Russian threats push Finland toward joining NATO alliance

May 11, 2022, 9:07 AM | Updated: May 12, 2022, 8:26 pm
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, and Finland's President Sauli Niinisto shake hands afte...

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, and Finland's President Sauli Niinisto shake hands after signing a security assurance, at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Wednesday, May 11, 2022. Britain has signed a security assurance with Sweden and its neighbor Finland, that are both pondering whether to join NATO following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, pledging to "bolster military ties" in the event of a crisis and support both countries should they come under attack. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

(AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Finland’s leaders Thursday came out in favor of applying to join NATO, and Sweden could do the same within days, in a historic realignment on the continent 2 1/2 months after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine sent a shiver of fear through Moscow’s neighbors.

The Kremlin reacted by warning it will be forced to take retaliatory “military-technical” steps.

On the ground, meanwhile, Russian forces pounded areas in central, northern and eastern Ukraine, including the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol, as part its offensive to take the industrial Donbas region, while Ukraine recaptured some towns and villages in the northeast.

The first war-crimes trial of a Russian soldier since the start of the conflict is set to open Friday in Kyiv. A 21-year-old captured member of a tank unit is accused of shooting to death a civilian on a bicycle during the opening week of the war.

Finland’s president and prime minister announced that the Nordic country should apply right away for membership in NATO, the military defense pact founded in part to counter the Soviet Union.

“You (Russia) caused this. Look in the mirror,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said this week.

While the country’s Parliament still has to weigh in, the announcement means Finland is all but certain to apply — and gain admission — though the process could take months to complete. Sweden, likewise, is considering putting itself under NATO’s protection.

That would represent a major change in Europe’s security landscape: Sweden has avoided military alliances for more than 200 years, while Finland adopted neutrality after its defeat by the Soviets in World War II.

Public opinion in both nations shifted dramatically in favor of NATO membership after the invasion, which stirred fears in countries along Russia’s flank that they could be next.

Such an expansion of the alliance would leave Russia surrounded by NATO countries in the Baltic Sea and the Arctic and would amount to a stinging setback for Putin, who had hoped to divide and roll back NATO in Europe but is instead seeing the opposite happen.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the alliance would welcome Finland and Sweden with open arms.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned that Moscow “will be forced to take retaliatory steps of military-technical and other characteristics in order to counter the emerging threats to its national security.”

NATO’s funneling of weapons and other military support to Ukraine already has been critical to Kyiv’s surprising success in stymieing the invasion, and the Kremlin warned anew in chilling terms Thursday that the aid could lead to direct conflict between NATO and Russia.

“There is always a risk of such conflict turning into a full-scale nuclear war, a scenario that will be catastrophic for all,” said Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council.

While Russia’s advance in the Donbas has been slow, its forces have gained some ground and taken some villages.

Four civilians were killed Thursday in three communities in the Donetsk region, which is part of the Donbas, the regional governor reported.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia’s focus on the Donbas has left its remaining troops around the northeastern city of Kharkiv vulnerable to counterattack from Ukrainian forces, which recaptured several towns and villages around the city.

Russian strikes Thursday killed at least two civilians on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, local authorities said.

The attacks also damaged a building housing a humanitarian aid unit, municipal offices and hospital facilities, Vyacheslav Zadorenko, the mayor of the suburban town of Derhachi, wrote in a Telegram post.

None of the sites “had anything to do with military infrastructure,” Zadorenko said.

Fighting across the east has driven many thousands of Ukrainians from their homes.

“It is terrible there now. We were leaving under missiles,” said Tatiana Kravstova, who left the town of Siversk with her 8-year-old son Artiom on a bus headed for the central city of Dnipro. “I don’t know where they were aiming, but they were pointing at civilians.”

Ukraine also said Russian forces had fired artillery and grenade launchers at Ukrainian troops around Zaporizhzhia, which has been a refuge for civilians fleeing Mariupol, and attacked in the Chernihiv and Sumy regions to the north.

Overnight airstrikes near Chernihiv, in northern Ukraine, killed at least three people, Ukraine’s military said. It said that Russian troops fired rockets at a school and student dormitory in Novhorod-Siversky and that some other buildings, including private homes, were also damaged.

In his evening address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned the assaults.

“Of course, the Russian state is in such a state that any education only gets in its way,” he said. “But what can be achieved by destroying Ukrainian schools? All Russian commanders who give such orders are simply sick and incurable.”

Noting that Thursday is International Nurses Day, Zelenskyy said the Russian military had damaged 570 medical facilities since the invasion began on Feb. 24 and fully destroyed 101 hospitals.

Twelve Russian missiles struck an oil refinery and other infrastructure in the central Ukrainian industrial hub of Kremenchuk on Thursday, the region’s acting governor, Dmytro Lunin, wrote in a Telegram post. In early April, he said, the refinery, which had been the last fully functional one in Ukraine at the time, was knocked offline by an attack.

In the southern port of Mariupol, which has largely been reduced to smoking rubble with little food, water or medicine, or what the mayor called a “medieval ghetto,” Ukrainian fighters continued to hold out at the Azovstal steel plant, the last stronghold of resistance in the city.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said negotiations were underway with Russia to win the release of 38 severely wounded Ukrainian defenders from the plant. She said Ukraine hoped to exchange them for 38 “significant” Russian prisoners of war.

___

Yesica Fisch in Bakhmut, David Keyton in Kyiv, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov in Kharkiv, Jari Tanner in Helsinki, and other AP staffers around the world contributed.

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

President Joe Biden visits Fisherman's Wharf at Fort Myers Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, to...
Associated Press

Biden to mark IBM investment with Democrats in tough races

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is ready to celebrate a new $20 billion investment by IBM in New York’s Hudson River Valley with two House Democrats running in competitive races in next month’s critical midterm elections. Biden is taking part in a Thursday afternoon announcement at the IBM facility in Poughkeepsie, New York. He […]
1 day ago
The sign for the ministry of Gender Equality and Family is seen at the government complex in Seoul,...
Associated Press

New S Korea gov’t seeks to abolish gender equality ministry

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s new conservative government said Thursday it will push to abolish a ministry on gender equality and create a new agency tasked with broader responsibilities, one of President Yoon Suk Yeol’s contentious campaign promises that roiled March’s hotly contested election. During the campaign, Yoon faced criticism that his vow […]
1 day ago
FILE - Visitors walk by a replica of the Brandenberg Gate and the Berlin wall at Mini-Europe in Bru...
Associated Press

Europe’s leaders gather in Prague but Russia isn’t invited

PRAGUE (AP) — Leaders from around 44 countries are gathering Thursday to launch a “European Political Community” aimed at boosting security and economic prosperity across the continent, with Russia the one major European power not invited. The meeting in the Czech capital Prague is the brainchild of French President Emmanuel Macron and is backed by […]
1 day ago
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, right, and Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Soga...
Associated Press

Solomon Islands leader rules out China base in his country

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Solomon Islands prime minister assured Australia on Thursday that he would not “endanger his country” by allowing China to establish a naval base in the South Pacific. Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare made his first visit to the Australian capital Canberra since his counterpart Anthony Albanese’s center-left Labor Party came […]
1 day ago
Eurowings aircrafts are parked at the airport in Stuttgart, Germany, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. A pilo...
Associated Press

Pilots strike cancels flights at German carrier Eurowings

BERLIN (AP) — A pilots strike at budget airline Eurowings has forced the German carrier to cancel hundreds of flights Thursday. The Lufthansa subsidiary said about half of its 500 daily flights would be nixed, affecting tens of thousands of passengers. German airports are heavily affected, but also others such as Stockholm, Prague and Mallorca. […]
1 day ago
Medhin Gereziher, 1, is treated for malnutrition at the Ayder Referral Hospital in Mekele, in the T...
Associated Press

Babies in Tigray dying at 4 times pre-war levels, study says

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Babies in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region are dying in their first month of life at four times the rate before the war cut off access to most medical care for over 5 million people, according to the most sweeping study yet of how mothers and children are suffering. Women are dying […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Russian threats push Finland toward joining NATO alliance