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Russia-Ukraine war live updates: U.S. seeks clarity after Turkey signals opposition to Sweden, Finland joining NATO

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 5/13/2022 Meryl Kornfield, Michael Birnbaum, David Stern, Marisa Iati, Ellen Francis, Andrew Jeong, Amy Cheng, Andrea Salcedo, Tobi Raji
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The United States is seeking clarification after Turkey’s president suggested Friday that he was reluctant about Sweden and Finland potentially joining the NATO defense alliance. The Turkish warning came a day after a landmark recommendation from Finland’s leaders that the country join NATO and as Swedish leaders appeared ready to follow their lead this weekend.

“Certainly this will be a conversation that will continue over the weekend,” a U.S. official said as Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepares to travel to Germany on Saturday for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers that will include the top diplomats of Finland, Sweden — and Turkey.

On Friday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for the first time since the war began, urging an immediate cease-fire. Britain announced new sanctions against the family of Russian President Vladimir Putin, while in Kyiv the first trial of a Russian soldier for alleged war crimes began. Shelling across Ukraine continued to claim lives.

Here’s what else to know

  • Ukrainian forces are “frustrating” Russian attempts to make gains by preventing Russian groups from crossing the Siverskyi Donets River to fully consolidate their forces, the Pentagon said.
  • A Russian-owned energy company, citing nonpayment, said it planned to halt electricity sales to Finland on Saturday in what appeared to be Russian blowback over the NATO plans.
  • Ukraine is entering a “new, long phase of the war” as weapons supplies from Western allies gradually increase, the country’s defense minister said.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel.

7:30 PM: How Russia prompted Finland and Sweden to reconsider NATO membership

Soldiers of NATO and allied countries cross the Vistula River as part of the international military exercise Defender Europe 2022 near the town of Golab near Pulawy, Poland, on May 13. (Wojtek Jargilo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock) Soldiers of NATO and allied countries cross the Vistula River as part of the international military exercise Defender Europe 2022 near the town of Golab near Pulawy, Poland, on May 13. (Wojtek Jargilo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

When NATO was founded in 1949, governments in Western Europe and North America viewed it as a means of collective security against the military might of the Soviet Union and its allies. But throughout the Cold War, there were two notable countries that bucked calls to join: Sweden and Finland.

Instead, these countries pursued a different method for ensuring their security: a carefully maintained official policy of nonalignment and neutrality.

Now, almost three-quarters of a century later, the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces has prompted both Swedish and Finnish governments to openly move toward NATO membership after decades without it.

The ascension of Sweden and Finland to NATO would mark one of the biggest changes to the alliance in decades and a stark turnaround for both nations’ position on the international stage.

Read the full story

By: Adam Taylor

7:18 PM: Ukraine readying 41 war crimes cases

Ukraine is preparing 41 war crimes cases against Russian soldiers, the country’s prosecutor general said Friday evening.

“We have 41 suspects in cases with which we will be ready to go to court,” Iryna Venediktova announced during a live briefing on Ukrainian TV. “All of them concern Article 438 of the [Ukrainian] criminal code on war crimes, but different types of war crimes. There is the bombing of civilian infrastructure, the killing of civilians, rape and looting.”

The announcement follows the first war crime prosecution of a Russian soldier during the 11-week conflict. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, is accused of killing an unarmed civilian in a village in the Sumy region of northeastern Ukraine during the early days of the conflict.

He faces 10 to 15 years, or life in prison, according to the prosecutor’s statement.

By: Tobi Raji

5:55 PM: Updates from key cities: Shelling continues amid ‘new, long phase of the war’

Ukrainian troops appear to have forced a Russian retreat in Kharkiv, but analysts warn that Moscow’s forces are regrouping and preparing for a siege in the east. Meanwhile, shelling across the country continues to claim lives and destroy infrastructure. On Friday, Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, warned of a “new, long phase of the war.”

Here are updates from key battlegrounds:

Kharkiv: Ukrainian forces have mounted an effective counterattack in the area around this northeastern city, pushing Russian forces to withdraw. But shelling continues. In Derhachi, two people died and four were wounded after shelling damaged a humanitarian organization, a registry office, part of a clinic and an ambulance building, Kharkiv’s governor Oleg Synegubov said Friday on Telegram.

Luhansk: West of Severodonetsk, a Russian battalion crossing the Donets river was decimated after Ukrainian forces blew up the river’s pontoon bridges this week, the British defense ministry confirmed Friday. It is not clear how many Russian soldiers died.

Donetsk: Russian strikes killed one civilian and injured a dozen others, the region’s governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said Friday. In the center of Donetsk, a stronghold for Russian occupying forces, invading forces have shelled the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant, the largest coke producer in Ukraine.

Mariupol: In the Russian-seized port city, occupying forces continue bombing the Azovstal steel plant, where the last holdouts from the Ukraine army have sheltered. Ukrainian officials say they are negotiating with the Russians to release more than three dozen wounded fighters.

By: Reis Thebault and Meryl Kornfield

5:00 PM: Ukrainian defense minister predicts long war ahead

Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, left, at an April meeting of the Ukraine Security Consultative Group at Ramstein Air Base in Ramstein, Germany. © Michael Probst/Associated Press Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, left, at an April meeting of the Ukraine Security Consultative Group at Ramstein Air Base in Ramstein, Germany.

Ukraine is entering a “new, long phase of the war” as weapons supplies from Western allies gradually increase, the country’s defense minister said Friday.

Oleksii Reznikov said the Kremlin had failed to overthrow the Ukrainian government by Russia’s Victory Day on May 9 and was forced to scale back its goals. Ukraine is anticipating a strategic breakthrough, he said, but it will take time.

