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Ukraine Overhauls Senior Ranks of Defense Ministry

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Hanna Maliar, who has emerged as one of the most prominent Ukrainian officials giving information on the country's counteroffensive, was among the officials dismissed.Credit...Sergei Supinsky/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ukraine dismissed all six of its deputy defense ministers on Monday, a major shake-up in President Volodymyr Zelensky's wartime leadership as he prepares to address the United Nations and meet with members of Congress in the United States.

The Ukrainian leader has been seeking to demonstrate that his government is tightening its management of the defense ministry, which oversees billions of dollars of military assistance donated for the war. Some U.S. critics of the funding have said that reports of corruption were a reason to place stricter limits on military aid, and some members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are nervous that military aid could be deflected from its intended purpose.

The decision to dismiss the deputies was made at a cabinet meeting, according to a Ukrainian government statement posted on the Telegram messaging app on Monday. The government did not give a reason for the move.

It was not immediately known whether the dismissals were related to Mr. Zelensky's replacement earlier this month of Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov with Rustem Umerov. At that time, Mr. Zelensky cited the need for "new approaches."

Mr. Zelensky is scheduled to give a speech on Tuesday before the U.N. General Assembly, and later in the week is expected to see President Biden and members of Congress in Washington in a continuation of his efforts to shore up support for Kyiv's war effort.

The deputy defense ministers released from their posts on Monday included Hanna Maliar, who has emerged in recent months as one of the most prominent government communicators of the daily movement of Ukraine's counteroffensive. Hours before her dismissal was announced, Ms. Maliar continued to post updates on Telegram about the campaign.

The state secretary for defense, Kostiantyn Vashchenko, was also dismissed, according to the government statement. It did not name any replacements.

When Mr. Reznikov was replaced, officials said that the government recognized the need for new leadership more than 500 days after Russia launched its full-scale invasion. Ukrainian civil society groups had complained about a series of contracting scandals involving his ministry.

The government has been investigating accusations of corruption associated with the ministry, which has gained national prominence because of the war.

Daria Kalenyuk, the executive director of the Kyiv-based Anticorruption Action Center, said that Monday's dismissals were a "positive step" that showed that Mr. Zelensky recognized the problems in the defense ministry and was intent on finding remedies.

"The ministry of defense is one of the least reformed ministries in our country, and it is not able to cope with the challenges of the war," she said in an interview. The timing of the announcement, she added, sent a signal to Ukraine's allies in Washington ahead of Mr. Zelensky's trip that his government was committed to reform.

— Matthew Mpoke Bigg reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine


Grain stored in Ukraine's southern Zaporizhzhia region in July.Credit...Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times

Ukraine said on Monday it was filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization against Poland, Slovakia and Hungary after the three countries broke with the rest of the European Union to ban imports of Ukrainian grain.

The countries instituted their bans over the weekend, saying they were necessary to protect their own farmers, who had complained that cheap grain from Ukraine — one of the world's largest exporters — had inadvertently flooded their own markets, pushing down prices. Hoping to quell the unrest, the European Union had temporarily banned Ukrainian agriculture imports in some countries, including the three that later imposed their own bans in the hours after the European Union ban expired.

Ukrainian officials have protested the new bans, saying they threatened solidarity within the bloc and forced further losses on Ukraine's suffering exporters.

"It is crucially important for us to prove that individual member states cannot ban imports of Ukrainian goods," Ukraine's economy minister, Yulia Svyrydenko, said in a statement on Monday. She added that Ukraine needed "solidarity with them and protection of farmers' interests."

Although Ms. Svyrydenko's statement announced that Ukraine had already filed its complaint, a spokesman for the World Trade Organization said he was not aware of any filing on the matter having arrived on Monday.

Ukraine's grain exports halted in the immediate aftermath of the Russian invasion, but some exports resumed last year via the Black Sea under an agreement brokered by the United Nations and Turkey. Russia pulled out of the deal in July, once more raising the importance of overland export routes for Ukraine.

Despite Ukraine's overtures to the W.T.O., Poland intends to stand by the ban and believes it is justified to defend the interests of Polish farmers, a spokesman for the Polish government, Piotr Muller, told the Polish state news agency PAP on Monday.

Other Ukrainian allies in the bloc denounced the bans. Germany's agriculture minister, Cem Ozdemir, criticized what he called "part-time solidarity" with Ukraine.

The French agriculture minister, Marc Fesneau, said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the unilateral measures "threaten our collective efforts to preserve global food security."

Nataliia Novosolova and Steven Moity contributed translation.


