Russian Attacks Suggest Opening Moves of New Offensive, Ukraine Says: Live Updates - The New York Times

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Credit...Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine — As Western allies rush heavier weapons to help Ukraine reclaim occupied territory, Moscow’s forces are intensifying assaults along the eastern front in what President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has described as the opening moves of a new Russian offensive.

Both sides have been readying for heavier ground combat for months, with Moscow expected to press on with its goal of capturing the entire Donbas region of eastern Ukraine and Kyiv aiming to drive Russian troops out of the country completely.

Now, with Russia pounding away with artillery at a rate not recorded since September, and dispatching tens of thousands of soldiers to test Ukrainian defenses up and down a 140-mile stretch of the front line in Donbas, Mr. Zelensky said that Russia’s intensified assault was an effort to seize the initiative.

“Russia really wants some kind of big revanche,” Mr. Zelensky said this week. “I think it has started.”

Andriy Yusov, who represents the intelligence department in Ukraine’s ministry of defense, said he expected the fighting to intensify in February and March. “We are on the eve of a very active phase,” he said in an appearance on Ukrainian national television.

Ukraine and Russia have been locked in a grueling combat for nearly a year. Since the fall, when Ukraine reclaimed territory in counteroffensives in the northeast and south, the fight in the east has congealed into muddy and frozen trenches, with each army causing heavy losses for the other side while managing only negligible gains.


Credit...Nicole Tung for The New York Times

Yet since the Kremlin named Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov to take over its struggling war effort last month, Russia has steadily added forces in Donbas, Ukrainian military officials say. Ukrainian intelligence estimates that Russia now has more than 320,000 soldiers in the country — roughly twice the size of Moscow’s initial invasion force. Western officials and military analysts have said that Moscow also has 150,000 to 250,000 soldiers in reserve, either training or being positioned inside Russia to join the fight at any time.

“We see that they are preparing for more war, that they are mobilizing more soldiers, more than 200,000, and potentially even more than that,” NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, told reporters during a visit to South Korea on Monday. “They are actively acquiring new weapons, more ammunition, ramping up their own production, but also acquiring more weapons from other authoritarian states like Iran and North Korea.”

A surge in Russian bombardment has accompanied the buildup of forces. Konrad Muzyka, a military analyst for Rochan Consulting, which tracks Russian deployments, said that reported Russian artillery barrages had risen from an average of about 60 per day four weeks ago to more than 90 per day last week, with 111 Ukrainian locations targeted on one day alone.


Credit...Alexei Alexandrov/Associated Press

He also said that “the Russians are withdrawing a lot of equipment from storage areas.” Still, he concurred with other analysts who say that Russia will struggle to outfit large numbers of new soldiers with tanks, armored vehicles and other effective equipment.

How the Kremlin will ultimately deploy its tens of thousands of new fighters is also a matter of speculation.

Moscow could be preparing to open a new front, pushing across the Russian border to recapture territory in Sumy or Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine after being driven out months ago, according to Ukrainian officials and military analysts. It might be escalating fighting along the eastern front to divert Ukrainian resources and hurt Kyiv’s ability to launch its own offensive. It could be planning a drive from occupied territory in eastern Ukraine to push deeper into the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which make up Donbas.

The only matter of consensus is that Russia is not satisfied with the territory it has taken and is maintaining its ultimate goal of subjugating Ukraine. The intensified assault has continued Russia’s pattern for nearly a year: bleeding the Ukrainian military through relentless attacks.

Oleksii Danilov, the head of Ukraine National Security and Defense Council, told Sky News on Tuesday that he did not rule out “any scenario in the next two or three weeks.”

“The main fights are yet to come,” he said.

Andrew E. Kramer contributed reporting.


Credit...Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Along the undulating front line in eastern Ukraine, artillery never goes silent for long. The roads in Ukrainian-held areas are largely empty, except for tanks and armored personnel carriers and huge trucks filled with boxes of ammunition. The few gas stations still operating are crowded with soldiers savoring hot coffee before returning to the fight.

