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What Happened on Day 80 of the War in Ukraine

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A Ukrainian soldier walking past a bombed-out warehouse where Russian troops were based until last week in a village north of Kharkiv on Saturday.Credit...Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times

For years, President Vladimir V. Putin has viewed the expansion of NATO as an existential threat that would leave Russia hemmed in with Western missiles on its doorstep. Now, Moscow's invasion of Ukraine seems to be bringing the Russian leader's nightmare to life, with NATO on the brink of starting its largest potential expansion in nearly two decades.

After navigating the postwar era in nonalignment and neutrality, Sweden and Finland are now actively exploring ascension to the military alliance forged in the Cold War, with officials from both countries set to meet with their NATO counterparts on Saturday.

Russia lashed out immediately, halting exports of electricity to Finland and promising an unspecified "military-technical" response after warning that the move would pose a clear threat to its own national security.

Some analysts were concerned that Russia was laying the groundwork to threaten the deployment of nuclear weapons near the border with Finland. But officials in both Sweden and Finland played down that threat, noting that with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad only 200 miles away, Moscow already has nuclear-capable missiles in easy range.

An acceptance of Sweden and Finland into NATO, a process that could take up to a year to finalize, would bring the Western military alliance right to Russia's 810-mile-long border with Finland and would mark another profound shift to Europe's strategic landscape brought on by Russia's war in Ukraine. At the same time, the Pentagon is rotating new troops into Europe to bolster the alliance's eastern flank, signaling that the temporary troop buildup is likely to become permanent.

As Western powers buckled down for what Ukraine's defense minister called a "new, long phase" in the war, developments on the ground bore out the idea that Ukraine was still fighting Russia doggedly in the east and reporting that it was gaining ground.

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Voytenko Ivan Petrovich, 69, inside his damaged home in a village 10 miles north of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Saturday.Credit...Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times

In recent days, Ukrainian forces have begun consolidating control over the major city of Kharkiv after months of Russian attacks and heavy shelling. In a seeming replay of the Russian retreat from Kyiv, its battered battalions are withdrawing in order to protect critical supply lines to the east and to reinforce struggling units elsewhere in the Donbas in the country's east, Ukrainian officials said.

The head of Kharkiv's regional military administration said on Saturday that Ukrainian forces had started a counteroffensive against Russian forces around the northeastern city of Izium, which Russia captured last month and had hoped to use as a base for a drive south into other major cities.

In a flurry of U.S. diplomacy, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, made a surprise visit on Saturday to Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky. The accompanying delegation of American lawmakers was just the latest to travel to the country as the United States deepens its commitment to Kyiv's fight against the Russian invasion.

The United States Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, was scheduled to travel to Germany on Saturday, to meet with NATO counterparts ahead of discussions with Sweden and Finland.

In a phone call on Saturday, President Sauli Niinisto of Finland said he told President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that his country is seeking to join NATO because Moscow's invasion of Ukraine had "fundamentally" altered Finland's security environment.

Mr. Putin warned the Finnish leader it was a "mistake" to abandon Finland's longstanding policy of military neutrality, the Kremlin said in a statement.

"By joining NATO, Finland strengthens its own security and assumes its responsibility," the Finnish president said in a statement, adding that Finland wants "to take care of the practical questions arising from being a neighbor of Russia in a correct and professional manner."

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The family of Andrii Shufryn, 42 — his father, Ivan, his mother, Hanna, and his daughter, Lilya, 17 — mourn at his funeral at Lychakiv cemetery in Lviv on Saturday. He died of injuries in eastern Ukraine on May 9.Credit...Diego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

There was initial alarm as Turkey, a longtime NATO member, signaled this week that it might seek to block the Nordic countries' joining the alliance. But on Saturday, a spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey walked back any potential challenge, saying that Turkey was merely trying to ensure that all alliance members' security concerns were heeded.

The potential growth of NATO added to a mounting list of setbacks for Mr. Putin. Russia's military offensive in eastern Ukraine remains stalled, and The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, said in its latest assessment that the Ukrainians had now won the battle for Kharkiv.

Having failed in its initial campaign to take the Ukrainian capital and oust the government, the Kremlin can ill afford to accept another defeat in the east.

In an interview with Britain's Sky News on Saturday, the country's military intelligence chief, Major General Kyrylo Budanov, said the months ahead would be decisive.

"The breaking point will be in the second part of August," he said. "Most of the active combat actions will have finished by the end of this year."

But as Moscow's forces around Kharkiv are driven back toward the Russian border, they are expected to fight hard to keep open critical supply routes running through the region. Russia also controls a wide swath of land across southeastern Ukraine, where it is increasingly fortifying its position. The military campaign, analysts say, will continue to devolve into a protracted slog characterized by heavy casualties on both sides and devastating long range bombardment.

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Members of a Ukrainian mortar team prepare to fire toward Russian positions two miles away, in the village of Pytomnyk 17 miles north of the eastern city of Kharkiv, on Friday.Credit...Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times

Ukraine's defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, warned of "extremely tough weeks" ahead. "No one can say for sure how many of them there will be," he said in a statement.

President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged that the fight to regain control of Russian-occupied territories would be long and hard, but he vowed that they would not be abandoned.

"The gradual liberation of the Kharkiv region proves that we will not leave anyone to the enemy," he said.

The impact of the battlefield clashes continues to ripple around the world.

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A Ukrainian family exploring a destroyed Russian tank on the main highway leading west out of Kyiv on Saturday.Credit...Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

The war has interrupted wheat production in Ukraine and Russia, both major suppliers, while fighting and naval blockades in the Black Sea have disrupted transport of the grain. And poor harvests in China, along with a heat wave in India and drought in other countries, have further snarled global supply.

But India, the world's second-largest wheat producer, says it is banning exports with some exceptions, a move that could compound a worldwide shortfall worsened by the war in Ukraine and deepen an already dire forecast for hunger across the globe.

India has about 10 percent of the world's grain reserves, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture, a large surplus resulting from its heavy subsidizing of its farmers. It has been seen for months as a country that could help make up for global supply shortages.

"Russia's war of aggression has generated one of the most severe food and energy crises in recent history," the leaders of the world's wealthiest democracies, the Group of 7, said in a statement on Saturday, adding that the problem "now threatens those most vulnerable across the globe."

