May 22, 2022

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Russia strikes eastern Ukraine as Finland heads toward NATO bid

Russia strikes eastern Ukraine as Finland heads toward NATO bid

Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Russian forces have unleashed airstrikes on the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the besieged city of Mariupol and pressed their advance In towns across the east of the country, the Ukrainian military said on Thursday.

As the war, deadlocked, caused more death and unrest, its world-shaking repercussions spread, with Finland announcing plans to end decades of neutrality. and the pursuit of NATO membership.

Finland’s president and prime minister said Thursday that the Scandinavian country should apply “without delay” for membership of the Western alliance, which was partly set up to counter the Soviet Union. The announcement means that it is almost certain that Finland will seek to join the military alliance, although there are still a few steps before the application process begins. Neighboring Sweden is expected to decide to join NATO within days.

NATO’s support for Ukraine—particularly through the provision of weapons—was crucial to Kyiv’s surprising success in thwarting the Russian invasion, which began on February 24. Many observers thought it would be difficult to stop Moscow’s larger and better-armed army, but the Ukrainians faltered, bringing down the Russian forces and thwarting their goal of overrunning the capital..

However, the war caused astounding devastation, killing thousands and forcing millions from their homesEurope’s sense of post-Cold War stability is shattered. He pushed NATO to send troops and weapons to fortify the alliance’s eastern borders, and led Sweden and Finland to reconsider longstanding opposition to joining the transatlantic alliance, whose members are committed to common defence.

In Mariupol, which witnessed the worst destruction of the warUkraine has offered the release of Russian prisoners of war in exchange for the safe evacuation of seriously wounded fighters trapped inside the Azovstal steel plant, the last stronghold of Ukrainian forces in the devastated city.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Verychuk said that negotiations are underway to release the wounded. She said there are different options, but “none of them are perfect.”

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Russian forces took control of the rest of the city, which they besieged for weeks, with the population suffering from a lack of food, water, and medicine. Thousands fled, saying the port city had almost nothing left, but an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol said Russian forces had now closed all evacuation routes.

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Petro Andryushenko said there are few suitable apartment buildings to live in, and some remaining residents are cooperating with occupying Russian forces in exchange for food, though he said on Thursday that troops had restored water supplies to two neighborhoods as a test.

“The occupiers have turned Mariupol into a medieval ghetto,” Mayor Vadim Boychenko said in remarks published by the city council, where he called for a complete evacuation of the city. Officials have said in recent weeks that about 100,000 residents remain trapped in Mariupol, which had a pre-war population of more than 400,000.

Russian and Ukrainian authorities periodically agreed to cease-fires to evacuate residents, repeatedly blaming each other when these efforts failed. Andryushenko’s allegations could not be independently confirmed.

In the wake of their failure to capture Kyiv, Russian forces withdrew and regrouped – shifting their focus to Ukraine’s Donbass, an industrial region in the east of the country where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for years. While Russian progress there has also been slow, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces noted on Thursday that Moscow had achieved “partial success.”

It said that Ukrainian forces repelled nine attacks by Russian forces and destroyed several drones and military vehicles. The information cannot be independently verified.

Evacuees from towns in the besieged east wiped in tears as they carried their children and belongings onto buses and trucks to escape.

“It’s awful there now. We were leaving under the missiles,” said Tatiana Kravstova, who left the town of Seversk with her 8-year-old son Artyom on a bus to the central city of Dnipro. “I don’t know where they were shooting, but they were pointing to civilians.

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The Ukrainian military also said that Russian forces fired artillery at Ukrainian units north of Kharkiv – a city in the northeast that was key to the offensive in the Donbass; Artillery and grenade launchers were fired at Ukrainian troops in the direction of Zaporizhzhya, which was a refuge for civilians fleeing from Mariupol; They attacked in the Chernihiv and Sumy regions in the north.

Local media, citing emergency services, reported that during the night air strikes in the Chernihiv region killed three people and wounded 12 others. The district governor said the strikes on the town of Novhorod Seversky damaged a boarding school, a residence and an office building.

President Vladimir Putin reiterated Russia’s determination to ensure that territory in Donbass controlled by Moscow-backed separatists does not return to Ukraine in a congratulatory message on Thursday to the head of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic.

On the eve of its invasion, Russia recognized the separatist claim to independence in Luhansk as well as in the other Donbass region of Donetsk. Moscow sought to justify its attack by claiming, without evidence, that Ukraine was planning to attack separatist-held areas and that it intervened to protect the people in those areas.

“I am sure that with our joint efforts we will defend the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Luhansk Republic,” Putin said in a statement issued by the Kremlin.

Elsewhere, Kyiv prepared for its first war crimes trial A captured Russian soldier. Ukraine’s chief prosecutor said her office had charged the Russian sergeant. Fadin Shishimarin, 21, in the killing of an unarmed 62-year-old civilian who was killed while riding a bicycle in February, four days after the war.

The Prosecutor General’s Office Irina Venediktova said it is investigating more than 10,700 allegations of war crimes committed by Russian forces, and has identified more than 600 suspects.

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Volodymyr Yavorsky of the Center for Civil Liberties said the Ukrainian human rights organization would closely follow Shchechymarin’s trial to see if it was fair – citing the difficulty of overseeing the rules during the war.

On the economic front, Ukraine has shut down a pipeline that carries Russian gas through Ukraine to homes and industries in Western Europe, disrupting the western flow. One of Moscow’s most profitable exports.

The immediate impact is likely to be limited, in part because Russia is able to divert gas to another pipeline and because Europe relies on a variety of suppliers. However, the cuts in electricity highlight the broader threat to gas supplies from the war.

In the southern Kherson region, site of the first major Ukrainian city to fall into the war, a Moscow-appointed leader said officials there wanted Putin to annex the region. “The city of Kherson is Russia,” Kirill Strimosov, deputy head of the Moscow-appointed regional administration, told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency.

This was something that at least one of the residents objected to. “All the people of Kherson are waiting for our troops to arrive as soon as possible,” said a teacher, who gave only her first name, Olga, for fear of reprisals. “No one wants to live in Russia or join Russia.”

A port on the Black Sea with a population of about 300,000, Kherson It is seen as a gateway to broader Russian control over southern Ukraine. This development raised the possibility that the Kremlin would seek to cut off another part of Ukraine while trying to salvage the failed invasion.

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Yesica Fisch in Bakhmut, David Keyton in Kyiv, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov in Kharkiv, and AP staff around the world contributed.

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Follow the Associated Press’ coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine