Europe increases military aid to Ukraine as NATO expansion faces hurdles

Ukraine War: Zelensky expresses gratitude to Ukraine’s allies for “strengthening sanctions against Russia”.

Kyiv:

Europe on Friday pledged another half a billion dollars in military support for Kyiv as a number of obstacles came in the way of Sweden and Finland joining NATO.

Moscow said it would cut power to Helsinki, and the president of Turkey – a member of the Atlantic Coalition whose approval needed to expand it – expressed opposition to the Scandinavian countries becoming part of NATO.

Fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops continued along the long front in the Donbas, with minor gains on both sides, and Ukrainian fighters under siege at the Mariupol steelworks pleaded for help.

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke directly for the first time before the start of the war.

But according to the Pentagon, few details emerged from his one-hour call beyond Austin, urging Shoigu to impose an immediate ceasefire.

“The call did not specifically address any serious issue or direct change in what the Russians are doing or what they are saying,” a senior US defense official said.

– power cut –

A day after leaders in Helsinki declared that their nation should apply to join NATO “without delay”, Russian state energy group Inter RAO said it would suspend electricity supplies to Finland from Saturday. Will give

Inter RAO’s subsidiary in the Nordic region blamed the suspension on non-payment of payments for the electricity sold in May.

Noting that only 10 percent of the country’s electricity comes from neighboring Russia, the Finnish electricity network operator said it would be able to do without Russian electricity.

“We are ready for that and it will not be difficult. We can import a little more from Sweden and Norway,” said Timo Kaukonen, manager of operations planning at Finnish power firm Fingrid.

– Turkey protested –

But the cutoffs underscored the challenges as both Finland and Sweden prepare for major geopolitical changes that joining NATO would represent after years of proudly staying out of the alliance.

Another obstacle came when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his opposition to Finland and Sweden entering NATO.

“Our opinion is not positive. Scandinavian countries are like a guesthouse for terrorist organizations,” Erdogan told reporters, referring to a long-standing complaint by Ankara that the Scandinavian country separates from Turkey and shelters members of dissident groups. give.

US President Joe Biden spoke with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Souli Niinisto on the NATO plan on Friday, and the White House said it was “working to clarify” Erdogan’s stance on the issue.

Swedish and Finnish foreign ministers plan to meet with their Turkish counterparts in Berlin on Saturday to discuss their possible NATO bids.

-More money for Ukraine-

At a meeting of the Group of Seven foreign ministers in the German sea resort of Vangels as the war entered its 12th week, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell promised an additional 500 million euros ($520 million) to Ukraine, helping the bloc. Total military aid of two billion euros.

In a speech Friday evening, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his gratitude to Ukraine’s partners for “strengthening sanctions against Russia and increasing military and financial assistance to us.”

“It’s the only recipe for protecting freedom during Russia’s invasion. It’s not just spending for Western countries. It’s not about accounting. It’s about the future,” he said.

– war crimes –

An imprisoned Russian soldier facing war crimes and murder charges appeared in a Kyiv court on Friday.

Vadim Shishmarin, 21, allegedly shot dead an unarmed 62-year-old civilian who had witnessed a carjacking by fleeing Russian soldiers.

The trial marks a crucial moment in Ukraine, where cases of murder, torture and rape by the Russian military are on the rise.

In eastern Ukraine, in the village of Stepanki, near the regional capital Kharkiv, eyewitnesses accused Russians of shelling a house, killing several.

He said that six people living in the house were drinking tea in the courtyard when a tank came.

“They started going into the house to hide,” said 52-year-old Olga Karpenko. The tank hit the target and opened fire on them as they entered the house.

“Four people died, two were injured. My daughter died from a shrapnel wound in the back of her head,” Karpenko said.

– Call for help from Mariupol –

Russian forces continued to shell out Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol, where about 1,000 Ukrainian fighters remained under siege.

From inside the plant, one of the leaders of the Ukrainian Azov regiment, Svyatoslav Palmar, told the online Kyiv Security Forum that there were 600 wounded and called for help to evacuate them.

“We continue to defend ourselves, and we will not surrender,” he said.

He urged the United States and other allies to find a way to help evacuate the wounded.

“This is any opportunity, please use it,” he said.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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