NATO admitted on Tuesday (28) the candidacies of Sweden and Finland with the aim of stopping the intentions of Russia, which demands Ukraine’s surrender after four months of conflict and has been accused of “war crimes” for the bombing of a shopping center.
“I am pleased to announce that we have an agreement that opens the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO”, announced the secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Jens Stoltenberg, when opening a summit of the organization in Madrid.
The two Nordic countries, traditionally not militarily aligned, changed their stance after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Russia has in recent weeks intensified its offensive in the east and, on Tuesday, ruled out any solution to the conflict other than the total surrender of Ukraine.
“The Ukrainian side can end (the conflict) today” if it “orders” its soldiers to “hand over their weapons”, said Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman.
But the Russian attack on the shopping center on Monday further invigorated Ukrainian resolve.
It is “one of the most shameful terrorist acts in European history”, denounced Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Russia has rejected the allegations and said the disused site caught fire after the bombing of a nearby weapons depot.
Zelensky called on Tuesday for an on-the-spot UN investigation into the case, to “independently gather information and see that it really was a Russian missile attack.”
“The indiscriminate attacks against innocent civilians constitute a war crime”, denounced the leaders of the G7, the group of the main western economies, gathered in Germany.
The G7 agreed to tighten the siege on Moscow by focusing on the military industry and banning gold imports into the country.
The aim is to “increase” the cost of the war for Moscow, summarized the head of the German government, Olaf Scholz.
Ukraine is suffering “a brutality not seen in Europe since the Second World War,” Stoltenberg declared.
Therefore, it is very important that we remain willing to provide help”, he added.
The United States will announce on Wednesday the deployment of additional “long-term” reinforcements in Europe, mostly concentrated on the eastern flank border with Russia, announced National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
General Patrick Sanders, the new Chief and General Staff of the British Armed Forces, highlighted the need to stop Russian “territorial expansion”.
“We are not at war”, but “we have to act quickly so that we do not reach a situation of war due to the failure to stop a territorial expansion”, declared Sanders, comparing the situation with that of 1937, before the Second World War, in the face of of Nazi Germany.
Kiev mayor and former world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who is in Madrid for the NATO summit, has urged allies to “speed up” arms deliveries to Ukraine to stand up to Russia.
“We need anti-rocket systems. We see that every day Russian rockets destroy our cities, kill civilians, destroy infrastructure,” he explained.
Turkey opposed Sweden and Finland joining NATO, claiming that these two countries were sanctuaries for the Kurdish independence fighters of the PKK, an organization considered “terrorist” by Ankara.
But ultimately, Turkey “got what it wanted” to open the door to the two Nordic countries and “made important achievements in the fight against terrorist organizations,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said in a statement.
A man stands beside a barricade made of wrecked police cars in Lysychansk. Photo: Anatolii Stepanov / AFP
City “in ruins”
Just hours after the announcement of the Kremenchuk bombing, Ukrainian authorities announced another deadly Russian attack on civilians in Lysychansk, a strategic stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in the Donbass basin (east).
In this twin city of Severodonetsk, recently taken by the Russians, at least eight Ukrainian civilians were killed and more than 20 others, including two children, were injured while “collecting water from a cistern”, announced the governor of the Lugansk region, Sergei Gaidai.
Lysychansk is the last major city to be conquered by the Russians in this province.
“Our defenses maintain the line, but the Russians reduce the city to ruins with artillery, aviation (…) The infrastructure is completely destroyed”, detailed Gaidai.
After failing to conquer Kiev in late March, Russian troops focused their attacks on the eastern mining region of Donbass, already partly in the hands of pro-Russian separatists since 2014.