Media outlets in Sweden and Finland are reporting that their governments will submit NATO applications next month after Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine has fueled growing support for membership in the two countries.
The Finnish newspaper Iltalehti said Monday that the Swedish government wants “a common date for the publication of NATO applications” and mentions the week of May 16. Sweden’s expressen tabloid said it had confirmed the plan through sources in its government. Both Nordic countries have long cooperated with NATO on defense issues, and the US supports their memberships. Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia.
NATO has provided some support for Ukraine since the invasion two months ago but has steadily declined to institute a no-fly zone for Ukraine, which is not a member of the alliance. NATO leaders have said the alliance will fully defend any member that faces attack.
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►The British government says it believes 15,000 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine since Moscow launched its invasion two months ago. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said 25% of the Russian combat units sent to Ukraine “have been rendered not combat effective.” Russia has acknowledged 1,351 military casualties.
►Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said new evidence is emerging that shows Russian troops killed tens of thousands of civilians in Mariupol and then tried to cover it up.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague will join the investigation into allegations of war crimes committed in Ukraine. A Joint Investigative Team was set up by Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine to prepare possible prosecutions within countries and before the international court. ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan and the prosecutors general of the three countries signed an agreement Monday.
The agreement sends a “clear message that all efforts will be undertaken to effectively gather evidence on core international crimes committed in Ukraine and bring those responsible to justice,” the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation said in a statement.
Ukraine authorities have accused Russian leadership and the military of targeting civilians, claiming mass graves have been found with hundreds of victims. Russia has denied the allegations, accusing the Ukraine military of faking photos of the dead or of committing the murders and blaming Russia in a bid to strengthen international support.
Biden administration upped its financial pledge and nominated a new ambassador for Ukraine following a quasi-clandestine meeting in Kyiv between two top US Cabinet officials and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The announcements came hours after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin provided the highest-level visit to Kyiv by an American delegation since the start of Russia’s invasion.
Blinken and Austin told Zelenskyy and his advisers that the United States would provide an additional $300 million in foreign military financing and had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition. Blinken said American diplomats who left Ukraine before the war would start returning to the country as soon as this week.
“We had an opportunity to directly demonstrate our strong ongoing support for the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people,” Blinken said.
Reporters who accompanied Austin and Blinken to Poland were barred by Pentagon and State Department officials from reporting the Kyiv visit until the two men physically left Ukraine. US officials cited security concerns.
President Joe Biden announced Monday that he will appoint Bridget Brink as the US ambassador to Ukraine, filling a position that has been vacant for three years. Brink is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and currently serves as ambassador to Slovakia. If confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first US ambassador to Ukraine since Donald Trump removed Marie Yovanovitch from the post in 2019. Yovanovitch’s dismissal was one of the factors in Trump’s first impeachment.
Brink, a Michigan native, previously served as senior adviser and deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and was responsible for issues related to Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. She also served as deputy chief of mission at the US embassies in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and Tbilisi, Georgia.
The USA’s latest financial commitment to Ukraine represents just a small fraction of the total spending on the embattled nation of 45 million people. Since the start of Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, the United States has committed roughly $3.7 billion in “security assistance,” the White House said Monday. The US has provided more than $4.3 billion since the start of the Biden administration.
The United States is providing more than guns and ammo, announcing last week it will give Ukraine another $500 million in to help its government fund critical operations. The US provided $500 million in similar aid last month.
“Ukrainians are standing up, they’re standing strong, and they’re doing that with the support that we have coordinated from literally around the world,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
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Contributing: The Associated Press
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism