Russia hits Ukraine's east as Finland moves toward NATO bid

Russia hits Ukraines east as Finland moves toward NATO bid

Kyiv: Russian forces unleashed airstrikes on the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the besieged city of Mariupol and pressed their advance on towns across the country's east, Ukraine's military said Thursday.

As the war, which has ground to a stalemate, wrought more death and upheaval, its globe-shaking repercussions spread, with Finland announcing plans to end decades of neutrality and seek NATO membership.

Finland's president and prime minister said Thursday that the Nordic country should apply without delay for membership in the Western alliance, founded in part to counter the Soviet Union. The announcement means Finland is virtually certain to seek to join the military alliance, though a few steps remain before the application process can begin. Neighbouring Sweden is expected to decide on joining NATO within days.

NATO's support of Ukraine particularly by supplying weapons has been critical to Kyiv's surprising success in stymieing Russia's invasion, which began on Feb. 24. Many observers thought Moscow's larger and better-armed military would be hard to stop, but the Ukrainians have bogged Russian troops down and thwarted their goal of overrunning the capital.

Still, the war has unleashed staggering destruction, killed thousands and forced millions from their homes, while shattering Europe's sense of post-Cold War stability. It has prompted NATO to send troops and weapons to fortify the alliance's eastern frontier and led Sweden and Finland to reconsider longstanding opposition to joining the trans-Atlantic alliance, whose members are committed to mutual defense.

In Mariupol, which has seen some of the worst destruction of the war, Ukraine offered to release Russian prisoners of war in exchange for the safe evacuation of badly wounded fighters trapped inside the Azovstal steel mill, the last redoubt of Ukrainian forces in the ruined city.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that negotiations were underway to release the wounded. She said there were different options, but none of them is ideal.

Russia's forces have taken control of the rest of the city, which they besieged for weeks, as residents ran short of food, water and medicine. Many thousands have fled, saying almost nothing remains of the port city, but an adviser to the Mariupol mayor said Russian forces have now blocked all evacuation routes.

Next Story
Share it