Sri Lanka protests: Is it safe for tourists and what is the latest government advice?

Sri Lanka remains under a nationwide curfew after violent anti-government protests erupted across the country in March.

The island nation is a popular destination among backpackers and holidaymakers, so what does the security situation mean for travellers?

The UK is now advising against “all but essential travel” to the south-asian nation, in line with Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

As a result of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office update on Friday, Tui has cancelled all holidays to Sri Lanka until at least the end of the month.

The operator adds that “this advice does not apply to customers transiting through Sri Lanka’s international airport and customers currently in resort can continue to enjoy their holiday as planned.”

Here’s what you need to know about the country’s ongoing political and economic turmoil – and what to do if you’re currently in Sri Lanka or are planning a trip.  

What’s happening in Sri Lanka?

Over the last few months, an unprecedented economic crisis has led to shortages of essential goods like medicine and cooking gas, as well as widespread power cuts.

Mass demonstrations against the government broke out in late March, with protesters clashing with government supporters and armed police. More than 200 people have been injured and at least eight killed during the unrest.

A new interim Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, was appointed on Thursday after Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned on 9 May. But protesters are also calling for his brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to step down. Thousands of people have been demonstrating outside his office in the capital, Colombo.

Protesters have also burned dozens of houses and cars belonging to senior politicians.

Sri Lanka’s economic crisis is bound up in its status as a major tourist destination. The country’s foreign currency reserves have virtually run dry, partly because of the dearth of tourist trade during the pandemic.

Wickremesinghe has proposed privatising the loss-making national carrier Sri Lankan Airlines in a bid to help stabilise the nation’s finances.

How to stay safe

The Sri Lankan government announced a “state of emergency” on 6 May. This means they have the authority to make security announcements – such as curfews – at short notice.

Make sure to check local news and official updates regularly, as well as referring to your own government’s travel advice.

Foreign governments, including the UK, have advised visitors already in Sri Lanka to avoid protest areas, as demonstrations have sometimes become violent and police have responded with tear gas and water cannons.

The protests have been centred around the capital, Colombo, with several violent incidents taking place in the Galle Face area. But be careful wherever you go, because unrest is present throughout the country.

Can you go out in Sri Lanka despite the curfew?

Under the curfew, going out and about is not allowed.

​​Sri Lanka’s Tourism Development Authority has advised tourists to stay in their hotel or accommodation until their departure flight.

The authorities say travellers can show their passports and airline tickets to get past the curfew on their way to the airport.

It’s a good idea to check with your airline and taxi company before setting off, as widespread strikes may also cause disruption to journeys.

Will my holiday be cancelled?

Sri Lanka is often described as a “year-round destination” due to its warm climate, so many people may be planning a visit over the summer months.

Tui has decided to cancel all holidays until 31 May, in light of the stricter FCDO advice. “We will be proactively contacting all impacted customers in departure date order to discuss their options,” the operator said yesterday.

Despite the unrest, not all tour operators have not cancelled scheduled trips to the country, but some have changed itineraries to include more time at coastal resorts, which are further away from protest focal points. It’s always worth asking the company you booked with.

If you decide you want to cancel your holiday yourself, bear in mind that travel insurers are unlikely to cover you, especially if your home country has not advised against travel to Sri Lanka.

Are there still COVID-19 restrictions in Sri Lanka?

As well as the security situation, it’s also important to consider ongoing coronavirus restrictions in Sri Lanka.

Those who still wish to travel to the country need to fill out a Health Declaration Form and buy COVID-19 insurance for around €11.50.

Fully-vaccinated visitors don’t have to take a pre-departure PCR test, but unvaccinated travellers must take tests before departing and upon arrival.

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Drunk County Durham mum smashed into family car on A1(M) and killed pet dog

A drunk mother killed a pet dog after smashing into a family car on the A1(M) as she filmed herself on Snapchat driving at high-speed.

Katie Webster had been drinking booze when she decided to get behind the wheel on September 15, last year. The 32-year-old then travelled along the A1(M) at speeds of up to 107mph as she filmed herself on Snapchat, before smashing into a couple who were driving home from a day out at Northumberland with their child and pet dog.

