May 29, 2024

Defense and Military Forces

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An explosion is seen in the sky over Kyiv during a Russian missile strike on May 16, 2023.

One after another, bright flashes pierced through Kyiv’s night skies early on Tuesday morning, as Russia launched an “exceptional” aerial assault against the Ukrainian capital.

Most Kyiv residents would have had no way of knowing for sure that the sudden, terrifying loud bangs were the Ukrainian air defense systems taking down Russian missiles, rather than rockets hitting their city.

Liudmyla Kravchenko, her husband and their two children spent most of the night hiding in their corridor.

“There’s no bomb shelter nearby, the underground station is quite far from us … I think it’s even more dangerous to try to get there during the bombardment,” she told CNN.

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Kravchenko said that while her family doesn’t always take shelter during air raid alarms, last night was different. “It was very scary, so after we heard the first explosions we rushed to the corridor … of course in case the missile hits our house directly, none of this will save our lives – not two walls, not three, not even five,” she said, pointing to the guidance that people unable to reach shelters should stay inside and try to be separated from a potential impact zone by two walls.

She said her one year old son Artem slept in her arms as they were waiting for the attack to end. Her nine-year-old daughter is now so used to air raids that she knows to “to drop everything and take cover” when her parents tell her to.

Liudmyla Kravchenko said her family hid in the corridor during the attack on Tuesday.

Liudmyla Kravchenko said her family hid in the corridor during the attack on Tuesday.Yulia Kesaieva/CNN

“My wife counted over 30 explosions and we saw dozens of launches by the Ukrainian air defense from our balcony. It was so fast, we didn’t even have time to get to a shelter,” Tymofiy Mylovanov, a presidential adviser and head of the Ukrainian School of Economics, said on Twitter.

Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv’s military administration, said in a Telegram post that the barrage of missiles on Tuesday was the eighth assault on the Ukrainian capital this month. He said the attack came from multiple directions and was “exceptional in its density, with the maximum number of attacking missiles in the shortest time possible.”

Despite the intensity, most of the Russian munitions failed to hit their marks after being detected and destroyed by Ukraine’s defense systems, Popko added.

The falling debris caused some – although limited – damage on the ground. At least three people were injured, according to Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko. Authorities said early reports of damage were minor, with a building and several vehicles catching fire from falling debris in one area of the capital.

Klitschko said some debris fell within the grounds of the Kyiv Zoo, damaging some green spaces but not causing any injuries to the animals. The mayor added the zoo would be open as normal on Tuesday.

Air defenses hard at work

Ukrainian Armed Forces chief Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi said the attack, which started at about 3:30 a.m. local time, was launched from the north, south, and east.

“Six Kh-47M2 Kinzhal aeroballistic missiles were fired from six MiG-31K aircraft, nine Kalibr cruise missiles from ships in the Black Sea, and three land-based missiles (S-400, Iskander-M),” Zaluzhnyi said on Twitter, adding that Moscow also launched attack drones, all of which were destroyed.

While the Ukrainian military refused to comment on the type of weapons it used on Tuesday, two US officials and a Western official familiar with the matter told CNN that Ukrainian forces have begun using long-range Storm Shadow missiles provided by the UK to strike Russian targets.

The Russian Defense Ministry claimed later on Tuesday that it destroyed a US-made Patriot air defense system in Kyiv on Tuesday – despite the Ukrainians saying all 18 Russian missiles launched at the country in the early hours of Tuesday morning were intercepted and destroyed.

The Ukrainian military has declined to comment on the claim by the Russian Defense Ministry.

Expert says the Patriot missiles are ‘not a game changer.’ Hear why

But a US official later told CNN that a US-made Patriot system was likely damaged, but not destroyed, as a result of Monday’s Russian missile barrage.

The US is still assessing to what degree the system was damaged, the official said, adding that will determine whether the system needs to be pulled back entirely or simply repaired on the spot by the Ukrainians.

storm shadow cruise missile 022823

Britain has delivered long-range ‘Storm Shadow’ cruise missiles to Ukraine ahead of expected counteroffensive, sources say

Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s Minister of Defense, said on Telegram that Tuesday marked “another unbelievable success for the Ukrainian Air Forces” with all six of the Kinzhal missiles shot down.

“Thank you to our Air Force service members and our partner states, who invested in securing the skies over Ukraine and all of Europe,” he said.

Kyiv resident Oleksandr Kravets, 50, said he saw the air defenses work first hand on Tuesday.

“I live on the 13th floor … I saw the missile wreckage falling. Our air defense are real heroes. I think they get better each month, the percentage of downed targets increases each time. I think it’s both – the experience and the new air defense systems we got,” he told CNN.

Russian officials including President Vladimir Putin have repeatedly talked up the hypersonic Kinzhal missiles for their ability to evade Ukraine’ original air defense systems.

However, that has changed since Ukraine received at least two US-made Patriot missile defense systems, one from Germany and one from the US, making it possible for Ukraine to intercept more modern Russian missiles such as the Kinzhal.

Earlier in May, Ukrainian and US officials said Russia had tried to destroy a Patriot battery with a Kinzhal air-launched ballistic-missile strike, but Ukraine Patriot operators were able to intercept the Russian weapon.

The Patriot systems, coupled with Ukraine’s other air defense systems, have been able to deal with most of what Russia has challenged them with in recent months – but Ukraine has been warning that its ammunition stocks are getting depleted.

Last week the Ukrainian capital was targeted by what Klitschko called Russia’s “most massive” drone attack, in which 36 Iranian-made Shahed were fired on the city. All 36 were intercepted and damage from falling debris was light, the mayor said.

An explosion is seen in the sky over Kyiv during a Russian missile strike on May 16, 2023.Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Ukrainian intelligence claims

The strikes on Kyiv came a day after Ukrainian intelligence claimed Russian forces are no longer capable of large-scale offensive action and faced a shortage of some missiles, such as the Kalibr.

However, Ukrainian Defense Intelligence spokesperson Andriy Yusov said Moscow still had enough missiles to sustain its current rate of air attacks.

He estimated Moscow has large stockpiles of S-300 missiles, which are capable of considerable destruction. The S-300 was designed as an anti-air weapon but Russia has frequently used it in a ground-to-ground mode, which makes it less accurate.

Volodymyr Zelensky attends a press conference in Rome on Saturday.

Zelensky signals long anticipated Ukraine counteroffensive will begin soon

Ahead of a much anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive, Yusov said Russia “is on the defensive” along “the entire front line” and lacked the resources “to repeat large-scale offensive actions.”

“They have been preparing for defense all this time, and this is a serious factor that the Ukrainian command certainly takes into account when preparing for the de-occupation of Ukrainian territories,” he said.

In recent days, Ukraine’s military says it has gained an advantage in some areas near the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut, but officials have been reluctant to provide specific dates for when the counteroffensive will begin.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in England Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Kyiv is “preparing very important counteroffensive steps.”

“We really need some more time,” he said, but added: “Not too much.”

Two guards stand on a dock in front of a large gray ship.
The missile cruiser Peter the Great, part of the Russian Navy’s northern fleet, at its Arctic base in Severomorsk in 2021. Russia, China and the West are all seeking to expand their military presence in the Arctic. Credit…Emile Ducke for The New York Times

As polar ice melts, Russia, already a major Arctic power, wants to make the region its own. China has ambitions for a “Polar Silk Road.” And NATO is embracing Finland — and Sweden too, Washington hopes — giving the alliance new reach in the Far North.

Climate change is accelerating and amplifying competition in the Arctic as never before, opening the region to greater commercial and strategic jostling just at a moment when Russia, China and the West are all seeking to expand their military presence there.

The rising importance of the region is underscored by the travels of Antony J. Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, who will attend an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Norway on Thursday.

Mr. Blinken is making a point of visiting Sweden and Finland as well, meeting the leaders of all three countries as they press Turkey to ratify Sweden’s quick entry into NATO. He is scheduled to deliver a major speech on Russia, Ukraine and NATO on Friday in Helsinki, the capital of NATO’s newest member.

For a long time, countries were reluctant to discuss the Arctic as a possible military zone. But that is quickly changing.

Russian aggression plus climate change make “a perfect storm,” said Matti Pesu, an analyst at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. There is a new Cold War atmosphere, mixed with melting ice, which affects military planning and opens up new economic possibilities and access to natural resources.

Two men shake hands at the bottom of the stairs to an airplane.
Tobias Billstrom, the foreign minister of Sweden, welcoming Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday. Credit…TT News Agency/via Reuters

“So all these are connected and are magnifying each other,” Mr. Pesu said. “It makes the region intriguing.”

While NATO has been cheered by Russia’s difficulties in Ukraine, the alliance in fact has significant vulnerabilities in the north.

Russia remains a vast Arctic power, with naval bases and nuclear missiles stationed in the Far North but also along Russia’s western edge: in the Kola Peninsula, near Norway, where Russia keeps most of its nuclear-armed submarines, and in Kaliningrad, bordered by Poland and Lithuania.

change, shipping routes are becoming less icebound and easier to navigate, making the Arctic more accessible and attractive for competitive commercial exploitation, as well as military adventurism.

Russia has said it wants to make the Arctic its own — a fifth military district, on a par with its other four — said Robert Dalsjo, research director at the Swedish Defense Research Agency.

China has also been busy trying to establish itself in the region and use new unfrozen routes, one reason the NATO considers China a significant security challenge.

In its most recent strategy paper, adopted last summer in Madrid, NATO declared Russia to be “the most significant and direct threat to allies’ security and to peace and stability,” but for the first time addressed China, saying that its “stated ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values.”

How to create a “northern bubble” to deter Russia and monitor China is one of NATO’s newest and biggest challenges.

In response to NATO’s enlargement, “Russia is putting increasing emphasis on the Arctic, where they’re stronger and less surrounded by NATO,” said Mr. Pesu of the Finnish Institute. Russia may have drawn down its troops to fight in Ukraine, but retains its air power, northern fleet, nuclear submarines and nuclear-armed missiles in the northern realms.

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Rows of colorful houses in a snowy coastal landscape.
Longyearbyen, Norway, in 2022. Fearing the Russian threat, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark are merging their air forces, creating one with more planes than either Britain or France.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

“So it remains a pretty urgent concern,” he said. Finland, Sweden and Norway “see this most urgently,” even if some in NATO do not, he said. As a consequence, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark have decided to merge their air forces, creating one with more planes than either Britain or France.

Until now, competition in the region was largely mediated through the Arctic Council, founded in 1996, which includes Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States, and promotes research and cooperation.

But it does not have a security component, and soon all members but Russia will be NATO members. The council has been “paused” since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. When Russia’s chairmanship ended in May, Norway took over, so activity may pick up again.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 caused rethinking throughout NATO, and there was new anxiety about the Baltic States — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — combined with submarine hunts in Sweden and more serious war gaming, said Anna Wieslander, the director for Northern Europe at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based research institution.

Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, then the supreme allied commander Europe, called for “an anti-access area denial” — to deny Russia entry to the Baltic Sea from Kaliningrad, the isolated Russian toehold with access to the sea.

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Camouflaged soldiers conduct a training exercise in front of two tanks.
Swedish Army conscripts during a training exercise on the island of Gotland, Sweden, last year. A NATO command created in 2018 defends the Atlantic sea routes, Scandinavia and the Arctic.Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
Washington started reinvesting militarily in the Arctic then with more ships, planes and military exercises, as did other NATO countries in the region. In 2018 NATO went so far as to set up a new operational command — a kind of regional headquarters that plans and conducts military operations to defend specific areas of NATO. The new command, based in Norfolk, Va., is navy-focused and defends the Atlantic sea routes, Scandinavia and the Arctic.

There remains a concern that China, which now has even closer ties to Russia, remains active in the Far North, building big icebreakers. “China will reach Europe through the Arctic,” Ms. Wieslander said.

One main question is whether the real Russian threat to Scandinavia will come from the sea, as Norway fears, or from the land, with a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States or Finland, then a move westward.

Both Finland and Sweden, when it joins, want to be part of the same NATO operational command, given their long history of defense cooperation.

Norway belongs to the Norfolk command, and there is a logic to making both Finland and Sweden part of that command, since reinforcements would likely come from the West, across the Atlantic.

But there is perhaps more logic, given the current threat from Russia, for them to join the land-oriented command based in Brunssum, the Netherlands, which is charged with defending Central and Eastern Europe, including Poland and the Baltic nations.

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Icebergs near Kulusuk, Greenland, in 2019. Climate change is opening new sea routes and economic possibilities in the Arctic.
Credit…Felipe Dana/Associated Press

“There is logic for both,” said Niklas Granholm, deputy director of studies at the Swedish Defense Research Agency. “It’s not yet resolved.”

According to the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, NATO is recommending putting both countries in the Brunssum command, despite Finland’s early interest in being part of Norfolk, which Sauli Niinisto, Finland’s president, visited in March.

That’s because it is easier for Finland to be reinforced from Norway and Sweden, Mr. Pesu, the Finnish Institute analyst, noted.

The fear is that a modernized Russian Northern Fleet could swing down through the straits between Greenland, Iceland and Britain, a move known in NATO as a “red right hook,” to cut sea lanes and underwater cables and threaten the American East Coast with cruise missiles.

Mr. Dalsjo of the Swedish Defense Research Agency, calling himself a heretic, cautions in a recent paper that this threat is real but may be overblown, especially after Russia’s losses in Ukraine.

Russia is predominantly a land power, and its northern fleet is considerably smaller than it was during the Cold War, when there were worries about the kind of major Soviet naval attack depicted in the Tom Clancy novel “Red Storm Rising.”

“If they didn’t do it then with 150 ships,” Mr. Dalsjo asked, “why would they do it now with 20?”

SEOUL — The emergency siren began wailing at 6:32 a.m. Several minutes later, personal cellphones around Seoul were screeching with a government alert urging residents to “prepare to evacuate,” children and the old and weak first.

For a half an hour on Wednesday morning, confusion and panic swept across this city of 10 million as news spread that North Korea had fired a rocket. Then, the next wave of messages hit: The South’s home ministry issued a notice saying the earlier alert was a “false alarm.”

Anxiety soon turned into anger and exasperation.

“They messed up big time,” said Lee Jae, an office worker in Seoul who woke up to the sirens.

South Koreans, who have grown inured to North Korea’s frequent provocations, were met with a disturbing taste of how their country might respond to a major military attack on Wednesday when their government caused confusion with its public alert system at a time of heightened tension in the region.

The confusion began after North Korea launched a rocket from the northwestern tip of the Korean Peninsula at 6:27 a.m. For days, the North had told the world that it was preparing to launch a rocket that would carry a homegrown military spy satellite into orbit, despite the action violating multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Data the North had released on the rocket’s preprogrammed trajectory showed that it would fly south, over the sea between the Korean Peninsula and China, and over the waters east of the Philippines.

It is rare for a North Korean projectile to fly to the south. In 2016, when a North Korean rocket carrying a satellite flew on a southbound trajectory, South Korea issued an alert on Baekryeongdo, an island near the northwestern border with the North.

Two minutes after the liftoff on Wednesday, South Korea issued a similar alert on Baekryeongdo, but officials were investigating why the same alert was also issued to Seoul, even though the rocket flew hundreds of kilometers west of the city.

After issuing the alert on Baekryeongdo, the home ministry left it to regional governments to decide whether to follow suit, according the Seoul city government. Officials in Seoul said they decided to issue an alert in the city as a precaution, even if they had to retract it. The mayor of Seoul later issued a public apology.

For Chung Sung-hee, 62, the confusing response was infuriating. Ms. Chung said she was preparing breakfast at her home in central Seoul when she heard the phone alert, followed by a loudspeaker broadcast. When she opened the window and trained her ears, all she could make out was that it was “a real situation,” not a drill.

“They should’ve said what was happening, and where to go,” Ms. Chung said. “Who would evacuate with a message like that?” When she got the second alert saying it was a false alarm, Ms. Chung said she couldn’t help but curse the authorities.

“I blurted out, ‘These crazies — isn’t there one thing they can do right?’” she said. “The government should tell you, ‘this is the situation.’ If they out of nowhere just say ‘evacuate,’ what’s anyone to do?”

South Koreans harbor deep skepticism over their government’s ability to handle major disasters. The government of President Yoon Suk Yeol was widely accused of failing to prevent or respond quickly enough to the deadly crowd crush in Seoul that killed nearly 160 people in October.

Critics say that the response on Wednesday was symptomatic of an administration that has championed a tough stance against North Korea yet failed to assure the public of its safety amid the North’s growing nuclear threat.

“It’s right for the Yoon government to have a sense of crisis with North Korea,” said Ahn Byong-jin, a political scientist at Kyung Hee University in Seoul. “But there has been little training for the general public on how to live with it. The commotion we had this morning encapsulates how the government is failing to understand and respond to this new normal with North Korea.”

Min Yun-geun, a college student in Seoul, feared that false alarms, if repeated, might desensitize people to actual emergencies. “I’m realizing how we are actually not so prepared for war,” he said.

Mr. Yoon’s office condemned the North’s rocket launch as a “grave provocation,” calling it a long-range missile test disguised as a satellite launch.

North Korea confirmed that the launch had failed and that the projectile had tumbled into the sea west of the Korean Peninsula after its second-stage vehicle malfunctioned. The country vowed to schedule another launch as soon as possible. South Korea was collecting debris to glean clues about the North’s rocket technology.

By launching a rocket toward the south and attempting to place a military spy satellite into orbit, the North was escalating its nuclear threat, said Lee Byong-chul, a researcher on nuclear policy at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul.

“North Korea has already shown that its missiles are powerful enough to fly the distances it wanted, but what it lacks is an ability to guide them to targets with precision,” Mr. Lee said. “Military spy satellites can help provide the North with that capability.”

Though some were frustrated by the South Korean government’s response to the launch, others said they would rather have officials err on the side of caution in such situations. “It’s better that they did it and get chewed out than not doing anything and getting chewed out,” said Lee Jae-hee, 45.

After he saw the alert, Mr. Lee said he saw a news report that it was about the space launch the North had warned it would conduct and fell back asleep. “If you’re hearing buildings blow up and things roaring, it’s probably too late to go anywhere anyway,” he said with a shrug.

South Korea regularly conducted civil defense drills during the Cold War, with sirens wailing and megaphones urging people to take shelter in subway stations, underground parking lots and basements of large buildings. Streets were vacated of traffic.

The country now has thousands of underground shelters for emergencies.