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An apartment that took a direct hit during heavy Russian bombardment in Kharkiv on Saturday.Credit...Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times

Reporting was contributed by Carlotta Gall from Kharkiv, Ukraine; Marc Santora from Krakow, Poland; Steven Erlanger from Tallinn, Estonia; Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Cassandra Vinograd from London; Emily Cochrane from Washington; and Sameer Yasir from New Delhi.

May 14, 2022, 10:53 p.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 10:53 p.m. ET

Andrés R. Martínez

Reporting from Seoul

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Twitter that he had arrived in Berlin on Saturday night to meet with NATO to discuss Ukraine and and bolstering European security. He is scheduled to travel to Paris on Sunday for talks on trade, technology and innovation.

I have arrived in Berlin where I will informally meet with @NATO foreign ministers to discuss our alliance and sustained action to address Russia's unprovoked aggression against Ukraine.

— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 14, 2022

May 14, 2022, 10:30 p.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 10:30 p.m. ET

Juston Jones

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain acknowledged the symbolism in Ukraine's victory at Eurovision Saturday night. "It is a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom," he said, while congratulating the British performer who finished in second place.

Congratulations to Ukraine for winning the @Eurovision Song Contest 2022.

It is a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom.

Incredibly proud of @SamRyderMusic and how he brilliantly represented the UK tonight.

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) May 14, 2022

May 14, 2022, 10:28 p.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 10:28 p.m. ET

Erika Solomon

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Tegernsee, Germany. "This valley has been a hideaway not only for the rich, but for the very opaque," said one resident, Martin Calsow, a crime novelist.

ROTTACH-EGERN, Germany — Nestled among snow-capped mountains an hour's drive south of Munich, the villages around the Alpine lake of Tegernsee have been a playground of the superrich for centuries — whether Bavarian kings, Russian czars, Nazi elites or pop stars. They have been drawn not just by the pristine views, but also by the cozy air of discretion that in more recent years has made the area a favorite destination for Russian oligarchs, too.

But Russia's war in Ukraine, along with the sanctions targeting Russian elites in response, has upset the calm veneer with nagging questions about whether it is right to look the other way from the sources of wealth of those the area has hosted.

At least, that is the intention of Thomas Tomaschek, a Green politician on the council for Rottach-Egern, a village on the Tegernsee where some prominent Russian oligarchs maintain lakeside hideaways. Mr. Tomaschek has pushed the federal government to seize or freeze assets — no easy task given the financial shields that are as much a part of the superrich lifestyle as the neon-colored Lamborghinis that speed along the mountain roads.

"We have a moral problem here with these oligarchs," Mr. Tomaschek said. "Many tell me, 'Don't make noise, it's not our business.' Well, I think it is our business."

The doubts in Tegernsee reflect a similar soul searching at a national level. The decision to freeze the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Germany and Russia symbolized how politicians and businesspeople have been forced to acknowledge that their motto of "change through trade" has not moderated Moscow's approach but rather compromised their own reputations.

But the arguments in Tegernsee show that despite the government's change in stance, some who profited from ties to Moscow's elite still seem intent to wait out the current furor and quietly return to business as usual.

May 14, 2022, 8:23 p.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 8:23 p.m. ET

Alan Yuhas

President Zelensky also briefly described his meeting with several Republican senators in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, saying in his nightly address that they discussed "various areas of support for our state, including defensive and financial." He said that he urged the U.S. senators, including the minority leader, Mitch McConnell, to officially designate Russia a terrorist state.

May 14, 2022, 7:05 p.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 7:05 p.m. ET

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Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra performing during the Eurovision Grand Final on Saturday in Turin, Italy.Credit...Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

TURIN, Italy — The Ukrainian rap and folk band Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday, as European viewers and juries delivered a symbolic, pop culture endorsement of solidarity behind Ukraine in its defense against Russia's invasion.

After 80 days of fighting that has forced millions from their homes, brought ruin to cities and towns across Ukraine's east and killed tens of thousands, the band won an emotional victory for Ukraine with a performance of "Stefania," a rousing, anthemic song. Written to honor the mother of the group's frontman, Oleh Psiuk, the song has been reinterpreted during the war as a tribute to Ukraine as a motherland.

The song includes lyrics that roughly translate to, "You can't take my willpower from me, as I got it from her," and "I'll always find my way home, even if the roads are destroyed."

After Psiuk performed the song on Saturday night, he put his hand to his heart and shouted, "I ask for all of you, please help Ukraine!" Europe's voters listened, giving the band 631 votes to win, far ahead of Sam Ryder of Britain, who took second place with 466 votes.

Psiuk's mother had texted him after the win to say that she loved him "and she was proud," he said at a media conference after the contest at which he thanked everyone who had voted for the group. "The victory is very important for Ukraine especially this year," he said. "Lately, the Ukrainian culture was attacked, and we are here to prove that Ukrainian culture and music are alive and they have their own beautiful signature," he said speaking through a translator.

Kalush Orchestra had been considered a favorite, traveling with special permission to bypass a martial law preventing most Ukrainian men from leaving the country.

The band's victory over 39 other national acts illustrated how Russia's invasion of Ukraine has unified Europe, inspiring a wave of weapons and aid deliveries for Ukraine, pushing countries like Sweden and Finland closer to NATO and bringing the European Union to the verge of cutting itself off from Russian energy.

And it underscored just how sweeping Russia's estrangement from the international community has become, extending from foreign ministries through financial markets and into the realm of culture. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, organizers barred Russian performers from the event, citing fears that Russia's inclusion would damage the contest's reputation.

After the win, Iryna Shafinska was trying to fix her makeup — including two hearts in the colors of the Ukrainian flag on her cheeks — which had been smudged by tears of joy. She came to Turin to report for OGAE Ukraine, the Ukrainian Eurovision Fan Club. She said she had spoken to several of the other performers and that: "they all tell me that they want Ukraine to win because it's important for them, too."

And "it's a great song about moms," said Ms. Shafinska, who is also involved with the New York-based nonprofit organization, Razom for Ukraine. At the media conference later, she asked to have a group hug. The band complied.

