Turkey has agreed to withdraw its objection to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, a breakthrough that cements the alliance amid Europe’s worst security crisis in decades after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday at a summit in Madrid, praising the “historic decision.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had expressed his opposition to granting membership to the two Nordic countries, and insisted on changing their stance on Kurdish rebel groups that Turkey considers terrorists.
Acceptance of NATO requires a unanimous vote of member states, and after weeks of negotiations it appears to have been achieved. Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said on Tuesday that the leaders of the three countries had signed a joint agreement to break the deadlock.
Despite their relatively small populations—less than 11 million—Sweden and Finland have strong, modern armed forces and have expressed a commitment to strengthening their defense budget after the Russian invasion, which also prompted their quest for NATO membership after decades of nonalignment.
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The latest developments:
President Joe Biden opened His three-day visit to Tuesday’s NATO summit in Madrid pledged to bolster the US military presence in Europe, saying the number of naval destroyers stationed in Rota, Spain will rise from four to six. Biden said more such announcements will be made during meetings.
► Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi The European Union said it has reduced its dependence on Russian gas from 40% to 25% and continues to invest in renewable energy.
►Ukraine will start electricity trade with European countries This week across the European Network of Electricity Transmission System Operators. Ukraine was previously part of an integrated energy system that also includes Russia and Belarus.
Russian court rejected Appeal from imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
►16 military Ukraine, Among them are two officers, in a prisoner exchange. Ukrainian authorities said five were injured. It was not immediately disclosed how many Russians were released.
Ukraine is fighting to hold the last city it controls in Luhansk
The British Ministry of Defense said in an assessment on Tuesday that Ukrainian forces are entrenching themselves in higher ground in Lychansak, the last major city in the Luhansk region not under Russia’s control, and continue to disrupt Russian command and control with strikes deep behind enemy lines.
In the past few days, the ministry said, Russia launched “extraordinarily intense” strikes across Ukraine using long-range missiles. On Monday, a missile strike that hit a shopping center in central Ukraine killed at least 18 people and wounded dozens.
“These weapons are designed to take on targets of strategic importance, but Russia continues to spend them in large numbers,” the assessment said. Moscow also sent the basic elements of six armies but achieved only tactical success in Severodonetsk.
“The Russian armed forces are becoming increasingly empty,” says the assessment. “They are currently accepting a level of deteriorating combat effectiveness, which may be unsustainable in the long run.”
Blame Russian ‘totally crazy terrorists’ for deadly missile attack on shopping mall
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the deadly Russian missile strike on a busy shopping center in Ukraine was one of the “most challenging terrorist acts in the history of Europe”. Zelensky’s spokesman Kirill Tymoshenko said at least 20 people were killed in Monday’s blast, while local officials in the central city of Kremenchuk said at least 18 people had been killed. At least 40 people were missing while rescue workers searched the rubble.
“Only crazy terrorists who have no place on Earth can hit such a target with missiles,” Zelensky said.
Tymoshenko said at least 59 people have been infected, 25 of whom need hospital treatment.
The UN Security Council set an emergency meeting in New York on Tuesday to discuss the attack. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant-General Igor Konashenkov said warplanes fired missiles at a nearby warehouse containing Western weapons, which caught fire. Ukrainian officials deny the depot holds weapons and say the mall itself was hit by the missile.
French President Macron: Russia cannot and should not win
French President Emmanuel Macron, who has proposed a compromise approach to ending the war in Ukraine that does not embarrass Russia, toughened his stance after Monday’s missile strike on a crowded shopping mall that left at least 18 dead and 59 wounded.
Macron called Monday’s attack in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchug a “new war crime” and vowed to continue the West’s support for Kiev, saying Tuesday, “Russia cannot and should not win.”
The airstrike hit a shopping mall of more than 1,000 people as leaders of the Group of Seven met in Germany, and resurrected images of the bombing of a theater in Mariupol that killed an estimated 600 people, terrifying much of the world. The latest attack on civilians was part of an intense barrage of Russian fire across Ukraine, including the capital, Kyiv, and brought new attention to the war even as it continued.
Kyiv mayor of NATO countries: You are next if Russia does not stop
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko issued an appeal not only to Western allies to provide his country with “everything necessary” to fend off the Russian invasion but also a warning that some of their countries could be targeted by the Kremlin unless it was stopped.
“Wake up guys. It’s happening now. You’ll be next. This will knock on your door in the blink of an eye,” Klitschko said in Madrid, where NATO leaders are meeting.
Klitschko attended the summit with his brother Vladimir, who, like a former heavyweight boxing champion, rejected the idea of ceding any Ukrainian territory to Russia to end the war.
“Bullying a bully, it’s the only way to stop him,” said Vitali Klitschko. “And in this case, Russia is the bully.”
President Joe Biden’s family is not welcome in Russia
On Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it had added 25 people to the list of Americans barred from entering Russia “in response to the ever-increasing US sanctions against Russian political and public figures.” They include First Lady Jill Biden and the couple’s daughter, Ashley. The president was included in a previous list. The latter list also includes four senators that the department blames for “forming an anti-Russian session” in Congress. They are Republicans Mitch McConnell, Susan Collins and Ben Sasse, and Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand.
“It just shows you that the Russian capacity for these kinds of cynical moves is unfounded,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said. “So it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us that he would do something like this.”
The United States and other countries have imposed sanctions on many Russian oligarchs that have led to the confiscation of mega yachts and other property.
Ukraine: Russians kidnapped the mayor of Kherson
Adviser to the Mayor of Kherson, Ihor Kulekhaev, said that Russian forces had kidnapped the southern city of about 300,000 people. Halina Lyashevska said the mayor stayed in the city after the Russians overwhelmed their sense of duty to his voters. Russian forces routinely kidnapped pro-Ukrainian activists and other public figures in the cities they overran. Lyashevska said Kulikhaev was escorted out of his office in handcuffs.
Control of the region gives Russia an important “land bridge” connecting its main territory to Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014. The separatists have called for a referendum aimed at leaving Ukraine to become part of Russia.
Contributing: The Associated Press