Finland formally seeks to join the NATO alliance

Leader of Finland he said on Sunday that the Nordic nation intends to seek membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an almost certain move to intensify geopolitical tensions stemming from the Russian war in Ukraine.

At a joint press conference in the presidential palace in Helsinki, President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced the decision of Finland, which has long been a neutral country, to apply for entry into the state-led alliance. United.

“This is a historic day,” Niinisto said. “A new era begins”.

Finland shares a border of more than 800 miles with Russia, which views any expansion of the 30-member NATO bloc to its territory as a major security threat.

Ukraine’s emergence as a Western ally that could potentially join NATO is cited by many experts as one of the main reasons President Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine.

Sweden it has already taken steps to join NATO. And an offer from Georgia, the former Soviet republic, is back on the table despite vociferous objections from Moscow.

NATO officials met in Berlin on Sunday to consider moves by Finland, Sweden and other nations to join the alliance. NATO was also considering further aid to war-torn Ukraine.

Danish foreign minister Jeppe Kofod has rejected suggestions that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s objections could prevent the alliance from accepting new members, the Associated Press reported.

“Every European country has a fundamental right to choose its own safety device,” Kofod told reporters.

“We now see a world where the number one enemy of democracy is Putin and the thinking he represents,” he said.

The foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland were due to meet with NATO representatives in Germany after the leaders of the two Nordic nations expressed a strong interest in joining the defense alliance. Finnish President Niinisto said he told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Saturday that the invasion of Ukraine radically changed “Finland’s security environment” and said his country will seek NATO membership. “in the next days”.

The news was welcomed by the United States and several NATO member states, but he spoke with Russia.

The Kremlin said on Saturday that Putin had warned Niinisto that relations between neighbors could be “adversely affected” if Finland ranks to join NATO.

And as a sign of Russia’s economic power over much of Europe, Finnish power company Fingrid said on Saturday that Russia has cut off electricity supplies to the nation. A representative of the company said that Finland “can do it” and that the electricity grid would not be interrupted.

Meanwhile, the British Defense Ministry said on Sunday that the Moscow offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region has stalled.

In its latest daily assessment, Britain made it clear Russia’s advance into Donbas– where President Putin redirected troops last month after a failed assault on Kiev, the Ukrainian capital – “lost momentum and remained significantly behind.”

Despite “small-scale initial progress,” the defense ministry said, “Russia has failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the past month, while maintaining considerably high levels of attrition.”

Russia suffered losses of about a third of its ground combat troops when it invaded Ukraine on February 24, the British report said. Moscow is unlikely to drastically accelerate its advance rate over the next 30 days, “concluded the defense ministry.

Official Russian reports painted a picture of continued progress in the Donbas region, where pro-Russian separatist forces have controlled the territory since 2014. This year’s war saw Moscow largely gain control of the port city of Mariupol. which is part of the Donbas, while they take over other cities in the region.

Ukrainian officials say their forces are fighting back in the east, but admit a long-term battle is likely.

“The situation in Donbas remains very difficult,” President Zelensky said in a night speech. “Russian troops are still trying to show at least one victory. The 80th day of the full-scale invasion, it seems particularly insane.

Ukrainian forces appear to have forced Russian troops to withdraw from the vicinity of Kharkiv, in northeastern Ukraine. The city, the second most populous in Ukraine, after Kiev, has suffered relentless bombardment since the start of the war. Much of Kharkiv’s pre-war population of over 1 million fled the city. But Ukrainian officials say they are driving Russian forces away from the city.

On Sunday, air raid sirens sounded in the pre-dawn darkness in the western Lviv region, which was largely isolated from the conflict, although Russian missiles periodically hit targets in the area, which is close to the Polish border. . The border zone is a key channel for supplies and military equipment entering Ukraine.

Four Russian missiles hit “a military infrastructure facility” early Sunday in the city of Yavoriv, ​​near the Polish border, says an official statement from the Lviv regional government. There were no casualties, authorities said, but the target was “completely destroyed”. Authorities did not provide details on the type of military facility affected. The missiles were likely launched from the Black Sea, possibly from submarines, Ukrainian officials said.
Amidst the sad war news, many Ukrainians celebrated a cultural victory on Sunday: a trophy for a Ukrainian band in the popular Eurovision music competition.

President Zelensky promised his country would work to host the European competition someday in the Ukrainian Mariupol, referring to the besieged port city now largely under Russian control.

The widespread destruction in Mariupol, along with the displacement of most of the more than 400,000 people who once lived there, have become emblematic of the devastation the war has wreaked.

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” an exuberant Zelensky said in an Instagram post after the Ukrainian Kalush Orchestra’s Eurovision victory on Saturday for his song, “Stefania”.

The song, a fusion of rap and traditional folk in a tribute to the mother of the band’s frontman, Oleh Psiuk, has become something of an anthem for many Ukrainians. Psiuk launched an exciting stage appeal on behalf of Ukrainian fighters trapped in a defeated steel mill in Mariupol, and the band’s victory was widely seen as a reflection of European support for Ukraine.

“We will do our best to host Eurovision attendees and visitors to Ukrainian Mariupol someday,” said Zelensky. “Free, quiet and rebuilt!”