Eurovision, the world's largest and possibly most eccentric live music competition, is best known for its over-the-top performances and its star-making potential — it helped launch acts like Abba and Celine Dion to international fame. But as a showcase meant to promote European unity and cultural exchange, it has never truly been separate from politics, though the contests rules forbid contestants from making political statements at the event.

In 2005, Ukraine's entry song was rewritten after being deemed too political, because it celebrated the Orange Revolution. When Dana International, an Israeli transgender woman, won in 1998 with her hit song "Diva," rabbis accused her of flouting the values of the Jewish state.

Ukraine also won the contest in 2016 with "1944," a song by Jamala about Crimean Tatars during World War II. It was also interpreted as a comment on the Russian invasion of Crimea, which took place two years earlier.

And in 2008, when Dima Bilan, a Russian pop star, won Eurovision with the song "Believe," President Vladimir V. Putin weighed in promptly with congratulations, thanking him for further burnishing Russia's image.

Russia began competing in the song contest in 1994, and has competed more than 20 times. Its participation had been a cultural touchstone of sorts for Russia's engagement with the world, persisting even as relations worsened between Mr. Putin's government and much of Europe.

Before the final on Saturday, several bookmakers had said that Ukraine was by far the presumptive favorite to win. Winners are determined based on votes from national juries and viewers at home.

Carlo Fuortes, chief executive of the national broadcaster RAI, which hosted the events, said he had sensed that Ukraine would be a favorite. "It could be that all European citizens might think of giving a political signal through a vote to Ukraine," he said in an interview earlier this month. "And I think that it could be a right signal."

War has necessitated other adjustments. The Ukrainian commentator for the show, Timur Miroshnychenko, broadcast from a bomb shelter. A photo posted by Suspilne, the Ukrainian public broadcasting company, showed the veteran presenter at a desk in a bunkerlike room, surrounded by computers, wires, a camera and eroding walls that revealed patches of brick underneath. It was not clear what city he was in.

The bunker had been prepared to prevent disruptions from air raid sirens, Mr. Miroshnychenko told BBC radio. He said Ukrainians loved the contest and were "trying to catch any peaceful moment" they could.

Not all of Kalush Orchestra's team was present in Italy; Slavik Hnatenko, who runs the group's social media, was in Ukraine fighting. In a recent video interview from Kyiv, Hnatenko said he felt the band's appearance at Eurovision was "equally important" as his own service in the war.

"It's a chance to show the world that our spirit is difficult to break," he said, adding that he intended to watch the contest, if he was not in combat and could get a signal on his cellphone.

In an interview in the days leading up to the contest, Psiuk said that even if Kalush Orchestra won, its members would return to Ukraine. He was running an organization there to provide people with medicine, transportation and accommodations, he said. And he was prepared to fight if asked, he said. "We won't have a choice," he added. "We'll be in Ukraine."

He said that after the win they were going home. "Like every Ukrainian we are ready to fight and go until the end," he said.

The question of where next year's competition would be held loomed large. It's tradition that the winner is host of the following year's events. Martin Österdahl, the executive producer for the Eurovision Song Contest handed Oksana Skybinska, the leader of the Ukrainian delegation, a black binder with contact details. "Please know that you know where to find us," he said, speaking through Ms. Skybinska, who interpreted for him. "We are with you all the way."

"We will do everything possible to make the Eurovision contest possible in the new peaceful Ukraine," Skybinska said.

May 14, 2022, 6:01 p.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 6:01 p.m. ET

Alan Yuhas

Curfew in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, will begin an hour later and public transportation in the city will operate longer hours beginning on Sunday, according to the mayor, Vitali Klitschko. In the weeks since Russian forces retreated from the region and gave up on their attempt to seize the capital, many residents and some rhythms of life have slowly returned, though the government remains on wartime footing.

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Credit...Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times

May 14, 2022, 5:17 p.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 5:17 p.m. ET

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Smoke rising from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol on Friday.Credit...Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

KHARKIV, Ukraine — Turkey is working to negotiate an exit for the wounded Ukrainian soldiers sheltering in the bunkers of a steel plant in the port city of Mariupol, but its efforts have been complicated by the fluidity of the fighting on the ground and because neither Russia nor Ukraine has given clearance for the plan, Turkey's presidential spokesman said Saturday.

In an unusually candid interview by teleconference call from Istanbul, the spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said Turkey had been talking to Ukraine and Russia, trying to find an agreement even as both sides kept changing their positions.

"It really depends how the Russians see the war situation on the ground and the negotiations," he said. "The battle on the ground shapes the negotiations," he added. "Positions also change from one day to another. It is very fluid."

As the last stand in Mariupol, the southern city that has been left in ruins by weeks of shelling, the Azovstal plant has become a powerful symbol for Ukrainians, and the fate of the remaining fighters — many wounded, and all of them surviving on ever more meager rations — is being closely watched.

It also has symbolic importance for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whose forces more than two months into the war have yet to seal their victory by seizing the last holdout in the strategic port.

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A heavily damaged building in Mariupol on Friday.Credit...Associated Press

Turkey has had a ship waiting for five to six weeks in Istanbul to evacuate the Ukrainians by sea from the port of Berdyansk, and to treat the wounded and rehabilitate them in Turkey, Mr. Kalin said. Russia and Ukraine have not yet approved the plan, he said, but the offer remains.

Mr. Kalin, who has served as national security adviser to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, has been closely involved in negotiations between Russia and Ukraine since the war began in late February. Turkey has hosted two rounds of peace talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations, and Mr. Kalin said that Mr. Erdogan had talked to Mr. Putin five times since the invasion. Turkey's defense minister, Hulusi Akar, also talked to his Russian counterpart, Sergei K. Shoigu, last month.

Turkey has received more and more appeals recently to intercede in the evacuation of soldiers and civilians from Mariupol, including from United Nations officials, the soldiers themselves, and some soldiers' wives, who on Saturday held a news conference in Kyiv to urge President Xi Jinping of China to convince Mr. Putin to accept Turkey's evacuation offer.

Mr. Kalin welcomed the calls. "We take these appeals very seriously," he said. "It's a war zone, and if you save one person that's really a blessing. It is not a solution to the war, but it is one good thing you do under the circumstances."

He said the Ukrainians have told Turkey that about 1,500 soldiers needed evacuating, with about 450 of them wounded. Evacuating so many people is logistically difficult, Mr. Kalin said.