The force of the crash caused the family’s car to flip and land on its roof, killing the family dog and fracturing the spine of the mother. When Webster was arrested, she tried to make off from the scene before being taken to hospital and then attacking a police officer.

Katie Webster (inset) appeared at Durham Crown Court (main image)


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Dad forced to make regular 100-mile trips or be deported

A Newcastle father is living in fear his family will be ‘ripped apart’ as he struggles to meet the demands of a ‘cruel’ asylum system. Moses Chikwekwete Mbano came to the UK in 2002 fleeing political persecution in his home country of Zimbabwe.

Although he fears he would still be in serious danger there, he could now be sent home if he fails to make regular 100-mile round trips to Middlesbrough to report to immigration officers.

Asylum seeker Moses Chikwekwete Mbano has been ordered to report to a police station in Middlesbrough once a week, despite living in Newcastle (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

Moses receives no government financial support and despite wanting to work is forbidden from doing so as an asylum seeker.

His partner Daisy Motlogwa, a British citizen and NHS nurse, works for a nursing agency to provide for herself, Moses and their three children.

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Landscape gardener who fleeced customers freed to work in same trade

A landscape gardener who fleeced customers out of thousands of pounds is free to run another business in the same line of work after being spared prison.

John Dunn pocketed £24,000 for work which he didn’t do, leaving three people who paid his firm, MED Landscapes, out of pocket and angry.

John Dunn who fleeced customers out of thousands

When one later spotted him getting out of his Range Rover and confronted him, he was dismissive and just told him “It’s business, these things happen”.

As Dunn, 36, of Town Square, Wallsend, was sentenced for three counts of theft, a judge said he would give him the chance to prove his claim that he wants to “earn an honest living” by releasing him on a suspended prison sentence.

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Family’s bid to bring body of ‘selfless’ Gateshead lad home from Spain

A Gateshead family is appealing for help to bring an ‘amazing, selfless’ 25-year-old home, after he drowned in Spain while rescuing his dog from a river.

Paul Lebihan, from Leam Lane, died on Monday after getting into trouble in the Bolulla River, near Benidorm, after successfully freeing the dog from the current.

Paul Lebihan (Image: Kallym Bell)

Now his family has launched a fundraising appeal to help bring Paul’s body back home and give him the memorial he deserves.

Paul’s cousin, Kallym Bell, launched a GoFundMe page in support of Paul’s parents, Deborah and Paul Snr. In less than 24 hours the page had already raised over £7,000, with hundreds of people leaving comments paying tribute to ‘one of nicest men you could ever meet’.

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Thug boasted of ‘chewing off’ part of girlfriend’s ex’s ear

A violent thug who bit off part of his girlfriend’s ex partner’s ear and then boasted about it has been jailed.

Liam Thornton repeatedly encountered Kieran Swan during a night out in Blyth before launching the sickening attack in a nightclub.

Liam Thornton, jailed for an ear bite attack

Newcastle Crown Court heard it was on August 14 last year that Mr Swan had been out for a meal and Thornton and his partner also happened to be in the same place.

Michael Bunch, prosecuting, said: “The defendant had been staring at him during the meal.” They then encountered each other in a pub in Blyth and Mr Bunch said: “The defendant spoke to Mr Swan and suggested he was jealous of his relationship with his ex partner. He said he didn’t want trouble and walked away. The defendant and his friend laughed at him.”

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Latest Ukraine-Russia War News: Live Updates

PARIS — In the past, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has used the annual celebration of the Soviet victory over the Nazis in 1945 to cement his steady militarization of Russian society, extol the values of heroic patriotism, and contrast Russia’s warrior spirit with what he sees as the moral decadence of the West.

This year, he will no doubt try to conjure “victory” from the indiscriminate destruction he has wrought in Ukraine. He will find some justification for a war that has gone far less well than expected against a Western-backed “Nazi” threat in Kyiv that he has invented.

