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Ukrainian Allies Race To Deliver More Advanced Weapons

By The New York Times

President Biden will send weapons that Ukraine’s president has long asked for to defend against an escalating Russian offensive to capture the east of the country.

Cars passing over a battle-damaged bridge that connects the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha and Horenka, Ukraine, on Tuesday.
Cars passing over a battle-damaged bridge that connects the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha and Horenka, Ukraine, on Tuesday.Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Ukraine’s allies are scrambling to deliver more advanced weapons, long sought by President Volodymyr Zelensky, to bolster the nation’s defense against an escalating Russian campaign to capture the east.

Russia’s new offensive — and the ability of Ukraine’s trench-based forces in the Donbas region to fend it off — is expected to rely on long-range missiles, howitzers and armed drones. President Biden said after a call with allies on Tuesday that the United States would send more artillery designed for such attacks. He is expected to announce more military aid soon.

Underscoring the urgency of his country’s needs, Mr. Zelensky said in a nightly address that had Ukraine received in the first week of the war what allies were sending now, the conflict might already be over. “Any delay in helping Ukraine gives the occupiers an opportunity to kill more Ukrainians,” he said.

Russia’s eastern campaign is expected to be more methodical than its initial push in the north, which relied on rapid and ultimately unsuccessful advances of tanks and helicopters.

Russia is also ratcheting up pressure on Mariupol, where a group of holdout Ukrainian fighters are issuing increasingly dire pleas for help from the Azovstal steel plant where civilians are also sheltering. On Tuesday night, a soldier who gave his name as Gasim but would not confirm he was in the plant, told a New York Times reporter that “as we’re talking to you, they’re firing on us from the air, dropping bombs.”

“Tell America to help us,” Gasim said.

In other developments:

  • At a U.N. Security Council meeting on Tuesday, Russia rejected calls for a humanitarian cease-fire, saying the requests were only intended to buy Ukraine time to further arm its forces.
  • Frightened Ukrainians are fleeing the central city of Dnipro as the war edges closer.
  • The European Union is preparing the details of an embargo on Russian oil imports after banning Russian coal earlier this month, the president of the European Commission confirmed.
Wimbledon begins in late June.
Wimbledon begins in late June.Credit…Paul Childs/Reuters

Wimbledon officials were set to announce they would bar Russian and Belarusian players from playing in this year’s tournament because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Belarus’ support of the war.

The ban, which would make Wimbledon the first tennis event to restrict individual Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing, was confirmed by a highly placed international tennis official on Tuesday who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the All England Club, which organizes and hosts the tournament.

Wimbledon, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, is scheduled to begin in late June.

Russia’s Daniil Medvedev during the 2021 Wimbledon tournament. He is currently ranked No. 2 in men’s singles.
Russia’s Daniil Medvedev during the 2021 Wimbledon tournament. He is currently ranked No. 2 in men’s singles.Credit…Adrian Dennis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The decision would exclude a number of highly ranked players. Four Russian men are ranked in the top 30 on the ATP Tour, including No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, who is the reigning U.S. Open men’s singles champion, although he is currently recovering from a hernia operation. Russia has five women in the top 40 of the WTA Tour rankings, led by No. 15 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus is ranked No. 4 and was a Wimbledon semifinalist last year. Her compatriot Victoria Azarenka, a former No. 1, is ranked No. 18.

After the war began in February, professional tennis organizers were quick to bar the Russians and their Belarusian allies from team events like the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup, both of which were won by Russian teams in 2021. The sport’s seven governing bodies announced that ban collectively on March 1. And the men’s and women’s tour events in Moscow later this season were canceled, as well as a number of lower-tier events in Russia and Belarus. The International Tennis Federation also announced the suspension of the Russian Tennis Federation and Belarusian Tennis Federation from I.T.F. membership.

But Russian and Belarusian players have been permitted to continue competing on the professional tours as individuals albeit without any national identification. There are no longer flags or countries listed next to their names on scoreboards, in draws or in the published computer rankings.

But there have been calls for a full ban from several former and current Ukrainian players, including the rising women’s star Marta Kostyuk and the former player Olga Savchuk, the captain of Ukraine’s Billie Jean King Cup team, which competed against the United States in Asheville, N.C., last week.

“I think it’s just a matter of time,” Savchuk said in an interview. “It’s not me who’s making the decision, but I think they should also be banned from playing as individuals. It cannot just be a sanction against 90 percent of the Russian people and 10 percent not.”

“It has to be even,” Savchuk added. “And I think it’s collective guilt.”

But while some other international sports, including track and field and figure skating, have barred individual Russian and Belarusian athletes from some competitions, professional tennis had adopted a more conservative approach.

Officials with the men’s and women’s tours have argued that the Russian and Belarusian players should not be blamed for the invasion or their countries’ policies and pointed out that several leading players, including the Russian stars Andrey Rublev, ranked No. 8 in men’s singles, and Pavlyuchenkova have spoken out against the war.

“I feel very strongly that again these individual athletes should not be the ones that are being penalized by the decisions of an authoritarian leadership that is obviously doing terrible, reprehensible things,” Steve Simon, the head of the WTA, said in an interview with the BBC last month. “But if that happens, which is again part of the overall strategy of making Russia and Russian citizens pay the consequence for the decision their government has made, then it won’t be something that we support.”

Wimbledon, the oldest Grand Slam tournament, will likely be an outlier on this issue. The French Open, which begins next month and is the next Grand Slam tournament on the calendar, has not indicated that it intends to bar individual players. Nor has the U.S. Open, which will be held in New York in late August and early September. For now, regular tour events — like this week’s events in Barcelona; Belgrade, Serbia; Istanbul; and Stuttgart, Germany — are proceeding with Russians and Belarusians in their draws.

But Wimbledon, which begins June 27 in London, has come under considerable pressure from the British government, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to take a stronger stance. Nigel Huddleston, the British sports minister, told a parliamentary hearing last month that Russian players like Medvedev might need to provide “assurances” that they do not support President Vladimir V. Putin in order to play at Wimbledon.

But the tournament, arguably still the most prestigious in the sport, has apparently decided against requiring players to denounce their governments out of concern that this could put them or their families in a precarious situation. A ban, though not part of Wimbledon officials’ initial thinking, would prevent players from having to make such a choice.

Wimbledon has not barred individual athletes from specific countries since the aftermath of World War II when players from Germany, Japan and other nations were not permitted to play in the tournament.

A burned out building in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Tuesday. Ukrainian defenders are still holding out at a steel plant in the city.
A burned out building in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Tuesday. Ukrainian defenders are still holding out at a steel plant in the city.Credit…Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Russian forces are still faltering in the country’s war against Ukraine as they shift focus to the eastern Donbas region, the British Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

Russia’s progress was being hampered by the same “environmental, logistical and technical challenges that have beset them so far,” the ministry said on Twitter, referencing Russian forces’ chaotic and failed early efforts.

The resilience of Ukrainian forces was also a factor, the ministry said, reporting that Ukraine had fended off several attempted advances from Russian troops, and that Russia had increased shelling in the region.

The Russian offensive is expected to take on a more methodical approach as it narrows its focus to Donbas and regroups from its logistical failures and morale crises at the start of the war.

Still, the British Defense Ministry pointed to the enduring Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol as a sign of Russia’s “continued failure to achieve their aims as quickly as they would like,” despite indiscriminate attacks on civilians. The city’s remaining defenders have captured global attention and refused to surrender as they fight Russian forces around a steel plant sheltering thousands of civilians.

South Korea sent about 20 tons of supplies to Ukraine on Tuesday, including ventilators, first-aid kits and defibrillators, according to its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Russia rejected calls for a cease-fire to allow for civilian evacuations in Ukraine on Tuesday, saying that requests to pause the fighting were not sincere and would only provide time to arm Ukrainian fighters.

The rejection, delivered at a United Nations Security Council meeting on Ukraine, came just hours after the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, called for a four-day cease-fire to allow for evacuations in battle zones and safe corridors to bring in food and medicine.

Civilians, including children, remain trapped in the eastern Ukraine region of Donbas, where Russia has begun a new and more fierce offensive, as well as in the devastated port city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian defenders are making a last stand from the bunkers of a steel complex.

Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador, told the Security Council that calls for his country to establish humanitarian cease-fires were “insincere, and in practice they merely point to an aspiration to provide Kyiv nationalists breathing room to regroup and receive more drones, more antitank missiles and more MANPADS.” He was referring to man-portable air-defense systems, which are essentially highly mobile surface-to-air missiles.

Earlier, Mr. Guterres had said that more than 12 million people in Ukraine now needed humanitarian assistance but that the number was expected to rise to 15.7 million, or about 40 percent of all Ukrainians remaining in the country. Millions have fled abroad, and many others are internally displaced.

Even China, which has not condemned Russia and has abstained from votes on resolutions against it, said it supported a humanitarian cease-fire and called on Russia and Ukraine to move toward that goal.

The reality gap between Russia and the majority of Security Council members and U.N. officials remained on display. Two U.N. officials and diplomats representing Eastern European countries hosting millions of Ukrainian refugees laid out the challenges of the situation, which Russia dismissed, saying that Ukraine had been plagued by migration of its citizens for years.

Some statements from U.N. officials and diplomats on Tuesday spoke to growing frustration at their inability to broker a cease-fire, mediate a peace deal or convince Russia to end its aggression.

“Colleagues, it appears that these meetings do not affect much either the security situation on the front line or the humanitarian situation in Ukraine,” Ukraine’s ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, said.

Russia, as a permanent member of the Security Council, has veto power and has used it twice on resolutions focused on Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February. But even diplomatic attempts spearheaded by the U.N.’s top humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, who had traveled to Russia and Ukraine last week, failed.

“So while we will continue our job to deliver aid, we need this council to do its job too,” said Kelly Clements, deputy high commissioner for U.N.’s refugee agency. “We therefore call on all of you in this council again — and yes, we are aware of the deep divisions — to put aside your differences and find a way to end this horrific and senseless war.”