Daily Briefing: War in Ukraine: British and French Leaders Pledge to Coordinate Support for Ukraine (Published 2023) (2024)

Sunak and Macron vow to better coordinate military aid to Ukraine, but make no specific promises on advanced weapons.


The leaders of Britain and France agreed on Friday to better coordinate military aid to Ukraine and announced that they would train Ukrainian soldiers, but they steered clear of concrete promises of the kind of advanced weapons aid, like fighter jets, that Kyiv has been pushing for.

“We want Ukraine to win this war,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain said during a news conference in Paris after a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron of France at the Élysée Palace. He added that it would mean “providing them with support, capabilities and training to mount an offensive and have a decisive advantage on the battlefield.”

Mr. Sunak and Mr. Macron also agreed to improve the coordination of their armed forces and to jointly explore the development of next-generation missiles.

France and Britain have a generations-long history of close military cooperation, though the relationship has been strained in recent years over Brexit and other disputes. A year and a half ago, Britain took part in a secret deal with the United States to help Australia develop submarines, scuttling France’s largest military contract and prompting the French foreign minister to call the move a “stab in the back.”

But the war in Ukraine has pushed France and Britain to resume closer military cooperation, giving them a common goal in supporting Ukraine and bolstering Mr. Macron’s longstanding aim of greater European military cooperation.

“We want to work together,” Mr. Macron said on Friday. “We’ll have to find an outcome to this conflict, we must place our Ukrainian friends in the best possible situation.”

Since the start of Russia’s invasion a year ago, Ukraine has lobbied France and Britain for military support. When President Volodymyr Zelensky met with Mr. Macron and Mr. Sunak separately last month, the Ukrainian leader pleaded for more weapons, including fighter jets.

Britain has promised to train Ukrainian troops on NATO-standard jets and suggested that the delivery of warplanes could come next, although no Western allies have pledged to send any to Kyiv. It has also pledged to send tanks and other sophisticated military equipment.

France said in recent weeks that it had not ruled out sending fighter jets, but Mr. Macron laid out several conditions, including that providing such equipment must not lead to an escalation of tensions or be used “to touch Russian soil.”

Friday’s summit was an opportunity to emphasize cooperation in a field, military support to Ukraine, where Britain has so far acted as an early and unflinching ally, while France has proved more hesitant.

France has committed more than 600 million euros (about $635 million) in military assistance to Ukraine, supplying the country with long-range cannons, air defense missile batteries and rocket launchers. Britain’s military support for Ukraine totals nearly $5 billion, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a figure second only to that provided by the United States.

“London and Paris should, first and foremost, better coordinate their supplies of weapons, their messaging, as well as the complementarity of the U.K. and E.U. training missions of the Ukrainian armed forces,” read a recent analysis published by the French Institute of International Relations.

Constant Méheut

The leader of Belarus, a Putin proxy, will travel to Iran, as Russia looks for weapons.


As Russia hunts for ways to replenish its diminishing stock of arms and ammunition, the leader of its client state Belarus will travel on Sunday to Iran, an important source of drones and other weapons for Moscow.

The trip rounds off a flurry of diplomatic activity by President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus that recently included a trip to China, a close partner of Russia and, Washington has warned, a potential supplier of weapons.

The Belarusian state news agency Belta said on Friday that Mr. Lukashenko — whose foreign and domestic policies are largely dictated by Moscow — would visit Iran for two days for talks focused on trade and economic relations.

While Ukraine was not explicitly named as a topic for discussion, the news agency said “special attention will be paid to the situation in the region and in the world as a whole.”

There has been speculation, so far unsubstantiated by any evidence, that Iran could serve as an intermediary for Chinese weapons should Beijing decide it wants to help Russia with arms but needs a cutout to try to diminish the risk of harsh American sanctions.

But sending Chinese arms to Russia via Iran would be extremely risky. Mr. Lukashenko, an erratic and often loquacious leader who is not known for his discretion, would seem an unlikely emissary for what would be a highly sensitive mission involving the flow of weapons between China, Iran and Russia.