As he does so, May 9 will be marked otherwise in Western Europe. President Emmanuel Macron will salute Europe Day in Berlin and Strasbourg, seat of the European Parliament, laying out his ambitious vision of a 27-nation European Union now compelled to move beyond mere economic heft toward becoming a more federal, and more forceful, world power.

“It will be a split-screen effect,” said Nicole Bacharan, a French foreign policy analyst. “On one screen, a magnificent Moscow military parade, on the other something more cumbersome and slow, but perhaps we in the European Union should celebrate not having a dictator laying down the law.”

Two Europes now face each other on a Continent where, for Mr. Putin’s Russia, the defeat of Nazi Germany in the “Great Patriotic War” enshrines the sacredness and glory of war, whereas in Paris and Berlin it symbolizes the imperative of peace.

The confrontation is between 19th- and 21st-century worldviews, with potential consequences that the 20th century illustrated at Verdun, Hiroshima and elsewhere. Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine has demonstrated that the risk of great conflagrations has not been consigned to the past.

From flattened Aleppo in Syria to besieged Azovstal, the steel mill that is the last outpost of resistance in the ruins of the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, his message has been consistent: Military force is effective in changing geostrategic reality in Russia’s favor.

Credit…Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Citing a Russian proverb, he said in 2014 that “for the community, even death is beautiful,” a trait that explained the nation’s “mass heroism in military conflicts.” He contrasted “the superior moral truths” pursued by the Russian people with the belief in the West that all that counts is economic success.

That, of course, is to misread Europe’s reasoning and long commitment to integration, undertaken not merely for the pursuit of prosperity, but to secure peace by doing so.

On May 9, 1950, Robert Schuman, the French foreign minister, proposed fusing French and German steel production so that “any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.” So was the seed of a borderless Europe with a single currency planted and the Continent’s repetitive suicides ended.

It is this anniversary that Mr. Macron will recognize on Monday, in a Europe where hymns to bloodshed are shunned.

But Mr. Putin, after 22 years in power that have led him to a smoldering resentment of the West, is convinced that the French president, and all of Europe, should be recognizing something else: the immense Soviet sacrifice, involving the death of 27 million of its citizens, that saved Europe from Nazism.

“Our people were alone, alone on the difficult, heroic and sacrificial road to victory” over fascism, he said last year.

Credit…Yevgeny Khaldei/ Itar-Tass, Associated Press

“He believes that Europe is ungrateful and that if the European Union was built, it was only through Russian sacrifice,” Michel Eltchaninoff, the French author of “Inside the Mind of Vladimir Putin,” said. “And he is utterly contemptuous of the idea that commerce can bring peace to nations.”

That, of course, is precisely what a European Union of 450 million citizens, with its economy of more than $17 trillion, is all about. As an alternative, Mr. Putin has offered his Eurasian Union to the likes of Ukraine, but Belarus as model is a hard sell if Berlin and Barcelona are on the table.

The magnetism of European democratic success, whatever its flaws, appears more life-threatening to Mr. Putin than NATO because it challenges the autocratic kleptocracy he has built around a web of oligarchs beholden to him.

Hence his violent reaction to Ukraine’s association with the European Union, and his horror at the E.U. flag draped down the facade of the Ukrainian foreign ministry in 2014, after the country drove out Mr. Putin’s corrupt toady president, Viktor F. Yanukovych.

From the start of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, it has been clear that Mr. Putin is not merely at war to restore Moscow’s empire by subjugating, or dismembering, Ukraine. He is also at war against the United States and its European allies that he has come to regard as godless agents whose humiliation of Russia at the Soviet Union’s breakup in 1991 can never be forgiven.

This wider war promises to be a long one, obliging Europe to restore at least some of the military focus it has largely shunned in the more than three decades since the end of the Cold War.

Credit…Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

“The whole so-called Western bloc formed by the United States in its own image and likeness is, in its entirety, the very same ‘empire of lies,’” Mr. Putin said in his speech announcing a war to “de-Nazify” Ukraine, a state with a Jewish leader.

At one point in his long rule, Mr. Putin was prepared to recognize Soviet military crimes. As prime minister, he visited the Katyn Forest in 2010 to commemorate the Soviet murder there of thousands of Polish officers at the start of World War II.