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Civilians evacuating from Mariupol by bus last week.Credit...Alessandro Guerra/EPA, via Shutterstock

"For us to do it, the conditions on the ground must be there," he said. "We want to make sure it is safe, because once they start moving during that whole operation, whether it takes six hours or 10 hours for them to reach their destination, a port or somewhere, there has to be an absolute calm, safety and security."

Turkey has experience negotiating evacuations from war zones, which it successfully did several times during Syria's civil war from cities besieged by Russian and Syrian troops.

Turkey is also supportive of an alternative plan to evacuate the wounded by land to another Ukrainian city, Mr. Kalin said. The United Nations and the Red Cross have successfully evacuated hundreds of civilians from the Azovstal steel plant in recent weeks by land routes.

Ukraine has also offered to exchange the soldiers for Russian prisoners of war, which Mr. Kalin said Russia had noted but not commented on.

The evacuation of soldiers was complicated in particular by the inclusion of members of the Azov battalion, a former far-right militia now formally integrated into the Ukrainian Army. Russia has branded them as Nazis, and Mr. Putin has said the war was intended to carry out the "denazification" of Ukraine.

"I understand the Ukrainian position that all of them belong to the Ukrainian Army, with other groups, and they want them to all be able to get out," Mr. Kalin said. "But if you put them all in the same basket, the Russians say 'No.' So you know, it's a mutual lack of trust, a mutual lack of coordination at times."

May 14, 2022, 5:09 p.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 5:09 p.m. ET

Alan Yuhas

In his nightly address, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine invoked the example of Ukrainians who helped save Jews during World War II, saying Saturday was the country's Day of Remembrance. "This is exactly the same striving for good that we see today in Ukrainian men and women," said Zelensky, who is Jewish and who had relatives who were killed in the Holocaust.

May 14, 2022, 3:41 p.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 3:41 p.m. ET

Erika Solomon

Reporting from Lviv, Ukraine

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Russia has continued to bombard the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol as efforts to negotiate the evacuation of wounded Ukrainian soldiers sheltering at the sprawling complex continue.Credit...Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

The wives of fighters trapped at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol called on China to help convince President Vladimir V. Putin to accept a Turkish evacuation offer, as Russian forces continued to bombard the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in the city.

Hundreds of fighters — many of them wounded — are believed to be in bunkers beneath the sprawling factory complex. In dire messages on social media, commanders have warned supplies are running out.

Relatives of the besieged fighters have made impassioned international pleas, including on a visit this week to the pope, to help save their loved ones. On Saturday, some relatives held a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, and urged President Xi Jinping of China to intervene.

"We are addressing Xi Jinping. He is Putin's economic partner and Putin can enter into a dialogue with him," said Anna Ivleeva, whose husband is inside the plant. "We urge him to conduct a fruitful dialogue and, through the extraction procedure, to bring our fighters to a third country, which may be Turkey."

Turkey, which has been trying to help facilitate the evacuation of civilians and wounded soldiers from Mariupol, welcomed the wives' efforts to garner international support.

"We take these appeals very seriously," Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said in an interview. "It's a war zone, and if you save one person it is a blessing."

China has repeatedly called for peace talks in Ukraine, but Chinese propaganda has challenged Western efforts to isolate Russia diplomatically, and Beijing has sought to walk a careful line in its statements toward the war. In recent years, Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin have largely embraced each other, declaring that their countries' friendship had "no limits."

Turkey hosted two rounds of talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations to try and negotiate a cease-fire early in the war. Its recent efforts to release wounded soldiers have not made headway.

As the last stand in Mariupol, the southern city that has been left in ruins by weeks of shelling, the Azovstal plant has become a powerful symbol for Ukrainians, and the fate of the remaining fighters — many wounded, and all of them surviving on ever more meager rations — is being closely watched.

It also has symbolic importance for Mr. Putin: Some fighters inside belong to the Ukrainian military's Azov Regiment, whose origins in a far-right military group, the Azov Batallion, have lent a veneer of credibility to the Russian president's false narrative that the country is overrun by "Nazis."

Not everyone still trapped at Azovstal is from the regiment, according to Ukrainian officials. Some are from the national guard, border service, and the military and security services. The Azov Regiment has said there are some 600 wounded inside the plant but has not revealed how many fighters remain overall.

Russian forces appear to have secured the M14 highway near the plant's western entrance and continued to launch shells and airstrikes, according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War. Ukraine's military said Saturday that Russia was launching "massive artillery and airstrikes" near the plant.

After a successful evacuation of civilians from the plant, coordinated by the United Nations and the Red Cross, calls have mounted for similar efforts to save the fighters.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk of Ukraine, who helped coordinate the civilian evacuations, said officials were pursuing "complex talks" but warned that "there are no miracles in war."

"God willing, we will rescue everyone," she said. "The country's heart is now in the Azovstal plant."

May 14, 2022, 2:58 p.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 2:58 p.m. ET

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Borys Tkachenko, 27, behind the counter of his former cocktail bar "Mr. B" in Bucha on Wednesday. He repaired the damage and reopened as a coffee bar after the Russians retreated.Credit...David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

On a row of closed shops with peaked roofs and broken windows in this small city that has become synonymous with Russian atrocities, a plywood board is spray painted bright blue with an arrow and letters that read "kaba," coffee in Ukrainian.

The sign leads visitors to the end of the small row to what was once the Mr. B cocktail bar. Mr. B is Borys Tkachenko, a 27-year-old who worked in upscale clubs in Florida and studied the hotel business in Switzerland before opening a place of his own in December.

Bucha was then a city of 40,000 where people who worked in the capital Kyiv, 20 miles away, raised families and enjoyed going out for dinner and drinks, including classic cocktails at Mr. B.

Then on Feb. 24, Russia invaded Ukraine. Three days later, Mr. Tkachenko left Bucha with his wife and then 14-month-old daughter.

"She started running around the house covering her ears and going, 'boom, boom, boom,' and I said, 'That's it. No way. We are leaving,'" he said.

Mr. Tkachenko took his family to the border with Slovakia, where his wife and daughter crossed over on a journey that took them through Poland and Germany and on to Switzerland. He ended up staying with friends in Kyiv.

When Russian forces retreated from Bucha after fierce fighting at the end of March, they left bodies of civilians they had killed in the broken streets, some of them tortured and executed. The city has raced to repair damage and restore electricity, water and internet access. About 10,000 residents who fled have since come back.

Mr. Tkachenko returned to Bucha at the beginning of April, two days after the Russians withdrew. Finding the espresso machine still intact in his otherwise looted bar, he repaired the collapsed ceiling and reopened a couple of weeks ago.

Instead of selling alcohol, Mr. Tkachenko now serves paninis and delicate croissants made by his father to volunteers and to residents trying to rebuild their lives. His small coffee bar has become a hub connecting volunteers and people with donated items.

"People now need food more than drinks," said Mr. Tkachenko, whose wide smile mirrors the "born to be happy" tattoo on his arm. "People need life. People need coffee."

He gives the coffees, free of charge, to members of the military and medical workers, as well as to people he can tell cannot afford to pay.

Last week, with the power out, Mr. Tkachenko turned lemons — or at least lemon syrup — into lemonade, shaking it in a cocktail shaker then expertly pouring it into a tall glass.

Mr. Tkachenko's wife and daughter are still in Switzerland. He said he at first balked when a former teacher of his offered to host them there.

"I always help; I never accept help from anybody," he said. "But after this situation, I decided I have to change."

He plans to join them, though, when the war is over.

"I want to go and just sit on the bench, drink wine, eat cheese and do nothing," he said. "But it's going to be after this situation ends."

May 14, 2022, 2:30 p.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 2:30 p.m. ET

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Madeleine Albright, then the U.S. secretary of state, with the foreign ministers of the Czech Repulic, Hungary and Poland in 1999 after the three countries signed the protocols of NATO accession.Credit...Fred Bloche/The Kansas City Star, via Associated Press

If Sweden and Finland join NATO, as is now widely expected, the reach of the West's powerful military alliance across the vast stretch of Russia's western border will be larger than at any other time in history.

But NATO's military buildup in Eastern Europe, an area that for decades had been firmly under Russian hegemony, has been a slow process. It accelerated sharply in 2014, when Moscow seized Crimea after mass protests led to the fall of a pro-Russia government in Ukraine. Then it picked up again in February, when Russia invaded Ukraine, seeking to topple the current government.

The process began with Poland three decades ago. After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991, Poland's desire to become part of NATO became both a strategic goal for its security and part of a coordinated effort to "return to Europe" after suffering under the Soviet Union's yoke for decades.

But Moscow opposed NATO's expansion in Poland, and Russian tanks remained stationed there until 1993.

The Kremlin also sought to maintain its influence over the rest of Eastern Europe, but its own troubles at home in the chaotic transition to a new government after the Soviet Union fell apart made its hold over its former satellites tenuous. By 1999, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic had signed the protocols of NATO accession.

Moscow saw NATO's expansion eastward as a sign of growing — and in its eyes, unwelcome — American hegemony, but for many Central and Eastern European nations, whose histories had been driven for centuries by conflicts between Russia and other major powers, joining NATO was viewed as a matter of existential survival.

The same was true for the Baltic nations, which joined the alliance in 2004, even though there had been widespread skepticism in Washington about extending them the blanket of American security.

On the ground, however, little changed at first. For a decade, NATO was careful not to anger Moscow by deploying ​​combat troops in the eastern part of the alliance.

Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 changed all that. NATO began working to fortify its eastern flank, even before Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February.

President Vladimir V. Putin was furious in 2016 when American missiles were placed in Romania, which had been admitted to NATO in 2004. The following year, NATO established four multinational, batallion-sized battle groups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

"They demonstrate the strength of the trans-Atlantic bond and make clear that an attack on one ally would be considered an attack on the whole Alliance," NATO said when it announced the bigger military presence.

More recently, the U.S. has been working to install a missile system known as Aegis Ashore at a base in Poland.

Those deployments were seen as a provocation in Moscow. "Are we deploying missiles near the U.S. border?" Mr. Putin said in December. "No, we are not. It is the United States that has come to our home with its missiles and is already standing at our doorstep."

Since Russia's invasion, NATO has further increased its military presence along its eastern flank, announcing the creation of four more multinational battle groups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.

The United States also sent 10,500 additional forces to Eastern Europe, which the Pentagon said on Friday that it would be replacing, signaling that the temporary troop buildup was likely to become permanent.

May 14, 2022, 1:23 p.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 1:23 p.m. ET

Ivor Prickett

Reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine

A family returning to Buzova, just west of Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, climbed over a destroyed Russian tank on the highway leading out of the capital on Saturday. Evidence of the fierce struggle for Kyiv's outskirts still dots the region, where many residents are returning to the villages and towns they lived in before Russia invaded.

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Credit...Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

May 14, 2022, 1:05 p.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 1:05 p.m. ET

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Ukrainian soldiers in the village of Velyka Danylivka, near Kharkiv, on Saturday. Ukrainian troops have managed to push back Russian forces from a wide area around Kharkiv in recent days.Credit...Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times

Even as Ukrainian forces reclaimed territory in the country's northeast on Saturday, driving Russian forces away from the city of Kharkiv and going on the offensive near the occupied town of Izium, military and civilian leaders warned that the war was entering a new, slow-moving phase that could last a long time.

For weeks, Russia has been using Izium as a staging area for a broader offensive in the eastern Donbas region, trying to drive south from the city as other Russian forces push north from Donetsk to broadly encircle tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers defending the front lines.

But Russia's loss of territory in recent days around Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, and a fierce Ukrainian counteroffensive around Izium have led some military analysts to believe that a broad encirclement is slipping out of Russia's reach.

The head of the Kharkiv Regional Military Administration, Oleg Synegubov, said on Telegram that Russia was now "in retreat" in some areas around Kharkiv after weeks of fierce fighting to push Russian troops out of nearby towns and villages.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington research group, concluded in a report late Friday that Ukraine "appears to have won the battle of Kharkiv."

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Ukrainian soldiers combed through a warehouse formerly occupied by Russian troops in the village of Tsyrkuny, Ukraine, 16 miles north of Kharkiv, on Saturday.Credit...Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times

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A jubilant Ukrainian soldier rode in an armored fighting vehicle toward the front lines north of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Saturday.Credit...Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times

Because the Kharkiv region borders Russia, the Ukrainian forces were in a position on Saturday to disrupt the Russian supply lines to Izium, which would deal a blow to Russia's plans to encircle Ukrainian troops farther south, the analysts said.

Ukraine's offensive in the region, Mr. Synegubov said, was designed to thwart any Russian advance on two key targets south of Izium: the towns of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

Russia continued to try and break through Ukrainian defensive lines south of Izium along a semicircular front line stretching to the southeastern city of Donetsk. They have pummeled towns and villages with wave after wave of artillery barrages and fought to surround two cities in the Luhansk region: Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.

This is where much of the war of attrition is playing out, analysts said — with both sides suffering heavy losses every day.

Viktor Andrusiv, an adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs, said in an appearance on national television that Russian has "decided to turn the war into a very long one."

"They hope that the crises caused by the war will put the West at the negotiating table," he said.

Ukraine's defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, also warned on Friday that the war had entered a "new, long phase" with "extremely tough weeks" ahead. "No one can say for sure how many of them there will be," he said in a statement.

Russia still controls a wide swath of territory across southern Ukraine, where the Ukrainian military said the Kremlin was increasingly fortifying its defensive positions and making plans to tear whole regions away from the Ukrainian state.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine vowed on Friday night that his forces would recapture Russian-occupied cities such as Kherson, Melitopol, Berdyansk and Mariupol, portending a long conflict.

"The gradual liberation of the Kharkiv region proves that we will not leave anyone to the enemy," he said.

May 14, 2022, 12:38 p.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 12:38 p.m. ET

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Charred and overturned vehicles at the side of a road linking Ukrainian positions in the Kherson region of Ukraine last week.Credit...David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

On the road out of the Russian-controlled region of Kherson in southern Ukraine, bridges are rigged with explosives. Russian soldiers at a maze of checkpoints strip men naked to look for identifying tattoos and loot the meager possessions carried by people scrambling to flee. And on several occasions this past week, according to witnesses who managed to escape, Russian forces fired on the vast convoys of cars.

"These two days were just a hell," Iryna Sydorenko, 49, said on Friday after making it to safety in the mining town of Kryvyi Rih. "Total hell."

As Russia takes steps to permanently rip Kherson and other regions under its control from Ukraine by introducing Russian currency, appointing proxy leaders to local government and hunting down people they consider a security risk, the stories told by witnesses who have managed to escape have become increasingly harrowing.

Chobotariov Yurii, 57, who used his mother's maiden name to avoid endangering relatives still in Kherson, said he had been trying for weeks to flee. On his third attempt, on May 11, he finally made it out.

"I saw people giving up," he said. "But I didn't, and it finally worked."

He said that he had joined a column of about 500 cars and that explosions had echoed as they raced from checkpoint to checkpoint.

"Men who are under 30 were taken out of the car and told to take off their clothes," he said. "Russians were checking their tattoos."

Russian soldiers searched cellphones and computers and solicited bribes, he said. They blamed the Ukrainians for shooting at the convoy.

He said it was not until he reached safety that he discovered that an older woman in a car behind him had been wounded. Another car nearby was struck by shrapnel but its occupants were not injured, he added.

The head of Kryvyi Rih's military administration, Oleksandr Vilkul, said that a 68-year-old woman and an 11-year-old had sustained shrapnel wounds when Russian forces opened fire on a convoy later in the week.

Ms. Sydorenko — who also used her mother's maiden name for fear of endangering people still in Kherson — said she'd fled with 20 people — mostly women and children — crammed into a minibus meant for 15. As they handed over their cellphones at each checkpoint, they held their breath.

"It's hard to wipe everything off from your phone," she said.

As the hours passed with no food and no water, the journey took an increasing toll on the children.

"The road was very scary," she said. "When we were driving across one bridge, there were a lot of explosives set up there. What if it would blow up?"

She said they were then held for hours at a checkpoint in the town of Beryslav on Thursday and that explosions boomed just as they started moving again. One shell struck the line of vehicles 10 cars in front of their bus, she said.

In the end, she estimated that more than 1,000 cars had eventually joined the convoy and made it to Khryvi Ryi, part of an exodus that Ukrainian officials estimate has left the region with about half of its prewar population.

May 14, 2022, 10:44 a.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 10:44 a.m. ET

Marc Santora

Reporting from Krakow, Poland

Ukrainian forces have launched a counteroffensive on Russian forces around the northeastern city of Izium, the head of Kharkiv's regional military administration said on Telegram. Russia is using Izium as a staging area for its offensive, and the city is key to Russian efforts to try to broadly encircle Ukraine's forces in the east of the country.

May 14, 2022, 10:36 a.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 10:36 a.m. ET

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President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, left, met with a delegation of Republican senators in Kyiv, including Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, center.Credit...Ukrainian Presidential Press Service, via Reuters

WASHINGTON — Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, visited Ukraine on Saturday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, leading the latest delegation of American lawmakers to the country as the United States deepens its commitment to Kyiv's fight against the Russian invasion.

The surprise visit by Mr. McConnell, who was accompanied by three other Republican senators, comes as the Senate is working to pass a $40 billion emergency military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine. It follows a string of other clandestine visits, including by the first lady, Jill Biden, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The trip, a rare international visit for Mr. McConnell, highlights the widespread bipartisan support for Ukraine in Washington as the country tries to fend off Russia's invasion, even as questions remain about the Biden administration's overall strategy toward the conflict and the scope of American assistance.

The visit was first disclosed by Mr. Zelensky's office, and Mr. McConnell later released a statement confirming it after he said the delegation had left Ukraine. The group, he said, affirmed that the United States would "sustain our support until Ukraine wins this war."

"It was inspiring to visit the historic capital of a beautiful country that has been forced to fight for its own survival," Mr. McConnell said. "We saw firsthand the courage, unity and resolve of the Ukrainian people."

Mr. McConnell was joined by Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, a member of his leadership team and the Foreign Relations Committee; John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Intelligence Committee; and Susan Collins of Maine, who sits on both the Intelligence Committee and the Appropriations Committee, which oversees government funding.