The United States last month accused Beijing of devising plans to help Russia restock its armory and warned that it would face “real costs” if it did so. The Biden administration also said it sees growing evidence that Russia may be planning to provide Iran with fighter jets as part of a deepening military relationship, with implications for the Ukraine war and security in the Middle East.

Beijing has repeatedly denied that it is considering supplying Moscow with lethal weapons, despite a declaration in early February last year by the Chinese and Russian presidents of a “no-limits friendship.”.

Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine at the end of the same month, raising questions about how far this limitless friendship between President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and China’s leader, Xi Jinping, would go.

China has since sought to balance its commitment to Russia with its desire to avoid an economically disastrous rupture with the West, on which its export-driven economy heavily relies. It has presented itself as a neutral observer and potential mediator while echoing many of Moscow’s talking points that NATO, not Mr. Putin, is to blame for the war.

Iran, already under tough Western sanctions, has far less to lose from sending weapons — notably exploding drones — to Russia, a longtime partner that leaders in Tehran see as an indispensable shield against diplomatic and economic pressure from the United States and Europe.

During his two-day visit to Tehran, Mr. Lukashenko is scheduled to meet with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and is also expected to meet with the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, the Belarusian news agency reported.

The centerpiece of the visit, the agency said, will the signing of a “comprehensive road map for all-round cooperation between Belarus and Iran.” No details were given.

Mr. Lukashenko has been almost wholly reliant on Russia since the Kremlin helped him crush street protests in August 2020 after he claimed an improbable landslide victory in a contested election. He depends on subsidized Russian oil and gas, preferential access to the Russian market and Russian security assistance to maintain his 28-year rule.

Cassandra Vinograd and Andrew Higgins



Biden and the European Commission president offer a unified front in countering Russia.


WASHINGTON — President Biden and Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, aimed to portray a unified front in confronting Russia over its invasion of Ukraine after a meeting at the White House on Friday.

Both leaders committed to limiting the impact of the energy crisis in Europe as the European Union reduces its reliance on Russian oil and gas, and to aggressively enforce sanctions that have been imposed on Moscow. Ms. von der Leyen told reporters that a strong focus of the discussion was on “the question of sanctions.”

The United States and the European Commission will also work to address “third-country actors” who have supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, their joint statement said. The Biden administration has previously used the term to refer to China.

“I told you then times have changed from the previous administration,” Mr. Biden told Ms. van der Leyen at the start of the meeting, referring to their first discussions two years ago about former President Donald J. Trump’s skeptical views about the value of the NATO alliance. “We view the E.U. as a great addition to our security and economic security.”

The leaders also opened negotiations over the critical minerals used in electric vehicles amid concerns of a potential trade war triggered by the Biden administration’s signature clean energy legislation.

The recent tensions with European allies center on provisions in the legislation that offer tax credits to American consumers to buy new and used electric vehicles. The law restricts the credit to vehicles built in North America and has strict requirements around the source of critical minerals used to make their batteries, pitting Mr. Biden’s efforts to bolster domestic manufacturing against concerns over trade protectionism.

In their statement, the leaders said a potential agreement over critical minerals would strengthen the allies’ dependence in the supply chain. Mr. Biden has said one of his primary goals is to reduce reliance on China in the supply chain.

The critical minerals agreement “would further our shared goals of boosting our mineral production and processing and expanding access to sources of critical minerals that are sustainable, trusted, and free of labor abuses,” the statement said.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs

Crowds gather to mourn ‘Da Vinci,’ a young Ukrainian soldier killed near Bakhmut.

KYIV, Ukraine — Dmytro Kotsiubailo was a skinny teenager when he took to the barricades in Kyiv’s Independence Square nine years ago, joining thousands of Ukrainians demanding to be treated with dignity and freed from the yoke of Russia.

On Friday, he was returned to that same square in an open coffin, as thousands of Ukrainians gathered to pay tribute to the boy who became a decorated soldier and a symbol of Ukrainian resistance.

Mr. Kotsiubailo was better known by his call-sign, Da Vinci, given to him because he once dreamed of being an artist. But he never got the chance: Soon after taking part in the protests known as the Maidan Revolution, he joined Ukraine’s Army to fight a Russian-backed rebellion in eastern Ukraine. He was only 18 years old.

