WASHINGTON — President Biden announced on Wednesday that he would send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine to help it defend against Russian invaders, a decision meant to unlock a wave of heavier aid by Western allies in preparation for an expected escalation of fighting in the spring.
Speaking at the White House after a morning of telephone calls to European allies, Mr. Biden said that the United States would send 31 Abrams tanks, the equivalent of a Ukrainian battalion, and that Germany would follow through by contributing its own Leopard 2 tanks and freeing other allies to send their own, the equivalent of two more battalions.
“These tanks are further evidence of our enduring, unflagging commitment to Ukraine and our confidence in the skill of Ukrainian forces,” Mr. Biden said, flanked by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III.
But he emphasized that the buildup was not meant to expand the war into Russia. “It is not an offensive threat to Russia,” he said. “There is no offensive threat to Russia. If Russian troops return to Russia, where they belong, this war would be over today.”
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who has pressed for the tanks to counter Russia’s advantage in arms and men, expressed gratitude for the U.S. decision. Writing on Twitter, he called it “an important step on the path to victory,” and said, “Today the free world is united as never before for a common goal — liberation of Ukraine,” with an icon of the country’s flag representing its name. “We’re moving forward.”
The Pentagon had long been reluctant to send the Abrams, in part because they are exceptionally complex machines that are challenging to operate and maintain. As it is, officials have said it could take a year or even longer for them to actually reach the battlefield in Ukraine.
But Mr. Austin came around to the move in order to spur Germany to send its own Leopard 2 tanks, which some military experts believe could be critical. Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced it had agreed to do so on Wednesday, just hours before Mr. Biden spoke.
Just last week, Mr. Scholz had refused to send the Leopards, or to allow other European countries to send their own German-built Leopards. The Germans made clear they would only back down and send the Leopards if the United States sent its own Abrams tanks.
Mr. Biden spoke with Mr. Scholz on Wednesday morning to coordinate his announcement, and also called Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain, President Emmanuel Macron of France and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of Italy.
“Germany has really stepped up,” Mr. Biden told reporters in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. When a reporter asked if Germany forced him to change his mind on the Abrams, the president said: “Germany didn’t force me to change my mind. I wanted to make sure we are all together.”
Mr. Biden noted that Wednesday was the birthday of President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. The president recalled that when they met in Washington in December, he vowed to the visiting Ukrainian leader that “we’re with you as long as it takes.”
“Ukrainians are fighting an age-old battle against aggression and domination,” Mr. Biden added. “It’s a battle Americans have fought proudly time and again. And it’s a battle that we’re going to make sure Ukrainians are well equipped to fight as well.”
Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced on Wednesday that Germany would send an initial shipment of 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and allow other nations to send their own, relenting after weeks of domestic and international pressure to deliver armored vehicles aimed at helping Kyiv regain territory seized by Russia.
The move came hours before President Biden announced that the United States will send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, appearing to assuage Mr. Scholz’s reluctance to send tanks without Washington also doing so.
Berlin’s decision to send the German-made Leopard 2s follows Britain’s announcement this month that it would send 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, and is a significant step in Western allies’ supply of ever heavier weapons to Kyiv.
While the pledges so far fall short of the 300 tanks that Ukraine has said it needs to make a difference against Russian forces on the battlefield, Germany’s announcement prompted officials in Finland, the Netherlands, Spain and Norway to say that they would seek to send tanks to Ukraine, or were open to doing so.
Ukraine’s pleas for more advanced weapons have taken on added urgency in recent weeks as Russia prepares for a possible new offensive, and as Ukrainian forces are locked in a withering battle of attrition against Russian troops in the east. On Wednesday, Ukraine’s military acknowledged that it had retreated from Soledar, a small salt-mining town near Bakhmut, a strategic eastern city that Russian forces have been fighting to capture in months of brutal trench warfare and artillery battles.
The first tanks could take several months to arrive on the battlefield, but Germany’s decision to authorize other nations to transfer their own Leopards — which are widely distributed in more than a dozen other European countries — could eventually help Ukrainian forces dent Russia’s advantage in troop numbers and equipment. Poland said on Tuesday that it had sought Germany’s permission to send Leopard tanks from its own stocks.
“We’re talking about very effective weapons systems here, and it’s proper that we never provide those weapons systems alone, but always in close cooperation,” Mr. Scholz told lawmakers in Germany’s Parliament.
Ukraine’s allies have sought to strengthen its military without prompting Russia to further escalate the war, and some leaders had worried that battle tanks might cross that line.
Mr. Scholz defended the time he took making the decision. “We always have to make it very clear in everything we do that we are doing what is necessary and what is possible to support Ukraine,” he said. “But at the same time we are preventing the war from escalating into a war between Russia and NATO.”
The German government said that it would send 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks directly from its army stock. It said it would send another similarly sized group in a second step, but did not say when, or specify where they would come from.
The Leopard 2, first introduced in 1979, is used by 13 European armies, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations, and together, these militaries have an estimated 2,000 vehicles.
It is one of the world’s leading battle tanks and would offer a big step forward in capability for Ukraine, which has been using Soviet-era tanks.
The State of the War
- A New Assault: Ukrainian officials have been bracing for weeks for a new Russian offensive. Now, they are warning that the campaign is underway, with the Kremlin seeking to reshape the battlefield and seize the momentum.
- In the East: Russian forces are ratcheting up pressure on the beleaguered city of Bakhmut, pouring in waves of fighters to break Ukraine’s resistance in a bloody campaign aimed at securing Moscow’s first significant battlefield victory in months.
- Mercenary Troops: Tens of thousands of Russian convicts have joined the Wagner Group to fight alongside the Kremlin’s decimated forces. Here is how they have fared.
- Military Aid: After weeks of tense negotiations, Germany and the United States announced they would send battle tanks to Ukraine. But the tanks alone won’t help turn the tide, and Kyiv has started to press Western officials on advanced weapons like long-range missiles and fighter jets.
Ukraine and its Western allies hailed Germany’s announcement on Wednesday that it would send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine after weeks of appeals from Kyiv, the United States and European countries to escalate its military support.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said on Twitter that he had spoken with Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and was “sincerely grateful.” Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, tweeted: “Leopards look good on Ukraine!”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain, whose government earlier this month said it would send 14 of its Challenger 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, said Germany had made the “right decision” to send the tanks, and allow other countries to send their own Leopards.
“Alongside Challenger 2s, they will strengthen Ukraine’s defensive firepower,” Mr. Sunak said on Twitter.
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, said he strongly welcomed Germany’s leadership. “At a critical moment in Russia’s war, these can help Ukraine to defend itself, win and prevail as an independent nation,” he tweeted.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland said the “decision to send Leopards to Ukraine is a big step” toward deterring Russia’s aggression. Poland had formally asked Germany on Tuesday for permission to transfer its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. “Together we are stronger,” he said on Twitter.
The French presidency said in a statement that it “welcomes the German decision, which extends and amplifies the support we started to provide” this month, referring to France’s decision to deliver AMX-10 RC armored vehicles to Ukraine.
Sergey Yuryevitch Nechayev, Russia’s ambassador to Germany, reacted angrily to Germany’s announcement. He said in a statement that the move was an “extremely dangerous decision” that “takes the conflict to a new level of confrontation.”
The statement accused Berlin of abandoning its “historical responsibility to Russia” arising from Nazi aggression in World War II.
Russian officials reacted with defiance and ire to the swift succession of announcements on Wednesday that Germany and the United States would send Western tanks to Ukraine.
Within hours of one another, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that Germany would send an initial shipment of 14 Leopard 2 tanks and President Biden announced plans to send 31 M1 Abrams tanks. The moves were intended to unlock a wave of aid by Western allies before an expected escalation of fighting in the spring, or earlier.
Dmitri Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said that delivering American M1 Abrams and German Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv would be a “losing scheme” that would burden Europe without strengthening the Ukrainian military, according to Tass, the Russian state-run news agency, warning the tanks would “go up in flames.”
“They cost a lot and all this burden will be primarily shouldered by European taxpayers,” he said.
Similarly, a Russian lawmaker and former commander of the Russian Air Force, Viktor N. Bondarev, told Tass that the tanks would not significantly impact the Russian campaign in Ukraine, but that attention must be paid to destroying them.
Stronger sentiments were expressed by the Russian ambassadors to Germany and the United States. Sergey Nechaev, the ambassador to Germany, said in a statement that Berlin’s decision was “highly dangerous” and “takes the conflict to a new level of confrontation.”
