WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is expanding the training that the U.S. military provides to Ukrainian troops, with plans to more than double the number of forces it instructs at a base in Germany, according to two U.S. officials.
The expanded training, which officials said President Biden had approved this week, would enable American instructors to train a Ukrainian battalion — about 600 to 800 troops — each month, beginning early next year, the officials said.
That is a major increase in the overall number of Ukrainians the United States trains outside the country — now averaging about 300 troops a month — in addition to a revamping of the training that they will receive. Since the war started in February, the United States has trained 3,100 Ukrainian soldiers, mostly in small groups, on specific weapons like artillery systems, according to Defense Department statistics.
The Pentagon has trained 610 Ukrainian soldiers in the use of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, an advanced rocket launcher. Ukrainian troops have used the launchers to devastating effect, hitting targets far behind the lines, including ammunition depots, command posts and bridges.
Under the expanded program, American trainers will instruct larger groups of Ukrainian soldiers in more advanced battlefield tactics, including “collective training,” like coordinating ground infantry troop maneuvers with artillery support. CNN reported last month that the Biden administration was considering the expanded training.
The new training regimen is set to take place at a U.S. Army base in Grafenwoehr, Germany, where the Pentagon conducts its own combined arms training. The base is also home to the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials have been wary of pulling too many troops off the front lines at any given time for specialized weapons training. But with winter slowing the tempo of fighting in many parts of the combat zone, officials said the coming months would provide a window.
Military officials said the expanded training would in many respects aim to resume the instruction that American Special Forces and National Guard trainers, along with instructors from other NATO countries, regularly provided Ukrainian troops before the war began.
From 2015 to early this year, American military instructors trained more than 27,000 Ukrainian soldiers at the Yavoriv Combat Training Center in western Ukraine, near the city of Lviv, Pentagon officials said. The United States withdrew 150 military instructors before the war began.
Months after the war began, the United States and other Western countries begin training Ukrainian forces in Germany and Poland.
In addition, Britain started a program to provide military training in Britain to 10,000 Ukrainian Army recruits and staff members, an effort that aims to help bolster local resistance to the Russian invasion. The initiative, announced in June by Boris Johnson, the prime minister at the time, began with more than 1,000 British soldiers from the 11th Security Force Assistance Brigade, which specializes in foreign training.
Other nations, including Canada, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden, joined in after Britain requested help.
Adm. Sir Tony Radakin, Britain’s chief of defense, said on Wednesday that the initial goal of training 10,000 Ukrainian recruits had nearly been met. “This is significant,” he said in a speech in London.
The Olympic Games in Paris are still two years away, but already there is a question of whether Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to compete under their nations’ flags.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine weighed in on Wednesday, urging the International Olympic Committee to prohibit those athletes’ participation regardless of what flag they carry, days after the committee’s top official expressed a new tone of openness about easing restrictions.
In a phone call with the committee’s president, Thomas Bach, Mr. Zelensky said that allowing the athletes to compete under a neutral flag would not be enough to punish Russia.
“Since February, 184 Ukrainian athletes have died as a result of Russia’s actions,” Mr. Zelensky said on the call, according to a readout from the Ukrainian president’s office. “One cannot try to be neutral when the foundations of peaceful life are being destroyed and universal human values are being ignored.”
In February, the I.O.C. recommended that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred from competitions, breaking from the organization’s typical stance that athletes should not be punished for their government’s actions.
In a statement, the organization cited “the integrity of global sports competitions” and “the safety of all the participants” as two factors in the decision, which was issued “with a heavy heart.” There are some situations in which the athletes could be allowed to compete as neutral athletes, the statement said.
But in recent days I.O.C. officials have been unclear about whether Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to compete in the 2024 Summer Olympics. Although the organization has not changed its formal guidance from February, there are signs that it is looking to ease its restrictions.
“We need to explore ways to overcome this dilemma with regard to athletes’ participation and come back to sporting merits and not political interference,” Mr. Bach said in a news conference last week, according to Reuters.
Mr. Bach emphasized that the I.O.C.’s original guidance was for athletes’ safety. “What we never did and did not want to do was prohibit athletes from competing in competitions only due to their passports,” he said, adding that the I.O.C. had not yet set a date by which to make a decision.
In the past, athletes from countries under Olympic sanctions had been allowed to compete under an Olympic flag rather than their national flag. Russian athletes did so in the Beijing Olympics in February after Russia was found to have been involved in a major doping scandal in the 2014 Olympics. And in 1980, when many nations boycotted the Olympic Games in Moscow over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, some athletes from the boycotting countries competed under neutral flags.
A top U.S. Olympic official this week endorsed considering “a pathway back” for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete under a neutral flag. A group of high-ranking Olympic officials from around the world convened in Lausanne, Switzerland, last week to discuss the issue.
“We agreed that there would now be an exploration and a consultation with stakeholders to see whether there could be a pathway for those individual athletes to come back as neutral,” said Susanne Lyons, the chair of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, according to Reuters.