Over the years “Da Vinci” became one of Ukraine’s best-known fighters and a battalion commander. He was killed near Bakhmut on March 7, mortally wounded in a Russian assault. He was 27 years old.

While Mr. Kotsiubailo was one among the thousands of Ukrainian soldiers killed in the war with Russia, his story has struck a deep chord in a war-weary country that stands united behind its soldiers fighting on the front lines.

“It hurts to lose our heroes,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said as he joined the nation in mourning Mr. Kotsiubailo, whose memorial was broadcast live on national television. In speaking about the soldier’s death earlier this week, Mr. Zelensky noted how “Da Vinci” had been “defending our independence and the dignity of our people since 2014.”

By the time Russia launched its full-scale invasion, Mr. Kotsiubailo was already an experienced veteran, the youngest battalion commander in the Ukrainian military. In 2021 he became one of the youngest ever volunteer soldiers to be named a “Hero of Ukraine” for valor on the battlefield.


In an interview with the Ukrainian publication Censor.net before his death, Mr. Kotsiubailo described fighting to stop the Russian advance in southern Ukraine, being greeted with flowers as he rolled into newly liberated villages in Ukraine’s northeast and the danger posed by Russian forces despite their setbacks on the battlefield.

“Russians cannot be underestimated,” he said. “Yes, they are broken, but they still have resources — human, equipment, and weapons.”

Mr. Zelensky, Ukraine’s defense minister and the top commander of the armed forces joined the crowds at the soldier’s funeral at St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery, the majestic church in central Kyiv where funerals for soldiers have become a grim daily ritual. The crowd swelled as the coffin was taken to Independence Square, known simply as Maidan.

One by one, people filed past. Many left flowers and some paused to say a few words. “Thank you for everything,” a weeping woman cried. A soldier vowed vengeance, telling President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia “to put a bullet in your head.”

The crowd chanted “Glory to Ukraine,” followed by silence, then more chants of “Death to the enemy, death, death, death” and “Glory to the hero of Ukraine.”

In an interview with Radio Liberty before his death, Mr. Kotsiubailo explained why he chose to fight for his country.

“As long as there is danger,” he said, “I consider it my civic duty to protect it with a weapon in hand.”

Marc Santora



A White House official says pro-Russia individuals are seeking to spark an insurrection in Moldova.


WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said on Friday that individuals with ties to Russia are “aiming to foment a manufactured insurrection” against Moldova by staging protests against the former Soviet republic’s government.

John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said U.S. intelligence backs up claims made by Moldova’s president, Maia Sandu, that Russia was trying to topple her government through recent protests organized by pro-Moscow groups. Russia has previously denied the accusations.

“As Moldova continues to integrate with Europe, we believe Russia is pursuing options to weaken the Moldovan government probably and eventually with the goal of seeing a more Russian friendly administration,” Mr. Kirby said, adding that the United States has no evidence of an immediate military threat against Moldova.

He said individuals with ties to Russia have provided training and have helped to manufacture the demonstrations in Moldova, but he did not provide evidence or details.

“I want to emphasize that the Moldovan government is resilient and working effectively to counter these threats,” Mr. Kirby said. “We are confident in Moldova’s democratic and economic institutions and their abilities to respond to these threats.”

He said the United States would share any additional information with Moldova and call out Russian actors who stage protests.

Ms. Sandu accused Russia last month of staging protests in Moldova, echoing similar accusations made by President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. Neither leader has made public the evidence backing their claims.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its economic fallout have deeply affected Moldova, which sits between Romania and Ukraine and faces growing pressure on its Western-leaning leadership.

Last month, Moldova’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador to discuss a missile fired from a Russian warship in the Black Sea that flew over its territory.

Moldova has also struggled to mitigate the effects of Russia’s energy supply cuts to Europe, which have sent energy prices soaring in the region’s poorest nation. That has put growing pressure on Ms. Sandu, a former World Bank economist who has sought to integrate the country with the European Union after winning a four-year term in 2020.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs

A U.S.-developed rocket system becomes one of Ukraine’s most lethal weapons.