“Extremely tough weeks are ahead,” Reznikov wrote on Facebook. “No one can say for sure how many of them there will be.”

Ukraine has recently experienced a “tectonic shift” in Western aid, including the delivery of American howitzers, Reznikov said. He cited an April 26 meeting in Germany of defense ministers from more than 40 countries, saying they set a joint goal of not just stopping, but defeating the Kremlin. More than 1,500 Ukrainian soldiers are training or will soon train on new equipment from Ukraine’s allies as the country also invests in its own weaponry, Reznikov said.

For now, Reznikov said time is passing “unspeakably slowly” as Ukrainians in occupied areas are tortured and killed.

“That is why we are doing everything possible and impossible to speed up the liberation of our land,” he wrote.

By: Marisa Iati

4:11 PM: Over 10,000 U.S. troops heading to Europe as others cycle out

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby speaks during a news briefing on May 13 in Arlington, Va. © Alex Wong/Getty Images Pentagon press secretary John Kirby speaks during a news briefing on May 13 in Arlington, Va.

The Pentagon is sending 10,500 U.S. troops to Europe in the coming months to replace personnel that are currently deployed — “one to one unit replacements” that will keep the U.S. military footprint in the region unchanged at 100,000 strong, according to spokesman John Kirby.

The planned rotations will “go into the summer,” he added, and involve a number of different units. About 4,200 soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division, headquartered at Fort Campbell, Ky., will be sent to replace those from the 82nd Airborne Division’s 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, currently operating in Poland. Meanwhile, 4,200 soldiers from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood, Tex., will be sent to Germany to replace the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division troops who have been stationed there.

Another 500 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell will be deployed to replace members of the 82nd Airborne Division across the area of responsibility for U.S. European Command. Eighteen hundred people from the 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade in Fort Bliss, Tex., will also be sent to replace the outgoing 1st Air Cavalry Brigade tasked to Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Kirby stressed that the deployments “are not permanent moves. These moves are designed to respond to the current security environment.”

He acknowledged, however, that “we’re going to have to take a look at the permanent footprint in Europe and make an assessment about that in the future.”

“These forces are not going to fight in Ukraine,” Kirby added. “They are going to support the robust defense of NATO allies.”

By: Karoun Demirjian

3:19 PM: Russian mines may pose deadly risk to Ukrainians for years

Humanitarian advocates discuss the lasting and deadly impact of land mines used by Russia in Ukraine, including anti-personnel mines banned by international law.

See the video

By: Washington Post Staff

2:32 PM: Russia adds troops in Ukraine but fails to make major gains, U.S. says

A still image taken from a video made available by the Russian Defense Ministry media service shows Russian paratroopers in a BMD-4 infantry fighting vehicle preparing to fire a “Kornet” antitank missile during fighting in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine on May 11. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock) A still image taken from a video made available by the Russian Defense Ministry media service shows Russian paratroopers in a BMD-4 infantry fighting vehicle preparing to fire a “Kornet” antitank missile during fighting in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine on May 11. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Russia is continuing to amplify its presence in Ukraine and has 105 battalion tactical groups devoted to the invasion, according to the Pentagon’s count.

But those Russian forces are “not making any major gains” in the eastern Donbas region, said a senior defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity under terms set by the Pentagon. Ukrainian forces are “frustrating” Russian attempts to make gains, the official said, by preventing Russian groups from crossing the Siverskyi Donets River, which is “affecting their ability to consolidate their forces.”

The official said that Russian forces are still “not able to force a breakthrough” in their attempt to press on Slovyansk from Izyum and that there have been “no significant battle shifts” in the southern part of the conflict area or around Kherson. Though Russian forces have been able to make “some incremental gains to the west of Popasna,” the official said, they have been pushed back toward the Ukraine-Russia border in the area around Kharkiv.

“We’ve basically assessed that the Ukrainians continue to make progress in reclaiming towns and villages around Kharkiv,” the official said. “We have seen some progress by them pushing Russian forces closer to the border and away from Kharkiv.”

At this point, 89 of the 90 howitzers that the United States sent to Ukraine are being used “in a forward-deployed setting,” the official added. President Biden has about $100 million left in drawdown authority to send assistance to Ukrainian forces. The Senate has yet to vote on a House-passed package to extend and increase Biden’s authority to send military assistance and other aid to Ukraine.

By: Karoun Demirjian

2:01 PM: Finnish leader says he spoke with Biden, Sweden about NATO membership

Finland's President Sauli Niinistö talks about Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February. (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva/AFP/Getty Images) Finland's President Sauli Niinistö talks about Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February. (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva/AFP/Getty Images)

Finland’s president said Friday that he spoke with President Biden and the Swedish prime minister about next steps in Finland’s application for NATO membership, despite warnings from a Russian official against becoming “part of the enemy.”

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Biden discussed their “deep concern” over the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, Niinistö wrote on Twitter. After Finland’s leaders said their country should apply for NATO membership “without delay,” Sweden is debating filing its own application to join.

“Finland deeply appreciates all the necessary support from the US,” Niinistö wrote.

The White House said Biden emphasized to the Finnish and Swedish leaders his support for NATO’s Open Door policy, which holds that membership is open to any European nation that can further the treaty’s principles and contribute to the North Atlantic area’s security. The leaders also talked about their shared commitment to supporting Ukraine, the White House said.