"Defending the principle of sovereignty, promoting stability in Europe and imposing costs on Russia's naked aggression have a direct and vital bearing on America's national security and vital interests," Mr. McConnell said in his statement. "It is squarely in our national interest to help Ukraine achieve victory in this war and to help Ukraine and other countries deter other wars of aggression before they start."

On Thursday, the Senate failed to expedite passage of the $40 billion emergency package for Ukraine as one Republican senator, Rand Paul of Kentucky, refused to agree to waive procedural hurdles and approve the measure without being granted an opportunity to add a proposal establishing an inspector general to oversee how the money is spent.

The measure is still expected to pass as soon as next week.

May 14, 2022, 10:31 a.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 10:31 a.m. ET

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President Sauli Niinisto of Finland in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C., in March.Credit...Pete Marovich for The New York Times

President Sauli Niinisto of Finland said he told President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in a phone call on Saturday that his country is seeking to join NATO because Moscow's invasion of Ukraine had "fundamentally" altered Finland's security environment.

Mr. Putin warned the Finnish leader it was a "mistake" to abandon Finland's longstanding policy of military neutrality when there is no current threat to its security and that the move might have a "negative" effect on what has been a relationship between good neighbors and partners, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Finland, which has an 810-mile-long eastern border with Russia, decided to seek membership in the Western alliance. On Thursday, Moscow warned there would be "retaliatory steps" including an unspecified "military-technical" response, which many experts interpreted as a threat to deploy tactical nuclear weapons near the Russian-Finnish border.

On Saturday, Russia suspended its electricity exports to Finland.

Mr. Niinisto said in a statement that he initiated the call with Mr. Putin and told him "how fundamentally the Russian demands in late 2021 aiming at preventing countries from joining NATO, and Russia's massive invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, have altered the security environment of Finland."

Russia opposes the expansion of NATO to countries near its borders and has previously threatened to retaliate against Sweden and Finland should they move to enter the alliance. Stockholm is expected to join Helsinki in applying for NATO membership.

"By joining NATO, Finland strengthens its own security and assumes its responsibility," the Finnish president said in his statement, adding that his country wants "to take care of the practical questions arising from being a neighbor of Russia in a correct and professional manner."

Mr. Niinistro described the tone of the call as direct and straightforward and said it was conducted without aggravation. The Kremlin described the call as "frank," a word which, in diplomatic communications, is often a sign of a tense conversation.

The two men also discussed the situation in Ukraine. Mr. Putin blamed the government in the capital Kyiv for what he called a lack of interest in a "serious and constructive dialogue," the Kremlin said.

May 14, 2022, 9:48 a.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 9:48 a.m. ET

Cassandra Vinograd

The Group of 7 major economies pledged on Saturday to maintain military assistance to Ukraine "as long as necessary" and to support its territorial integrity. "We will never recognize borders Russia has attempted to change by military aggression," the G7 foreign ministers said in a joint statement after meeting in Germany.

May 14, 2022, 9:35 a.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 9:35 a.m. ET

Finbarr O'Reilly

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Voytenko Ivan Petrovich, 69, inside his damaged home in a village 10 miles north of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Saturday.Credit...Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times

VELYKA DANYLIVKA, Ukraine — Voytenko Ivan Petrovich, 69, surveyed the damage on Saturday.

His home in the village of Velyka Danylivka, 10 miles north of the city of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine, was torn apart.

Mr. Petrovich and his family of six fled their home on Feb. 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine, because of its proximity to a Ukrainian military base that was being shelled.

The family sought safety at Mr. Petrovich's sister's house several miles away and were sheltering in the basement there when her home took a direct hit from a rocket.

"When we got hit, it was a panic and all the children and women were screaming," Mr. Petrovich said. "We managed to get them out. The basement saved us."

When he returned to his own home two days ago, Mr. Petrovich said, he almost collapsed with shock. Explosions had caused extensive damage, and debris and wreckage were everywhere.

"It's a good thing the walls are still here, so maybe we can fix it," he said. "But the people who did this are not human, they are like animals. They only left two or three houses untouched here."

May 14, 2022, 8:52 a.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 8:52 a.m. ET

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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, center, arriving for a NATO summit in Brussels in March.Credit...Pool photo by Evan Vucci

Turkey is not trying to block Finland and Sweden's potential membership in NATO but rather to ensure that all members' security concerns are considered, a spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday, a day after the leader suggested that he would be reluctant to welcome the two countries into the alliance.

Mr. Erdogan told reporters on Friday that his country did not "have positive views" toward developments around Finland and Sweden's potential NATO accession. That raised fears that Mr. Erdogan was signaling that he might try to bargain for his approval, since Sweden and Finland need unanimous approval from all 30 member states to join.

A spokesman for Mr. Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, added to those remarks on Saturday, saying that Turkey wanted to ensure a process in which the national security of all NATO members is taken into consideration.

"It cannot be a one-way street," he said on a conference call from Istanbul. "They cannot just ignore Turkey's security concerns and act as if it does not matter and when we raise this issue and then say, 'Oh, you are a troublemaker, you are disturbing the unity of NATO.'"

He echoed Mr. Erdogan in expressing concern that Sweden is allowing supporters of Kurdish separatists to operate freely in the country.

"We cannot accept the presence of the P.K.K. in a country that is planning to join NATO," he said, referring to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which launched a violent separatist movement in Turkey in the early 1980s. "We take the security concerns of our NATO allies extremely seriously, and we expect them to take ours seriously, and P.K.K. is a direct threat to our national security."

Sweden has designated the P.K.K. as a terrorist organization, as have the European Union and the United States, "but they don't act by it," Mr. Kalin said. "That's the main problem."

But when asked whether Turkey would actually block Sweden's application for membership to NATO, he demurred.

"It's a process," he said.

May 14, 2022, 8:39 a.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 8:39 a.m. ET

Marc Santora

Reporting from Krakow, Poland

Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, said the West had declared "a total hybrid war" against Russia. "Western politicians should understand their efforts to isolate our country are in vain," he said in remarks that came as NATO considers expanding its military alliance to include Sweden and Finland.