Parked at a slant across a country road, blocking the afternoon traffic for a few moments, one of the most lethal weapons in Ukraine’s arsenal went into action. With a bang and a roar, three rockets soared from the back of a truck, drawing a curling white trail high in the sky.

The weapon, the American-developed M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System, has been operating in Ukraine since July, striking hundreds of targets and helping turn the tide in some of the toughest fighting. Yet the rocket systems are rarely seen and have been kept carefully hidden to avoid detection by Russian artillery.

A New York Times team was given a rare chance to witness an M270 in operation near the front line in eastern Ukraine. The unit had been supplied by Britain, and the Ukrainian three-man crew underwent three weeks of training there.

When closed, the launcher’s appearance is nondescript: a compact steel box on tank treads. But it is surprisingly nimble. Seconds after firing its rockets, the truck had lowered its launching platform and sped off down the road, disappearing into a new hiding place.

The M270 can fire as many as 12 precision-guided rockets at targets up to 52 miles away. Its range and accuracy have given Ukraine an edge over Russian artillery in battles all along the eastern front since last summer, enabling it to strike Russian armored vehicles, ammunition depots, command posts and barracks deep behind Russian lines.

Together with the HIMARS multiple-rocket launcher system, the M270 helped Ukraine mount counteroffensives in the fall to recapture large swaths of occupied land in the Kharkiv region in the northeast and the Kherson region in the south. But since those successful campaigns, Russian troops have adapted to the threat, dispersing their ammunition supplies and moving barracks and command posts out of range of the multiple-rocket launcher systems, the commander of the M270 crew said. The commander gave only his first name, Dyma, and age, 24, in keeping with Ukraine’s military protocol.

Ukraine has steadily built up its arsenal of the powerful multiple-rocket launcher systems but now has a shortage of ammunition, the crew said.

There was a frenetic time during Ukraine’s offensives last year when the crew fired up to 180 rockets a day, working day and night, barely sleeping, the soldiers said. Sometimes they slept on top of the machine, while it was still warm.

But on a recent day they fired only a handful of rockets, despite the hard fighting that is underway on much of the eastern front. Among their targets were Russian electronic warfare systems, which jam radio communications.

Carlotta Gall,Oleksandr Chubko and Evelina Riabenko



Ukraine highlights its desire for air defense weapons after Russia’s latest strikes.


Russia’s latest deadly barrage of airstrikes has prompted a top Ukrainian official to predict that Western allies will respond by speeding up the delivery of sophisticated air defense weapons.

“We’ll get all of the air defense systems we need sooner, because the whole world can see the evil we have to fight off every day,” the deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, Oleksiy Kuleba, said on national television on Thursday, hours after Moscow launched one of its broadest aerial attacks in weeks.

“I’m sure it will backfire, in contrast to what the Russian Army expects,” Mr. Kuleba said of the latest strikes, which hit several Ukrainian cities with weapons including hypersonic missiles, the most advanced in Russia’s arsenal.

Major Russian attacks during the yearlong war have usually been followed by Ukrainian appeals for more military equipment. Since October, when Moscow began launching periodic air attacks aimed at debilitating Ukrainian infrastructure, Western allies have pledged more air defense systems to help Ukraine shoot down incoming missiles.

By December, Ukraine was shooting down more than 80 percent of the Russian missiles fired at infrastructure targets. But the strikes on Thursday exploited a gap in Ukraine’s air defense network: the ability to effectively counter ballistic and hypersonic missiles.

In Thursday’s attack, Russia used six of its limited supply of Kinzhal missiles — a ground-based ballistic missile modified to be fired from a warplane — along with a greater number of other ballistic missiles than in previous strikes, Ukraine’s Air Force said. As a result, more of the missiles hit targets.

Ukraine has said that advanced Western air defense systems, including American-made Patriots, could help it intercept ballistic missiles. The United States and Germany have said they are sending Patriot missile systems to Ukraine, and France and Italy pledged last month to supply SAMP/T systems — for “surface-to-air medium-range/land-based,” which have a shorter range than the Patriot — although they did not give a time frame.