By: Marisa Iati

1:39 PM: Ukraine court begins first war crimes trial for Russian soldier

A picture taken on April 25, 2022, in the cemetery of Bucha shows the grave of Mykhaylo Kovalenko, a civilian who was shot dead in Bucha on March 5 during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. © Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images A picture taken on April 25, 2022, in the cemetery of Bucha shows the grave of Mykhaylo Kovalenko, a civilian who was shot dead in Bucha on March 5 during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

MUKACHEVO, Ukraine — A court in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, began hearings Friday in the case against Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, the first Russian soldier to go on trial for alleged war crimes. He is accused of shooting a 62-year-old civilian in the northeastern Ukrainian region of Sumy in late February.

Shishimarin, 21, a member of Russia’s 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya tank division, is in Ukrainian custody. He is charged with violating “the laws and customs of war combined with premeditated murder,” for which he could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty, Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, said in a statement on Facebook on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said Friday that the hearing in Kyiv’s Solomianskyi district court was a “preparatory meeting.” Footage shared by Ukrainian media showed the handcuffed Russian soldier entering the courtroom wearing a blue and gray hoodie, his eyes downcast.

The proceedings lasted about 15 minutes, according to the Associated Press. Shishimarin was told his rights and declined a jury trial.

Read the full story

By: David L. Stern and Claire Parker

1:35 PM: Russian energy company to suspend electricity exports to Finland

A subsidiary of Russian energy company Inter RAO said it will halt the import of electricity from Russia to Finland beginning Saturday, citing nonpayment.

The subsidiary, RAO Nordic, said it has not been credited for electricity sold to Finland since May 6.

“This situation is exceptional and happened for the first time in over twenty years of our trading history,” the company said, adding that it hopes the situation will be resolved so trade can resume.

Fingrid, Finland’s state-owned transmission system operator, confirmed the pause and cited RAO Nordic’s contention that the reason is nonpayment. Reima Päivinen, senior vice president at Fingrid, said RAO Nordic sells directly to Europe’s Nord Pool power exchange and that any nonpayment would have been by them.

Nord Pool said it would not comment on its customers’ behavior or any messages that they publish.

“Nord Pool always settles trades undertaken on its markets,” added Stina Johansen, a spokeswoman for the company.

About 10 percent of Finland’s electricity comes from Russia, and “the adequacy of electricity in Finland is not under threat,” Fingrid said. The company said the loss of Russian electricity would be made up by generating more electricity in Finland and importing more from Sweden.

Finland had previously cut its electricity imports from Russia last month in anticipation of possible disruptions. Fingrid feared Russia would try to destabilize Finland’s electricity system in an attempt to influence the Nordic country’s interest in joining NATO, Päivinen told Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.

By: Marisa Iati

12:57 PM: Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia extended by one month

WNBA star Brittney Griner leaves a courtroom after a hearing in Khimki, outside Moscow, on May 13. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP) WNBA star Brittney Griner leaves a courtroom after a hearing in Khimki, outside Moscow, on May 13. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

Russian authorities on Friday extended WNBA star Brittney Griner’s pretrial detention by one month, her lawyer told the Associated Press.

Griner, a seven-time WNBA all-star for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested in February at an airport outside Moscow. Russian authorities allege that she illegally brought vape cartridges containing hashish oil into the country, a crime that could carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years. Griner was returning to Russia to rejoin UMMC Ekaterinburg, for which she plays during the WNBA offseason.

It’s unclear when Griner will face trial, though her lawyer told the AP that he believes Friday’s extension means a trial could be imminent.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration characterized Griner’s arrest as a “wrongful detainment,” an official designation that indicates that it will no longer wait for the WNBA star’s case to proceed through the Russian legal system and will take more aggressive steps to negotiate her release.

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By: Matt Bonesteel

12:24 PM: U.S. seeks to ‘clarify’ Turkey’s stance on Nordic countries’ NATO membership

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at a news conference in Ankara on May 9. © Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at a news conference in Ankara on May 9.

The United States is seeking to “clarify Turkey’s position” on NATO membership for Sweden and Finland after comments by Turkey’s president objecting to their accession, said the top U.S. diplomat for Europe.

“It is not clear to me that Turkey is saying they will oppose Sweden’s application,” said Karen Donfried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, in a call with reporters.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Nordic countries of harboring “terrorist organizations” and said Turkey does not support their inclusion. He stopped short of saying he will veto their application.

The remarks come as Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepares to travel to Germany on Saturday for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers that will include the top diplomats of Finland and Sweden.

“Certainly this will be a conversation that will continue over the weekend,” Donfried said.

She suggested that the United States will encourage other NATO members to support membership for the Nordic countries — a step strongly opposed by Russia, which views the military alliance as a threat to its security.

“We here in the United States support a NATO application by Finland and/or Sweden, and we will work together with the other 29 NATO allies on that process should Finland and Sweden formally choose to apply for NATO membership in the coming days or weeks,” she said.

By: John Hudson

11:48 AM: Pentagon chief, Russian counterpart talk for first time since invasion

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as they attend the Victory Day military parade on Red Square in Moscow on May 9. (Maxim Shipenkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock) Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as they attend the Victory Day military parade on Red Square in Moscow on May 9. (Maxim Shipenkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke Friday with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, urging an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine and emphasizing the importance of maintaining lines of communication, the Pentagon said.

Austin and Shoigu last spoke Feb. 18, six days before the invasion, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. In that call, Austin attempted to get Shoigu to admit that Russia was planning an invasion, U.S. defense officials previously told The Washington Post.

“I know what you’re doing,” Austin said then, according to officials familiar with that call.

Repeated attempts by the United States to stay in touch with Russian officials over the past few months had failed, with Moscow rebuffing Washington’s attempts. It was not immediately clear why Shoigu agreed to speak Friday.

