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The Week the War Shifted – The New York Times

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A new stance from the U.S., and escalations beyond Ukraine’s borders.
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Good evening. This is the Russia-Ukraine War Briefing, a weeknight guide to the latest news and analysis about the conflict.
The European Union is preparing a phased embargo of Russian oil, overcoming deep divisions among members who depend on Russia for energy supplies.
Britain said it would deploy 8,000 soldiers to Europe to join exercises meant to deter further Russian aggression.
Russia appears to be “days behind” schedule in its offensive in eastern Ukraine, a senior Pentagon official said.
Get live updates here.
For almost all of the nine-week-old war in Ukraine, President Biden and his Western allies have warned against any attempts to frame the conflict as a direct confrontation between the U.S. and Russia.
But no longer.
Lloyd Austin, the U.S. defense secretary, initiated the shift on Monday, after his weekend trip to Kyiv with Antony Blinken, the secretary of state. Austin laid out a striking new U.S. goal: “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”
That was a major change, as my colleague David E. Sanger explained on today’s edition of The Daily: “He seemed to suggest the real goal of the United States is to degrade Russian power, and presumably Russian military power, for years to come.”
The rest of the week brought further developments suggesting that the tenor of the war has shifted:
Germany, which had been cautious about provoking Russia, approved sending heavy weapons to Ukraine for the first time, and dropped its opposition to an E.U. embargo of Russian oil exports.
A series of explosions and mysterious fires in Russia raised suspicions that Ukraine was carrying out strikes beyond its own borders; A Ukrainian official coyly referred to the episodes as “karma.”
British officials defended Ukraine’s right to attack supply lines in Russia, including the use of NATO-supplied weapons to do so.
President Biden’s request for $33 billion to provide Ukraine with more weapons and support suggested that his administration expects a long struggle, but believes Ukraine can ultimately win the war.
Russia has responded with increasingly bellicose statements alluding to the risks of nuclear war. Analysts also think it is preparing provocations in Transnistria, a breakaway pro-Kremlin republic on Ukraine’s western border.
Inside Ukraine, there are signs that the conflict has shifted to a grinding phase that could easily last for months or years.
Russia’s forces appeared to be suffering from some of the same logistical problems that led to their failure in the first phase of the war, and have not scored any major gains since they shifted their goals to conquering Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland two weeks ago, analysts said.
They are now facing emboldened Ukrainian forces armed with heavy weapons supplied by the U.S. and NATO, and who are willing to make increasingly frequent incursions into Russian territory. Attempts to establish peace talks are at a dead end.
And though the war has shifted, it is more uncertain than ever how it will end.
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Follow our coverage of the war on the @nytimes channel.
Ukraine’s elderly Holocaust survivors are escaping war once more, embarking on a remarkable journey that upends the world they knew: They are seeking safety in Germany.
Erika Solomon, our new Berlin-based correspondent, reported on the rescue mission organized by Jewish groups around the world.
Mariupol evacuation. Ukrainian officials vowed to continue a large-scale evacuation from Mariupol, despite renewed Russian shelling. The evacuation is seen as the best and possibly last hope for hundreds of civilians sheltering in bunkers beneath the wreckage of the Azovstal steel plant.
Western pledges. U.S. and European leaders are working to put their aggressive promises of aid to Ukraine into action. The U.S. Senate is preparing to take up President Biden’s $33 billion aid package, and the European Union is expected this week to impose an embargo on Russian oil.
On the ground. Russia’s offensive in eastern Ukraine is “anemic” and “plodding” and has been slowed by a risk-averse approach designed to avoid heavy casualties, a Pentagon official said. Meanwhile, a British intelligence agency said that the Russian losses in the war were staggering.
Moscow’s next move? Russia appears to be preparing to annex two regions in eastern Ukraine and possibly a third in the country’s south, a senior American diplomat said. The official said that the Kremlin would most likely stage “sham” elections to formally seize control.
Pelosi’s visit. Days after becoming the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Kyiv, Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Poland’s president in Warsaw and said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine merited the “strongest possible military response, the strongest sanctions.”
The effort is infused with more than a little historical irony: Not only are the Holocaust survivors being brought to Germany, but the attack is now coming from Russia — a country they saw as their liberators from the Nazis. And Russia has falsely claimed that Ukraine’s government is “pro-Nazi” and “neo-Nazi” — a puzzling assertion to make about a country whose president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is Jewish.
To date, 78 of Ukraine’s frailest Holocaust survivors, of whom there are some 10,000, have been evacuated. A single evacuation involves up to 50 people, coordinating across three continents and five countries.
For Galina Ploschenko, 88, being evacuated was not an easy decision.
“They told me Germany was my best option,” she said. “I told them, ‘I hope you’re right.’”
In Ukraine
An American, a Briton and a Dane, fighting with the Ukrainian army’s International Legion, have been killed in battle, according to a Ukrainian official.
A group of American volunteers are teaching Ukrainian forces how to use advanced weapons like the Javelin anti-tank missile, The Wall Street Journal reports.
A prominent Ukrainian radio journalist, Vira Hyrych, was killed in a Russian missile strike on her apartment building in Kyiv yesterday.
News organizations in eastern Ukraine say that Facebook is penalizing their sites as part of the company’s attempt to fight disinformation and block Russian propaganda, Coda reports.
War crimes
Ukrainian officials have published the names and photos of 10 Russian soldiers whom they accuse of kidnapping and torturing unarmed civilians in the town of Bucha.
U.N. officials and human rights investigators are rushing more resources to Ukraine to help prosecute sex crimes.
Ukraine’s top human rights official is determined to make sure Russians are held to account.
Energy and finance
Indian refiners are in talks with Russia to import millions of barrels of oil per month, Reuters reports.
Russia’s central bank cut its key interest rate to help its sanctions-battered economy, but inflation remains very high.
Culture
The newly formed Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra will perform in Europe and the United States this summer, hoping to use music to oppose the Russian invasion.
New York’s Metropolitan Opera, which dropped a famous soprano for her support of Putin, has turned to a Ukrainian diva.
Some theaters in Russia are now openly screening pirated movies after Hollywood and Netflix ceased operations in the country because of sanctions.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back on Monday — Adam

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