Although the Russian barrage on Thursday was one of the broadest and deadliest since December, some Western officials believe that it showed how Moscow is grappling with its own shortages of military supplies. Britain’s defense intelligence agency said on Friday that Russia was waiting longer between air attacks as it strains to increase missile production.

“The interval between waves of strikes is probably growing because Russia now needs to stockpile a critical mass of newly produced missiles directly from industry before it can resource a strike big enough to credibly overwhelm Ukrainian air defenses,” the agency said.

Shashank Bengali

Russia’s foreign minister says he and Blinken spoke ‘constructively,’ but rejects the prospect of talks with Ukraine.


Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, described a rare recent meeting with his American counterpart as constructive and “absolutely civilized,” but said he did not currently see an opening to re-engage in peace talks with Ukraine to end Moscow’s yearlong war.

Speaking on a political talk show that aired Friday on Russia’s Channel One network, Mr. Lavrov offered his first public comments on the unscheduled meeting last week with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting in New Delhi.

The Russian official blamed the United States for the deterioration in the bilateral relationship and said it was “sad” that a “natural meeting” — their first private in-person exchange since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine — had attracted so much attention.

“It has never been a sensation to just talk humanly on the sidelines of an event. It was an absolutely civilized conversation,” Mr. Lavrov said, adding: “This once again shows how low we have all fallen in our multilateral diplomacy, if a natural meeting on the sidelines, of which there were hundreds, is now considered as a kind of reason for guessing whether this is a breakthrough or not.”

The two diplomats had not been scheduled to meet in New Delhi, but Mr. Blinken requested the conversation, Russian officials said at the time. Briefing reporters afterward, Mr. Blinken said that he had used the meeting to urge Russia to halt its “war of aggression” in Ukraine; to return to the New START nuclear arms control treaty and comply with its terms; and to free Paul Whelan, an American citizen who the State Department says is wrongfully imprisoned on espionage charges.

Mr. Lavrov told Channel One that he and Mr. Blinken “spoke constructively” and shook hands at the beginning and end of the conversation, which lasted about 10 minutes. But he said Mr. Blinken had repeated the United States’ “already known” positions on the New START treaty, and that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had previously “explained in detail” Moscow’s reasons for suspending participation in the agreement.

Mr. Lavrov also sought to counter accusations from the United States that Russia was unwilling to engage in peace talks with Ukraine, which have not taken place since the initial months of Moscow’s invasion last year. He said that Russia could not accept the terms of the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who has ruled out dealing directly with Mr. Putin.

“We do not see any opportunity to negotiate now,” Mr. Lavrov said.

Shashank Bengali



A short distance from besieged Bakhmut, a desolate village struggles to survive.

Daily Briefing: War in Ukraine: British and French Leaders Pledge to Coordinate Support for Ukraine (Published 2023) (1)Daily Briefing: War in Ukraine: British and French Leaders Pledge to Coordinate Support for Ukraine (Published 2023) (2)Daily Briefing: War in Ukraine: British and French Leaders Pledge to Coordinate Support for Ukraine (Published 2023) (3)Daily Briefing: War in Ukraine: British and French Leaders Pledge to Coordinate Support for Ukraine (Published 2023) (4)

As the Russian assault on the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut has intensified in recent weeks, the fighting is devastating nearby towns and villages.

In Chasiv Yar, a town less than 10 miles west of Bakhmut, shops and homes are boarded up. Most of the town’s residents have left, and those who remain are struggling to survive.

Ukrainian soldiers, many just back from the Bakhmut front line, roam the streets, and the sound of explosions reverberate constantly. Chasiv Yar has not had running water or electricity since Monday, when bombings damaged critical infrastructure.

On a recent gloomy day, two residents lugged jugs of water down an otherwise empty road. Oleg and his mother, Nina, only shared their first names out of fear of reprisals. They said they were the only residents left in their apartment building.

With no gas, they said they have to cook their food outside, on a small fire. But even that is a risk: Being outside exposes them to possible attacks.

