BRUSSELS – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says Finland and Sweden have applied to join the world’s biggest military alliance, a move driven by security concerns over Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO. You are our closest partners,” Stoltenberg told reporters Wednesday after a receiving their application letters from the two Nordic countries’ ambassadors.
The application must now be weighed by the 30 member countries.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed reservations about Finland and Sweden joining.
If his objections are overcome, and accession talks go as well as expected, the two could become members within a few months. The process usually takes eight to 12 months, but NATO wants to move quickly given the threat from Russia hanging over the Nordic countries’ heads.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
– Ukraine hopes to swap steel mill fighters for Russian POWs
– Will Turkey upend NATO expansion? US officials seek clarity
– State Dept pushing to see Griner; NBA Commissioner weighs in
– Targeting Ukraine’s schools, Russia bombs the future
– Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman said the Russian military was holding more than 3,000 civilians from Mariupol at another former penal colony near Olenivka in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.
Seven buses carrying an unknown number of Ukrainian soldiers evacuated from the Mariupol steel plant were seen arriving Tuesday at former penal colony No. 120 near Olenivka.
Ombudsman Lyudmyla Denisova said on Telegram earlier Tuesday that the civilians were being held at former penal colony No. 52, also near Olenivka.
She said most civilians are held for a month, but those considered “particularly unreliable,” including former soldiers and police, are held for two months.
Denisova said those held include about 30 volunteers who delivered humanitarian supplies to Mariupol while it was under Russian siege.
MELITOPOL, Ukraine – Ukrainian guerrilla fighters reportedly have killed several high-ranking Russian officers in the southern city of Melitopol, the regional administration said on Telegram.
Russian forces have occupied the city since early in the war.
According to the regional administration, the occupiers are trying to conceal the situation but Russian troops were more actively checking private cars in the city Tuesday, most likely looking for the guerrillas.
No details of the killings were given and the report could not immediately be confirmed.
Throughout the war, the Ukrainians have claimed to have killed many Russian generals and other officers. A few of the deaths have been confirmed by the Russians.
LVIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday began with a combination of Russian attacks with Russian forces firing missiles at the western Lviv region and the Sumy and Chernihiv regions in the northeast and carrying out airstrikes in the eastern Luhansk region.
Zelenskyy said the border regions of Ukraine saw Russian “sabotage activity.”
“All of this is not just creating tension for our state, is not just a test of our strength,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address. “This is kind of an attempt to compensate the Russian army for a series of failures in the east and south of our country.”
According to Zelenskyy, the Russians are unable to demonstrate any success in the areas where they are trying to attack.
So “they are trying to show success through their missiles and other activities, but also to no effect,” Zelenskyy said. “These strikes, like the many previous ones, do not fundamentally change anything. Moreover, our air defense and anti-sabotage measures are getting stronger.”
KYIV, Ukraine – The fall of Mariupol appears at hand as Ukraine is moving to abandon a sprawling steel plant where its soldiers had held out under relentless bombardment for months, which would make it the biggest city to fall into Russian hands.
Much of the steel plant has been reduced to rubble.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine is working to get its remaining troops safely out of the Azovstal steel plant.
In his nightly video address to the nation, Zelenskyy said the evacuation mission was being supervised by Ukraine’s military and intelligence officers and “the most influential international mediators are involved.”
However, hundreds of Ukrainian fighters have left the Azovstal steel plant and turned themselves over to Russian hands.