Mr. Nechaev said the move suggested that Germany and Western allies were not interested in a diplomatic resolution of the war in Ukraine and “is bent on its permanent escalation.”
Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s U.S. ambassador, said in a statement on Tuesday that the expected U.S. provision of tanks to Kyiv would be “another blatant provocation” against Russia and would signal a proxy war with his country.
President Biden took note of such concerns in his announcement on Wednesday, saying that the provision of tanks was “not an offensive threat,” adding, “If Russian troops return to Russia, where they belong, this war would be over today.”
President Biden announced that the United States will send M1 Abrams tanks to Kyiv for use against Russian forces, which would meet a demand made by Ukraine since the earliest days of the war, when its Soviet-era tanks were outnumbered and outmatched by Moscow’s.
What are Abrams tanks?
The M1 Abrams has been the United States’ main battle tank since its introduction in the 1980s.
It was named for Gen. Creighton W. Abrams, a former Army chief of staff and commander of U.S. troops in Vietnam.
The tank was a major upgrade for Army and Marine Corps armor units. It was capable of much higher driving speeds with its gas-turbine engine, and its ammunition was separated from crew members, giving them a better chance of survival if hit by enemy fire.
Its 120-millimeter gun, made just north of Albany, N.Y., can fire a variety of shells, from canister rounds that act like giant shotguns to antitank rounds that can blow straight through one side of an enemy tank and out the other with narrow dart-like penetrators.
The Abrams was also revolutionary in the U.S. military for another reason — armor that can defeat or reduce the effectiveness of antitank weapons essentially by getting them to explode just outside of the inner hull containing the tank’s crew members.
How is the Abrams different from Russian tanks?
Russian tanks are generally smaller and slower, powered by diesel motors, and more susceptible to exploding when struck by an antitank weapon.
Tanks designed in the Soviet era, which Ukraine also uses, tend to carry ammunition for their main gun in an auto-loader just under their turrets. When one is hit in its turret, the ammunition — arranged radially like spokes on a wheel — tends to explode en masse, often blowing the turret off the tank and killing the soldiers inside.
Newer Russian tanks carry blocks of reactive armor to cover more vulnerable areas, though they cannot stop antitank guided weapons like the Javelin and NLAW provided by the United States and Britain. Those weapons fire downward onto the top of a tank, where it has the least amount of armor protection.
Where have Abrams tanks been used?
They have been a fixture in the Middle East, beginning with their arrival in Saudi Arabia in 1990. Many Americans first saw the Abrams in video taken during the Persian Gulf war in 1991.
The Abrams destroyed Iraqi tanks more than two miles away, though it was also responsible for several friendly-fire attacks that killed and wounded American troops.
They can be powerful symbols as well. President Donald J. Trump was desperate to have Abrams tanks in a parade of military hardware on July 4, 2019, but had to settle for two lighter-weight tank-like M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles parked on either side of the Lincoln Memorial.
Ukrainian forces have retreated from the small town of Soledar following weeks of bitter fighting, a military spokesman said on Wednesday, acknowledging a military gain for Russian forces that brings them closer to encircling and possibly capturing the strategic eastern city of Bakhmut.
Col. Sergei Cherevaty, the spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern military command, said that the retreat from Soledar was ordered “to preserve our personnel.”
“Russian forces spent colossal resources in lives and equipment in the effort to take Soledar while Ukraine was able to preserve its forces and prevent encirclement,” he said in an interview.
AS OF JAN. 24
AS OF JAN. 24
Soledar, which had a prewar population of around 10,000 people, is six miles northeast of Bakhmut, a city in the eastern part of Ukraine known as Donbas. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has sought to fully capture Donbas, which includes two regions — Donetsk and Luhansk. Russian forces have since last summer both shelled Bakhmut and fought for the towns surrounding it, aiming to secure high ground from which to position artillery and also to cut off roads used by Ukraine to reinforce its troops defending the city.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Ukrainian military administration in Donetsk, which includes Soledar, said on Tuesday that Russian forces had shelled a string of towns in the region including Paraskoviivka, which is just west of Soledar. One person died in that attack, he said.
Moscow has held significant territory in Donbas since 2014, including two regional capitals. But since seizing two key cities in Luhansk last summer, Russia’s military advances in Donbas have been slow. Both Russian and Ukrainian forces have sustained heavy casualties in intense shelling and trench warfare. In recent weeks, soldiers also have had to endure bitter cold and mud.