Carly Olson and Tyler Hicks

Georgia drops a draft ‘foreign agents’ law that set off mass protests over parallels to Russia.


TBILISI, Georgia — Georgia’s Parliament on Friday voted down draft legislation that set off a political storm and mass demonstrations this week over fears the measure would push the small former Soviet republic back into Moscow’s orbit.

Lawmakers from the governing Georgian Dream party dropped the legislation that critics have called a Kremlin-inspired effort to undermine democracy by voting against it during its second reading, according to a statement on Parliament’s website. Despite fears that lawmakers will devise other ways to crack down on civil society, the decision on Friday, which had been telegraphed by the government, was met with cheers outside the building.

After the bill’s expedited initial approval on Tuesday, a crowd had gathered on the same spot. Chanting, “No to the Russian law” and “No to the Russian government,” some tried to storm Parliament but were met with riot police officers using water cannons, stun grenades and tear gas.

In Georgia, which lost territory to Russia in a painful war in 2008 after an invasion by President Vladimir V. Putin that has drawn parallels to the war in Ukraine, any association with Moscow is a politically combustible issue. In its statement about scrapping the bill, Georgian Dream blamed the opposition’s “lying machine,” which it said had attached a “false label of ‘Russian law.’”

The proposed law, “on transparency and foreign influence,” would have required civil society groups and news media outlets to register as “agents of foreign influence” if they received more than 20 percent of their funding from “a foreign power.” Failure to do so would have resulted in fines of up to $9,600.

Protesters raised concerns that the proposed law mimicked similar legislation in Russia, where it became a potent tool that helped the Kremlin purge civil society of many pro-Western groups.

Georgian lawmakers’ decision to vote it down on Friday drew criticism from Moscow. The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said Russia’s view was that “some visible hand is trying to add anti-Russian elements” into Georgia. He pointed to the fact that President Salome Zourabichvili of Georgia had delivered an address about the issue on Thursday from the United States, where she was on a working visit.

“This can trigger provocations, and we watch this closely and with great concern,” Mr. Peskov said in a daily news briefing.

Within Georgia, the crisis had risked spiraling into a fight for survival for the Georgian Dream party, and activists on both sides of the issue suggested that the struggle was not over.

Critics of the proposed law said that although the quick U-turn was a clear victory for Georgia’s civil society, the fight over increased restrictions would continue. And Georgian Dream said in a statement that as soon as the “emotional background subsides,” the party would do its best to clarify “what purpose the bill served and why it was important to ensure transparency of foreign influence in our country.”

Ivan Nechepurenko



Poland says it is further fortifying its border with Belarus.


Poland said Thursday that it was fortifying its border with neighboring Belarus, following a similar move to step up security along its border with a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea.

The move underscores concerns in the region about Russian aggression a year after President Vladimir V. Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Belarus is a key ally of Mr. Putin, who used the country as a staging ground for the invasion.

Poland’s defense minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, said Thursday on Twitter that “the construction of security measures” got underway last month on the border with the Russian possession Kaliningrad, and now similar steps were being taken along the frontier with Belarus.

“Today, soldiers started building fortifications on the border with Belarus,” he said, adding that it was “part of our defense and deterrence strategy.”

Pictures posted by the defense minister on Twitter showed anti-tank hedgehogs and other barricades at a border crossing.

The border has long been a source of tension between the two countries. In February, Poland temporarily closed a major border crossing after Belarus sentenced a journalist of Polish origin to eight years in prison. A week and a half later, Belarus expelled three Polish diplomats.

Last year, Poland installed a 116-mile-long, 18-foot-high barbed wire fence along the border during a dispute over a surge of migrants crossing into Poland. Polish and European authorities at the time accused the president of Belarus, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, of luring migrants from the Middle East and Africa with flights and visas, and then pushing them into Poland in order to destabilize the country and gain diplomatic leverage.

Monika Pronczuk

The E.U. and NATO promised Ukraine a path to membership. But real partnership holds risks.