By: Dan Lamothe

11:24 AM: Analysis: Biden pivots to Asia as Ukraine war rages on

China's DF-41 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles are seen during a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct. 1, 2019, to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images) China's DF-41 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles are seen during a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct. 1, 2019, to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

The United States and its European Union partners are flooding Ukraine with weaponry and aid. By some accounts, the Biden administration alone has mustered more funding for Ukraine in recent weeks than it is committing in the next fiscal year for fighting the planetary peril of climate change.

Yet, in Washington, there remains a large elephant in the room: China. New battles with the Kremlin have energized the doyens of the city’s foreign policy establishment, many of whom cut their teeth during the Cold War. But the Biden administration is trying to show that it hasn’t lost sight of its key 21st-century “strategic competitor.” And it recognizes that its contest with China requires closer partnerships well outside Europe.

A new push started this week. On Thursday evening, the White House hosted a dinner with eight leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as part of a major U.S.-led summit with the regional bloc. On Friday, the Southeast Asian delegations are to continue discussions at the State Department before a plenary session with President Biden. Next week, Biden will embark on a five-day trip to South Korea and Japan, culminating in another meeting of the “Quad” grouping with Australia, Japan and India.

Read the full story

By: Ishaan Tharoor

10:46 AM: Money transfers surge in Ukraine as aid pours in, World Bank says

© Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

Money transfers to Ukraine have spiked since the start of the war as refugees send money back to friends and family still in the country, the World Bank said Wednesday. It predicted a 20 percent increase in remittances to Ukraine in 2022, making the country the largest recipient of funds in Europe and Central Asia.

The war will have the opposite effect in several countries in Central Asia, the bank predicted. Russia hosts millions of migrant workers from the region who send funds back to their families. But stifling international sanctions have caused an economic downturn in the country.

The decline could lead to “food insecurity and rising poverty,” Michal Rutkowski, global director for social protection and jobs at the World Bank, said in a news release.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered large-scale humanitarian, migration and refugee crises and risks for a global economy that is still dealing with the impact of the COVID pandemic,” Rutkowski said.

By: Jaclyn Peiser

10:00 AM: Britain sanctions Putin’s alleged girlfriend, ex-wife and others

Olympic gymnast Alina Kabaeva during a 2008 parliament session in Moscow. © Mikhail Metzel/Associated Press Olympic gymnast Alina Kabaeva during a 2008 parliament session in Moscow.

LONDON — Britain announced a new wave of sanctions Friday, targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intimate circle of family and childhood friends, including his ex-wife, first cousins and a woman widely identified as his girlfriend, the former gymnast Alina Kabaeva.

British officials said the 12 people in the latest tranche of sanctions were not brand-name, jet-setting oligarchs who own soccer teams or vast oil and gas positions, but trusted fixers, relatives and childhood friends who help the Russian leader hide and spend his vast wealth.

Britain is the first country to sanction the 39-year-old Kabaeva, an Olympic champion in rhythmic gymnastics and past cover model for the Russian edition of Vogue magazine. Putin is 69 years old.

Kabaeva rose to become chair of the board of the National Media Group, reportedly the largest private Russian media company, an outlet for pro-war propaganda, officials said.

Read the full story

By: William Booth

9:45 AM: E.U. announces another $520 million in military support for Ukraine

Josep Borrell, European Union chief diplomat, and Liz Truss, Britain's foreign secretary, during talks in Germany on Friday. © Kay Nietfeld/AP Josep Borrell, European Union chief diplomat, and Liz Truss, Britain's foreign secretary, during talks in Germany on Friday.

The European Union will send another $520 million in military support to Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion, its chief diplomat said on Friday.

E.U. contributions to Ukraine’s war effort now equal “about 2 billion euros,” or $2.08 billion, said Josep Borrell, the union’s foreign affairs and security high representative. Borrell spoke to reporters on the second day of meetings among G-7 foreign ministers in Germany.

The funds will be used to deliver “tanks, heavy artillery, munitions, the things needed for this kind of war,” Borrell said.

“The recipe is clear,” he said. “More of the same.” Borrell said ministers understood there was a need for more support for Ukraine and more pressure on Russia with economic sanctions, and Europe needed to maintain a “united front” to isolate Russia. He said efforts should be made to quell disinformation about energy and food price surges related to the war.

Asked about dissension over a possible Europe-wide ban of oil imports from Russia, Borrell said “the work continues” in trying to persuade all members to join the effort. He said E.U. ministers would meet Monday in Brussels to discuss the oil dilemma, even though some countries struggled with “specific circumstances.”

Hungary has balked at an agreement over a ban of oil imports, and Slovakia and the Czech Republic have sought less-restrictive measures. All three counties rely heavily on Russian oil.

“I will provide a new political impetus for an agreement,” the E.U. chief diplomat said about the oil talks. “I’m sure we will have an agreement. We need this agreement. And we will have it. Because we have to get rid of the oil dependency from Russia.”

The E.U.’s latest-announced infusion of funds to Ukraine does not reflect any direct military support supplied by individual European countries.

By: Quentin Ariès

9:25 AM: Erdogan objects to Nordic countries joining NATO, saying they harbor terrorists

© Provided by The Washington Post

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that his country does not support Sweden or Finland joining NATO, but stopped short of announcing a veto of any membership bid by the two Scandinavian countries.

“We are following the developments with Sweden and Finland, but we don’t have favorable thoughts,” Erdogan told reporters Friday.

A parliamentary report in Sweden said Friday that NATO membership would help to deter conflict in northern Europe, a day after Finland’s leaders announced their commitment to join the alliance.