He denounced the “cynical lies” that had hidden the truth of the slaughter in Katyn and said “there was no justification for these crimes” of a “totalitarian regime.”

“We should meet each other halfway, realizing it is impossible to live only in the past,” Mr. Putin said.

But in Europe a dozen years later, a “halfway” compromise between Russian militarism elevated to mystical, quasi-religious intensity and Franco-German “peace through union” appears almost unthinkable.

Mr. Putin has elevated Stalin once again to heroic status. Far from admitting any of its crimes, in Katyn or elsewhere, he has reconstituted the Red Army as the connective tissue of the new expansionist Russia.

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Each year on Victory Day, Russian citizens parade bearing photographs of their heroic forbears in a spectacle known as “the immortal regiment.” On occasion, Mr. Putin, whose father was badly wounded in the war, has joined them. This time, a direct connection is being established between the war against Hitler and the current war on the fictive “Nazis” of Kyiv.

Against this blaze of militarist nationalism from a nuclear power, evoking what the Nobel-winning Polish poet Wisława Szymborska called “magnificent bursting bombs in rosy dawns,” what does the pallid European Union have to counter Mr. Putin? What magnetism does its May 9 hold?

War in Ukraine has galvanized Europe. It generally views with urgency bringing Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova into the European Union. Calls are multiplying for an acceleration of decision-making on foreign and defense policy. Mario Draghi, the Italian prime minister, called this month for “pragmatic federalism” in defense and other areas.

Federalism, a word associated with the idea of a United States of Europe, eventually under a federal government of some kind, suggests fast-forwarding European unity in ways that have seemed unthinkable for many years.

“We must overcome this principle of unanimity, which leads to a logic of crossed vetoes, and move towards decisions taken by a qualified majority,” Mr. Draghi said, alluding to a procedure that would allow approval once a certain threshold of support is attained. He added: “Protecting Ukraine means protecting ourselves and the project of security and democracy we have built together over 70 years.”

Germany’s coalition government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz supports majority voting on security and defense policy, but France is more hesitant.

Credit…Pool photo by Alexei Druzhinin

Russian aggression has shifted Poland toward support for strengthening the union. Mr. Macron’s defeat of Marine Le Pen, the nationalist friend of Mr. Putin, in the presidential election last month has isolated the illiberal Hungarian leader, Viktor Orban, in his connivance with Russia. The European Union, always querulous, seems bent on transformative change.

“It’s a spectacular coincidence of dates,” Dominique Moïsi, a French political scientist, said of May 9. “What is more real? Russian might and Mariupol destroyed, or normal European life in Strasbourg? We will have to fight like hell to stop him, as if our very future is at stake.”

Mr. Macron has been the leading proponent of a sovereign Europe, independent enough to claim “strategic autonomy,” and backed by the bolstering of European military power alongside and in coordination with NATO.

It appears certain that Mr. Macron will use May 9 to elaborate on this vision and to make clear the contrast between Mr. Putin’s model of war and the European peace magnet Mr. Schuman set in motion 72 years ago.

At the same time, however, Mr. Macron believes there is no alternative to negotiation with Mr. Putin.

Three years ago, he invited Mr. Putin to the presidential summer residence at Brégancon and declared that “Russia is European, very profoundly so, and we believe in this Europe that stretches from Lisbon to Vladivostok.”

Credit…Pool photo by Alexei Druzhinin

The Ukraine war has jolted, if not undone, that idea. “Mr. Macron knows Ukraine cannot resist without the United States,” Mr. Moïsi said. “You cannot build Europe as a power without America because you lose half of Europeans if you try. The unity of the West is the key to the unity of Europe.”

Whatever Mr. Putin declares on May 9, that unity has proved effective in defending Ukraine and hurting Russia. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III wants to see Russia permanently weakened, “to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”

This will not happen overnight and it carries evident risks.

In “First Person,” the autobiography he published more than 20 years ago, Mr. Putin described cornering a rat in his dilapidated St. Petersburg apartment building as a boy.