The capture of Soledar marks a victory for the Kremlin but also for Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner private military company, which has spearheaded much of Russia’s fighting around Bakhmut. Mr. Prighozin, a close associate of Mr. Putin, has billed the battle for Bakhmut as a measure of the effectiveness of his fighting force.
Wagner said earlier this month that Soledar had fallen, and military experts have said since last week that Ukraine appeared to have retreated. Wagner also said last week that it had captured the village of Klishchiivka, a few miles south of Bakhmut, in a further sign of its progress toward encircling the city. There was no comment from the Ukrainian military about that claim.
Russian forces “are already increasing pressure” in the direction of Bakhmut, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said in a speech late on Tuesday, adding: “And they want to increase pressure on a larger scale.”
Two British citizens, Andrew Bagshaw and Chris Parry, departed from the city of Kramatorsk at 8 a.m. on Jan. 6 and headed east toward the front lines of Ukraine’s war with Russia, Ukrainian police said.
Their mission, according to an aid worker familiar with the matter, was to evacuate an elderly woman in Soledar, a small town where Russian and Ukrainian forces were waging a vicious fight.
They never returned.
Questions lingered about their fate until Tuesday, when Mr. Parry’s family confirmed in a statement released through the British foreign ministry that “our beloved Chrissy” and Mr. Bagshaw had been killed “whilst attempting a humanitarian evacuation from Soledar.”
“His selfless determination in helping the old, young and disadvantaged there has made us and his larger family extremely proud,” the statement said.
The men’s vehicle is believed to have been hit by an artillery shell, though investigations were underway, Mr. Bagshaw’s parents said at a news conference. They had feared such an outcome, they said, but were “very, very proud” of his work.
Mr. Bagshaw, 47, and Mr. Parry, 28, were part of an ad hoc cohort of foreigners with little to no combat experience who helped evacuate civilians from the front lines, acquaintances said. Several of Mr. Parry’s and Mr. Bagshaw’s evacuations were documented by journalists, including Arnaud De Decker, who shared footage of Mr. Parry in Bakhmut days before he went missing.
Their deaths were a stark reminder of the danger facing those whose work has become a lifeline in the Donbas, where many Ukrainians are trapped in some of the worst war zones Europe has seen since the Second World War.
On Jan. 6, the two men “went to some really dangerous address,” said Grzegorz Rybak, a fellow foreign volunteer who worked with both men and lived with Mr. Bagshaw in Kramatorsk for two weeks. “And they did not come back.”
PMC Wagner, a notorious mercenary group fighting on behalf of Russia, claimed a week after their disappearance to have found one of the men’s bodies. The group posted photos on Telegram of what appeared to be their passports, along with a certificate identifying Mr. Parry as a volunteer with the Pavlo Vyshniakov Foundation, a Kyiv-based charity that sends resources including food and medical supplies to civilians, hospitals and military groups. The foundation declined to comment.
Wagner’s claim could not be verified at the time, and Russian state media has since claimed, without evidence, that the men were mercenaries.
The war in Ukraine is a humanitarian quandary. Conditions in some areas are too perilous for residents to stay put, or for many international organizations to allow their staff to venture in, said Abby Stoddard, a humanitarian policy analyst.
So some of the riskiest evacuations are being carried out by independent volunteers — “in other words, the ones who have the least amount of resources to keep people safe,” Ms. Stoddard said.
Bryan Stern, a U.S. veteran who co-founded a humanitarian rescue operation, described front line evacuation efforts in Ukraine as a “free-for-all.” While foreign volunteers came to Ukraine with good intentions, he said, most have “no idea what they’re doing.”
“This is really why this is a sad story,” he said.
Mr. Parry was a software engineer who wanted to travel the world, his family said.
In early January, he told the local BBC station in Cornwall, where he grew up, that he “knew nothing” about Ukraine before the invasion but “became obsessed” with helping. He intended to enlist with foreign fighters, but, having no combat experience, instead bought a van and began working as an evacuation driver last March.
In an Instagram post made days after his arrival, Mr. Parry wrote that he felt apprehensive about a planned journey to Kharkiv because “everyone I have spoken to about it believes there’s a very strong chance of me dying.”