A young woman being detained in Moscow after leaving a picture of a building in Ukraine that Russia struck in January.Credit...Nanna Heitmann for The New York Times

Russia has sharply curtailed citizens' rights since President Vladimir V. Putin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, according to a United Nations report released on Monday that cited mass arrests for antiwar protests as part of a wider crackdown on dissent and independent media.

As of June, more than 20,000 people had been detained for protesting the invasion, according to Mariana Katzarova, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Russia.

Ms. Katzarova cited data collected by OVD-Info, an independent human rights group established in Russia in 2011. Over half those arrested were women, she said.

Her report described actions taken by the Kremlin under laws both old and new that targeted dissent over the invasion and broader political opposition.

More than 7,600 cases have been opened and at least 185 people have been prosecuted under new laws that criminalize criticism of the armed forces, with charges arising from taking part in antiwar rallies, sharing or liking antiwar posts on social media, sharing information about reports of war crimes by the Russian Army in Ukraine or singing Ukrainian songs.

Ms. Katzarova said some protesters had been beaten, and there have been credible reports of torture as well as allegations of rape and sexual violence carried out by law enforcement officers against men and women.

Ms. Katzarova, a Bulgarian activist, was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to monitor developments in Russia, the first time such an action has been taken against one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

Her report came 18 months after the U.N. General Assembly suspended Russia's membership in the Human Rights Council over its assault on Ukraine. The Kremlin has undertaken a campaign to win back that seat next month in elections that could be a critical test of support for the diplomatic isolation Russia has faced over the invasion.

"This report matters to Human Rights Council members who have been on the fence with regard to what's happening in Russia," said Dave Elseroad, the Geneva-based head of advocacy for the Human Rights House Foundation. "For smaller states that want to remain neutral it shows that independent of the war there exists a situation in Russia that warrants international attention and concern."

According to Ms. Katzarova, the recent crackdown by the Kremlin builds on a tightening of restrictions that has played out over the past two decades, aided by a judicial system that serves as an instrument of executive power "undermining the rule of law" and citizens' trust in it.

The Russian government's punishment of dissent extends to political opponents of the Kremlin. And while much attention is paid to the draconian jail sentences imposed on prominent political opposition figures — such as the 19-year sentence added to the jail term of Aleksei A. Navalny — at least 513 people were prosecuted on "politically motivated charges" in 2022, Ms. Katzarova reported. An additional 198 cases were initiated in 2023.

Russian officials have also used laws restricting so-called foreign agents and organizations considered "undesirable" to halt the activities of hundreds of civic activist groups, she found.

Media organizations have operated in an increasingly hostile environment over the past two decades, Ms. Katzarova found. Journalists have faced violence and harassment, as well as the threat of legal action, under the guise of laws covering defamation, privacy and extremism, halting reporting on protests, corruption or gender identity issues.

The arrest of the Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on espionage charges — allegations the United States and the newspaper have condemned — highlighted a surge in arrests of journalists and others on allegations of treason or espionage, Ms. Katzarova said. Eighty people have been charged with treason in the first seven months of 2023, she added.

Ms. Katzarova, who started her work in May, said she had sought the cooperation of the Kremlin for her report but received no engagement. A diplomatic note from Russia to the United Nations human rights office in Geneva in July said all submissions by Ms. Katzarova "would be automatically disregarded."

— Nick Cumming-Bruce reporting from Geneva


An image from NOVA TV in Bulgaria showed experts inspecting a drone near the village of Tyulenovo.Credit...NOVA TV, via Reuters

Bulgaria's Defense Ministry said Monday that debris from a drone carrying explosives had been found in a town on the Black Sea, the most recent in a series of incidents involving wreckage on NATO members' soil.

The wreckage in the Bulgarian town of Tyulenovo was found a week after Romania discovered debris on its territory thought to be related to Russian strikes on Ukraine's Danube River ports for the third time in less than two weeks. However, Bulgaria made no mention of where the debris might have originated.

Tyulenovo sits about 24 miles from the Romanian border and across the Black Sea from the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, but far from the Ukrainian ports that Russia has targeted with drones and missiles.

Bulgaria's Defense Ministry said in a statement that it had sent a team from the Navy early Monday to examine the debris, which was discovered overnight near a boat dock. The team determined that a mortar was attached to the drone's wreckage and destroyed it, it said in a subsequent statement. An image from NOVA TV in Bulgaria showed experts inspecting debris on the shore.