BRUSSELS — When the European Union offered Ukraine a path to membership last year, it was in many ways an emotional response to the Russian invasion. Leaders were under pressure to show solidarity with the victims of aggression, even though many opposed the idea.

Since then, preoccupied with passing sanctions, scrounging up aid and scouring military inventories to send Ukraine weapons, few in Europe have focused seriously on what that commitment might actually mean.

But this is a courtship with consequences for the future, not only for Ukraine’s aspirations and survival, but also for Europe’s own security and finances. Ukrainian membership would reshape the bloc and its relationship with a post-conflict Russia. It would also provide the best path toward internal Ukrainian reform as the country worked to meet E.U. standards of transparency and rule of law.

But tensions are already growing between Europe’s desire to maintain its tough requirements and Ukraine’s demand for quick entry into a promised land that has given hope to the embattled country.

Steven Erlanger



He heeded Russia’s call to enlist. Five months later, he was dead.


Daily Briefing: War in Ukraine: British and French Leaders Pledge to Coordinate Support for Ukraine (Published 2023) (5)

Last September, President Vladimir V. Putin ordered the mobilization of 300,000 men to bolster sagging Russian defenses in Ukraine. At the time, the hordes of men who fled Russia to avoid conscription attracted the most attention. Yet hundreds of thousands of Russians — factory laborers and electricians, medical orderlies and basketball players, tractor drivers and school workers — went off to war.

The promise of payouts of $3,000 or $4,000 a month proved a huge incentive, along with appeals to machismo and the defense of the motherland. “What am I, not a man?” Pvt. Ivan A. Ovlashenko told his sister and his former wife. “I need to protect my country, my daughter.”

In lengthy interviews, the women said they were surprised how Mr. Ovlashenko, largely apolitical to this point, suddenly began parroting the government’s far-fetched talking point about the West planning to use Ukraine as a staging ground to attack Russia. If he did not fight in Ukraine, he said, he would have to battle the enemy on the streets of Bataysk, his hometown, a railroad hub just outside the southwestern city of Rostov-on-Don.

The mobilization shifted the calculus of the war. It was no longer some distant “military operation,” as the Kremlin still calls it, fought by contract soldiers, mercenaries and Ukrainian separatists press-ganged into service. Suddenly, ordinary Russians were thrust into the trenches.

Soon after he deployed to Ukraine last fall, Private Ovlashenko filmed a short video of himself wearing camouflage fatigues and an olive green fleece hatThe clip was meant to reassure relatives back in Russia that his sudden transition to frontline artilleryman was coming along just fine.

Until it wasn’t.

Neil MacFarquhar and Milana Mazaeva

As cultural figures in Russia take sides, one pop star made his choice, and is growing rich.

MOSCOW — He cuts the figure of a typical leather-wearing pop star heartthrob. He has a fan base of young and middle-aged women who bring him flowers and stuffed animals when he performs. But Yaroslav Y. Dronov, better known by his stage name, Shaman, is also beloved by an exclusive and powerful Russian fan base: the Kremlin.

The young singer’s star has been rising as the war in Ukraine continues into a second year and Mr. Dronov aligns his music with Moscow’s party line. When Vladimir V. Putin staged a patriotic rally last month coinciding with the anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Mr. Dronov performed “Vstanem,” or “Let’s Rise,” a ballad of gratitude to veterans, just before the Russian president came onstage.

More and more, as the Kremlin seeks to remake the country’s institutions to comport with Mr. Putin’s militaristic worldview, cultural figures in Russia are picking a side. Many have chosen to leave the country because of political pressure or to signal their disagreement. Others have spoken out against the war, only to see their concerts or exhibitions canceled. They include musicians, theater directors, actors and artists.

But many have stayed and are aligning their art to Mr. Putin’s messaging — out of either pragmatism, pursuit of wealth or true conviction. As the Kremlin seeks to win over Russians in support of the war, performers like Mr. Dronov have become willing — and sometimes well-compensated — messengers.

Valerie Hopkins and Georgy Birger

Daily Briefing: War in Ukraine: British and French Leaders Pledge to Coordinate Support for Ukraine (Published 2023) (2024)
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