Mr. Bagshaw was a British genetics researcher who was between jobs last spring in Christchurch, New Zealand, when he decided to go to Ukraine, a photojournalist who met him wrote in the New Zealand Herald in October. His family told reporters that he believed “it to be the morally right thing to do.”
Mr. Rybak, who translated for the volunteers, said their ad hoc operation was largely carried out by a small community of English-speakers in Kramatorsk. Neither Mr. Parry nor Mr. Bagshaw spoke Ukrainian or Russian, he said.
Mr. Rybak said Ukrainians would contact local aid workers about relatives near Bakhmut, and their addresses would be relayed to the volunteers, who would drive into the conflict zone to evacuate them, often in donated or crowd-funded vehicles. The trips were unpredictable, Mr. Rybak said, with addresses sometimes vacant or residents resisting evacuation.
The men had plans for after the war. Mr. Parry had a partner he wanted to marry, Mr. Rybak recalled, and Mr. Bagshaw wanted to carry on with his scientific career.
“They wanted to live,” he said.
Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting.
Despite protests from Ukraine, the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday continued to move toward permitting individual athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics as so-called neutral participants, not under their nations’ flags.
“No athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport,” the I.O.C. said in a statement after a meeting of its executive board, adding that a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes should be “further explored.”
Wednesday’s statement followed remarks last month by Thomas Bach, the Olympic Committee president, who said that he supported the inclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes at the Paris Games even if the war in Ukraine continued. The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said at the time that it approved the idea.
If allowed into the Games, Russian and Belarusian athletes would not wear uniforms bearing their countries’ names or colors, and no government or state officials from the two nations would be permitted to attend. To gain eligibility, Russian and Belarusian athletes must not have actively supported the war in Ukraine and must have passed antidoping protocols.
In recent Olympics, after a state-sponsored system of doping was uncovered, Russia has been barred from participating as a nation, but individual athletes have competed. This is the path the I.O.C. is expected to follow for Russian participation in the Paris Games.
Wednesday’s I.O.C. statement came a day after President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said he had told President Emmanuel Macron of France in a phone call that Russian athletes should have “no place” in the Paris Games.
The Pentagon is racing to boost its production of artillery shells by 500 percent within two years, pushing conventional ammunition production to levels not seen since the Korean War as it invests billions of dollars to make up for shortfalls caused by the war in Ukraine and to build up stockpiles for future conflicts.
The effort, which will involve expanding factories and bringing in new producers, is part of “the most aggressive modernization effort in nearly 40 years” for the U.S. defense industrial base, according to an Army report.
The new investment in artillery production is in part a concession to reality: While the Pentagon has focused on fighting wars with small numbers of more expensive precision-guided weapons, Ukraine is largely relying on howitzers firing unguided shells.
Before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the U.S. Army’s production of 14,400 unguided shells a month had been sufficient for the American military’s way of war. But the need to supply Kyiv’s armed forces prompted Pentagon leaders to triple production goals in September, and then double them again in January so that they could eventually make 90,000 or more shells a month.
Unguided artillery shells have become the cornerstone of the 11-month-old conflict, with both Ukrainian and Russian troops firing thousands of howitzer rounds at each other every day, along a front line more than 600 miles long. These weapons are most likely responsible for the greatest percentage of war casualties, which U.S. officials have estimated at more than 100,000 on each side.
The Army’s decision to expand its artillery production is the clearest sign yet that the United States plans to back Ukraine no matter how long the war continues.
Footage taken at the Australian Open appears to show Srdjan Djokovic, the father of the Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic, posing with fans who were carrying Russian flags and symbols.
In the video, posted on a prominent pro-Putin YouTube account, Srdjan Djokovic is briefly seen alongside the fans, one of whom is wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the pro-war “Z” emblem and carrying a flag featuring an image of President Vladimir V. Putin. Srdjan Djokovic says “Zivjeli Russiyani” to the camera — a phrase translated in the video as “Long live the Russians” — before walking away.
The video also shows the fans chanting the name of Mr. Putin, along with other nationalist slogans, before being detained by security.
Russian flags were banned from the Australian Open last week.
“Four people in the crowd leaving the stadium revealed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards,” Australia’s governing body for tennis, Tennis Australia, said in a statement on Wednesday. Police officers in Melbourne, where the tournament is held, had “intervened and are continuing to question them,” the governing body added.
