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Moscow warns Finland over NATO bid as Ukraine says Russian ship damaged

Commodities May 12, 2022 07:52PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Flags wave outside the Alliance headquarters ahead of a NATO Defence Ministers meeting, in Brussels, Belgium, October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo 2/2

By Anne Kauranen and Jonathan Landay

HELSINKI/KHARKIV, Ukraine (Reuters) - Moscow warned Finland on Thursday it would face consequences as it seeks to apply for NATO membership "without delay" and Ukraine said it had damaged a Russian navy logistics ship in the Black Sea, where there has been renewed fighting in recent days.

The Vsevolod Bobrov vessel was near Snake Island, close to Ukraine's sea border with Romania, spokesman Serhiy Bratchuk for the Odesa regional military administration in southern Ukraine said.

"Thanks to the actions of our naval seamen, the support vessel Vsevolod Bobrov caught fire - it is one of the newest in the Russian fleet," Bratchuk said.

Reuters could not independently verify the details. Russia's defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Its Black Sea flagship, the Moskva, sunk last month.

Finland's plan to apply for NATO membership, announced on Thursday, and the expectation that Sweden will follow, would bring about the expansion of the Western military alliance that Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed to prevent.

Abandoning the neutrality they maintained throughout the Cold War would be one of the biggest shifts in European security in decades.

Moscow called Finland's announcement hostile and threatened retaliation, including unspecified "military-technical" measures.

"Helsinki must be aware of the responsibility and consequences of such a move," said the foreign ministry.

Russian officials have spoken in the past about potential measures including stationing nuclear-armed missiles on the Baltic Sea.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the Finns would be "warmly welcomed" and promised a "smooth and swift" accession process.

The White House backed such a move.

"We would support a NATO application by Finland and-or Sweden should they apply," said press secretary Jen Psaki.

Russia faced a further setback on the battlefield as Ukraine drove its troops out of the region around the second largest city Kharkiv, the fastest advance since forcing the Kremlin's forces from Kyiv and the northeast over a month ago.

The U.N. Human Rights Council passed a resolution to set up an investigation into possible war crimes by Russian troops in the Kyiv area and beyond, a move that the Kremlin said amounted to political score-settling.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said there were many examples of possible war crimes, including unlawful killings and summary executions.

Moscow denies deliberately attacking civilians.

'YOU CAUSED THIS'

Finland's 1,300-km (800-mile) border will more than double the length of the frontier between the U.S.-led alliance and Russia, putting NATO guards a few hours' drive from the northern outskirts of St Petersburg.

"Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay," President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement.

Asked on Wednesday if Finland would provoke Russia by joining NATO, Niinisto said: "My response would be that you caused this. Look at the mirror."

Five diplomats and officials told Reuters that NATO allies expect both countries to be granted membership quickly, paving the way for an increased troop presence in the Nordic region to defend them during a one-year ratification period.

Putin cited NATO's potential expansion as one of the main reasons he launched a "special military operation" in Ukraine in February.

NATO describes itself as a defensive alliance, built around a treaty declaring that an attack on one member is an attack on all, granting U.S. allies the protection of Washington's superpower might including its nuclear arsenal.

Moscow regards that as a threat to its security. But Putin's decision to invade Ukraine has changed Nordic public opinion, with many now embracing the view that Russia is a menace.

Finland in particular has centuries of uneasy history in Russia's shadow.

Thursday also saw an intensification of disputes over Russian supplies of energy to Europe - still Moscow's biggest source of funds and Europe's biggest source of heat and power.

Moscow said it would halt gas flows to Germany through the main pipeline over Poland, while Kyiv said it would not reopen a pipeline route it shut this week unless it regains control of areas from pro-Russian fighters. Prices for gas in Europe surged.

Ukraine has spent 245.1 billion hryvnia ($8.3 billion) on fighting the Russian invasion, the finance minister told Reuters on Thursday, reflecting the scale of spending on everything from buying and repairing weapons to support for millions of displaced people.

On the front lines, Ukraine has mounted a counter offensive in recent days, ousting Russian forces from villages north and east of Kharkiv they had held since the start of the invasion.

Reuters journalists have confirmed that Ukraine is now in control of territory stretching to the banks of the Siverskiy Donets River, around 40 km (25 miles) east of Kharkiv.

Moscow warns Finland over NATO bid as Ukraine says Russian ship damaged
 

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Comments (6)
Maximus Maximus
Maximus Maximus May 12, 2022 9:19PM ET
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putins strategic failure is complete
goh kok seng
goh kok seng May 12, 2022 11:50AM ET
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It is merely speculation.
Gennadiy Ryabkin
Gennadiy Ryabkin May 12, 2022 11:50AM ET
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Its merely you weren’t able to read till the end even start of the article
gab nea
gab nea May 12, 2022 7:20AM ET
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to follow Putin's thinking, if the russian people have a referendum on whether russians can have independence from Putin's reign, could they get free of him? highly unlikely! fake ploy, putin is exposed as the naked emperor, before he was just bare chested on a horse.
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi May 12, 2022 4:58AM ET
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"Asked on Wednesday if Finland would provoke Russia by joining NATO, Niinisto said: "My response would be that (Putin) caused this. Look at the mirror," Niinisto said."  --  you know it's really bad for Russia when even Finland is unafraid to trash-talk about Putin publicly........
gab nea
gab nea May 12, 2022 4:58AM ET
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poor baby putin is perturbed that Finland is no longer on his wish list of conquests. who cares what he says anymore, or trump.
John Healy
John Healy May 12, 2022 4:58AM ET
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William Smith Not everyone who hates Trump is a “leftist” (raises hand).
Dan Alberts
Dan Alberts May 11, 2022 9:14PM ET
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I have not seen 1 intent from USA to bring peace to the conflict
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Trevor Roberts
LimitUp May 11, 2022 9:14PM ET
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You must have fallen and bumped your head, i hope you feel better
Trevor Roberts
LimitUp May 11, 2022 9:14PM ET
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ZS Beck We want to step on any Tyrant that opposes NATO, no appeasement.
Selehadin HABEŞİ
Selehadin HABEŞİ May 11, 2022 9:14PM ET
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ZS Beck  can confirm
gab nea
gab nea May 11, 2022 9:14PM ET
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when you say the united states should bring peace everytime a dictator starts a war for attention, you mean we should pummel them like he did ukraine. my friend, America is not like putin, we dont attack helpless, weaker countries like russia!
Brad Albright
Brad Albright May 11, 2022 9:14PM ET
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Trevor Roberts Dictator weener... LOL!
Honey Badger
Honey Badger May 11, 2022 9:09PM ET
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You all want W3 thats all nothing else
 
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