Erdogan accused Nordic countries of harboring “terrorist organizations,” referring to groups including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is outlawed in Turkey. He added that Greece’s NATO membership had been a “mistake” that should not be repeated and accused the country of bias against Turkey.

Turkey has walked a delicate line during the conflict in Ukraine, trying not to offend Russia, with which it has close economic ties, or the government in Kyiv, an ally that is also a buyer of Turkish-made combat drones.

By: Victoria Bisset and Zeynep Karatas

8:58 AM: Swedish foreign minister says joining NATO would help stabilize country

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Ann Linde, speaks in Ottawa, May 5. © Sean Kilpatrick/AP Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Ann Linde, speaks in Ottawa, May 5.

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said a new security report on the prospects for joining NATO outline how the alliance would help stabilize Sweden and benefit nations around the Baltic Sea.

“Swedish NATO membership would raise the threshold for military conflicts and thus have a conflict-preventing effect in northern Europe,” Linde told reporters about the report sent to parliament. “Military nonalignment has served us well, but we are in a new situation now.”

Linde’s comments came a day after Finland’s leaders committed to applying to join the 30-nation alliance. Reuters reported on Friday that Sweden is likely to follow, and Stockholm could apply for NATO membership as early as Monday.

Sweden and Finland have remained outside NATO since it was founded in 1949, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, launched in February, has prompted both countries to reassess Moscow’s ambitions.

The report, “Deterioration of the security environment — implications for Sweden,” did not offer a recommendation but laid out what Sweden would gain, in security guarantees and in likely threats, by seeking membership.

Sweden could “gain greater influence on security and defense issues” in Europe, if it joined NATO, and that would add a “deterrent effect in northern Europe,” the report said. Partners to the security pact, including those who participate in training exercises but are not full members, have no guarantee to NATO defense in the case of an attack, it noted.

The report advise that Russia would “react negatively” if Sweden were to join NATO but its most likely response would be “various types of influence activities” toward citizens or against Swedish decision-makers. The report said Sweden should request security assurances from other alliance members to help combat such problems while it pursues membership.

The report also said that NATO membership would not contradict Sweden’s non-proliferation stance toward nuclear weapons. A number of NATO members are committed to nuclear disarmament or non-proliferation, it said.

If both Sweden and Finland were NATO members, all Nordic and Baltic countries would be covered by collective defense guarantees and that would eliminate “the current uncertainty as to what form collective action would take if a security crisis or armed attack occurred,” it added.

By: Andrea Salcedo and Victoria Bisset

8:40 AM: Zelensky signed a baseball in 2019. It just sold for more than $50,000.

The baseball signed by Volodymyr Zelensky that sold for just over $50,000. © AP The baseball signed by Volodymyr Zelensky that sold for just over $50,000.

A baseball signed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in 2019 sold for $50,103 this week at auction, Live Auctioneers reported.

The Rawlings Major League baseball was owned by Randy L. Kaplan, a private collector, who since 1996 has appealed to world leaders, beginning with Bill Clinton and including Nelson Mandela, to turn a simple baseball into a bit of history. In 2008, his collection was shown at the National Archives in Washington as the “Born to Play Ball” exhibition.

Zelensky did the honors with a black felt-tip pen shortly after the then-actor and comedian, running as an anti-corruption candidate, unexpectedly won Ukraine’s presidential race. Zelensky penned the red-stitched ball in both Cyrillic and Latin letters. The ball was sold on Wednesday with a letter from Volodymyr Yelchenko, Ukraine’s then-representative to the United Nations: “Dear Mr. Kaplan, Please find enclosed a baseball, signed by the President of Ukraine, H.E. Mr. Volodymyr Zelenskyy during the visit to New York in September 2019.”

RR Auction, which handled the sale tied to the now-heroic leader, said on Twitter that it was contributing $15,000 toward relief efforts for Ukraine, embattled in a near-three-month invasion by Russia. The auction house, based in Boston, said the baseball sold at a price three times more than was expected.

Kaplan, who identifies himself on LinkedIn as a lobbyist and government affairs specialist in New York, was making a donation as well but asked the auction house to keep the amount private. RR Auction said in its tweet that its “consignor” was making a “generous donation via @Americares.”

“We are thrilled with the price achieved and show our support with our donation to help the people in Ukraine,” Bobby Livingston, RR Auction executive vice president, said in a statement.

By: Andrea Salcedo

8:15 AM: Last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor says Putin is ‘certainly’ a war criminal

Defendants listen to a verdict during the Nuremberg war crimes trials in Germany in 1946. © Eddie Worth/AP Defendants listen to a verdict during the Nuremberg war crimes trials in Germany in 1946.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is “certainly” a war criminal, said Benjamin Ferencz, the 102-year-old who is the last surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg trials of former Nazi officials after World War II, in a CBS News interview.

Ukrainian and Western officials are working to gather evidence that could corroborate allegations that Russian soldiers committed war crimes. This week, U.N. officials said over 1,000 civilian bodies had been found in the Kyiv region alone. Russian troops had occupied Kyiv’s suburbs before pulling out a month ago. A court in Kyiv began hearings Friday in the war crimes trial of a Russian soldier.

During his interview, Ferencz recounted how he had to enter Nazi concentration camps immediately after allied troops had liberated them. The “ground was covered with dead people, some of them partly alive, pleading with their eyes for help,” he said. The experience was traumatic, he said. The Harvard Law graduate successfully prosecuted 22 defendants.

Though he said “you don’t have to think too much about” whether Putin is a war criminal, Ferencz added that whether the Russian leader would actually face justice was “another question.” The centenarian is advocating for the creation of a Nuremberg-like tribunal to try Russia’s leaders, CBS reported.