Tennis Australia banned both Belarusian and Russian flags from the tournament, as well as items with the letter Z, after a courtside incident on Jan. 16 in which fans held a Russian flag aloft at a match between Kamilla Rakhimova of Russia and Kateryna Baindl of Ukraine.
But the events on Wednesday suggest that pro-Russian fans continue to flout the ban.
Photos taken at the men’s singles quarterfinal match between the Russian player Andrey Rublev and Novak Djokovic on Wednesday showed a spectator removing a garment to reveal a black T-shirt emblazoned with a “Z.” In the first months of the war, the Russian Defense Ministry said the use of that letter came from the preposition “Za,” from the Russian phrase “Za pobedu,” or “For victory.”
In line with the Australian government’s policy after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, players from Russia and from Belarus, which has been supportive of Moscow, have been permitted to compete at the Australian Open. But they are not allowed to do so as representatives of their countries, and the flags by their names on screens around the tournament have been removed or replaced by white boxes.
Two Belarusian players, Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka, will compete on Thursday in separate women’s semifinal matches, raising the possibility of an all-Belarusian Grand Slam final in which neither player may represent her home country.
Larissa S. Brizhik didn’t have to stay. Like many Ukrainian women and children, she could have fled the war zone. But as a department head at the Bogolyubov Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyiv, responsible for a staff of 18, she decided to remain on the job.
Late last year, Dr. Brizhik’s institution received a one-year grant of $165,000. The funds were part of a tranche of $1.2 million in grants by the Simons Foundation that was announced on Wednesday. They are meant to help sustain hundreds of Ukrainian scientists whose work was disrupted when Russia invaded their country last year. The foundation, which is based in New York City and supports many branches of basic science, was endowed by James and Marilyn Simons. Mr. Simons started Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund also headquartered in New York.
In Dr. Brizhik’s case, the money will support 53 researchers at the institute, where physicists study plasmas, elementary particles and astrophysical phenomena.
“It shows that we’re not alone — that there are people who care,” Dr. Brizhik said of the funding. “It helps a lot,” she added, especially given the belt-tightening of wartime and the lure of foreign work to young scientists. “For those who remain, there’re not so many opportunities. This is really central for those who stay.”
The Simons Foundation is still considering grant applications from Ukraine, having extended its deadline after Russian missile strikes cut off power and internet access for some scientists.
Scores of leading Ukrainian scientists as well as their staffs and laboratories — 405 specialists and doctoral candidates in all — are receiving aid from the Simons Foundation. The recipients include chemists, biologists, physicists and mathematicians.
Over the last half-century, the quality of Ukrainian science has been “extraordinarily high,” said S. James Gates Jr., a professor of physics at the University of Maryland. Last year, Dr. Gates helped organize aid for Ukrainian scientists as a former president of the American Physical Society. Dr. Gates, who says he has received no support from the Simons Foundation, called the grants “an investment in the future.”
He said that Ukrainian scientists had done pioneering work on the theory of supersymmetry, which seeks to unify the known forces of nature mathematically and posits the existence of undiscovered particles. More prosaically, many Western companies working on pharmaceuticals and computer programming have outsourced tasks to the country’s technically savvy work force.
In Kharkiv last March, Russian forces shelled the Institute of Physics and Technology, damaging a nuclear facility it had used for research and the production of medical isotopes. Its specialists are receiving $80,400 in grants from Simons.
In October, an exploding Russian missile shattered windows and bent window frames at the Institute of Mathematics, based in a historic 19th century building in Kyiv. Experts there are receiving $310,000 in grants.
As the Russians laid siege to Kyiv last March, Dr. Brizhik, her cat and her daughter slept in a corridor of their apartment to avoid bedroom windows.
“Some days there are up to 10-12 air raid sirens,” she said on her website at the time. “We are lucky — so far our building has not been destroyed.”
However, Dr. Brizhik decided to stay, not only to help preserve Ukrainian science, but also as a symbol of resistance to the invaders.
“I love my country,” she said. “It’s important that our army, our soldiers, defend not empty territory but people who live here.”
Gregory Gabadadze, dean for science at New York University and a Simons official who has relatives in Ukraine, said the foundation had begun thinking about Ukrainian aid shortly after Russia invaded last February.
