Civilians lay dead in the middle of the street. Others lie on the side of the road, next to or under their bikes. The victims were often shot in the head. Some had their hands tied.
These are the scenes that the world discovers as Russian troops withdraw from the Kyiv area. In a suburb, Bucha, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed that Russia had tortured and killed more than 300 people, with the death toll continuing to rise. In another town, Nova Basan, residents of the Times’ Carlotta Gall reported that they had been beaten, tortured and subjected to mock executions.
In response to these atrocities against Ukrainian civilians, President Biden and European leaders yesterday pledged to take new action against Russia. Today’s newsletter explains your options. They fall into two main categories: arms for Ukrainian troops and economic sanctions against Russia.
The West is already supplying Ukraine with a large number of weapons, particularly shoulder-launched missile systems such as Javelins and NLAWs. These systems have helped Ukraine repel Russian forces in several parts of the country, including around Kyiv.
But Zelensky has criticized the West for not sending a broader arsenal of weapons. He has also called for fighter jets and S-300 missile systems, which are truck bed-based and capable of shooting down planes and missiles. “If we don’t have heavy weapons, how can we defend ourselves?” he said last week. “Just give us rockets. Give us planes.”
The West refused. Some Western military officials argue that these weapons will not help Ukraine as much as Zelenskyy believes. But the main reason seems to be fear that Vladimir Putin might see the weapons as a precursor to a Western invasion of Russia and respond by escalating the war, possibly including nuclear weapons.
It’s a difficult balance for the West, as I described in a previous newsletter. A bigger war could be even more terrible. On the other hand, refusing to give Ukraine what it wants also comes with a major downside: without more planes and missile systems, Ukraine could have trouble retaking eastern and southern territories that Russia now holds.
“Putin controls large parts of Ukraine, and we know atrocities are happening there,” Frederick Kagan, a military expert at the American Enterprise Institute, told me. So far, according to Kagan, western Ukraine has mainly supplied smaller weapons to defend the territory. But in order for Ukraine to reclaim its territory and stop the violence there, it also needs weapons that are useful on the offensive.
At least two European countries, both bordering Ukraine, appear ready to supply some of the weapons Zelenskyy wants. Slovakia, which owns S-300 missile systems, has agreed to send them to Ukraine, while Poland has offered to send MIG fighter jets. But both countries want the transfers to be part of a larger deal that includes the US or NATO – so Slovakia and Poland, suddenly without key weapons, don’t feel more vulnerable to a Russian attack.
The Biden administration blocked both deals out of concern for Putin’s reaction. Some members of Congress have criticized the administration for not taking more risks to help Ukraine, the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin explained.
Before the evidence of atrocities surfaced, the government was able to point out that Ukraine won the war without the more aggressive weapons systems. That may still be true. But the human cost of a long Russian occupation of Ukraine has become clearer in recent days.
What’s next: NATO foreign ministers are due to meet in Brussels tomorrow and possibly discuss further military aid to Ukraine.
Biden and European leaders have both vowed to impose additional economic penalties on Russia in response to the atrocities. “This guy is brutal,” Biden said, suggesting new sanctions could be announced soon.
For Europe, the biggest potential step would be a reduction in purchases of Russian natural gas. (This Times graphic shows why.)
Lithuania said last weekend it had stopped importing natural gas from Russia, and some officials elsewhere have called for similar action. “You can’t constantly support a great power like Russia with billions in payments from the purchase of energy,” said Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
But the EU as a whole does not seem ready for this. Officials are concerned that such a move will do too much economic damage when inflation is already an issue. A compromise move would be to stop buying oil from Russia, which French President Emmanuel Macron has suggested. However, Germany has opposed this policy and doomed it to failure. Still, some experts believe the recent atrocities could shift the debate.
(Related: Biden urged Putin to face a “war crimes trial” over the killings, and Germany and France expelled 75 Russian diplomats.)
For now, the most likely move seems to be a reduction in coal purchases – the third-biggest form of energy the EU buys from Russia. “By and large, they are unlikely to cause much more of a headache than what the EU has already done,” said Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Brussels bureau chief of The Times.
The USA could also tighten its sanctions. It could make it harder for more Russian arms manufacturers to import parts, notes my colleague Alan Rappeport, a business correspondent. Or Western countries could seize — not just freeze — Russian state money held in foreign banks, said Jeffrey Schott of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
But sanctions rarely affect behavior on the battlefield, says Nicholas Mulder, a Cornell historian. If they work, it can take a long time.
Stopping the atrocities, Kagan predicted, will likely require military force to force Russia out of Ukraine.
state of war
Russia appears to be positioning troops for an intensified attack in the Donbass region. The strategy involves bombing cities to prevent Ukrainian troops from moving to the new front.
Russia threatened to sue any citizen who blamed its troops for the atrocities in Bucha. But a Times investigation shows why Russian troops appear to have carried out the killings.
China is pursuing a domestic political campaign that portrays Russia as a long-suffering victim of the West rather than an aggressor.
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Cooking students at Northern Essex Community College just north of Boston learn about sous vide cooking, butcher whole pigs and try molecular gastronomy. The placement rate after graduation is 100 percent. And it costs a fraction of what the elite culinary schools charge.
Many community colleges have opened or expanded culinary programs in recent years, writes Priya Krishna in The Times. Some students told Priya that they are looking for a cheaper route into an industry where starting salaries are low. And restaurant owners, desperate for line chefs in a tight job market, are helping fund programs and placing graduates in their kitchens.
Community college officials say it’s not their job to create the next generation of celebrity chefs. If the Culinary Institute of America prepares students “a little better for a global market,” said Michael Stamets, dean at SUNY Broome Community College, “we prepare them for a local market.”
For more: Photos from culinary programs in Massachusetts, Kansas and North Carolina.
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what to cook
The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was laughed. Here’s today’s puzzle – or you can play online.