But those drills have become a distant memory for many across the country, particularly after Seoul began to engage in more diplomacy with North Korea under Mr. Yoon’s predecessor, Moon Jae-in. South Korea last conducted an air-raid drill in 2017.

As tensions in the region rise, Mr. Yoon’s government has been slow to reintroduce civil defense drills. On May 16, South Korea conducted its first nationwide civil defense exercise in six years, but it was limited to public servants and schoolchildren.

Jeung Yeon-cheon, 36, who lives on the 18th floor of an apartment building in Seoul, said he participated in the May training, though he thought that any risk of a North Korean attack felt remote. He quickly dismissed the alarm on Wednesday as a blip.

“It didn’t feel that serious,” he said.

The rubble of a destroyed home.

A hole left by a bomb that entered the home of the Khoswan family, in a strike on an Islamic Jihad member who lived below, in Gaza City.

As the Khoswan family slept, the Israeli military dropped three GBU-39 bombs into their sixth-floor apartment. One of the bombs exploded just outside the parents’ bedroom, leaving the apartment looking as if a tornado had swept through, killing three family members.

But they were not the stated target of the attack earlier this month.

The Israeli military had dropped the bombs into their home to assassinate a commander of the Palestinian armed group Islamic Jihad who lived in the apartment below.

Jamal Khoswan, a dentist, Mirvat Khoswan, a pharmacist, and their son, a 19-year-old dental student, were killed in the strike as well as the Islamic Jihad commander who lived downstairs, Tareq Izzeldeen, and two of his children, a girl, 11, and a boy, 9.

“Commanders have been targeted before,” Menna Khoswan, 16, said this month at a memorial service for her father at the hospital where he served as chairman of the board. “But to target the commander and those around him, honestly this is something we didn’t expect.”

Israel says that it conducts “precision strikes” aimed at taking out armed groups’ commanders or operation sites, and that it does not target civilians. But the airstrikes are often conducted in heavily populated areas, and many Palestinians in Gaza say they amount to a collective punishment aimed at making them fearful about who their neighbors might be.

Israel also destroys entire residential buildings or towers if it believes an armed group has an office or apartment there, although it usually issues an evacuation warning beforehand.

Menna’s parents and brother were among at least 12 civilians killed by Israeli strikes during five days of fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad this month, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Israel says that nine civilians were killed in the strikes.

People standing under a banner with Arabic writing.
Menna Khoswan, center, at a memorial service for her father at the hospital where he served as chairman of the board.

Six senior leaders of the armed group that Israel said had been responsible for rocket attacks on Israel were killed before a cease-fire was reached on May 13. The Israeli military said that Islamic Jihad had launched nearly 1,500 rockets indiscriminately toward Israel over the course of several days. Two people were killed in Israel, including an Israeli woman and a Palestinian worker from Gaza.

Members of the Khoswan family say they knew that an Islamic Jihad commander lived in the apartment below them and worried that he could be the target of an Israeli strike. Israel has designated Islamic Jihad as a terrorist organization — as have countries including the United States and Japan — and has regularly targeted its leaders and fighters.

Yet the Khoswans never thought their apartment would be hit while they were inside, Menna said, describing the shock of being awakened by the explosions ripping through her home.

The Israeli military said it had twice postponed the assassinations of the three Islamic Jihad commanders to ensure suitable operational conditions and minimize civilian casualties. But the military did not respond to questions about why it had targeted the three Islamic Jihad commanders on May 9 while they were at home or why it had launched the three bombs targeting the Islamic Jihad commander through the Khoswan home.

The Israeli military “didn’t choose to kill the dentist,” said Nir Dinar, an Israeli army spokesman, declining to comment further.

The Israeli military released videos of the strikes it carried out, including one showing a man it accused of having fired rockets at Israel being struck in the middle of a road on a bicycle. Another showed a man walking in the courtyard of a complex of buildings for several seconds before entering a building. Once he went inside, the building was blown up.

The military said the videos showed how it had waited for targets to be alone before striking.

During the five days of fighting this month, Israeli strikes destroyed 103 homes, and more than 2,800 others were damaged, according to Gaza’s public works department.

The facade of a destroyed building.
Over the course of five days this month, Israeli strikes destroyed 103 homes and damaged more than 2,800, according to Gaza’s public works department.
A man kneels over missile debris.
An unexploded GBU 39 bomb fired from an Israeli aircraft, according to ordnance officials in Gaza, along with other ordnance fragments, in Gaza City.

Amnesty International has previously said that Israel’s pattern of attacks on residential homes in Gaza displayed a disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians and could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.

In the 11-day 2021 war between Hamas and Israel, Israel struck four tower buildings, destroying three of them; one had housed some of the world’s leading news media organizations, including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera.

The Israeli military said that it had destroyed the tower because the building also contained military assets belonging to Hamas, the political and armed group which controls and governs Gaza. The A.P. reported that at the time that the tower’s owner had been “told he had an hour to make sure everyone has left the building.”

Fearing that Israel would destroy entire buildings because they contained offices or homes belonging to members of armed groups, residents of some buildings posted signs in their lobbies warning against renting to departments linked to the Hamas-led government.

Israel has long accused Palestinian armed groups in Gaza of hiding among civilians and using them as human shields. Because the armed groups are homegrown, they live side by side among the people and their command centers are spread throughout Gaza.

Leaders and members of the groups say that Israel’s airstrikes are aimed at hurting the civilian population to undermine public support for them. The groups have wide support among Palestinians for their resistance to the Israeli occupation.

Since the 2021 war, Hamas says it has begun moving its offices away from important infrastructure such as hospitals and schools.

Khaled al-Batsh, an Islamic Jihad leader in Gaza, said his group’s members lived in their own communities in the tiny enclave that is home to more than 2.3 million people.

“Where should we go? Should we flee Palestine? Can we go set up a military base in Colorado?” he said. “They target the civilians so they can pit people against us.”

South of Gaza City, Ghada Abu Ebeid, 50, this month was living with a relative near the remains of her family’s two-story house, which was destroyed by an Israeli bomb in the recent fighting that also sheared off the fronts of nearby buildings.

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People walking among the ruins of a destroyed home.
The remains of the Abu Ebeid family home in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, after it was destroyed by the Israeli military.