“These are high-quality people,” he said of the recipients. “It’s important to sustain their research so they can convey that knowledge and skill set to the next generation. Once that’s destroyed, it’s almost impossible to rebuild.”
Dr. Gabadadze said the foundation planned to continue the annual grants as long as the war lasted, and that afterward it would turn to aiding the reconstruction of Ukrainian science.
An earlier version of this article misstated the size of the staff at the Bogolyubov Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyiv. It is 18, not 7.
How we handle corrections
GENEVA, Switzerland — As Germany and other European countries prepare to deliver tanks to Ukraine, lawmakers in Switzerland are weighing whether to relax the country’s traditional policy of neutrality and allow countries to provide Swiss-made armaments for Ukraine’s war effort against Russia.
A Swiss parliamentary security committee voted on Tuesday in favor of lifting a ban that prohibits purchasers of Swiss-made arms from re-exporting them to countries engaged in conflict. A majority of the committee’s members believed that “Switzerland should make its contribution to European security, which includes providing more aid to Ukraine,” the group said in a statement.
The initiative, if adopted, would mark a significant softening in Switzerland’s long-established policy of neutrality, but needs parliamentary approval. Political analysts say the proposal faces possibly long and challenging debates to gain parliament’s support.
The discussion comes as the war has put Switzerland’s neutrality under critical international scrutiny. Attendees at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos earlier this month made repeated calls for arms deliveries to Ukraine from European leaders and the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg.
“We understand Switzerland and its neutrality, but at the moment, when it comes to common values, one cannot be neutral,” Vitali Klitschko, Kyiv’s mayor, told Swiss media last week, urging Switzerland to allow delivery of air defense and other armaments.
When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, Switzerland eased its policy of neutrality to join European sanctions against Russia and froze Russian assets, but it has so far drawn the line on agreeing to let European countries re-export Swiss-made arms.
The Swiss government rejected two requests from Germany last year for re-export of ammunition to Ukraine. It also turned down a request from Denmark to supply Ukraine with Swiss-made Piranha III armored vehicles.
Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs said that under the Swiss War Materiel Act, “applications for the export of war material are not approved if the country of destination is involved in an internal or international armed conflict. This is the case with Ukraine and Russia.”
Switzerland has yet to respond to a request from Spain for permission to send Ukraine 35 mm antiaircraft guns, the Swiss secretariat said, but it added that approval “is probably not possible.”
The parliamentary committee suggested the government could revoke the ban on re-export of arms “in the event of a violation of the international ban on the use of force, specifically in the case of the Russian-Ukrainian war.” It argued the re-export initiative would still be consistent with a position of neutrality because it did not involve direct export of arms from Switzerland to parties engaged in conflict.
A cemetery used by the notorious Russian mercenary group Wagner has grown rapidly in size over the past several months, according to interviews and an analysis by The New York Times of satellite imagery and video footage. The expanded burial ground is rare visual evidence that shows the toll the invasion of Ukraine is taking on Wagner, especially its rank-and-file soldiers.
The expansion coincides with a bloody offensive by Russian soldiers and mercenaries to gain ground in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. government says that Wagner’s battlefield casualties are in the thousands and that 90 percent of them are inmates who were recruited to fight in exchange for being released from prison, assuming they survived.
A satellite image captured on Jan. 24 shows about 170 burial plots in an area of the cemetery known to hold Wagner fighters, a number that has increased to nearly seven times that seen on satellite imagery just two months ago.
The United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, has designated the historic center of Odesa as a World Heritage Site and classified it as being “in danger” during a committee session in Paris on Wednesday, in a nod to the historic importance of a Black Sea port that Russia has battered with missiles as it tries to reconquer Ukraine.
France’s foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, traveled to the city on Thursday in a show of support, but her plans were interrupted by the threat of a Russian missile strike.
“Thanks to a Russian missile, I experienced my first diplomatic bilateral meeting in a shelter,” Ms. Colonna wrote on Twitter, sharing a photo with Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs.
President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the United Nations to designate Odesa as an endangered World Heritage Site in October, and the process was fast-tracked at the U.N. agency out of concern for the damage being done to the city’s many cultural sites. Including the city on the UNESCO list is intended to put pressure on Russia to refrain from attacking Odesa and gives the city access to more financial and technical assistance.
