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Latest News on Russia’s War in Ukraine: Live Updates

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

BRUSSELS — NATO defense ministers meet on Wednesday with the future of the grueling war of attrition in Ukraine on their minds.

The two-day gathering comes as the battle for the eastern Ukraine enters a critical stage, with Russia grinding out steady gains and controlling most of the resource-rich Donbas region. Ukraine has begged for more heavy arms to counter Moscow’s superiority in long-range artillery.

The meeting may provide a measure of how much the initial unity among Western allies, who swiftly responded to Russia’s invasion with sanctions and massive arms shipments, has frayed as their economies have grappled with rising inflation and gas prices. Some NATO members are anxious, and want to avoid a long, stalemated war. Still, a top Pentagon official repeated the standard American position on Tuesday that the United States would not pressure Ukraine into negotiating a cease-fire, that such decisions are up to the democratically elected government of Ukraine.

The fight in eastern Ukraine has become a grinding artillery battle marked by sieges of major cities, the sort of conflict that favors Russia’s much larger military. Without aid from NATO member countries, Ukraine would be in a far worse situation than it is now.

Ukraine has demanded more and more sophisticated weapons and has voiced frustration that the delivery of heavy weapons already promised by its Western allies has been slow.

The war in Ukraine has presented a huge challenge to NATO and to the security structure that helped keep the peace on the continent since World War II. The conflict initially laid bare the divisions within the European Union and NATO. But anger over President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion has been a unifying force, though some fissures remain over issues such as NATO’s expansion.

On Wednesday, the defense ministers will have a working dinner on Ukraine with the participation of Ukrainian officials and those of partners, like the European Union, Sweden, Finland, Georgia and Moldova.

But before the dinner, the American secretary of defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, will host a separate meeting of a contact group of countries that are aiding Ukraine militarily. While outside NATO auspices, the group includes nearly 50 countries and will review with Ukrainian officials Kyiv’s real-time needs.

“Folks will trade notes on their observations, what they’re hearing and seeing,” said the U.S. ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith. “They will be reviewing what additional security assistance they can provide in the immediate, medium and long term to help Ukraine win this war. And the U.S. will make clear that we continue to stand united with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

Asked if Ukrainian officials were correct to complain that its Western allies were dragging their feet on arms supplies, Ms. Smith said that allies were in contact with senior Ukrainian officials nearly daily to assess their needs, which have changed over time, and try to meet them. “In light of recent events in the evolving nature of the conflict on the ground, I think NATO allies have been quite responsive,” she said.

The NATO meeting itself will focus on preparations for its annual summit meeting at the end of the month, in Madrid. Discussions include drafts of a new “strategic concept” for the alliance to replace the one written in 2010; it will have sharply different language about Russia and will mention the possible threats to the alliance from China for the first time, as well as discuss new technologies and cyberwarfare.

The ministers will also discuss the desire of Sweden and Finland to join the alliance. Their invitations to do so have been blocked by Turkey, which has made demands of both countries on issues like Kurdish separatism, terrorism, extradition of certain individuals to Turkish courts and restrictions on arms sales.

Other allies hope to be able to invite Sweden and Finland to the alliance in Madrid, but given the weight of Turkish objections, that timing may not be possible. But officials express confidence that the Turkish hold on the invitations will eventually be lifted.

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