Tue, 05 Jul 2022

Live: Sweden to apply for NATO membership says PM

16 May 2022, 23:37 GMT+10

Sweden will apply for membership in NATO as a deterrent against Russian aggression, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said Monday in a historic reversal of the country's decades-long military non-alignment. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

3:16pm: Sweden to apply for NATO membership says PM

Sweden will apply for membership in NATO as a deterrent against Russian aggression, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said Monday in a historic reversal of the country's decades-long military non-alignment.

"The government has decided to inform NATO that Sweden wants to become a member of the alliance. Sweden's NATO ambassador will shortly inform NATO," Andersson told reporters a day after neighbouring Finland made a similar announcement.

3:08pm: Ceasefire reached to evacuate wounded from Azovstal says Russian ministry

Russia's defence ministry said Monday that an agreement has been reached to evacuate injured soldiers from the Azovstal steel plant in Ukraine's port city of Mariupol.

"An agreement was reached with representatives of the Ukrainian military blocked at Azovstal in Mariupol to evacuate the wounded," the ministry said, adding that a "regime of silence" was introduced for the duration of the evacuation.

2:28pm: Sweden, Finland NATO bid no threat to Russia but may 'trigger response', Putin says

President Vladimir Putin on Monday said Russia had no issue with Finland and Sweden, but that the expansion of military infrastructure on their territory would demand a reaction from Moscow, as the Nordic countries move closer to joining NATO.

Putin, speaking in Moscow at a summit of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), said NATO's expansion was a problem for Russia and that it must look closely at what he said were the US-led military alliance's plans to increase its global influence.

1:43pm: Potential Turkish opposition looks like only obstacle to Sweden, Finland joining NATO

Sweden and Finland "appear now to have made up their minds" about joining NATO, noted FRANCE 24 Chief Foreign Editor Robert Parsons. "If there is any doubt, I suppose it will be the suggestion that the Turks might just oppose the application because of the alleged support in Finland and Sweden for the PKK in northern Iraq and eastern Turkey."

1:15pm: EU to offer Ukraine new loans to plug immediate needs

The EU Commission is set to propose on Wednesday a new package of financial aid to Ukraine including new loans to provide immediate liquidity to Kyiv and commitments for the long-term financing of the country's reconstruction, officials said.

The size of the short-term financial support is still being defined but two officials familiar with the discussions told Reuters they expected it to roughly cover Ukraine's financial needs for two months, largely through loans. A third official said the money would come from the EU budget and from EU governments, dismissing earlier talk that the funds could be raised in the market with the issuance of joint bonds backed by the EU budget.

12:57pm: Protesters block Greek tanker with Russian cargo from entering UK port

Greenpeace protesters have blocked the entry of a Greek tanker into a southern English port due to its Russian fuel cargo with police making arrests, the green group said on Monday.

The UK has said it will phase out imports of Russian oil by the end of the year, which has meant that foreign flagged vessels carrying Russian cargoes are still able to call at ports for the time being.

Greenpeace said 12 activists occupied a jetty on Sunday evening in Navigator Terminals' Thames site in Essex, where the Greek-flagged Andromeda oil products tanker was expected to discharge its cargo. "Ministers have kicked a ban on Russian oil imports to the end of the year despite strong public support for it," said Georgia Whitaker, oil and gas campaigner with Greenpeace UK.

12:56pm: McDonald's to sell business in Russia

McDonald's will exit the Russian market and sell its business in the increasingly isolated country, the company said Monday.

Many Western businesses have pulled out of Russia since its invasion of Ukraine in February. And earlier on Monday, French automaker Renault announced it had handed over its Russian assets to the government in Moscow, marking the first major nationalisation of the economic disentanglement.

McDonald's in March closed all of its 850 restaurants in the country, where it says it employs 62,000 people. But on Monday it went a step further, saying in a statement: "After more than 30 years of operations in the country, McDonald's Corporation announced it will exit the Russian market and has initiated a process to sell its Russian business.

11:36am: EU struggles to break through Hungarian opposition to Russian oil ban

EU foreign ministers on Monday sought to break through Hungary's opposition to an embargo on Russian oil over the Ukraine war, but warned little progress was expected.

"We will discuss about it and we will do our best to de-block the situation," EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said at the start of a gathering in Brussels.

"I cannot ensure that it is going to happen because the positions are quite strong."

Budapest has been holding up a push by Brussels to ban Moscow's crucial oil exports as part of a sixth package of sanctions, arguing that it would hammer the Hungarian economy.

10:44am: Ukrainian forces push Russian forces 'away' from Kharkiv

"It does seem to be in the Kharkiv region at the moment that the most fighting on the ground is going on," FRANCE 24's Gulliver Cragg reported from Kyiv. "Ukrainian forces have pushed Russian forces away from Ukraine's second-largest city by a considerable distance, so they're now out of range of their artillery."