Gennadiy Trukhanov, the city’s mayor, has called Odesa “the intercultural capital of Ukraine,” making it a symbol of Ukrainian identity. Mr. Trukhanov expressed gratitude to UNESCO after the announcement on Telegram, adding that he hoped for “a new level of development, new opportunities and a new Odesa.”
According to the agency, at least 236 cultural sites in Ukraine have been damaged since the Russian invasion began, including religious buildings, museums, monuments and libraries.
With access to the Black Sea, the southern port city has long been a place where different cultures have met and mingled. Founded in the late 18th century by Russia’s Empress Catherine the Great, it is home to hundreds of buildings of architectural and cultural importance both to Russians and Ukrainians, making it a prize in the war.
Odesa has come under significant Russian aerial strikes, but Russian troops were unable to capture it last year, with their offensive stopped at the city of Mykolaiv about 80 miles to the east. As attacks on Odesa have mounted, volunteers and Ukrainian forces have made efforts to fortify specific buildings, cover monuments with sandbags and erect barricades.
The Odesa Museum of Fine Arts and the Odesa Museum of Modern Art have both been damaged in shelling, and UNESCO promised to repair them.
The city has “left its mark on cinema, literature and the arts,” Audrey Azoulay, the agency’s director general, said in a statement. “This inscription embodies our collective determination to ensure that this city, which has always surmounted global upheavals, is preserved from further destruction.”
The fall of the small mining town of Soledar to Russian forces on Wednesday drove home Ukraine’s argument that it will need Western tanks the United States and Europe recently promised to send to counter an expected Russian assault this spring.
The escalation in fighting by the Russians was part of the calculation that led to pledges by Germany and the United States on Wednesday that they would send tanks to Ukraine, freeing other European countries to send their own. But tanks move slowly. Experts predict that the coveted German-made Leopard 2 tanks might arrive in a couple of months, just as ground offensives from both sides could be underway.
“The key thing now is speed and volume,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said in his nightly address on Wednesday. “The speed of training of our military, the speed of supplying tanks to Ukraine. The volume of tank support.”
The number of tanks — an initial 14 Leopard 2 tanks from Germany and 31 M1 Abrams tanks from the United States — is modest but ended weeks of tense negotiations. It also cleared the way for other nations that have now pledged to send their own Leopards: Poland, Portugal, Norway, Spain, Finland and the Netherlands. Britain had already said that it would send 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks.
On Thursday, Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said in an interview on French television that his country would send 60 more modern tanks to Ukraine in the coming weeks, in addition to 14 of the Leopard tanks. The Poles have already contributed 250 tanks to the Ukrainian war effort, he said.
President Emmanuel Macron of France asked his defense minister to look into sending Leclerc tanks to Ukraine but “no decision has been made, and no decision has been ruled out,” Catherine Colonna, France’s foreign minister, said during a visit to Ukraine on Thursday.
“We are in a constant dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities to know what their needs are,” she said, adding that the priority at this stage was to provide anti-air defenses.
The Leopard 2s will be a serious upgrade over the Soviet-era tanks being used by Ukraine, but questions remain about how quickly they can arrive and how much they could affect the war. Ukrainian military officials have long said they need at least 300 modern tanks to make a difference in the war, though experts have said the Ukrainians need 500 to 1,000.
Still, the tanks represent a change in thinking among U.S. and European leaders who once feared that sending their most advanced weapons could provoke Moscow to widen the war and trigger a nuclear conflict. And it was hastened by the Ukrainians’ success on the battlefield in the fall, when they retook vast chunks of territory in the northeast and southeast, turning the tide of the war.
“This is a substantial shift for NATO and the U.S. moving away from supporting the Ukrainians so they’re not defeated toward a status where they can win,” said Mick Mulroy, a former Pentagon official and C.I.A. officer.
The capture of Soledar is the first significant victory for Russian ground forces in months and brings them closer to encircling Bakhmut in the eastern region of Ukraine, known as the Donbas.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian defense officials reported intense fighting near Bakhmut and Vuhledar, which is in the same region.
The Russians took note of the decision to send tanks, though there were no threats of using a tactical nuclear weapon, as had once been feared.
Dmitri Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said the tanks would be a “losing scheme” that would burden Europe without strengthening the Ukrainian military, warning that the tanks would “go up in flames.”
Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting from Paris.