“So, he turned around and jumped on me,” Mr. Putin wrote. “It surprised me and I was very afraid. It pursued me, jumping downstairs,” before the boy who would become president managed to slam a door on the rat.

“On that stairwell I understood once and for all what it is to be cornered,” Mr. Putin wrote.

If, as it seems to be, the rat story is any indication of the convictions of the man who now controls Russia’s nuclear arsenal, then direct, even reckless, attack is Mr. Putin’s response to feeling cornered.

Credit…Natalia Kolesnikova/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

May 7, 2022

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the location of the Katyn Forest. It is in Russia not Poland.

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Travel news: Ontario’s latest lavender fields, Montreal’s Fringe fest, and welcome to the era of ‘net-zero hotels’

Purple haze

With 30,000 lavender bushes in bloom this summer, the Avalon Lavender Farm in Mono, Ont., is more than just a pretty photo op. In mid-June, the family-owned lavender farm will begin welcoming the public every Thursday to Sunday. Visitors will be able to cut their own flowers, limber up at yoga sessions in a Celtic-style stone circle, or visit the shop inside an 1891 heritage barn. The farm will stay open for the season until September, but for peak purple, book your field visit for July or early August. Reserve a time slot, $14 per ticket, online.

Avalon Lavender Farm is home to more than 30,000 lavender bushes, primarily planted last spring.

On the fringe

Hundreds of comedians, dancers, musicians and circus performers are set to take over the streets of Montreal’s Plateau-Mont-Royal and Mile End neighbourhoods during the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival (May 30 to June 19). Known for its independent and offbeat performances (think: “Carrie: The Musical,” based on Stephen King’s classic horror novel), this year’s Fringe will host more than 800 performances by local and international artists. What’s not free is affordable, with tickets capped at $15.

Spruced up

Nova Scotia’s iconic Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa has been around since 1929, but as of this spring, it’s now open year-round. A $12-million renovation is underway to winterize the property — which was purchased by a group led by the Bear River First Nation in 2019 — including upgrades to the main lodge and 31 private cottages, alongside the addition of new dining spaces. The resort is also set to grow, with the planned construction of a vacation village (investment properties managed by Digby Pines) expected to draw more investment — and travellers — to the region.

Opening soon

North America’s first “net-zero hotel” is set to open in New Haven, Conn., on May 19. The 165-room Hotel Marcel, part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton, will generate 100 per cent of its own energy for heating, cooling and hot water systems using rooftop solar panels and solar parking canopies. It’s among a small group of hotels worldwide making this net-zero claim, joining the 86-room Room2 Chiswick, which opened in London, U.K., in December. With Hilton, Marriott and Accor also setting company-wide net-zero goals, expect to see more carbon-neutral hotels in the future.


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Convicted killer’s brutal attack caused fellow inmate to lose eye

A HMP Durham prisoner ended up losing an eye after a murderer attacked him with a razor blade in a cell.

Derek Paul Pallas was on remand and awaiting the start of his trial for murdering a man in Teesside when he carried out the gruesome attack on Christmas Eve, 2018.

Derek Pallas attacked a fellow inmate with a razor blade in a HMP Durham cell (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

The 39-year-old armed himself with a razor blade inside his clenched fist before attacking the victim, who was being held down by another prisoner. The attack was so violent, the victim later had to have an eye removed.

Pallas, of Sycamore Park, Brandon, Durham, was subsequently given a life sentence for stabbing Peter Gilling to death in Billingham on September 29, 2018, after being found guilty following a trial. On Tuesday, Pallas appeared at Durham Crown Court, via link from HMP Full Sutton, to be sentenced for the causing grievous bodily harm with intent incident.

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Latest Russia-Ukraine News: Live Updates

BRUSSELS — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveled to Ukraine’s capital over the weekend, leading the second senior American delegation to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky in as many weeks and declare support for his country’s fight to beat back the Russian invasion.

With each visit — the secretaries of state and defense traveled to Kyiv last weekend — the promise of American commitment to a Ukrainian victory appears to grow, even as how the United States defines victory has remained uncertain.

On Sunday, a day after her visit to Ukraine, Ms. Pelosi told a news conference in Poland: “America stands with Ukraine. We stand with Ukraine until victory is won. And we stand with NATO.”

Ms. Pelosi, the second in line to succeed President Biden, is the highest-ranking American official to visit Kyiv since the war began, and her words carry weight, seeming to underscore an expanded view of American and allied war aims.

Her visit, with a congressional delegation, followed a joint visit to Kyiv by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III only last Sunday. Mr. Austin caused some controversy and debate afterward when he appeared to shift the goal of the war from defending Ukraine’s independence and territorial sovereignty to weakening Russia.

“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” Mr. Austin said, implying that the United States wanted to erode Russian military power for years to come — presumably so long as Vladimir V. Putin, president of Russia, remains in power.

Credit…Omar Marques/Getty Images

In one positive development on Sunday, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross helped organize what was described as an “ongoing” evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol, where they have been taking shelter with a dwindling number of Ukrainian soldiers who have refused to surrender to the Russians. Between 80 and 100 civilians arrived in a convoy of buses at a temporary accommodation center 18 miles east of the city, in the village of Bezimenne.

The evacuation appeared to be the fruit of a visit to both Mr. Putin in Moscow and Mr. Zelensky in Kyiv last week by António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, who called the war in Ukraine “an absurdity.” Mr. Guterres and the Red Cross have been working to get humanitarian aid and supplies of food and water to civilians trapped by the fighting; any serious peace negotiations still appear far off.

In a Twitter message, Mr. Zelensky applauded the evacuation of what he said was a “first group of about 100 people,” and said that “tomorrow we’ll meet them in Zaporizhzhia.”

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, said in a statement that it would not provide details of the effort while it was continuing; further evacuations are expected to resume on Monday.

Russian forces have not yet been able to finally take the last slice of Mariupol, which no longer matters militarily but which has been an inspiring symbol of Ukrainian bravery, morale and resistance that is bound to go down in Ukrainian history.

But if there is a new allied consensus about supplying Ukraine with heavier and more sophisticated weapons for the latest stage of the war in eastern Ukraine, there is no allied consensus about switching the war aim from Ukraine to Russia.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

There is a sense in Europe that “the U.S. is dragging everyone into a different war,” said François Heisbourg, a French defense analyst, citing similar comments by President Biden about “the butcher of Moscow” and how “Putin must go.”

Sone wonder what Washington is trying to say — or do.

“To help Ukraine prevail is not about waging war against Russia for reasons related to its governance,” Mr. Heisbourg said. “Regime change may be a vision, but not a war aim.”

He and others said that such talk from Washington plays perfectly into Mr. Putin’s narrative that NATO is waging war against Russia, and that Russia is fighting a defensive war for its survival in Ukraine. That may give Mr. Putin the excuse on May 9, the annual celebration of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, to declare this “special military operation” a war, which would allow him, if he chooses, to mobilize the population and use conscripts widely in the battle.

Talk of victory over Russia “gives easy ammunition to the other side and creates the fear that the West may go further, and it’s not what we want,” said Ulrich Speck, a German analyst. “We don’t want to cut Russia into pieces.”

Gérard Araud, a former French ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, commented on Twitter: “The support to Ukraine in its modalities and its objectives should be agreed at a political level between allies. Right now, we are sleepwalking to nobody knows where.”

In response, Moscow has raised the tone of its own rhetoric.

On Wednesday, Mr. Putin said that any countries who “create a strategic threat to Russia” during this war in Ukraine can expect “retaliatory strikes” that would be “lightning-fast.” Days before, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said in an interview that “NATO is essentially going to war with Russia through a proxy and arming that proxy.”

Mr. Putin’s military, having lost what Britain estimates to have been at least 15,000 killed in action — that is more than in the Soviet Union’s entire war in Afghanistan — has been struggling to cut supply lines of Western arms, munitions and heavy weapons to Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

On Sunday, the Russians said they had bombed a runway and a munitions dump at a military airfield near Odesa that was storing Western arms, and Russia has been attempting to attack roads and especially railway terminals, since most heavy weapons are traveling east by rail. The Russian aim is to slowly cut off or encircle the bulk of Ukraine’s army east of the Dnipro River and starve it of new supplies.