As members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Romania and Bulgaria are protected under the alliance's commitment to mutual defense, which considers an attack on one member as an attack on all. Romania has avoided any suggestion that it might invoke Article 5 of the NATO treaty, the cornerstone of the joint defense pact, over the drone debris.


A destroyed Russian armored personnel carrier in Ukraine in June. Credit...Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

The war in Ukraine is threatening Russia's role as a global arms supplier, as Moscow is increasingly forced to prioritize its own needs in production, according to a new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Before 2021, Russia was second only to the United States in exporting arms to the rest of the world. It has since slipped behind France and may soon be overtaken by China, according to the center, a Washington-based think tank.

The decline began before Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, partly due to the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, the researchers found. Passed by Congress in 2017, the act threatens to impose sanctions against countries engaging in "significant transactions" with the Russian defense sector.

"Russia already by the time the war began had many fewer systems on order than it would have had five or ten years ago," said Max Bergmann, the lead author of the report, which cited data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a think tank that tracks the arms trade.

The war has only hastened that trend, Mr. Bergmann said, as Russia's own needs have ballooned with the war in Ukraine, at times forcing Moscow to delay delivery times for foreign customers.

The report predicts that Russia will remain a major arms exporter, but its international position will most likely continue to deteriorate — particularly in the market for sophisticated high-end systems like aircraft and air defenses.

The researchers concluded that Russia is more likely to have staying power in exporting less sophisticated arms at the lower-value end of the market, in particular to countries where it has longstanding relationships.

Russia accounted for 40 percent of African arms imports from 2018 to 2022, exceeding imports to the continent from the United States, China and France combined. The report predicts Russia will hold on to much of that market share, which may not bring in as much money as deals for more advanced equipment but has significant diplomatic and geopolitical value.


President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in Kyiv this month.Credit...Pool photo by Brendan Smialowski

Ukraine's allies this week will hold meetings in New York and Germany aimed at increasing military aid as President Volodymyr Zelensky tries to reassure supporters that his military's recent effort to regain territory from Russia are worth the effort despite limited progress after months of fighting.

Mr. Zelensky will give a speech on Tuesday at the annual gathering of heads of state at the United Nations. On the same day at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III is scheduled to host the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which comprises the dozens of nations providing Ukraine with military aid. Mr. Austin will also meet Rustem Umerov, Ukraine's new defense minister.

Later in the week, Mr. Zelensky will visit President Biden at the White House as the United States debates providing $24 billion more in aid.

Mr. Zelensky's diplomatic push is meant to blunt frustration from some allies about the progress of a counteroffensive, which he acknowledged was not going "very fast," according to an interview he gave CBS News' "60 Minutes" that aired on Sunday. Peace efforts, at times led by the Vatican, Turkey and China, have not yielded any progress or concrete results. And both Mr. Zelensky and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia have said that conditions do not exist to sit down for talks after nearly 19 months of war. Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO, recently warned allies to prepare for a "long war."

Here is what else to watch for this week:


Ukrainian soldiers near Klishchiivka, Ukraine, in July.Credit...Anatolii Stepanov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ukraine's military said Sunday that it had retaken another village outside the ruined city of Bakhmut, the latest advance in its hard-fought counteroffensive to drive Russian forces from the country's east.

The village, Klishchiivka, had been under Russian control since January and is the second settlement in the area to come back under Kyiv's control in three days. It sits on high ground overlooking roadways in and out of Bakhmut, which Moscow's forces captured in May.

The retaking of Klishchiivka may help Ukraine apply pressure to the Russian forces holding Bakhmut, which Moscow has devoted resources to defending even though it has been reduced to rubble. The village, about six miles south of Bakhmut holds a commanding position that could allow Ukrainian artillery to more accurately shell Russian forces entering or exiting the city.

There was no immediate comment from the Russian Defense Ministry, which mentioned fighting near Klishchiivka in a Sunday evening update, and the claims could not immediately be independently confirmed.

In recent weeks, Kyiv's troops had been slowly advancing on Klishchiivka, taking heavy casualties. On Friday, the Ukrainian military said its forces had gained control of Andriivka, a farming hamlet a little more than two miles to the south.

Then on Sunday evening, the 80th Separate Airborne Assault Brigade posted a video of soldiers holding the yellow-and-blue flag of Ukraine in front of a ruined building and a destroyed church as booms echoed.

"The settlement of Klishchiivka was finally freed," read the video's caption on Facebook, crediting its fighters and those from two other brigades.

Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, the commander of Ukraine's ground forces, soon announced the news, writing on Telegram that Klishchiivka had been "cleared of the Russians," and in his nightly address, President Volodymyr Zelensky commended the soldiers.