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A man in a red cap holding a child, next to people sitting on the ground.
A family sitting in the rubble of their house, which was destroyed by Israeli bombing in Jabalia, in northern Gaza.

An hour before the strike, the Israeli military warned residents up to 100 meters away to evacuate their homes, according to the Abu Ebeid family and neighbors.

When asked about the attack, the military referred to a statement saying that it had targeted Islamic Jihad command-and-control centers from which they operate and direct rockets toward Israel.

Ms. Ebeid would not say why she believed Israel had demolished their home. Neighbors said that one of her sons was a member of Islamic Jihad.

Many Gaza residents acknowledge that they do worry about who might move in next door, fearing that their neighbors could become targets. But they put the blame squarely on Israel.

“What kind of precision is this when you kill civilians?” said Asmahan Adas, referring to a strike on the home of her next-door neighbor, Khalil al-Bahtini, another Islamic Jihad commander, that also killed her two teenage daughters. “When Israel wants to kill someone, they can find many different ways to kill, but they want others to die along with their target.”

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A man holds a teddy bear in a destroyed home.
Alaa Adas, the father of Iman, 17, and Dania, 19, who died in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza, in the bedroom where they were killed.
A woman sits on a sofa near two people who are standing. Behind her is a pencil drawing of a woman.
Asmahan Adas, whose daughters were killed by an Israeli airstrike this month, received mourners at her parents’ house, east of Gaza City

Ms. Adas said that when she knew Mr. Bahtini was at home, she would move her two daughters to the far side of their home, fearing that Israeli bombs could destroy the rooms closest to him.

On the night of May 9, she was unaware that Mr. Bahtini had returned home. Before she went to bed, Ms. Adas said good night to her two daughters, Iman, 17, and Dania, 19, who were sitting on their beds, watching cellphone videos and laughing, she said.

Minutes later, shortly after 2 a.m., three GBU-39 bombs pierced the roof of Mr. Bahtini’s second-floor home, killing him, his wife and 5-year-old daughter. The blast also ripped through the bedroom of Ms. Adas’ teenager daughters, burying them in rubble.

A week later, Ms. Adas wept as she received mourners at her parents’ house. Dania was to be married on July 21. Now, her fiancé visits her grave every day to talk to her.

“I had dreams of taking my daughter out of our home in her wedding dress, not in a burial shroud,” Ms. Adas said. “They took everything from me in a second, just so they could kill one person.”

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A man stands in front of graves.
Mohammad Saad, 19, whose fiancée, Dania Adas, was killed in an Israeli airstrike, standing at her grave and reciting a passage from the Quran.

Explosions echoed across Ukraine’s capital for hours before dawn on Sunday as air defense teams raced to combat the largest swarm of Russian attack drones targeting Kyiv since the war began more than 15 months ago.

The Ukrainian Air Force said it had shot down 58 out of 59 Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones aimed at targets in central Ukraine, describing the number launched as a record. More than 40 drones were intercepted over the capital, where city officials said at least one person had been killed and another injured, probably by falling debris.

As Ukraine draws closer to launching a counteroffensive aimed at reclaiming land lost in the first months of the war, Moscow has stepped up its assaults on Kyiv. The capital has been attacked 14 times this month by waves of Russian drones, cruise missiles and sophisticated ballistic missiles.

“This was the largest-ever drone attack on the capital since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, particularly using Shahed loitering munitions,” the Kyiv military administration said in a statement.

Ukraine’s complex air defense network has become adept at intercepting the Russian barrages, often shooting down the majority of the dozens of drones and missiles. The arrival this spring of the American-made Patriot system, the most advanced U.S. ground-based air-defense system, has given it an added layer of protection. This month Ukrainian air defenses managed for the first time to shoot down some of the most sophisticated conventional weapons in Russia’s arsenal, hypersonic Kinzhal missiles, according to Ukrainian and American officials.

While nearly every assault on Kyiv in May has been thwarted, the attack on Sunday was the first to result in the loss of life.

ImageA yellow building shows signs of damage.
A tobacco factory damaged by debris in Kyiv on Sunday. Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times
A yellow building shows signs of damage.

One person died and another was hospitalized after debris from a downed drone hit a seven-story nonresidential building, the Kyiv military administration said in a statement. It said the roof of a shopping mall caught fire and a warehouse was set ablaze.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine praised the work of Ukraine’s air defense forces, calling them heroes.

“Every time you shoot down enemy drones and missiles, lives are saved,” he wrote in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

The assault on the capital came as Ukrainians prepared to mark the city’s founding 1,541 years ago, a holiday traditionally celebrated on the last Sunday in May.

“The history of Ukraine is a longstanding irritant for complex Russians,” Andriy Yermak, a senior adviser to Mr. Zelensky, said after the assault, vowing revenge.

Mykola Oleshchuk, the commander of the Ukrainian Air Force, said the “record number” of drones aimed at Kyiv were “gifts” from Russia on Kyiv Day but that air defense teams working through the night had probably saved hundreds of lives by ensuring “only fragments” remained by the time the assault ended.

Ukrainian officials were quick to note that Moscow has targeted the capital since the first days of the war, when they hoped to quickly seize Kyiv. The intensity of the assaults has ebbed and flowed — with Ukrainian officials saying that Russia is constantly trying to adapt its tactics.

In the latest attack, air alarms sounded in Kyiv at around 1 a.m. on Sunday as the first wave of Shahed-136 drones streaming toward the city was detected.

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A triangle shaped drone seen in the sky.
An unmanned aerial vehicle in the distinctive shape of an Iranian-made Shahed-136 in the sky over Kyiv during a drone attack in October. Credit…Roman Petushkov/Reuters
A triangle shaped drone seen in the sky.

“The routes of these aircraft were somewhat unconventional,” Natalia Humeniuk, the spokeswoman for Ukraine’s southern command, said in an appearance on national television.

“They tried to bypass the southern air defense as much as possible, as evidenced by the fact that they flew mainly over the temporarily occupied territories and then dispersed across Ukraine,” she added, saying that the drones had hugged riverbeds in an attempt to evade radar.

The Ukrainian Air Force has explained how missiles and drones become less visible on radar the closer they press to the ground, which is one reason it is hard to shoot them down outside the Kyiv city limits.