But that grinding effort is going slowly, with fierce artillery battles and high casualties on both sides.

It is not just Ukraine’s military that is being starved of supplies. There is now a shortage of gasoline and diesel, at least for civilian use, stemming from Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports and attacks on refineries and fuel depots. Long lines for gasoline have been seen even in cities like Lviv, and there are concerns about the impact of the shortages on agriculture, even in fields untouched by the war.

A report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said that only a fifth of almost 1,300 large agribusinesses surveyed by the government in mid-March had enough fuel to operate the farm equipment needed to plant corn, barley and other crops this spring, which is already causing rising food prices in countries far from Ukraine.

In a possible indication of flagging Russian morale, the chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, the country’s top uniformed officer, made a visit to a dangerous frontline position in eastern Ukraine this weekend in an effort to “change the course” of Russia’s offensive there, according to a senior Ukrainian official with knowledge of the visit.

Ukrainian forces launched an attack on a Russian headquarters in Izium on Saturday evening, but General Gerasimov had already left to return to Russia, the official said. Still, some 200 soldiers, including at least one general, were killed, the Ukrainian official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive military operation. A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that General Gerasimov had been in eastern Ukraine but did not confirm the rest of the Ukrainian account.

Fighting has intensified around the large eastern city of Kharkiv in recent days as Ukrainian forces have attempted to push away Russian units. Though the gains have been small, they are emblematic of both the Ukrainian and Russian forces’ strategy as the war drags into its third month, one that focuses on a village at a time and leverages concentrated artillery fire to dislodge one another.

Ukraine’s military said in a statement on Saturday that it had been able to retake four villages around Kharkiv: Verkhnya Rohanka, Ruska Lozova, Slobidske and Prilesne. The claims have been hard to verify since much of those areas are currently closed to the media; on Sunday, Ukraine announced that it had rebuffed Russian advances toward villages in the Donbas, but that, too, could not be confirmed.

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Ukrainian forces were also suspected of another attack over the border near the Russian city of Belgorod, a staging area for Russian forces, where a fire broke out in a defense ministry facility, the regional governor said.

The Russian forces in control of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson and its surrounding province started to enforce a transition to the Russian ruble from Ukrainian currency on Sunday, a move that Ukrainian officials have described as part of an attempt to scrub a part of the country clean of its national identity and embed it in Moscow’s sphere of influence.

At the same time, the Ukrainians reported on Sunday that nearly all cellular and internet service in the area was down. The Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior accused Russian forces of cutting service, saying it was an attempt to keep Ukrainians from seeing truthful information about the war.

The Hollywood actor Angelina Jolie, who has been a special representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees since 2011, made her own surprise visit to Ukraine over the weekend, visiting the western city of Lviv to meet displaced Ukrainians from the east who have found refuge there, including children undergoing treatment for injuries sustained in Russia’s missile strike on the Kramatorsk railway station in early April.

Ms. Pelosi was accompanied by legislators whose comments largely echoed her own.

“This is a struggle of freedom against tyranny,” said Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California. “And in that struggle, Ukraine is on the front lines.”

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Representative Jason Crow, a Democrat from Colorado, a veteran and a member of the House intelligence and armed services committee, said his focus was on the supply of weapons. “We have to make sure the Ukrainians have what they need to win,” he said. Praising Ukrainian bravery, he said, “The United States of America is in this to win, and we will stand with Ukraine until victory is won.”

But as ever, what is meant by “victory,” whether it involves pushing Russia entirely out of Ukraine or just blocking its advance until its offensive runs out of steam and negotiations ensue, remains an open question. So does the equally central question of what Mr. Putin decides is victory enough for his own war of choice.

Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels, Jane Arraf from Lviv and Marc Santora from Krakow, Poland. Michael Schwirtz contributed reporting from Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine; and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kharkiv.

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