By: Andrew Jeong

7:50 AM: Satellite images back up Ukrainian claim that it sank Russian ship

A satellite image shows a sunken Russian ship next to a barge with a heavy-lift crane near Snake Island in the Black Sea on May 12. © Maxar Technologies/AP A satellite image shows a sunken Russian ship next to a barge with a heavy-lift crane near Snake Island in the Black Sea on May 12.

Satellite images collected Thursday appeared to confirm the Ukrainian military’s claim last week that it had sunk a Russian landing craft near Snake Island, an outcrop in the Black Sea about 30 miles off the Romanian coast.

The images taken by Maxar Technologies show a sunken Russian ship, next to a barge with a heavy-lift crane. On the island itself, the images show Russian air defense systems, Maxar said.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Saturday that a Bayraktar TB2 — a Turkish-made drone — had destroyed the Serna-class ship, which was designed to transport troops, equipment and cargo. Black-and-white footage shared on Twitter showed people onboard the vessel before it was hit by a large explosion that filled the air with dark smoke.

A satellite image shows the continued expansion of a cemetery on the western edge of Ukraine's besieged city of Mariupol on May 12. © Maxar Technologies/AFP A satellite image shows the continued expansion of a cemetery on the western edge of Ukraine's besieged city of Mariupol on May 12.

In Mariupol, the Black Sea port that has endured weeks of Russian bombardment, Maxar’s images also appear to show the human impact of the war, with the expansion of the Starokrymske cemetery on the city’s western outskirts.

In March, Maxar images appeared to show a mass grave in the Russian-occupied village of Manhush, about 12 miles west of Mariupol, in what Ukrainian officials said was evidence of war crimes in the city.

On Thursday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the city and its residents had “suffered unimaginable horrors” since the Russian invasion began.

“A once flourishing city lies in ruins,” she told a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council. “We estimate the civilian death toll in Mariupol to lie in the thousands, while only with time will the true scale of atrocities, casualties and damage become clear.”

Russian forces are continuing to attack the city’s Azovstal steel plant, the final stronghold of Ukrainian fighters in the city.

By: Andrew Jeong and Victoria Bisset

7:25 AM: Sanctions on Russia must remain until troops leave Ukraine, U.K. says

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss briefs the media Friday ahead of the G-7 meeting of foreign ministers in Germany. © Georg Wendt/Pool/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss briefs the media Friday ahead of the G-7 meeting of foreign ministers in Germany.

Sanctions on Russia and President Vladimir Putin must remain until its invading troops leave Ukraine, the British foreign secretary said before a three-day meeting with international allies.

“Putin is humiliating himself on the world stage,” Liz Truss said Thursday night at the start of a three-day meeting of G-7 foreign ministers. “We must ensure he faces a defeat in Ukraine that denies him any benefit and ultimately constrains further aggression.”

Truss urged Britain’s allies, gathered in Weissenhaus, Germany, to go “further and faster” in helping Ukraine by working out a “pathway” for it to receive NATO-standard military equipment. The “best long-term security for Ukraine will come from it being able to defend itself,” she said.

By: Victoria Bisset

7:01 AM: Global security under threat, E.U. official says

European Council President Charles Michel at Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan, on Friday. © Kyodo/Reuters European Council President Charles Michel at Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan, on Friday.

The president of the European Council warned Friday that the war in Ukraine threatens international security.

“We have international rules and global institutions for nuclear disarmament and arms control. We must protect them and strengthen them to secure peace and security,” Charles Michel said during a visit to Hiroshima, the Japanese city where the United States first dropped an atomic bomb in 1945.

“But as we speak, global security is under threat. Russia, a nuclear-armed state, and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, is attacking the sovereign nation of Ukraine, while making shameful and unacceptable references to the use of nuclear weapons.

“This is not only shaking the security of Europe, it’s dangerously raising the stakes for the whole world,” he added.

By: Victoria Bisset

6:30 AM: Russian military ramps up attacks in Donbas amid losses, U.K. says

An unexploded ordnance is lodged into a road in Severodonetsk, Ukraine, on May 7. © Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images An unexploded ordnance is lodged into a road in Severodonetsk, Ukraine, on May 7.

Russia is ramping up attacks near the cities of Izyum and Severodonetsk to advance toward major Ukrainian-held cities in Donbas but has not made substantial gains, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Friday. One attempt to cross a river west of Severodonetsk, the eastern most city still held by Ukrainian forces, was thwarted by Ukrainian military with heavy losses for a Russian armored battalion, the ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

As Russia aims to sever connections to western Ukraine, it is attempting a breakthrough to Kramatorsk, the largest Ukrainian-controlled city in Donetsk, according to the assessment. Military assistance from NATO countries has flown into western Ukraine before transport to front lines.

Russian troops suffered while trying to cross the Siverskyi Donets River, where “significant” military equipment was destroyed, British defense authorities said. Earlier this week, a regional military official in Luhansk wrote on his Telegram channel that Ukrainian forces repeatedly blew up Russia’s pontoon bridges to prevent advances.

River crossings are highly risky in combat zones, the assessment said, and the attempts reflect how Russian commanders are under pressure to make progress in Donbas.

By: Amy Cheng

5:55 AM: Ukraine has spent $8.3 billion on war so far, finance minister says

Ukrainian Finance Minister Sergii Marchenko walks outside the International Monetary Fund building in Washington on April 21. © Jose Luis Magana/AP Ukrainian Finance Minister Sergii Marchenko walks outside the International Monetary Fund building in Washington on April 21.