May 14, 2022, 8:26 a.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 8:26 a.m. ET

Cassandra Vinograd

President Volodymr Zelensky of Ukraine has welcomed a Senate delegation led by Mitch McConnell to the capital, Kyiv. Mr. Zelensky posted a video of him greeting the Senate minority leader and other officials, including Senators Susan Collins of Maine and John Cornyn of Texas, both Republicans.

May 14, 2022, 7:53 a.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 7:53 a.m. ET

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Finland's Parliament in Helsinki in April during a debate on whether the country should apply to join NATO.Credit...Olivier Morin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Russia suspended its electricity supply to Finland on Saturday in apparent retaliation for Helsinki's decision to upend its longstanding stance of military neutrality by pursuing NATO membership.

The suspension could be the first of what Moscow warned on Thursday would be "retaliatory steps" after Finland's move toward joining the alliance — including an unspecified "military-technical" response, which many experts interpreted as a threat to deploy tactical nuclear weapons near the Russian-Finnish border.

Although Finland's national grid operator said that the suspension had a minimal impact, with other suppliers able to meet the country's energy needs, the swiftly unfolding events in Finland underscore how Russia's invasion of Ukraine is shaking up the military balance in Europe and backfiring on President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Russia opposes any westward expansion of NATO and has previously threatened "retaliation" against Sweden and Finland, which shares a long border with Russia, should they move to join.

Finland receives about 10 percent of its electricity from Russia, and Reima Päivinen, a senior vice president for the country's grid operator, Fingrid, said on Saturday that the country's electricity market was working normally.

Yet even as Finland appeared poised to weather the electricity suspension, it faced a potentially greater hurdle from Turkey.

Any NATO accession decision requires support from all 30 of the alliance's members, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey suggested on Friday that his country would be reluctant to openly welcome Finland and Sweden into NATO.

President Sauli Niinisto of Finland on Saturday played down Mr. Erdogan's comments and said that they should be taken calmly, adding that the message Helsinki has received from Turkey has been positive.

A spokesman for Mr. Erdogan also said on Saturday that Turkey was not trying to block the applications of Finland and Sweden to join NATO so much as ensure a process in which the national security of all members was taken into consideration.

May 14, 2022, 5:58 a.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 5:58 a.m. ET

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Unloading wheat grain at a wholesale market near Amritsar, India, last month.Credit...Narinder Nanu/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

India, the world's second-largest wheat producer, has banned exports of the grain with some exceptions, a move that could compound a worldwide shortfall worsened by the war in Ukraine and exacerbate an already dire forecast for hunger across the globe.

The war has interrupted wheat production in Ukraine and Russia, which are major suppliers. Fighting and blockades in the Black Sea have disrupted transport of the grain. And poor harvests in China, along with a heat wave in India and drought in other countries, have further snarled global supply.

India has about 10 percent of the world's grain reserves, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture, a large surplus resulting from its heavy subsidizing of its farmers. It has been seen for months as a country that could help make up for global supply shortages.

The wheat export ban, announced in a Commerce Ministry notice dated Friday, appeared to be an about-face from earlier statements from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Indian leader told President Biden in April that the country was ready to supply the world from its reserves. He also urged domestic wheat producers to seize the opportunity, saying that Indian officials and financial institutions should support exporters.

But agricultural experts said that an ongoing heat wave and rising temperatures could affect the harvest this year, which could be a factor in why the government changed course and imposed a ban on the exports.

The Commerce Ministry notice on Friday said that wheat exports were immediately banned, with some exceptions, because a sudden spike in the crop's price had threatened India's food security. Limited exports will be allowed at the request of individual governments whose own food supply is vulnerable, the notice said.

The export ban could be a further blow to international organizations working to counter the increasing threat of widespread hunger. The World Food Program, a United Nations agency, has warned that an additional 47 million people could go hungry as the war's ripple effects add to an existing crisis of steep increases in food prices and a fertilizer shortage.

In early May, the agency's chief economist, Arif Husain, said that it was in discussions with India to tap into its stockpile to alleviate the shortage. He also said that the World Food Program had urged nations not to enact export bans because they could raise prices and reduce availability. "Hopefully, countries are listening," he said.

Ashok Gulati, a prominent agricultural economist in India, said the ministry's announcement reflected poorly on India, given that it contradicted the government's previous comments about wanting to supply wheat to countries in need.

"If there is a global surge, you can tame it by opening, rather than closing down borders," Mr. Gulati said.

The move is also likely to be unpopular among India's farmers.

Ranbeer Singh Sirsa, a farmer in Punjab State, said the ban was likely to affect wheat farmers who had benefited recently from higher prices and demand.

"If the price wants to go up, let it settle at the international price," Mr. Sirsa said. "Who are they trying to protect now, at the cost of farmers?"

May 14, 2022, 5:54 a.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 5:54 a.m. ET

Matthew Mpoke Bigg

Reporting from Krakow, Poland

President Sauli Niinisto of Finland on Saturday played down comments by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who suggested on Friday that his country would be reluctant to openly welcome Finland and Sweden into NATO. Erdogan's comments should be taken calmly and Turkey's message to Finland has been warm, Mr. Niinisto said.

May 14, 2022, 5:49 a.m. ET

May 14, 2022, 5:49 a.m. ET

After Ukraine's military drove Russia from Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, a Ukrainian military official announced the launch Saturday of a counteroffensive aimed at denying the Russians a key staging area just north of the Donbas region.

The head of Kharkiv's regional military administration said Ukrainian forces had launched a counteroffensive on Russian forces around the northeastern city of Izium. The city is key to Russian efforts to try to broadly encircle Ukraine's forces in the east of the country.

But as Moscow's forces around Kharkiv are driven back, military analysts say that Russia likely will fight to keep open critical supply routes running through the region. Russia also controls a wide swath of land across southern Ukraine.

As the West moves to bolster European security in the face of Russian aggression, the foreign ministers from Sweden and Finland were poised to meet with their NATO counterparts on Saturday to discuss the prospect of joining the military alliance. And Russia appeared to quickly shoot back, halting exports of electricity to Finland after saying that a NATO expansion would pose a clear threat to its own national security.

Just a day before the NATO gathering, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey posed a challenge to his NATO allies, questioning the Nordic countries' joining the alliance, although analysts say that he is probably angling for concessions and a spokesman for Mr. Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey was merely trying to ensure that all members' security concerns were heeded.

In other developments:

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