Hospitals near the front lines are busy, but not overflowing. At one major triage hospital, there are long stretches of quiet and then, suddenly, a parade of ambulances arrives, filling the corridors with wounded soldiers in various stages of consciousness.

As Moscow intensifies its campaign to capture the entire Donbas region, fierce fighting is concentrated around the forlorn eastern city of Bakhmut, where Russian forces have been slowly closing in on vital supply lines. Ukraine’s president has described the escalation as a sign that Moscow is in the early stages of a new offensive.

On Tuesday, Russian forces hit Ukrainian positions with short-range artillery 197 times and the two sides clashed some 42 times, Ukraine’s military said, significantly more than a month ago. Ukrainian forces beat back Russian soldiers assaulting their lines time and again, the military said.

“They are just coming forward; they do not take cover, they are coming all-out,” Denys Yaroslavskyi, who commands a unit currently in Bakhmut, said on Ukrainian television this week. Mr. Yaroslavskyi said “super qualified” soldiers from Russia’s military were now assisting fighters from the Wagner private military company, which has been sending waves of men into battle as cannon fodder for months, according to American and Ukrainian officials.

Before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago, Bakhmut had a population of about 70,000 people. But most of those living in the battered city fled long ago, and on Tuesday night the mayor, Oleksiy Reva, pleaded with the roughly 6,500 who remained to evacuate.

“The city is under constant hostile fire,” he said in a statement. “The enemy does not spare anyone! How much will you ignore the danger?!”


Credit...Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

In recent days, Russia has expanded its attacks to hit Ukrainian positions up and down the eastern front, according to the Ukrainian military and Russian military bloggers.

On the northern end of the front, where Russia halted the Ukrainian offensive around the city of Kreminna in the fall, Russian reinforcements now have the Ukrainians on the defensive. Russian and Ukrainian soldiers have posted graphic videos of fierce fighting in the forests close to the city, with the sound of automatic rifle fire and the thuds of mortars shaking the battered limbs of leafless trees.

Elsewhere in Donbas, the Russians on Tuesday tried to push back into the city of Lyman, which Ukraine recaptured in October, in one of several recent moves that suggests Moscow may be laying the groundwork for a fresh offensive.

“It cannot be said that there was a large offensive operation, but the Russians are trying to take the initiative,” said Col. Sergei Cherevaty, the spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern military command, referring to Lyman.

On the southern edge of the Donetsk region in Donbas, Russia continues to assault the Ukrainian stronghold of Vuhledar, about 60 miles south of Bakhmut. The city is devoid of people but sits at the intersection of the eastern front in the Donetsk region and the southern front in the Zaporizhzhia region, a location that could prove advantageous for Russian forces trying to resupply troops moving between the two fronts.

Even as Russia launches assaults along the east, Ukraine continues to target Russian positions deep behind the front line. Ukrainian officials reported explosions on Wednesday around the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol.

After Russian forces besieged and conquered the southern port city in May, they have gradually turned it into a major military garrison, according to Ukrainian officials. It is not in range of the missiles Ukraine currently possesses, but Kyiv has been able to strike deep into Russian-occupied territory in the past using drones and other means.

Andrew E. Kramer contributed reporting.


Credit...Yuriy Dyachyshyn/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Ukrainian authorities on Wednesday carried out dozens of searches across the country in connection with corruption allegations, two days before President Volodymyr Zelensky is scheduled to host leaders of the European Union to discuss issues including his government’s efforts to clamp down on longstanding graft in Ukraine.

The Security Service of Ukraine, known as the S.B.U., said in a statement that the raids targeted individuals “whose actions harm the security of the state in various spheres.” The S.B.U. said in another statement that it had uncovered a plan to embezzle more than $1 billion at the state-owned Ukrnafta oil company and an oil-refining company through tax evasion and other tactics.

The head of the Ukrainian security service, Vasyl Malyuk, said that the searches were part of Mr. Zelensky’s anti-corruption efforts, adding: “This is only the first stage of the complex and systematic work that the security service is already conducting. And we don’t plan to stop!”

The raids occurred a day after Mr. Zelensky said that he would soon make more personnel changes in his government after a series of official dismissals in recent days.

“We are preparing new reforms in Ukraine,” Mr. Zelensky said on Tuesday night. “Reforms that will change the social, legal and political reality in many ways.”

The latest searches appeared at least partly timed to show E.U. officials that his government remained serious about getting chronic corruption under control. Mr. Zelensky filed a request for his country to join the E.U. days after Russia invaded in February 2022, setting off a series of negotiations that will require Ukraine to change its legal, political and economic system and to crack down on corruption. In June, E.U. members officially granted Ukraine status as a candidate for membership. The process to join could take as long as a decade.

On Jan. 24, a rash of officials, including a deputy defense minister, were removed from office or resigned. Mr. Zelensky’s cabinet offered no reason for the moves, which constituted the biggest change in his government since the invasion. But they came after a Ukrainian newspaper accused the Defense Ministry of buying food at unusually high prices, an accusation that the defense minister rejected.

There was no sign that the Ukrainian Army’s food procurement scandal involved the misappropriation of military assistance or would affect Ukraine’s ability to fight the Russian invasion.

With the changes last month, Mr. Zelensky appeared to be sending a message to allies that he would not tolerate waste and fraud in his government, especially as he requested billions of dollars more in military aid. Republican lawmakers in the United States, the biggest donor of military aid to Ukraine, have said they would call for an audit of financial help and weapons supplied in the war effort, arguing that the nearly $100 billion in promised aid is excessive and should be limited.

Mr. Zelensky rode a wave of popular anger to win the 2019 presidential election, promising to clean up rampant corruption in Ukraine. Since then, Ukraine’s score in Transparency International’s annual survey has risen to 33 from 30, a sign of improving transparency; the leader was Denmark, with a score of 90 out of a possible 100. The survey measures the “perceived level of public-sector corruption.”

Also on Wednesday, Arsen Avakov, a former interior minister who resigned in 2021 after a scandal-ridden tenure, told Ukrainian media that law enforcement officers searched his house as part of an investigation into the helicopter crash that killed his successor, Denys Monastyrsky, on Jan. 18 outside Kyiv. Mr. Avakov told the Ukrainian news outlet Babel that Ukrainian intelligence officers looked at documents connected to the purchase of the Airbus H-225 Super Puma helicopter involved in the crash, whose cause is under investigation.

“The investigators behaved correctly,” Mr. Avakov said in a statement on his Telegram account, although he said that “nothing connected to the interest of the investigation was found.”


Credit...Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

The imprisoned Russian opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny said on Wednesday that he was being moved to a “cell-type facility” within a Russian penal colony that would likely extend his time without visits to more than a year, as his supporters continue to raise alarms about his declining physical condition.

“Even maniacs and serial killers serving life sentences have the right to receive a visit, but I don’t,” Mr. Navalny wrote on Twitter. “Well, hardships make one tougher, though I don’t understand why this should apply to my children too.”

Mr. Navalny said he would spend six months, the maximum possible term under Russian law, in the new facility, and that he would be denied visits, as he has for the prior eight months.

The move is an unmistakable effort to destroy Mr. Navalny’s health by any means, his lawyer, Vadim Kobzev, said on Twitter on Wednesday. He accused prison officials of deliberately infecting Mr. Navalny with an illness and then administering inappropriate treatment. Mr. Navalny was experiencing sharp stomach pains and had lost seven kilograms, or over 15 pounds, Mr. Kobzev reported.

One of President Vladimir V. Putin’s most prominent critics, Mr. Navalny has been jailed since he returned to Russia in 2021, after recovering in Germany from an assassination attempt that Western officials say was carried out by the Kremlin. He has spent much of his time in prison in so-called punishment cells.

Concerns about his health have been growing in recent weeks and led to rare, public petitions from groups of Russian lawyers, doctors and lawmakers who used their full names to demand that he receive better medical care, undertaking a considerable risk of being prosecuted for their dissent.

Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, described his new facility, known as PKT, as a “concrete cage” with a bed chained to the wall. “Putin tried to kill Navalny the quick way,” she said. “Now Putin’s torturing him and killing him the slow way.”


Russian medalists from the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea in Moscow in 2018.Credit...James Hill for The New York Times

Ukraine is echoing the fervor it used to secure heavy tanks and other weapons from allies in a campaign to block Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating at the 2024 Summer Olympics.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has made it a topic of his nightly address several times in recent days, calling out the head of the International Olympic Committee by name. He has written a letter to President Emmanuel Macron of France, the host nation of the Games. And he has raised the subject with the leader of Denmark and the president-elect of the Czech Republic.

On Tuesday, he made his latest plea to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and Prime Minister Alexander De Croo of Belgium.

“The Olympic movement and international sport in general must be protected from Russia’s usual attempts to politicize sports,” Mr. Zelensky said in his nightly address on Tuesday. “Russian politicization of sports will inevitably mean justification of terror. This must not be allowed.”

The relentless nature of Mr. Zelensky’s message about the Olympics mirrors his approach to lobbying the United States and Europe for advanced weapons: constant public pleas and accusations of complicity. Each time, those nations have agreed to the requests, sometimes begrudgingly.

Now, Mr. Zelensky’s ire is turned on the Olympics. On paper, the games are intended to be free of geopolitics, though they are often an undercurrent. But sports organizations — including for tennis, figure skating, and track and field — have struggled with their response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Last month, Russian and Belarusian flags were banned from the Australian Open tennis tournament after fans displayed a Russian flag at a match between a Russian and an Ukrainian.

The International Olympic Committee said last week that it would continue to explore ways for athletes from Russia and Belarus, which has supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to compete in the 2024 Games in Paris. One option could be for athletes to compete individually and not bear their countries’ names, flags or colors, as long as they had not actively supported the war.


The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, right, with the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, in Kyiv in July.Credit...Ukrainian Presidential Press Service, via Agence France-Presse

Wladimir Klitschko, the former heavyweight boxing champion and the brother of Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, publicly warned Thomas Bach, the head of the I.O.C., that he and the I.O.C. were risking being “an accomplice to this abominable war.”

Russia has been banned from international sports competitions since 2019 because of a doping scandal, though individual athletes have been allowed to compete at the Olympics.

The Russian delegation has been appealing for full participation in the Paris Games, but the I.O.C. on Tuesday rejected calls to allow the country’s athletes to compete without restrictions.

A day earlier, Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser to Mr. Zelensky, accused the Olympic committee of offering Russia “a platform to promote genocide.” The I.O.C. called his comments “defamatory” in a statement, saying they could not “serve as a basis for any constructive discussion.”

The leader of the Russian Olympic Committee, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, said that restrictions like rendering athletes ineligible if they had supported the war, would be “unacceptable,”, according to TASS, a Russian state-run news agency.

“Russians should be allowed to compete under the same conditions as athletes from other countries,” he said. “There should be no direct reference at all stipulating whether to approve or disapprove this special military operation.”

The I.O.C. responded to Mr. Pozdnyakov’s comments by calling its sanctions on Russia and Belarus “not negotiable.” It also reasserted rules that bar the countries from hosting I.O.C.-affiliated sporting events, among other restrictions.

Ukraine has gained some support for its position, including from officials in Britain and Germany.


Eom Dong-hwan, South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration minister, speaking in Gdynia, Poland, in December, after South Korea delivered its first set of tanks and howitzers to the country.Credit...Michal Dyjuk/Associated Press

When Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, said that South Korea should consider providing arms to Ukraine, the suggestion highlighted that Seoul, despite being a major arms exporter, is sitting on the sidelines of the war.

Unlike the United States and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which have pledged more than $100 billion in aid to Ukraine in the form of weapons, South Korea has pledged $100 million in humanitarian support. And according to a spokesman for South Korea’s Defense Ministry, the country has no plans to send direct military support.

That led Mr. Stoltenberg to push South Korea’s government this week to consider sending weapons as Ukraine prepares for a Russian offensive ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

In withholding direct arms support, South Korea is taking into account the threat that North Korea poses, defense and policy experts said.

“If South Korea is going to put itself on a limb to provide military aid for Ukraine, there could be a tipping point where China and South Korea relations really sour,” said Andrew Yeo, a senior fellow and the SK-Korea Foundation Chair at the Brookings Institution. That could make it difficult to persuade China to support its interests regarding North Korea, he added.

Direct military aid could also turn South Korea into a country that Russia deems hostile, said Yang Uk, a research fellow at the Center for Foreign Policy and National Security in Seoul. A countermove by Russia to send weapons to North Korea would be “one of the worst scenarios,” he said.

Still, in August, South Korea signed a multibillion-dollar deal with Poland to export tanks and howitzers, one of its largest arms deals ever. Poland has been one of Ukraine’s leading military contributors. South Korean officials deny that the deal is to aid Ukraine, but rather to boost Poland’s armed forces.

South Korea ranked eighth in arms exports from 2017-21, according to the Korea Research Institute for Defense Technology Planning and Advancement. Historically, though, it has rarely provided direct military aid for a war and began exporting arms only in the 1980s, Mr. Yang said.

From 1964-73, the United States paid the country to deploy troops to fight in the Vietnam War. At the time, the South Korean economy was still recovering from the Korean War. In 2004, South Korea sent several thousand troops to Iraq, mostly as logistics and medical staff and not for combat, according to Mr. Yeo.

It is not out of the question for South Korea to follow NATO countries in sending weapons directly to Ukraine, both Mr. Yeo and Mr. Yang say. One of President Yoon Suk Yeol’s goals is for the country to play a larger role in global affairs.

Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup said in a news conference Tuesday with the U.S. defense secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III, that South Korea is paying close attention to Ukraine but did not comment on any plans to provide military support.

Depending on how the war unfolds and what other countries do, it could be only a “matter of time” before South Korea sends weapons to Ukraine, Mr. Yeo said.


Credit...Juan Barreto/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Ukrainian military has deployed thousands of antipersonnel mines in battle in apparent violation of an international treaty barring their use, according to a report by Human Rights Watch published on Tuesday.

The report said that artillery rockets carrying antipersonnel mines were fired toward Russian military targets in and around the northeastern Ukrainian city of Izium while it was under Russian control last year.

“Russian forces have repeatedly used antipersonnel mines and committed atrocities across the country, but this doesn’t justify Ukrainian use of these prohibited weapons,” Stephen Goose, the executive director of the Human Rights Watch’s arms division, said in a statement.

The mines have been blamed for “causing civilian casualties and posing an ongoing risk,” Mr. Goose said.

Rights groups have long condemned the use of antipersonnel land mines — small explosive weapons that typically detonate after an unsuspecting person steps on them — as a leading cause of preventable civilian casualties. They kill or maim thousands of people per year, many of them children, often long after conflicts have ended and the munitions are forgotten.

The weapons have been banned by most countries because of their indiscriminate nature. According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Ukraine ratified the Mine Ban Treaty, an international pact banning the possession and use of antipersonnel land mines, in 2005.

PFM antipersonnel mines, the kind used in Izium, are some of the smallest antipersonnel mines ever developed, dating back to the Cold War. They are packed together into a dispenser, such as a rocket warhead, that breaks open midair and scatters the mines randomly.

These mines are “inherently indiscriminate,” because it is impossible to control where they fall, said Brian Castner, a weapons investigator at Amnesty International. “By their very nature, you can’t target military forces as opposed to civilians.”

They are usually green or brown, blending into their environment and making them tough to spot. Plus, “they are designed to maim and not necessarily kill you,” Mr. Caster said, “So it’s a particularly ugly and gruesome effect.”

According to an online resource for bomb-disposal technicians, the plastic-cased PFM-1 mine measures just over four and a half inches long, about two and a half inches wide and just over three quarters of an inch thick. It explodes when about 11 pounds of pressure is applied, meaning that even small children are at risk by stepping on one.