9:21am: Russia calls Finland, Sweden joining NATO a mistake with 'far-reaching consequences'

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Monday said Finland and Sweden should have no illusions that Moscow will simply put up with their joining the NATO military alliance, calling it a mistake that would have far-reaching consequences.

The move from two historically neutral powers would be one of the biggest changes to Europe's security architecture for decades, reflecting a sweeping shift in perceptions in the Nordic region since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

"The situation is, of course, changing radically in light of what is happening," the Interfax news agency quoted Ryabkov as saying. "The fact that the security of Sweden and Finland will not be strengthened as a result of this decision is very clear to us.

8:30am: Ukrainian troops defending Kharkiv reach Russian border, governor says

Ukrainian troops defending the city of Kharkiv have reached the state border with Russia, the regional governor said on Monday.

Reuters could not independently verify the comments made by Kharkiv region governor Oleh Sinegubov on the Telegram messaging service. It was not immediately clear how many troops had reached the Russian border and where.

Ukraine has been retaking territory in its northeast, driving Russian forces away from Kharkiv, the second-largest Ukrainian city.

7:42am: Sweden, Finland NATO membership would increase Baltic security, Estonia says

Sweden and Finland joining NATO would increase the security of the Baltic region, Estonian Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets said.

"When we see that in our neighbourhood also other democratic countries belong to NATO, it would mean that we could have broader joint exercises and also ... more defence cooperation," Liimets told Reuters in Berlin where she joined a meeting with other NATO counterparts on Saturday.

7:38am: Russian assets of France's Renault now state property

Russian assets of French car maker Renault have become state property, the industry and trade ministry said on Monday, as foreign companies leave the country amid Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine.

"Agreements were signed on the transfer of Russian assets of the Renault Group to the Russian Federation and the government of Moscow," the ministry said in a statement.

2:45am: Ukraine restarts gas distribution stations, supplies in Kharkiv

Ukraine's gas transit system operator said over the weekend that it had resumed operations at two distribution stations in the Kharkiv region and restarted gas supply to more than 3,000 consumers.

Ukraine has scored a series of successes since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, forcing Moscow's commanders to abandon an advance on the capital Kyiv before making rapid gains to drive them from Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-biggest city.

"Both stations were shut down due to damage to the main gas pipeline in the Kharkiv region as a result of hostilities," the operator said in a statement, adding that the damages have now been repaired.

Some 54 gas distribution stations in seven regions of Ukraine remain shut down, the operator added.

9:02pm: NATO pledges open-ended military support for Ukraine

NATO on Sunday pledged open-ended military support for Ukraine, as Finland hailed its "historic" bid to join the alliance and Sweden's ruling party said it backed a joint membership application. The promise came after Finland jettisoned decades of military non-alignment, redrawing the balance of power in Europe and angering the Kremlin.

On the ground in Ukraine, Russia announced air strikes in the east and in Lviv in the west as Western intelligence predicted its campaign in eastern Ukraine would stall amid heavy losses and fierce resistance.

At a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin, Germany's Annalena Baerbock said it would provide military assistance "for as long as Ukraine needs this support for the self-defence of its country"

5:45pm: Sweden's ruling party backs joining NATO

Sweden's ruling Social Democrats said on Sunday they backed the country joining NATO, abandoning decades of opposition in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and creating a large parliament majority in favour of membership.

With neighboring Finland already set to hand in its application, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is now all but certain to launch a formal application within days.

5:10pm: Blinken confident of reaching consensus on Sweden, Finland

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had spoken to his Turkish counterpart on Ankara's concerns regarding Sweden and Finland's entry into NATO and that after Sunday's meeting of foreign ministers he was confident a consensus could be reached.

"I don't want to characterise the specific conversation that we had either with the foreign minister or within the NATO sessions themselves, but I can say this much: I heard almost across the board, very strong support (for Sweden, Finland) joining the alliance," he told reporters after a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Berlin.

3:40pm: Turkey not blocking Sweden, Finland bids: NATO chief

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Sunday that Turkey was not blocking membership bids by Sweden and Finland and voiced confidence at resolving Ankara's stated concerns.

"Turkey made it clear that its intention is not to block membership," Stoltenberg told reporters virtually after alliance foreign ministers met in Berlin. He said he was in touch with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu after Ankara alleged that the Nordic nations were home to "terrorists', a reference to Kurdish separatists.

3:12pm: Ukrainian foreign minister praises Germany for weapons delivery

Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba praised Germany on Sunday for setting a "precedent" and overcoming a "psychological barrier" by delivering heavy weapons to Kyiv.

