

Ukrainian forces have attacked for months inside Crimea, but the assaults have increased in recent days as Kyiv carries out what its officials describe as the final stages of planning for a counteroffensive to take back seized territory.

U.S. officials say the Ukrainian military has been bolstered by training and equipment from Western allies. Gen. Mark Milley, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the United States and NATO allies have helped train and supply about nine Ukrainian brigades, including some light infantry units that are prepared to conduct both offensive and defensive operations.

“The Ukrainians right now have the capability to attack, they can conduct offensive operations, and they also have the capability to defend, significantly enhanced from what they were just a year ago for conventional operations,” General Milley told Foreign Affairs magazine in comments published on Tuesday.

While Ukraine has not disclosed detailed plans for a counteroffensive, military officials have described recent blasts in Crimea and other Russian-occupied areas as part of an effort to disrupt Russia’s logistical capacity. Over the weekend, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s southern military command, Natalia Humeniuk, said that an attack on an oil depot in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, the home of Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet, was part of preparations for “the broad, full-scale offensive that everyone expects.”

Separately, Russia’s top security agency said on Wednesday that it had arrested seven individuals who planned to conduct “high-profile sabotage and terrorist acts” in Crimea in cooperation with Ukrainian military intelligence. Among the targets were several Kremlin-installed officials including the governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, according to the agency, the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., the successor to the K.G.B. It did not publicly release detailed evidence for its claims.

Across occupied areas, Ukraine’s military appears to be stepping up attacks. The Ukrainian Air Force said on Wednesday morning that over the past 24 hours it had carried out strikes on concentrations of Russian troops, ammunition depots, a Russian command post and other targets. The claims could not be independently verified.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials reported strikes from Russian aircraft, drones or artillery against cities and towns across the country.

In Kyiv, the capital, explosions echoed again overnight as air defense systems engaged Russian attack drones, with regional officials saying that all were shot down. A Russian aircraft also launched strikes at a village in the northeastern region of Sumy and drones targeted the Dnipro region of central Ukraine and Mykolaiv in the south, according to Ukrainian officials. There were no immediate reports of casualties in those incidents.

Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting.

Victoria Kim

May 3, 2023, 1:38 a.m. ETMay 3, 2023

May 3, 2023

 

Zelensky says the White House didn’t inform him of the intelligence leak ahead of news reports.

Image

Volodymyr Zelensky is shown with three people in military fatigues.
President Volodymyr Zelensky talking with servicemen during a visit to the front line last month.Credit…Ukrainian Presidential Press Service
Volodymyr Zelensky is shown with three people in military fatigues.

 

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine learned about the leak of classified U.S. intelligence in news reports and hasn’t spoken directly to the White House about the disclosures since, he said in an interview with The Washington Post published Tuesday.

The reams of leaked documents, which came into public view last month, contained information about Ukrainian military operations, assessments of its vulnerabilities and indications that the United States, its most important ally in the war, had spied on allies including Ukraine.

“We did not have that information. I personally did not. It’s definitely a bad story,” Mr. Zelensky said in the interview, which took place in Kyiv on Monday, according to The Post.

While stopping short of saying the leaks were damaging to the relationship between the two governments, he said they tarnished Washington’s reputation and benefited the Russian military.

“For us, anything that informs our enemy in advance in one way or another is definitely a minus for us. I don’t see any advantages here,” he said in the interview, while declining to comment on the veracity or sensitivity of the information contained in the leak.

A White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity surrounding the leak said on Tuesday that the Biden administration was “in constant communication” with officials in Kyiv about a variety of issues, including the disclosures, but declined to specifically address Mr. Zelensky’s comments.

American officials have previously said that after news of the leaks emerged, Ukrainian officials expressed displeasure but said the information would not seriously affect their war effort, including the expected counteroffensive against Russian forces.

Some officials in Kyiv even welcomed the leak in its immediate aftermath, saying it brought attention to Ukraine’s pressing need for more ammunition and weapons, and might push allies to speed up efforts to supply them. The documents included information that missiles for Ukraine’s Soviet-era air defenses would be depleted by May, that its position in the grueling battle for the city of Bakhmut was “catastrophic” and that its military had suffered more than 120,000 casualties.

