The U.S. government has determined that members of Russia’s militarycommitted war crimes in Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday, as President Biden arrived in Brussels for a trip meant to bolster the NATO alliance.

Blinken said that assessment is based in part on U.S. intelligence and pointed to the suffering of civilians in Mariupol, a key port city that Russian forces cut off early in their invasion and then bombarded.

Biden and other leaders are expected to announce an initiative to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy by directing natural gas shipments to the region. National security adviser Jake Sullivan said new sanctions against political leaders and oligarchs will also be unveiled Thursday. The president landed in Europe as NATO policymakers are split over how to prevent Russia from escalating its war.

Here’s what to know

  • Moscow has been rejecting attempts by the U.S. defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to speak with their Russian counterparts, raising fears of a miscalculation or accident, the Pentagon said.
  • Ukrainian officials said they retook Makariv, a key gateway for Russian forces to potentially surround and seize the capital. But the city remains contested.
  • Russian forces appear to be pouring new energy into an offensive against Ukrainian forces from the eastern provinces under separatist control.
  • At the request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the United States has not sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich; Zelensky thinks the billionaire may be helpful in negotiating a peace deal, an official familiar with the matter said.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine, providing unlimited digital access to our coverage. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive video…..


After President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia claimed that action against Ukraine was taken in self-defense, the Fox News host Tucker Carlson and the conservative commentator Candace Owensrepeated the assertion. When Mr. Putin insisted he was trying to “denazify” Ukraine, Joe Oltmann, a far-right podcaster, and Lara Logan, another right-wing commentator, mirrored the idea.

The echoing went the other way, too. Some far-right American news sites, like Infowars, stoked a longtime, unfounded Russian claim that the United States funded biological weapons labs in Ukraine. Russian officials seized on the chatter, with the Kremlin contending it had documentation of bioweapons programs that justified its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

As war has raged, the Kremlin’s talking points and some right-wing discourse in the United States — fueled by those on the far right — have coalesced. On social media, podcasts and television, falsehoods about the invasion of Ukraine have flowed both ways, with Americans amplifying lies from Russians and the Kremlin spreading fabrications that festered in American forums online.

By reinforcing and feeding each other’s messaging, some right-wing Americans have given credibility to Russia’s assertions and vice versa. Together, they have created an alternate reality, recasting the Western bloc of allies as provokers, blunderers and liars, which has bolstered Mr. Putin….


The White House has quietly assembled a team of national security officials to sketch out scenarios of how the United States and its allies should respond if President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia — frustrated by his lack of progress in Ukraine or determined to warn Western nations against intervening in the war — unleashes his stockpiles of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

The Tiger Team, as the group is known, is also examining responses if Mr. Putin reaches into NATO territory to attack convoys bringing weapons and aid to Ukraine, according to several officials involved in the process. Meeting three times a week, in classified sessions, the team is also looking at responses if Russia seeks to extend the war to neighboring nations, including Moldova and Georgia, and how to prepare European countries for the refugees flowing in on a scale not seen in decades.

Those contingencies are expected to be central to an extraordinary session here in Brussels on Thursday, when President Biden meets leaders of the 29 other NATO nations, who will be meeting for the first time — behind closed doors, their cellphones and aides banished — since Mr. Putin invaded Ukraine.

Just a month ago, such scenarios seemed more theoretical. But today, from the White House to NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, a recognition has set in that Russia may turn to the most powerful weapons in its arsenal to bail itself out of a military stalemate….


image….Alex Wong/Getty