Nearly three months into the war, Ukrainian Finance Minister Sergii Marchenko announced Thursday the country has spent $8.3 billion combating Russian troops, Reuters reported.

Marchenko’s announcement provided a first glimpse of the economic toll the war has taken on Ukraine and the resources it could have used for development.

Funds earmarked for the economy were used to purchase weapons and repair them, Marchenko told the news agency. Some funds have also been used for emergency aid for those displaced by the war.

With a tone of urgency, he said Kyiv is in need of increased foreign aid as it is still spending billions of additional dollars for emergency expenses.

“If we do not take into account foreign aid, we now estimate the receipt of revenues in May-June at the level of 45-50 percent of [what was] planned, provided that the situation does not worsen,” Marchenko told Reuters.

By: Andrea Salcedo

5:28 AM: E.U. proposes setting up trade corridors for Ukrainian grain exports

E.U. Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean talks about 'solidarity lanes' to help Ukraine export agricultural goods at a news conference in Brussels on Thursday. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images) © Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images E.U. Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean talks about 'solidarity lanes' to help Ukraine export agricultural goods at a news conference in Brussels on Thursday. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images)

The European Union’s executive body has proposed setting up trade corridors that would allow Ukraine to sidestep Russia’s blockade of its Black Sea ports and resume exporting millions of tons of grain that are essential to the world’s food supply.

European Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean said 22 million tons of grain must leave Ukraine via E.U. “solidarity lanes” within the next three months. She called the effort a “gigantesque challenge” but stressed the “urgent need” in a Thursday news release.

But the ambitious goal must overcome logistical hurdles that have created bottlenecks on the Ukrainian border, according to the European Commission. Some convoys are forced to wait up to 30 days before crossing the borders, officials said. One reason for the delays: the difference in rail gauges between Ukraine and the E.U., according to the commission.

The executive body, as part of its short-term remedies, urged E.U. “market players” to make additional vehicles available to move freight. It also asked E.U. entities to prioritize Ukrainian grain freight and for customs officials to “apply maximum flexibility.”

The announcement occurred on the same day that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russia of stealing Ukrainian grain and selling it in Syria. “Anyone participating in the selling, transportation, or purchase of our stolen grain is an accomplice,” he said, claiming that Russia has stolen up to 550,000 tons of grain worth more than $100 million.

In 2020, Ukraine was the fifth-largest exporter of wheat and the fourth-largest exporter of corn in terms of value, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, a data website.

By: Andrew Jeong

4:40 AM: What is NATO, and why isn’t Ukraine a member?

In the weeks leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a military alliance of mainly Western countries, deployed thousands of additional troops to Eastern Europe to shore up its defenses.

Since then, member countries have delivered weapons, ammunition and other military aid to Ukrainian forces.

But Ukraine does not belong to NATO, whose 30 members are united by a mutual defense treaty. And post-Cold War tensions between the West and Russia over the alliance’s eastward expansion — including to countries that were once part of the Soviet Union — are at the heart of the current crisis.

Ukraine has made clear its desire to join NATO, even rewriting its Constitution to enshrine its commitment. Russia, however, sees NATO enlargement as an existential threat and has demanded that Ukraine be barred from ever becoming a member.

Read the full story

By: Miriam Berger, Claire Parker and Sammy Westfall

4:16 AM: Almost 100 children were killed in Ukraine in April, UNICEF says

A child stands near luggage at a Kyiv train station Thursday. © Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images A child stands near luggage at a Kyiv train station Thursday.

UNICEF has confirmed that almost 100 children were killed in Ukraine last month, the organization’s deputy director told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, adding that the true number is likely to be “considerably higher.”

“More children have been injured and faced grave violations of their rights, millions more have been displaced,” Omar Abdi said. “Schools continue to be attacked and used for military purposes and water and sanitation infrastructure impacted. The war in Ukraine, like all wars, is a child protection and child rights crisis.”

He said that as of last week, at least 15 of the 89 UNICEF-supported schools in eastern Ukraine had been damaged or destroyed since the start of the war, while hundreds of schools across the country were reportedly hit by heavy artillery or airstrikes.

Abdi said the situation in parts of Ukraine under direct attack and without access to humanitarian assistance “continues to be grim.” He warned that vulnerable children in countries including Afghanistan and Yemen were also “paying a deadly price for another war far from their doorsteps,” amid rising food and fuel prices caused by the conflict.

By: Victoria Bisset

3:42 AM: Rand Paul, lone Senate holdout, delays vote on Ukraine aid to next week

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has also recently been criticized for saying that U.S. support for Ukraine to join NATO contributed to Russia’s decision to invade, an echo of Moscow's rhetoric. © Al Drago/Pool/Bloomberg News/AP Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has also recently been criticized for saying that U.S. support for Ukraine to join NATO contributed to Russia’s decision to invade, an echo of Moscow's rhetoric.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) objected Thursday to a Senate vote on assistance for Ukraine, delaying passage of the bill till next week and dampening a bipartisan push to maintain steady aid to Kyiv.

The senator faced backlash over his opposition but said he stands by his decision. “My oath of office is to the U.S. Constitution, not to any foreign nation,” Paul tweeted Thursday evening, repeating his remarks on the Senate floor. While he said he sympathizes with the Ukrainian people, Paul added that the United States “cannot continue to spend money we don’t have” because doing so is “threatening our own national security.”

The bill — which would send $39.8 billion in economic, humanitarian and defense aid to Ukraine — passed in the House of Representatives this week with broad support. President Biden said he wanted it on his desk by the end of this week, with Washington trying to head off a lapse in funding to Ukraine as Kyiv’s forces clash with the Russian military in the country’s east and south.

