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Check out the latest news and analysis on Ukraine at The Guardian to learn what happened in the Russia-Ukraine war this week.

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Every week we wrap up the must-reads from our coverage of the Ukraine war, from news and features to analysis, visual guides and opinion.

The French president urged China’s Xi Jinping to bring Russia “back to reason” over the war in Ukraine, as the two held the first of a series of high-level meetings in Beijing.

“The Russian aggression in Ukraine has dealt a blow to [international] stability,” Emmanuel Macron told Xi, standing alongside the Chinese leader outside the Great Hall of the People before their meeting. “I know I can count on you to bring back Russia to reason and everyone back to the negotiating table.”

Meanwhile Ukraine may be willing to discuss the future of Crimea with Moscow if its forces reach the border of the Russian-occupied peninsula, one of Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s advisers suggested, although it was unclear how serious the remarks were.

Military honours, tributes and praise welcomed Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his wife, Olena Zelenska, to Poland in a rare wartime foray out of Ukraine for the country’s president.

While Zelenskiy has also travelled to the US, Britain, France and Belgium, the trip to Poland stood out because it was announced in advance and undertaken without the secrecy of past foreign trips, Léonie Chao-Fong reported.

It was also the first time that the couple had travelled abroad together since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, according to Marcin Przydacz, the head of the Polish president’s foreign policy office.

Many people could have wanted to kill Vladlen Tatarsky, the pro-war Russian blogger who died in the bomb blast, wrote Andrew Roth in his analysis of the incident.

He was a classic soft target – someone who was a visible face of the war and yet lacked the protection of a government official or army personnel, Roth writes. The event at which he was speaking was publicised and the woman accused of bringing the bomb to the event was even reported to have joked with him about whether or not she was carrying an explosive device hidden inside a bust of a soldier. Soon after, it detonated.

The blue-and-white flag of Finland has been raised alongside those of its western partners outside Nato’s headquarters in Brussels after the Nordic country formally became the 31st member of the transatlantic defensive alliance, Jon Henley reported.

“It’s a great day for Finland and an important day for Nato,” said Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö. “Russia tried to create a sphere around them and … we’re not a sphere. I’m sure Finns themselves feel more secure that we are living in a more stable world.”

Joe Biden warmly welcomed the news, saying Nato had shown itself more united than ever after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “When Putin launched his brutal war of aggression, he thought he could divide Europe and Nato. He was wrong,” the US president said, adding that he also “looked forward to welcoming Sweden as a Nato member as soon as possible”.

It is 10 minutes’ walk from the nearest Ukrainian village in the country’s eastern Donbas region, and the only clue to what lies around the corner are the deep track marks through the grass, Dan Sabbagh reports. A minute further, in the wooded valley beyond, is a cluster of tanks, nestling, concealed among the trees. Alongside are their crews, waiting and preparing, amid talk that a Ukrainian counteroffensive is on its way.

The youngest is Danill, who is particularly eager to talk. He is 21, already a lieutenant. “We are fighting for our future and those that already gave their lives,” says Danill (Ukraine’s military allows only first names to be used) trying to project confidence. But unlike the older soldiers, who comprise the majority of the unit, Danill looks edgy. The young man freely admits to being terrified when he had to defend Kyiv, smoking “half a packet of cigarettes in four hours”, and while he is determined to play his part, he knows his first true military test awaits: “When I got into the school, I didn’t think I was going to be in an actual war.”

As spring emerges from Ukraine’s sub-zero winter, talk is turning to Kyiv’s prospective counteroffensive, on which the outcome of war may hinge. In the past week 31 Leopard 2 tanks from Germany, Sweden and Portugal have arrived in Ukraine, as well 14 Challenger 2s from the UK. A Ukrainian D-day is expected in weeks.

Yet here, among the trees, a secret location a few kilometres from Bakhmut, the vaunted western weapons are not in evidence. Most of Ukraine’s military will have to make do without.

Standing on the crumbling roof of a house, dozens of workers hammer in unison. Around them, cranes, bulldozers and trucks work frantically to repair roads and buildings destroyed by Russian artillery. It is hard to believe that this noisy construction site is in Yablonska Street, in the town of Bucha, in the north of Kyiv, at the precise crossroads where a year ago the bodies of dozens of civilians, brutally killed by Russian soldiers, were strewn over almost a mile, some with their hands bound behind their backs.

Ukraine has already repaired, and in many cases fully rebuilt, many of the sites destroyed by Moscow, including bridges, roads and government buildings. It is only the beginning of what Kyiv has described as the largest rebuilding effort since the second world war and perhaps the most expensive in history, Lorenzo Tondo reports, with an estimated cost of half a trillion dollars. But managing this unprecedented influx of money in a country with a long history of corruption will bring challenges, experts say.

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