About 50 civilians appear to have been injured by antipersonnel mines in the Izium area between April and late September, including five children, according to local health care workers cited in the report. Nearly half of the injuries required amputations of a patient’s foot or lower leg.

All of the 100 people researchers interviewed for the report said they had seen the mines, been warned about them while Russian forces occupied Izium or knew someone who was injured by one.

Moscow’s forces seized the city last April, but Ukrainian troops reclaimed it in a September counteroffensive. After the Russians retreated, workers discovered mass grave sites containing hundreds of people who had died in the months of Russian occupation, some showing signs of torture.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that it was investigating the findings of the report and called antipersonnel mines “inhumane.” The report will be “duly studied by the competent authorities of Ukraine,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement responding to the Foreign Ministry that it appended to the report on its website that the group welcomed “further dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities” on the issue. “We hope that the government will carry out a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation into our findings,” the group said.

John Ismay contributed reporting.

A correction was made on 

Feb. 1, 2023

An earlier version of this article mischaracterized the findings of a Human Rights Watch report about civilian casualties from antipersonnel mines in and around Izium. The organization verified 11 civilian casualties, not 11 civilian deaths.

How we handle corrections


Credit...Lynsey Addario for The New York Times


Credit...Lynsey Addario for The New York Times


Credit...Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

KHARKIV, Ukraine — The trenchworks along the northern edge of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, have begun to erode and fill with refuse, and the soldiers who used them to defend the city from the Russian onslaught have now departed to other fronts. Today, the fortifications are manned only by mannequins in military uniforms, including one, perhaps too optimistically, wearing a blue United Nations peacekeeping helmet.

All around, the blackened and pockmarked high-rise apartment buildings testify to the ferocity of the fighting that occurred here in Ukraine’s northeast in the early months of the war. But there is a stillness now, and residents are not quite sure how to interpret it.

Ukrainian forces expelled the Russian military from almost the whole region in a blitz offensive in September that took much of the world by surprise. Not only did it inject new vigor into the Ukrainian war effort, but it also gave Kharkiv some breathing space.

But the Ukrainians could push their enemies only so far. The border is about 25 miles from the city center, well within range of many Russian weapons.

Kateryna Vnukova, 19, an economics student in Kharkiv, said that from her 12th-floor apartment in the city center, she can sometimes see shelling off in the distance.

“I think now it’s all calm and quiet in Kharkiv, but it’s not calm and quiet,” said Ms. Vnukova. “Normally when it gets dark, the devils come out; the ones there, over the border.”

Now there are signs that Russian forces are regrouping for a possible new offensive that could once again threaten the city.


The war in Ukraine pursued by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has made any negotiations over arms control difficult.Credit...Pool photo by Alexey Danichev

WASHINGTON — The State Department told Congress on Tuesday that Russia was not complying with the only nuclear arms control treaty remaining between the two nations, jeopardizing a source of stability in their relationship.

The agency said Russia had refused to allow American inspectors into nuclear weapons facilities, an obligation under the treaty known as New START, which was renewed for five years in February 2021.

“Russia’s refusal to facilitate inspection activities prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the treaty and threatens the viability of U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control,” the State Department said in a statement on Tuesday.

The statement added that “Russia has also failed to comply with the New START treaty obligation to convene a session of the bilateral consultative commission in accordance with the treaty-mandated timeline.”

The State Department called on Russia to return to compliance by allowing inspectors onto its territory, as it had done for more than a decade, and by agreeing to hold a session of the commission, in which officials could discuss issues related to the treaty and nuclear arms control.

Russia announced in August that it was suspending the access of American inspectors to its nuclear arsenal. And in November, it canceled a diplomatic meeting of the bilateral commission in Cairo during which officials had planned to review compliance with the treaty. The commission last met in October 2021.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei A. Ryabkov, said Moscow was postponing the meeting because the United States “did not want to take into account Russia’s priorities, they wanted to discuss only the resumption of inspections,” the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.

“The situation around Ukraine also had an impact,” the agency quoted Mr. Ryabkov as saying.

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