Read the full story

By: Amy Cheng and Eugene Scott

3:17 AM: White House would support Finland’s efforts to join NATO, Psaki says

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the United States would support Finland applying for NATO membership after leaders of the Nordic country expressed interest in doing so.

“We, of course, will respect whatever decision they make,” she said at a news briefing on Thursday. “Both Finland and Sweden are close and valued defense partners of the United States and of NATO.”

“I would note that even without them being members of NATO, our militaries have worked together for many years,” Psaki added. “We’re confident that we can find ways to work with them, address any concerns either country may have about the period now or whatever is required if they were to join NATO.”

After weeks of deliberations, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced that their militarily nonaligned nation must “apply for NATO membership without delay.” If Finland joins NATO, the accession would add hundreds of miles to NATO’s shared border with Russia.

“As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance,” they said in a statement on Thursday. The decision, which must be approved by the Finnish Parliament, is expected to be finalized in the coming days.

By: Eugene Scott

2:48 AM: Finland’s membership would give NATO significant combat boost

Finnish soldiers take part in the Army mechanized exercise Arrow 22 exercise at the Niinisalo garrison in Kankaanpaa, Western Finland, on May 4, 2022. © Heikki Saukkomaa/AP Finnish soldiers take part in the Army mechanized exercise Arrow 22 exercise at the Niinisalo garrison in Kankaanpaa, Western Finland, on May 4, 2022.

Finland’s potential membership in NATO would increase the military alliance’s troop levels and firepower, as well as expanding NATO’s shared border with Russia by some 800 miles.

Finland, a country of 5.5 million, has a modest active military force of several thousand that trains 21,000 conscripts each year. But it boasts a modern arsenal of weapons, tanks and warplanes, combined with a reserve force of nearly a million men and women. The Finns have also regularly trained with NATO forces — including with troops from the United States, Britain, Estonia and Latvia this month — meaning its integration into the alliance would be relatively smooth.

The country also uses the same equipment and arms that NATO and its partners use, indicating a high level of interoperability. The Finns use German-designed tanks and South Korean-designed 155 mm Howitzers, and recently purchased more than five dozen of Lockheed Martin’s F-35A stealth fighters.

By: Andrew Jeong

2:14 AM: Inside Mariupol’s besieged steel plant, a symbol of bravery and terror

Anna, with her six-month-old baby Svait, is comforted by a friend, Vlada, as the two friends reunite Tuesday in Zaporizhzhia, following their evacuation from the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol. © Nicole Tung for The Washington Post Anna, with her six-month-old baby Svait, is comforted by a friend, Vlada, as the two friends reunite Tuesday in Zaporizhzhia, following their evacuation from the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol.

Holding fast to her infant son, Anna Zaitseva ran toward a pair of metal doors at the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works. It was the last Thursday of February, barely 24 hours after the start of the Russian invasion. In soon-to-be devastated Mariupol, the Kremlin’s bombs were already falling, some only yards away from their ninth-floor apartment.

They had driven that morning to a lot at the Soviet-era steel plant. One of Europe’s largest, it employed 10,702 people, including her husband. Now, for workers and their families, it was the shelter of last resort.

“I couldn’t stop my tears that first day,” recalled Zaitseva, 24, one of scores for whom the prospect of a few days at the plant would stretch into months, and exact a painful personal cost. “My husband took me by the arms and told me, 'Look at me, Anna. Everything will be okay.’”

He was wrong.

Read the full story

By: Anthony Faiola and David L. Stern

1:46 AM: Ukraine’s Eurovision commentator streams from a bomb shelter

When Ukrainian fans tune in to the grand final of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday, they’re likely to hear commentary from presenter Timur Miroshnychenko — broadcast live from a bomb shelter.

Before the first Eurovision semifinal this Tuesday, Ukraine’s public broadcaster Suspilne posted photos of Miroshnychenko sitting in a makeshift studio, with paint crumbling off the walls behind him. Miroshnychenko co-hosted Eurovision in 2019, when the competition took place in Ukraine.

Amid the heavy fighting that continues in Ukraine’s east and south, people are cheering on Kalush Orchestra, the country’s contestant at Eurovision that is favored to win the competition. The band’s song — a folk-rap mash-up called “Stefania” — has become a tribute to Ukraine, singer Oleh Psiuk said, adding that performing it is a way to “show Ukraine to the world, to remind people about Ukraine, and to increase morale in the whole country.”

By: Amy Cheng

1:14 AM: As NATO expansion looms, Russia’s rhetoric becomes more aggressive

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 9. (Maxim Shipenkov/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock) Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 9. (Maxim Shipenkov/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

After Finland announced Thursday that it intends to apply to join the NATO military alliance — and Sweden seems set to follow suit — Russia hit back immediately.

Finland and Sweden joining NATO would make them “part of the enemy,” a deputy Russian ambassador to the United Nations said in an interview posted online. NATO detachments in those nations would make them “a target — or possible target — for a strike,” Dmitry Polyanskiy told the website UnHerd. “It’s up to them.”

“They know that the moment they become members of NATO it will imply certain mirror moves on the Russian side,” Polyanskiy said.

“The expansion of NATO does not make our continent more stable and secure,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Thursday, according to Russian news outlet Interfax. He added that Russia could take measures to “balance the situation” if Finland joins the alliance.

“Finland’s accession to NATO will cause serious damage to bilateral Russian-Finnish relations” and the “stability and security” of Northern Europe, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a Thursday statement. “Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop the threats to its national security that arise in this regard.”

By: Sammy Westfall

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