Ukraine’s most sophisticated air-defense systems like the Patriot — which employs interceptor missiles that cost $4 million per shot — are largely reserved for countering Moscow’s most sophisticated missiles. To counter the Iranian-made drones Russia has been launching, Ukraine has tended to rely on less expensive weapons like antiaircraft guns and Stinger missiles.

At around 2 a.m., the skies above Kyiv lit up with tracer fire as the Ukrainian air defense teams took aim at the drones over the heart of the city.

While the drones themselves, with their distinctive triangular wing design, were often not immediately visible to civilians watching the battle in the sky, when the Ukrainians found their target, the resulting explosion looked like a fireworks display.

For nearly five hours, explosions echoed across the capital until the last drone disappeared from Ukrainian radar.

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Debris is seen inside a dark room.
Damage inside a building struck by debris in Kyiv on Sunday. Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times
Debris is seen inside a dark room.

Here’s what else is happening in Ukraine:

  • Frontline Strikes: Russian attacks on towns and cities closer to the front line continued. Ukrainian officials said Russian shelling of the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine injured at least one person. Russian fire killed at least one person in the town of Kostiantynivka in eastern Ukraine, the officials said. Nearly two dozen villages near the front in the southern Zaporizhzhia region were hit in artillery attacks, injuring at least four civilians, local officials said. Russia also continued to shell towns and cities close to the border, killing two people in the Kharkiv region, local officials said.

  • Dnipro Death Toll: Local officials said the death toll from a Russian missile strike on a medical facility in Dnipro on Friday has climbed to four. The authorities initially expressed hopes that people still listed as missing might be found alive.

    “The three people who went missing during the missile attack on Dnipro have been found,” the Dnipro military administration said in a statement on Sunday. “Unfortunately, they have been killed.”

    A 56-year-old doctor, a 64-year-old employee of the damaged medical facility and a 57-year-old employee of a neighboring veterinary clinic were among the victims.

  • Bakhmut: Combat has largely subsided in the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, with only one clash reported over the past 24 hours, Serhiy Cherevaty, a spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern forces, said Sunday on national television.

    Russia now controls the shattered city after a bloody months long battle, and the Wagner mercenary group — whose fighters led much of the assault — appears to be following through on a pledge by its founder, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, to withdraw from there. Mr. Cherevaty said that Russia was “rotating its troops, replacing Wagner” fighters with other units. That echoed an assessment from Britain’s defense intelligence agency on Saturday.

    Ukrainian officials have said Kyiv’s forces had recaptured land on the northern and southern outskirts of Bakhmut. But Hanna Maliar, Ukraine’s deputy minister of defense, said on Saturday that Ukraine had halted combat operations there for now.

A person was killed by falling debris from an intercepted drone. Ukraine said it shot down more than 40 drones, the largest attack on Kyiv since the start of the war.

At least one person was killed and another was injured on Sunday morning in Kyiv as Russia fired its largest wave of attack drones at the Ukrainian capital since the start of the war.

A 41-year-old man died after fragments from a drone that was shot down fell to the ground, according to Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, and the city’s military administration. The first wave of explosions, including three that damaged buildings across the city, came shortly after 2 a.m. local time, according to Mr. Klitschko. The air-raid warning was lifted at about 6 a.m.

Russia has intensified its focus on Kyiv in May, unleashing its biggest and most sustained attack there since at least March, with near-nightly volleys of missiles and drones. Sunday’s attack, the 14th this month, appeared to be the first deadly one in May. Ukraine’s air defenses destroyed more than 40 drones, the most fired at Kyiv in one night, the city’s military administration said on Telegram.

Ukraine’s armed force have become adept at intercepting the Russian barrages, often shooting down dozens of drones and missiles. As of this month, Ukraine has been using U.S.-made Patriot antimissile systems, one of the most advanced air defense systems, as part of its growing arsenal of weapons.

In a show of just how skilled Ukraine’s armed forces have become, its air defense system shot down Kinzhals aimed at Kyiv earlier this month on more than one occasion, according to Ukrainian and U.S. officials. The weapon is one of Russia’s most sophisticated conventional weapons. And while some analysts have cast doubt on the abilities of the Kinzhal, Ukraine’s defense against them demonstrates a great capability to withstand Russia’s arsenal, which includes Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones.

On Saturday, Ukraine’s top military commander, Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, signaled that the nation’s armed forces were ready to launch their counteroffensive, but stopped short of declaring an official start to it. In recent weeks, Ukrainian forces have grown bolder and attacked deeper into Russian territory, trading drone and missile attacks with Russia, and targeting military and industrial facilities key to Russia’s war effort.

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कथा सुनाने का 10 लाख फीस लेने वाले ढोंगी पाखंडी लोग कहते हैं कि सब मोह माया छोड़कर ईश्वर में ध्यान लगाओ लेकिन खुद का ध्यान 10 लाख पर टिका है। यदि आप देवकीनंदन से कथा करवाते हैं तो उनकी फीस 12 लाख से लेकर 15 लाख तक है। अनिरुद्धाचार्य की फीस भी 15 लाख से 20 लाख है। जया किशोरी, धीरेन्द्र कृष्ण शास्त्री इत्यादि कथावाचकों से कथा करवाने के लिए कम से कम 15 से 20 लाख तक का खर्चा आना Normal है। उसके बाद यह सभी कथावाचक आपको प्रवचन मे बुद्धि प्रदान करते है सब मोह माया है भौतिक सुख का त्याग कर ईश्वर की भक्ति करो, ईश्वर की भक्ति मे परम सुख है भले खुद बिना मर्सिडीज एक कदम भी ना चले।
Grave diggers bury the bodies of a husband and wife who were both killed by Russian shelling that hit a supermarket in Kherson, Ukraine, May 10, 2023. (Finbarr O
Grave diggers bury the bodies of a husband and wife who were both killed by Russian shelling that hit a supermarket in Kherson, Ukraine, May 10, 2023. 

KHERSON, Ukraine — Maryna Ivanova, a young woman living in a riverside village in southern Ukraine, had an uneasy feeling when her fiancé and brother left for work one morning in early May. They were headed to a nearby island in the Dnieper River, the watery front line between Russian and Ukrainian forces, and the area was getting heavily shelled.

Standing at her stove, making pork and potato soup, Ivanova heard — and felt — an enormous blast, much more frightening, she said, than the explosions that have become routine.

“It felt like something was dropped right on us,” she said.

A few minutes later, she heard shouting outside and ran down to the dock. A boat pulled up. Inside lay her brother, soaked in blood. Slumped next to him was her fiancé with part of his face blown off. Both were dead.

She fell to her knees.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” she said.

The strike was not a mortar, a tank round or a projectile fired by long-range artillery, according to Ukrainian officials who investigated the incident. It was, they said, an 1,100-pound modified bomb dropped from a distant Russian warplane, the latest destructive twist in a war that is intensifying.

As Kyiv gears up for a much-anticipated counteroffensive, Ukrainian officials, independent analysts and U.S. military officials say the Russians are increasing their use of Soviet-era bombs. Although they have limitations, the weapons, they said, are proving harder to shoot down than the fastest, most modern missiles that the Ukrainians have become adept at intercepting.

Much of this war is being fought with long-range munitions, from artillery shells to ballistic missiles. In the past few weeks, the Russians have launched wave after wave of missiles and exploding drones at Ukrainian cities, and Ukraine has shot down just about all of them.

But the aircraft bombs are different. They don’t have propulsion systems like cruise missiles or stay in the air nearly as long as drones. The bombs are aloft for only 70 seconds or less and are much more difficult for Ukraine’s air defenses to track. They are little dots on radar screens that soon disappear after being dropped, Ukrainian officials said, and then they slam into villages.

“This is the evolution of the air war,” said Lt. Col. Denys Smazhnyi of the Ukrainian air force. “They first tried cruise missiles, and we shot them down. Then they tried drones, and we shot those down. They are constantly looking for a solution to strike us, and we are looking for one to intercept them.

“It’s evolution, countermeasures, evolution, countermeasures,” Smazhnyi added. “It’s a nonstop process, unfortunately.”

According to Ukrainian and U.S. officials, the Russians have retrofitted some of the bombs with satellite navigation systems and wings that stretch their range, turning an old-fashioned weapon, which Moscow has thousands of, into a more modern glide bomb.

The Russians are deploying these glide bombs from Su-34 and Su-35 jets, their top-of the-line warplanes, said a U.S. Defense Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the topic. Zooming over Russian-controlled territory, where Ukrainian air defenses don’t reach, the warplanes release the bombs, which glide 20 miles or more, crossing the front line and then striking Ukrainian territory.

These bombs are even harder to hit than the hypersonic Kinzhal missiles that the Ukrainians claim to have destroyed recently with American Patriot air defense systems.

“A Kinzhal has a longer flight time at high altitudes, so it’s easier to detect and track,” said Ian Williams, deputy director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. Glide bombs, on the other hand, were not a weapon that the Patriot system was designed to counter, he said.

Russian military bloggers have boasted about the prowess of the glide bombs, posting videos and comments starting in early January. One Russian analyst provided detailed information on Russia’s development of them going back to the early 2000s and said their use was “a step in the right direction.”

There have been some recent mishaps. In late April, a Russian warplane, apparently headed for Ukraine, accidentally dropped a bomb on Belgorod, a Russian city near the border. No one was killed, Russian officials said, but days later, Russian media reported that two more unexploded aircraft bombs had been discovered in the same area. It’s not clear whether these were old-fashioned bombs or the newer gliding versions.

Ukrainian officials are using the threat of these bombs to help press their case for F-16s, which allies are expected to provide after the Biden administration reversed course and allowed Ukrainian pilots to be trained. The Ukrainians say that they are outmatched in the skies and that F-16s could chase away Russian warplanes bombing their communities.

“Trying to intercept these bombs isn’t effective. It’s not even rational,” said Yuriy Ignat, spokesperson for the Ukrainian air force. “The only way out of this situation and the only way to stop it is to attack the planes that launch these bombs.”

Both Russia and Ukraine have strong air defenses on the territory they control, making it hard for either side to fly combat missions. Ukrainian pilots also have a few dozen glide bombs provided by the United States, but they have struggled with them, according to documents allegedly leaked by Jack Teixeira, the Air National Guardsman implicated in a vast disclosure of classified material. The Russians have figured out how to jam the guidance systems, the classified documents said, and several Ukrainian bombs have missed their target.

Smazhnyi and other Ukrainian officials said the Russians were dropping a combination of unmodified vintage bombs and modified ones. The glide bombs are made by taking a FAB-500 M-62 low-drag bomb, a standard mass-produced Soviet munition, and strapping on a kit with movable fins and pop-out wings, along with a satellite guidance system that adjusts its course mid-flight. Military analysts said the modified bombs cost a tiny fraction of the price of a cruise missile but pack about the same amount of explosives.

Ukraine’s security services shared photos of Russian bombs that they said had been modified to glide, which U.S. defense officials confirmed. The locations of the photos could not be independently verified.

Few places have been as heavily hit by glide bombs as the area around Kherson, an industrial city along the Dnieper River in southern Ukraine, the Ukrainian officials said. As Ukraine’s expected counteroffensive looms, Ukrainian troops are pouring into Kherson and nearby villages like Veletenske, where Ivanova lived with her fiance, Kostiantyn Rumega.

He was 19, she is 20. He was looking for work, and on the morning of May 2, a man who ran a fishing business summoned him to a nearby river island to clean some nets.

His fiancee said that he didn’t want to go, because he had already gotten in trouble once for not having the necessary fishing permits, and it was very dangerous — the Russians have been lighting up that entire area with an arsenal of weapons.

But he needed the money, Ivanova said, and before leaving, he lingered at the door.

“At that moment when he was kissing me and saying goodbye, there was so much love,” she said. “I never experienced it before. It felt different.”

It was as if he knew, she said.

A few hours later, the explosion by the river blew open her doors and shook her house. It was more than a mile away. Along with her brother and fiance, another civilian was killed, a woman living along the river.

Since then, Ivanova has been drifting through a haze of grief, disbelief, rage and depression.

“I don’t want to do anything,” she said.

And she keeps hearing explosions, stirring a pain inside her that she says she will carry forever.

Ukraine, in the meantime, has trained new formations, armed and equipped by the West, and is expected to launch a broader counteroffensive somewhere along the roughly 600-mile front line.

