War in Ukraine, Day 125 | NATO will be able to expand, Russia wants to bend Ukraine

(Kremenchuk) NATO on Tuesday announced an agreement on Sweden and Finland’s accession thanks to the lifting of Turkey’s veto, while Russia has ruled out ending its offensive in Ukraine until Kyiv capitulates.

Posted at 6:15am
Updated at 4:46 p.m

Benoît FINCK with Valentin BONTEMPS in Madrid
Media Agency France

what you need to know

  • NATO summit must send ‘message of unity and strength’, says Macron;
  • Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska calls Ukraine conflict ‘a colossal mistake’;
  • Ukraine frees 17 prisoners in exchange with Moscow;
  • Ukraine faces unprecedented “brutality” in Europe “since World War II,” according to NATO secretary;
  • The Kremlin will stop its offensive if Ukraine capitulates;
  • Emmanuel Macron: “Russia cannot and must not win”, sanctions maintained “as long as necessary”;
  • G7 wants to ‘increase’ cost of war against Ukraine for Russia;
  • Canada will provide new financial assistance to Ukraine: a $200 million loan from the IMF and more than $150 million in humanitarian assistance;
  • Russian army denies attack on crowded shopping center in Kremenchuk;
  • The G7 pledged to help rebuild Ukraine;
  • Five emerging countries, including India, join the G7 in condemning the invasion of Ukraine.

After several hours of discussions on the sidelines of the alliance summit, which began in Madrid on Tuesday evening, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg assured Turkey that Turkey had lifted its veto against the candidacy of the two Nordic countries.

“Turkey has agreed to Sweden and Finland joining NATO,” Stoltenberg announced, considering the move “essential” as the world “faces the worst security crisis in decades.”

Ankara, a NATO member since 1952, has so far blocked Stockholm and Helsinki from joining, accusing them of harboring militants from the Kurdish organization PKK, which it considers “terrorist”.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan eventually felt he had received “full cooperation” from Stockholm and Helsinki after intense negotiations. “Turkey got what it wanted,” the Turkish presidency stressed in a statement.

“Throw away the guns”

The agreement, signed on Tuesday evening on camera by the diplomatic chiefs of the three countries concerned, will allow the leaders of the alliance present in Madrid to show greater unity towards Russia, which on Tuesday again called on Kyiv to surrender.

“Ukrainian soldiers must be ordered to lay down their arms and all conditions imposed by Russia must be implemented. Then it will all be over in one day,” Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

That statement came the day after a Russian attack that devastated a crowded shopping center in Kremenchuk, 330 kilometers southeast of Kyiv, leaving at least 18 dead and about 40 missing, according to Ukrainian authorities.


PHOTO GENIA SAVILOV, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

According to the Ukrainian Air Force, the shopping center was hit by Kh-22 anti-ship missiles launched by long-range Tu-22 bombers from the Kursk region of Russia.

This bombing was “one of the most shameless acts of terrorism in European history,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and demanded that Russia be labeled a “state sponsor of terrorism” after this attack on “a peaceful city.”

Zelenskyy proposed on Tuesday that the UN Security Council send a commission of inquiry to prove that this mall was destroyed by a Russian missile.

The Russian army, which has denied all allegations of strikes against civilians since the conflict began, claimed to have attacked a weapons cache at a nearby construction machinery factory, the fire from which it said had spread to the mall, leaving disillusioned people.

But the Russian version was contradicted by testimonies collected by an AFP journalist at the scene. “We heard that, that’s nonsense. If you live here, I wonder how you can believe such a thing, ”reacted a resident of Kremenchuk Polina Pushintseva.

“Brutality”

This attack was strongly condemned by the leaders of the G7, which ended in Germany on Tuesday. During that summit, the West pledged to tighten the noose around Moscow by targeting Russia’s defense industry and capping the price of Russian oil on a global scale.

The overarching goal is to “increase” the war costs for Russia, Chancellor Olaf Scholz summed up. Washington began implementing those sanctions Tuesday, including a ban on gold imports from Russia, according to the US Treasury Department.

“Russia cannot and must not win, and that is why our support for Ukraine and our sanctions against Russia will continue as long as necessary,” stressed French President Emmanuel Macron, calling on NATO countries to send a “message of unity and strength”. to send.

“It is extremely important that we stand ready to continue to provide our support because today Ukraine is facing a level of brutality that we have not seen in Europe since World War II,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg added .

According to an aide to US President Joe Biden, the NATO meeting will be an opportunity for Washington to make “concrete announcements” about “new military commitments” crucial to the future of the alliance.

“By the end of this summit there will be a more robust, efficient and credible system […] to address a more acute and serious Russian threat,” said Jake Sullivan, Joe Biden’s senior diplomatic and military adviser.

“City in Ruins”

Despite the severe sanctions that have hit the Russian economy since the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the Kremlin assured on Tuesday that there was “no reason” to speak of a Russian default.

However, Russian authorities acknowledged that due to the sanctions, two installments had not reached creditors by Sunday’s deadline. The rating agency Moody’s estimated on Tuesday that this actually represents a “default” in payment.

A few hours after the announcement of the Kremenchuk bombing, Ukrainian authorities announced another deadly Russian strike against civilians in Lysychansk, a strategic core of the Ukrainian resistance in the Donbass Basin (east).

In this recently Russian-taken sister city of Sievierodonetsk, at least eight Ukrainian civilians were killed and more than 20 others, including two children, injured when they “collected water from a cistern,” according to Luhansk Region Governor Serguiï. Gaidaï.

Lysytchansk is the last major city that the Russians have yet to conquer in this province. “Our defenders are holding the line, but the Russians are laying waste to the city with artillery and planes… The infrastructure is completely destroyed,” explained Mr Gaïdaï.


PHOTO ANATOLII STEPANOV, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE ARCHIVE

In the Dnepropetrovsk region (centre), Governor Valentyn Reznichenko reported a six-missile attack on his Facebook page, without naming possible victims. According to him, three missiles were shot down by air defense.

The conquest of Donbass, which has been partially held by pro-Russian separatists since 2014, has been the Russians’ priority goal since they evacuated the Kyiv area at the end of March.

UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric reminded in New York that the belligerents are obliged under international law to “protect civilians and civilian infrastructure” and judged the new strike as “completely regrettable”.

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