In the days after news of the disclosures, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said they had spoken to their Ukrainian counterparts to stress the United States’ commitment to supporting Ukraine and assuage concerns about the security of U.S. intelligence.

Anushka Patil

May 2, 2023, 6:39 p.m. ETMay 2, 2023

May 2, 2023

 

Warsaw and Moscow are locked in a heated diplomatic fight over the seizure of an embassy school.

Image

Two men placing a yellow sign on a gate outside a school building in Warsaw.
Polish officials placing a sign outside a former Russian high school in Warsaw on Saturday.Credit…Jaap Arriens/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Two men placing a yellow sign on a gate outside a school building in Warsaw.

 

A top Polish diplomat in Moscow was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday in retaliation for Poland’s seizure of a Russian embassy school in Warsaw, a dispute that has sent relations between the two nations — one waging a full-scale war in Ukraine, the other long allying with Ukraine — to even further lows.

In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it had admonished Poland’s chargé d’affaires in Moscow, Jacek Śladewski, on Tuesday, three days after Warsaw repossessed the building in cooperation with the Polish Foreign Ministry, saying it was not being used for diplomatic purposes and was being illegally occupied by the Russian Federation.

The Russian ministry warned Mr. Śladewski that his country’s actions were a “flagrant violation” of diplomatic relations and that Warsaw had already embraced an openly aggressive position toward Russia, the Russian ministry said in a statement.

Polish authorities “had to use force” to enter the building complex on Saturday, Warsaw’s deputy mayor, Tomasz Bratek, told the Polish state news agency PAP. Only after a locksmith arrived and forced open the gates and door to the building, he said, did Russian embassy officials hand over the keys.

Photos and videos from the scene showed police officers at the complex as boxes were carried out of the building.

The incident enraged the Kremlin. The Russian Foreign Ministry called the move “divisive, illegal and incendiary,” warning in a statement on Saturday that there would be “consequences for the Polish authorities and Poland’s interests in Russia.”

“I see no point in maintaining diplomatic relations with Poland,” Dmitri A. Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia’s security council, said on Twitter.

Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, waded into the dispute on Tuesday to defend his country’s diplomats after a former Russian official, Pavel A. Astakhov, appeared to suggest on Russian television that murder was acceptable retaliation in times of war.

When Russia’s ambassador to Poland had red paint thrown on himlast year by protesters, Mr. Astakhov said, he wondered whether Poland’s ambassador to Russia “would be found floating in the Moscow River.”

Such threats reflected Russia’s true face, Mr. Morawiecki said, according to PAP.

Russia inherited several buildings near its embassy in Warsaw from the Soviet Union, and the Polish capital’s legal disputes over the real estate go back years. The city’s mayor, Rafal Trzaskowski, said Saturday’s seizure of the school building was in accordance with a court ruling in 2016 that found Russia owed over 31 million zloty, or more than $7 million, for illegally occupying it.

Mr. Trzaskowski repossessed another Russian complex near the school last year, with the help of a court-appointed bailiff and a locksmith who brought metal shears and an electric saw.

The compound, once occupied by Soviet diplomats, was believed to host Russian spies and was seized in the months after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine to help serve the Ukrainian community in Poland.

“Spyville,” the mayor declared after the seizure, “is now passing into our hands.”

Kasia Pilat contributed translation.

Neil MacFarquhar

May 2, 2023, 5:52 p.m. ETMay 2, 2023

May 2, 2023

 

A second train derailment in two days is reported in a Russian border area.

Local authorities reported on Tuesday that an explosion derailed a freight train in the Russian region of Bryansk, on the border with Ukraine, the second such incident there in two days.

The regional governor, Aleksandr V. Bogomaz, said in a post on the Telegram messaging app that an explosive device had gone off near the railway station at Snezhetskaya, a town about 60 miles from the Ukraine border, but had not caused any deaths or injuries.

A locomotive and about 20 train cars went off the rails, according to a statement from Russian Railways, the train’s operator, which said that a firefighting train had been dispatched to the scene. However, the first videos of the derailed train published online did not show any flames. It was not immediately clear what the train was carrying.

In addition, a village in Bryansk that lies less than five miles from the border with Ukraine was shelled on Tuesday morning, igniting a fire but causing no casualties, Mr. Bogomaz said. He blamed Ukraine’s military for that attack, but offered no evidence. The claim could not be independently verified.

The governor did not cast specific blame for the two train derailments. Nor did Ukraine claim the blasts, although Kyiv generally maintains a policy of strategic ambiguity about strikes on Russian territory.

The earlier derailment came on Monday, as a freight train from Belarus was transiting the Bryansk region near the town of Unecha, roughly 60 miles east of the Ukrainian border. After an explosive device detonated, eight of the train’s 78 cars jumped the track and ignited, blocking traffic on the line. Rybar, an influential pro-war Russian military blog, posted a video on Telegram of the burning cars, and said that they had been carrying oil products and lumber.

By Tuesday morning, rail service on the line had been restored, Russian Railways said on Telegram. About 100 meters of railroad tracks, or about 330 feet, had to be replaced, the company said.

The explosions were the latest in a series of attacks to hit the region. On Sunday, Mr. Bogomaz said that four people in the regionwere killed by Ukrainian shelling from across the border.

Russia has used territories close to Ukraine — including the Bryansk region, along Ukraine’s northern border — to stage assaults, fire rockets, launch air assaults and mount other attacks throughout the 14-month-old war. The Ukrainian government has expressed growing concern that Moscow is using the Bryansk region to launch drone assaults.

Neil MacFarquhar

May 2, 2023, 1:43 p.m. ETMay 2, 2023

May 2, 2023

 

Russia’s defense minister calls for faster delivery of weapons, suggesting depleted stocks.

Image

A man on a mobile phone overlooks three missiles. There are models of armored vehicles on the right.
Russian missiles on display in February at a trade show in the United Arab Emirates. Russia on Tuesday said the nation’s output of high-precision missiles needed to be doubled.Credit…Ryan Lim/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
A man on a mobile phone overlooks three missiles. There are models of armored vehicles on the right.

 

Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, called on Tuesday for quickly doubling Russian production of guided missiles and speeding up the replenishment of other weapons and military equipment needed for the war in Ukraine.

The defense minister’s remarks are the latest in a series of statements by senior officials, starting with President Vladimir V. Putin, that suggest the Russian arms industry is struggling to keep pace with the demands of the war.

Mr. Shoigu singled out the arms manufacturers as crucial to the success of the “special military operation” in Ukraine, which Russia avoids calling a war.

“The actions of Russian units conducting the special military operation largely depend on the timely replenishment of stocks of weapons, military equipment and means of destruction,” he said in opening remarks, broadcast on state television, at an online meeting of the leadership of the Russian Armed Forces.

The same issue has been something of a theme in Mr. Putin’s speeches over the past year.

The defense minister, in his comments on Tuesday, singled out the need to double the output of high-precision missiles “in the shortest possible time.” The manufacturer of the guided missiles, Tactical Missiles Corp., whose headquarters are near Moscow, is under U.S. and European sanctions.

Western military analysts and Ukrainian officials have been suggesting for months that production bottlenecks were among the problems plaguing the Russian military, caused partially by the need to substitute parts sanctioned by the West.

Overall, Russian arms manufacturers have been instructed to speed up the “pace and volume of production,” Mr. Shoigu said, noting that any shortfall in production targets had to be identified and corrected “promptly.”

Enough ammunition had been delivered to the armed forces this year to attack the enemy “effectively,” Mr. Shoigu said.

That statement contradicted recent comments by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, who has engaged in a long tug of war with the Ministry of Defense over ammunition supplies. Mr. Prigozhin said in remarks published last week that his forces had only received about one-quarter of the ammunition they needed in the struggle to take the eastern city of Bakhmut, a battle that has been raging since last summer.

Some military analysts have suggested that Russian missile barrages on Ukraine’s cities have been only intermittent because Russia’s forces lack sufficient weapons stockpiles.

The Russians shot a number of S-400 missiles, normally used in long-range air defense, at Kyiv in January, prompting speculationthat Russia had a serious deficit in cruise missiles.