An aerial view of the devastated and mostly abandoned city of Bakhmut, with high-rise buildings partially destroyed and charred, their windows blown out, and rubble strewn between them.
A drone image of the destruction in Bakhmut taken on Friday while embedded with the 93rd Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Army.Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
An aerial view of the devastated and mostly abandoned city of Bakhmut, with high-rise buildings partially destroyed and charred, their windows blown out, and rubble strewn between them.

This has Russia in somewhat of a defensive crouch, its forces stretched, as they build fortifications and prepare for the war’s next phase.

“We’ll probably see more localized tactical assaults,” Rob Lee, a military analyst at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said of Russian forces. “But Russia will likely primarily focus on defense and prepare for Ukraine’s counteroffensive.”

Russian forces have spent much of the winter and spring digging in and preparing for Ukraine to strike, though some units have continued to attack in areas such as Kreminna north of Bakhmut and Avdiivka to the south. Those assaults have gained the Russians little ground, and instead have decimated the population centers in their path while depleting their own ranks.

In the south, which some military analysts predict will be the focus of Ukraine’s offensive, Russian forces have dug an intricate network of primary and secondary trench lines and minefields to thwart any Ukrainian advance, according to satellite photos and analysts.

If Ukraine does manage to retake territory, analysts say, that could give Russia’s far larger air force an upper hand as Ukrainian troops push forward, outside the range of their air defenses.

Further to the southwest, Ukraine now holds the southern port city of Kherson after reclaiming it in November. But with the Dnipro River serving as a natural boundary, Russian artillery units can shell the city from the eastern side with little risk of being overrun by Ukrainian ground forces, given the difficulty of crossing a wide, exposed waterway.

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Two Ukrainian soldiers in combat fatigues, one of them holding a mortar shell in each hand, crouch behind a mortar.
Members of the 93rd Mechanized Brigade firing an 82-mm mortar at Russian positions in Bakhmut.Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Two Ukrainian soldiers in combat fatigues, one of them holding a mortar shell in each hand, crouch behind a mortar.

To the north, Ukrainian-backed proxy units have penetrated the Russian border in recent days, seizing a small patch of territory in what is considered a propaganda move to tie up Russian forces and embarrass the Kremlin following the seizure of Bakhmut.

But the battle for Bakhmut came at a significant cost for Russia and Ukraine and will weigh heavily on what comes next. Both sides made outsize investments in men and matériel to take and hold a relatively small and now-devastated city, which had a prewar population of more than 70,000.

Such is the nature of the 15-month-old war: Both militaries, still rooted in Soviet-style tactics, continue to rely heavily on artillery, tanks and limited troop advances to seize and control ground.

“The battle for Bakhmut is less important in terms of territory and more in its impact on both forces and what it reveals about them,” said Michael Kofman, the director of Russian studies at CNA, a research institute in Arlington,

Russian forces were defeated on three fronts last year — around Kyiv, in the northeastern Kharkiv region and at Kherson. Moscow is nursing its exhausted and casualty-ridden formations after brutal urban combat in Bakhmut. Ukraine, too, is plagued by casualties, but is digging in along far more favorable and higher terrain outside Bakhmut.

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Two women carrying shopping bags walk past a damaged bus stop with sandbags piled around it.
Women at a sandbagged bus stop damaged by Russian shelling in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson this month. Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

In recent days, Ukrainian forces have made small gains to the north and south of Bakhmut, putting their forces in a better position to prevent Russian troops from advancing further. The head of the Wagner paramilitary force, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, whose fighters were primarily responsible for the seizure of Bakhmut, has pledged to pull them from the city and turn its defense over to Russia’s uniformed ranks, risking a disorganized turnover of troops.

Wagner “isn’t really designed for defensive operations,” Mr. Lee said.

Mr. Prigozhin’s Wagner group has proved to be one of Ukraine’s most formidable foes and it remains unclear how its departure from the battlefield could affect Ukraine’s ability to put pressure on Bakhmut and beyond.

Military analysts, Western intelligence agencies and Ukrainian officials have argued over the strategic significance of the Bakhmut campaign for months. Moscow could have invested the resources elsewhere on the front line instead of wasting lives and ammunition for a few miles of land, they said. Kyiv could have retreated earlier, saving its battalions, brigades and supplies for future offensives.

Both sides’ decisions to stand and fight will have lasting effects on their future maneuvers.

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Across an open field bounded by trees and a fence, a plume of thick smoke rises to the sky.
Smoke rising near Bakhmut last week. Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Across an open field bounded by trees and a fence, a plume of thick smoke rises to the sky.

The battle for Bakhmut was unique in that the Wagner group relied on formations of prison inmates to attack Ukrainian trenches, to both overwhelm their defenses and expose Ukraine’s firing positions. Russia’s ability to replenish its ranks, often with undertrained forces, had at one point been one of its advantages as it has forced Ukraine to risk its better-trained units to stop raw troops the Russians treated as expendable.

But Ukraine fought back, despite losing ground in the city and taking an outsized number of casualties. They took advantage of the open fields and tree lines on the outskirts, and used Western-supplied precision artillery such as HIMARS rocket launchers and 155-mm howitzers to wound and kill Russian troops at a distance.

Now, Moscow has to decide whether to try to advance west of Bakhmut. A few miles away lies the town of Chasiv Yar, but Ukraine can pull back to high ground in between, where it could fire down at advancing Russian troops. More likely, the Russians will focus on defending Bakhmut and its approaches.

The aftershocks of the battle for Bakhmut are not yet fully known, both in terms of overall casualties on both sides or how much equipment or ammunition was lost or destroyed. Western estimates early this year put Russia’s casualties in wounded and dead at about 200,000 since its invasion, and Ukraine’s are thought to be similar. The fight for Bakhmut has since claimed thousands more casualties.

“This chapter will close, even as fighting continues in the fields outside the city, but it speaks volumes about the Ukrainian will to fight, though soldiers may wonder whether the fight for Bakhmut was driven by political considerations over military ones,” Mr. Kofman said.A tall pile of bricks and other debris lies behind an open gate, where bombardment struck a school, with badly damaged buildings on either side.

A school hit by bombardment in Chasiv Yar, Ukraine, near Bakhmut, last month.Credit…Mauricio Lima for The New York Times
A tall pile of bricks and other debris lies behind an open gate, where bombardment struck a school, with badly damaged buildings on either side.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff is a Ukraine correspondent and a former Marine infantryman. @tmgneff