Ukraine’s Parliament passed legislation this week that would significantly expand the government’s regulatory power over the news media, a measure that supporters say will help the country meet European Union criteria for membership but which Ukrainian journalists and international press freedom groups warn will threaten freedom of speech and of the press.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose administration has been criticized for undermining press freedoms, must sign the bill for it to become law. He ordered the drafting of a law increasing media regulation in 2019 but has yet to signal whether he will sign the bill as it was approved by the Parliament.
If the measure becomes law, Ukraine’s state broadcasting regulator, the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting, will expand its authority to cover the online and print news media. The regulator will be given the power to fine media outlets, revoke their licenses, temporarily block certain online media outlets without a court order, and request that social media platforms and search giants like Google remove content that violates the law, the Ukrainian news media has reported.
The measure was passed by Parliament on Tuesday along with a spate of other bills that lawmakers say were intended to help the country meet the European Union’s legislative conditions for membership. The bills included measures to protect the rights of national minorities.
“We have opened the way to the start of negotiations on Ukraine’s full accession to the European Union, which can begin as early as the new year of 2023,” the Parliament’s deputy speaker, Olena Kondratyuk, said.
But Ukrainian journalists said the new media statute went far beyond what the European Union requires. They have accused the government of using the membership obligations as a pretext to seize greater control of the press.
Earlier versions of the media bill drew domestic and international criticism as they moved through Parliament. In July, the general secretary of the European Federation of Journalists, Ricardo Gutiérrez, called the bill’s regulation “coercive” and “worthy of the worst authoritarian regimes.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit that champions press freedom around the world, called for Ukrainian lawmakers to drop the bill in September, saying that it tightened “government control over information at a time when citizens need it the most.”
Changes to the draft law were made in closed-door parliamentary committee meetings, and a list of amendments to the 959-page text was posted publicly just one day before Tuesday’s vote, the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine said.
The union warned in a statement before the latest parliamentary vote that the bill would help erode the freedoms that “distinguish the social system of Ukraine from the regime of dictatorial Russia.” On Wednesday, the union said that it hoped Mr. Zelensky would return the bill to the Parliament for reconsideration.
The deputy chair of the Parliament’s information policy committee, Yevheniia Kravchuk, countered the charge that supporters had used E.U. requirements as cover for an attempt to rein in press freedoms, arguing that sweeping changes to Ukraine’s media legislation were overdue.
“Of course, this bill is even broader than the E.U. directive, because we needed to change and modernize our media legislation, which has not been changed for 16 years,” she said in a statement after the bill was adopted. “It was adopted back when there was no internet at all.”
BOROVSK, Russia — An 84-year-old artist was standing in front of one of the many murals he has painted in his provincial hometown one recent day when a group of young women passed by. They had traveled some 60 miles from Moscow just to see his latest work, and they tittered at the encounter.
“This is so cool,” said one. “You are the main attraction of town.”
The artist, Vladimir A. Ovchinnikov, has long covered the walls of the town with pastoral scenes, portraits of poets and daily life, in the process earning himself a reputation as the “Banksy of Borovsk.”
The comparison to Banksy is one he does not appreciate. Unlike the mysterious British-based street artist, Mr. Ovchinnikov works for all to see. And where a politically charged new Banksy offering may be cause for sensation, Mr. Ovchinnikov’s murals are not always welcomed — at least, not by the authorities.
“I draw doves, they paint over them,” he said.
President Volodymyr Zelensky called on European leaders to immediately set up a special tribunal to hold Russia accountable for its war in Ukraine, describing it as a “historical responsibility” as he accepted the European Union’s top human rights award on behalf of the Ukrainian people on Wednesday.
“It is necessary to act now — without waiting for the end of the war,” Mr. Zelensky said, citing what he called Russia’s “crime of aggression.” He spoke via video link at a ceremony for the award, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, held in Strasbourg, France.
The prize, given by members of the European Parliament, was awarded to the people of Ukraine for what the president of the legislature said was a recognition that ordinary citizens were risking their lives to defend not only their own independence, but also freedom and democracy across Europe.
Mr. Zelensky was cited as the face of the Ukrainian people’s courage and for his “devotion to his people and to European values.” In his address, Mr. Zelensky said a special tribunal to prosecute “the crime of Russian aggression” was necessary to protect freedom, human rights and the rule of law. He urged European officials to “turn it into reality as soon as possible.”
“This will be the most effective protection of freedom, human rights, the rule of law and other common values of ours, which are embodied, in particular, by this award of the European Parliament,” he said.
Mr. Zelensky and Ukrainian officials have for months championed the creation of a tribunal, which they say could work alongside the International Criminal Court but bypass its long, onerous prosecution process.
Roberta Metsola, the president of the European Parliament, who supports the creation of a tribunal, said at the ceremony that Ukrainians were fighting “with nothing but pride as their weapons” for “the values that underpin our life in the European Union.”
In addition to honoring the Ukrainian people, the Sakharov Prize recognized the bravery of Ukrainian activists, the state’s emergency services and prominent public figures like Ivan Fedorov, the exiled mayor of the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol. The prize’s accompanying monetary award of 50,000 euros, about $53,000, will be distributed among members of Ukrainian civil society.
The prize, established in 1988, is named after Andrei D. Sakharov, the nuclear physicist and Nobel laureate who helped develop the hydrogen bomb for the Soviet Union and subsequently became a champion of human rights.