"A precedent has been set. The first psychological barrier (on handing weapons to Ukraine) has been overcome," Kuleba said in a video on Facebook while on a visit to Berlin. After previously limiting deliveries to defensive weapons, Berlin is ramping up shipments of heavy arms to Ukraine, sending German self-propelled howitzers to Kyiv.

2:47pm: Turkey lays out demands for Finland and Sweden

Turkey's foreign minister said on Sunday that Sweden and Finland must stop supporting terrorists in their countries, provide clear security guarantees and lift export bans on Turkey as they seek membership in NATO.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaking with Turkish reporters after a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin, said Turkey was not threatening anybody or seeking leverage but speaking out especially about Sweden's support for the PKK Kurdish militant group. Ankara views the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

1:23pm: Finland makes historic post-war policy shift from neutrality

At the Santahamina military base near Helsinki, the training programme for Finnish army reservists has taken on a new sense of urgency following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Finland on Sunday made a dramatic shift from its post-war neutrality policy by formally announcing its bid to apply for NATO membership. But not all Finnish citizens support the move.

1:05pm: Germany warns Ukraine war stoking global food crisis

At a G7 foreign ministers meeting in the northern German town of Weissenhaus, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was stoking a global food crisis. Here's a closer look at how supply and transportation chokes due to the war can affect food prices and hit particularly vulnerable countries such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia and many sub-Saharan African nations.

12:17pm: Finland's President Sauli Niinisto confirms his country will apply to join NATO

Finland's president and government announced Sunday that the Nordic country intends apply for membership in NATO, paving the way for the 30-member Western military alliance to expand amid Russia's war in Ukraine.

President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin made the announcement at a joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki.

The Finnish Parliament is expected to endorse the decision in coming days, but it is considered a formality.

A formal membership application will then be submitted to NATO headquarters in Brussels, most likely at the some point next week.

8:53am: Germany 'prepared' for quick ratification of Finnish, Swedish NATO bids

Germany has taken all preparations for a quick ratification process should Finland and Sweden decide to apply for NATO membership, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has told reporters on a second day of talks with her NATO counterparts in Berlin.

"Germany has prepared everything to do a quick ratification process," she said, adding that ministers had agreed at a dinner on Saturday that there should not be grey zone between the time they apply and the time they join.

"If they decide to join they can join quickly...We must make sure that we will give them security guarantees, there must not be a transition period, a grey zone, where their status is unclear," she said.

She was referring to the ratification period that can take as long as a year, during which the Nordic countries will not yet be protected by NATO's Article 5 which guarantees that an attack on one ally is an attack on all.

8:07am: Sweden's ruling party poised to back NATO bid

Sweden's ruling Social Democrats are poised on Sunday to come out in favour of the country joining NATO, paving the way for an application soon after abandoning decades of military non-alignment in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson's Social Democrats, the biggest party in every election for the past century, has held internal debates over the past week over dropping a long-standing opposition to NATO membership.

With party leadership having said it will decide on Sunday, and widely expected to drop its opposition, support for joining the alliance would command a broad majority in Sweden's Riksdag with much of the opposition already in favour. A formal application by Andersson's minority government is very likely to follow.

7:43am: Russia's Donbas offensive 'has lost momentum': UK military intelligence

Russia's offensive in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region "has lost momentum and fallen significantly behind schedule", British military intelligence said early on Sunday.

"Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days," the British military said in a regular Twitter bulletin.

"Despite small-scale initial advances, Russia has failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the past month whilst sustaining consistently high levels of attrition," said the post adding that, "Russia has now likely suffered losses of one third of the ground combat force it committed in February."

7:08am: Missile hits military infrastructure in Lviv region: governor

A missile strike hit some military infrastructure in the western Ukrainian region of Lviv early on Sunday, the region's Governor Maxim Kozitsky said in a post on his Telegram messaging app.

"There is no information about dead or injured at this hour," Kozitsky said. "The extent of the destruction is being clarified."

1:35am: 'Our music conquers Europe': Zelensky hails Ukraine's Eurovision win

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has congratulated hip-hop group Kalush Orchestra for its victory in the Eurovision Song Contest in Italy late Saturday

"Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!" Zelensky wrote on Facebook early Sunday, praising the Kalush Orchestra after they beat out 24 other competitors.

The group's entry "Stefania" - which was sung in Ukrainian - fused rap with traditional folk music and was a tribute to band frontman Oleh Psiuk's mother.

"I thank the Kalush Orchestra for this victory and everyone who gave us your votes! I am sure that the sound of victory in the battle with the enemy is not far off," he added.

Ukraine claimed victory with a commanding lead in viewer voting. Britain's Sam Ryder finished second, while Chanel of Spain finished third.

It is the third time that Ukraine has won the annual competition.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

Originally published on France24

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