"Klishchiivka! Well done!" he said.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting.


A damaged apartment block compound in Kyiv in November last year.Credit...David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine threatened to escalate attacks on Russia if Moscow repeated last winter's strategy of bombarding Ukrainian power plants that left millions of Ukrainians fighting freezing temperatures without power, heat and water.

The warning, issued by Mr. Zelensky in an interview with the CBS News show "60 Minutes," comes as the war heads into another winter and as Ukraine has demonstrated it can reach targets deep inside Russia.

"If you cut off our power, deprive us of electricity, deprive us of water, deprive us of gasoline, you need to know we have the right to do it" too, Mr. Zelensky said, according to a transcript released by "60 Minutes." The Russian leader, Vladimir V. Putin, had ordered attacks on civilian targets, Mr. Zelensky added, in a bid to "break" the Ukrainians' spirit.

Last winter, Russia sought to weaponize the weather, a campaign that ultimately failed but at times left millions of Ukrainians without heat and reliant on old wells for water. This year, Ukraine is boldly threatening to do the same to Russians, relying mainly on attack drones.

In recent months, the frequency of drones fired at Russian targets has increased drastically. They have hit a key bridge linking the Crimean Peninsula with Russia, recently damaged Russian naval ships in the region and menaced the border region of Belgorod. They have also penetrated deep inside Russian borders — as far as the greater Moscow region — but have not caused significant damage there.

Ukraine does not officially acknowledge attacks inside Russian territory even though Mr. Zelensky and other top officials have said that they intend to bring the war to ordinary Russians. In the "60 Minutes" interview, Mr. Zelensky again tried to be ambiguous about the strikes even though he said, "Ukrainian drones have vaulted into Russia itself, hitting the Kremlin, warplanes and Moscow high rises."

He went on to insist that he was not ordering the drone attacks and that Ukraine uses weapons provided by its allies only on Ukrainian territory.

"But Russia needs to know that wherever it is, whichever place they use for launching missiles to strike Ukraine, Ukraine has every moral right to send a response to those places," Mr. Zelensky said. "We are responding to them saying: 'Your sky is not as well protected as you think.'"


Moscow City, the financial center where several drone attacks happened over the summer.

Metro trains are running smoothly in Moscow, as usual, but getting around the city center by car has become more complicated, and annoying, because anti-drone radar interferes with navigation apps.

There are well-off Muscovites ready to buy Western luxury cars, but there are not enough available. And while a local election for mayor took place as it normally would, many decided not to vote, with the result seemingly predetermined (a landslide win by the incumbent).

Almost 19 months after Russia invaded Ukraine, Muscovites are experiencing dual realities: The war has faded into background noise, causing few major disruptions, and yet it remains ever-present in their daily lives.


When flights are delayed because of drone threats in the area, the explanation given is usually "technical reasons."


A sidewalk memorial near Red Square in Moscow was set up after the death of the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, last month.

There is little anxiety among residents over the drone strikes that have hit Moscow this summer. No alarm sirens to warn of a possible attack. When flights are delayed because of drone threats in the area, the explanation is usually the same as the one plastered on signs at the shuttered luxury boutiques of Western designers: "technical reasons."

"We continue to work, to live and to raise our children," said Anna, 41, as she walked by a sidewalk memorial marking the death of the Wagner mercenary leader Yevgeny V. Prigozhin. She said she worked in a government ministry, and like others interviewed, she did not give her last name because of a fear of retribution.

But for some, the effects of war are landing harder.

— Valerie Hopkins and Nanna Heitmann reporting from Moscow


North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, leaving a station near Vladivostok, Russia, on Sunday, in a photo released by state media.Credit...Korean Central News Agency, via Associated Press

North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, left Russia on Sunday, the Russian state news agency Tass reported, ending a visit that included a summit meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin.

Mr. Kim departed in his armored train from Russia's Primorye region, where he had met with Russian officials and inspected military equipment. Earlier, he and Mr. Putin had met at the Vostochny Cosmodrome and discussed deepening ties, including on military cooperation, while the Russian president showed off his country's satellite and rocket technologies.

The nearly weeklong visit reinforced speculation that a warmer relationship between the countries could pose a threat to the United States, their shared enemy. U.S. officials have warned that North Korea could send more weapons to Moscow, prolonging its invasion in Ukraine, while Russia could offer North Korea technology and technical help to aid is military and nuclear capabilities.

Mr. Kim's slow-moving train, his favored mode of transportation, was spotted headed south toward the border, Tass reported on Sunday.

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