Mr. Putin made critical remarks at various times this year about the pace of manufacturing. On live television in January, he berated the Russian minister in charge of supervising industrial production for the pace of aircraft orders, including military helicopters, which he called “long, too long.” In March, Mr. Putin bemoaned the paucity of specialized workers needed to fulfill defense orders, even with some working triple shifts.

Dmitri A. Medvedev, a former Russian president and current deputy chairman of the Kremlin’s Security Council, has warnedthat factory managers at arms manufacturers could be held criminally liable for not meeting defense contract deadlines.

In March, Mr. Putin signed a decree allowing the central government, in the event of martial law, to take over the management of defense manufacturers who fail to meet state contracts.

Daniel VictorChristopher Mele

May 2, 2023, 12:18 p.m. ETMay 2, 2023

May 2, 2023

 

As attacks on journalists rise, The Times’s publisher warns of risks to democracy.

Image

Evan Gershkovich, in a blue checked shirt, stands with his arms folded in a glass defendant’s cage. The reflection of a photographer taking his photo shines on the glass.
Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was detained by Russian authorities in March on charges of espionage. He is one of hundreds of journalists currently in custody around the world.Credit…Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press
Evan Gershkovich, in a blue checked shirt, stands with his arms folded in a glass defendant’s cage. The reflection of a photographer taking his photo shines on the glass.

 

A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, warned on Tuesday that “when the free press erodes, democratic erosion almost always follows,” delivering a call to protect journalists as fatal attacks on reporters have increased — especially in the war in Ukraine.

In remarks at a United Nations event honoring the 30th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day, he urged world leaders to protect independent journalism, whether by securing legal protections in their own countries or by punishing attacks on journalists elsewhere.

Journalists worldwide are facing increasing levels of violence. The Committee to Protect Journalists, a watchdog group, reported that at least 67 journalists and media workers were killed in 2022, most during the war in Ukraine or in Latin America. Since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, the killings of 14 journalists and media workers have been confirmed there, the committee said.

A record number of journalists have been imprisoned, including the Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich, who had previously worked at The New York Times. Mr. Sulzberger said he was in Russian custody “for sham charges and should be released.”

Mr. Sulzberger said the vision of journalists playing a foundational role in supporting human rights and free societies was “at great risk.”

“All over the world, autocrats — and those who aspire to join their ranks — have used censorship, media repression and attacks on journalists to consolidate power,” Mr. Sulzberger said. “That’s because gaining control of information is essential to gaining control of everything else.”

He noted that he was making his statement “with little optimism,” given the global deterioration of press freedom in recent years.

In countries with strong press freedom — a group in which he included the United States — journalists were facing “systematic campaigns to undermine their credibility, followed by attacks on the legal protections that safeguard their work,” he said.

Mr. Sulzberger noted that “in Russia, journalists who dare to even acknowledge the war in Ukraine face long prison terms.”

As of Dec. 1, 2022, the committee found that 363 reporters were behind bars — a new global high that surpassed the previous year’s record by 20 percent.

Mr. Gershkovich was detained in late March while on a reporting trip to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg and charged with espionage, accusations that the United States considers bogus. The Journal, The Times and The Washington Post ran full-page ads last week that said Mr. Gershkovich’s arrest was “the latest in a disturbing trend where journalists are harassed, arrested or worse for reporting the news.”

Almar Latour, the publisher of The Journal, said at the event, held at the U.N. General Assembly Hall, that Mr. Gershkovich’s detention has been a “gut punch” for his colleagues. It has had a chilling effect, rippling throughout the industry, with other reporters worrying the same could happen to them, he said.

But “we cannot withdraw from reporting about the world,” Mr. Latour said. “There’s probably no better answer to autocracies trying to squash and diminish journalism than to offer great journalism to the world.”

Mr. Sulzberger’s remarks likewise touched a note of optimism, saying he was “inspired” by the work of four journalists who have been detained in their countries or abroad: Maria Ressa in the Philippines, José Rubén Zamora in Guatemala, Pape Alé Niang in Senegal and Austin Tice in Syria, among others.

In total, the event was likely to present a story of “a worldwide assault on journalists, their work and the public’s right to know,” Mr. Sulzberger said. “And it will only be solved if the nations that make up this body take action.”

Joanna Yee for The New York Times

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