Russia is confronted with diplomatic and military setbacks towards Ukraine

Russia is confronted with diplomatic and military setbacks towards Ukraine

Kyiv, Ukraine — Moscow suffered another diplomatic setback in its war with Ukraine on Monday when Sweden joined Finland in its bid for NATO membership, while Ukraine’s president congratulated soldiers who reportedly pushed Russian forces near the border pushed back.

Russian forces bombed targets in eastern Ukraine’s industrial heartland known as Donbass, and the death toll, already many in the thousands, continued to mount as the war was expected to enter its 12th week on Wednesday.

The eastern city of Sievierdonetsk has come under heavy shelling that has killed at least ten people, said Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region. In the Donetsk region, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Facebook that nine civilians were killed by shelling.

But Ukrainian troops were also advancing as Russian forces retreated from around the northeastern city of Kharkiv in recent days. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the soldiers who reportedly advanced to the Russian border in the Kharkiv region in a symbolic gain.

The video showed Ukrainian soldiers carrying a post resembling a Ukrainian blue and yellow striped border marker. Then they placed it on the ground while a dozen soldiers posed by it, including one with bullet belts slung over his shoulder.

“I am very grateful to you, on behalf of all Ukrainians, on my behalf and on behalf of my family,” Zelenskyy said in a video message. “I am very grateful to all fighters like you.”

Ukraine’s border service said the video showing the soldiers was from the border “in the Kharkiv region” but would not elaborate on it for security reasons. The exact location could not be verified at first.

Ukrainian border guards said they also stopped a Russian attempt to send sabotage and reconnaissance troops to the Sumy region, about 146 kilometers northwest of Kharkiv.

Russia has been plagued by setbacks in the war, most notably in its early failure to capture the capital, Kyiv. Much of the fighting has shifted to the Donbass, but it has also turned into a brawl, with both sides fighting village by village.

Howitzers from the US and other countries have helped Kyiv hold its ground or gain ground against Russia, a senior US defense official said. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the US military’s assessment, said Ukraine had pushed Russian forces within half a mile to 2.5 miles (1 to 4 kilometers) of the Russian border , but could not confirm if this was the case at the border.

The official said long-range Russian attacks also appeared to target a Ukrainian military training center in Yavoriv, ​​near the Polish border. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

A glimmer of hope shone for wounded Ukrainian troops trapped in the remains of a huge steel mill, the last stronghold of the resistance in the devastated port city of Mariupol. The Russian Defense Ministry announced an agreement that would allow the wounded to leave the steelworks for treatment in a city occupied by pro-Moscow separatists.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Ukrainian side, and there was no word on whether the wounded would be considered prisoners of war.

Several buses, escorted by Russian military vehicles, left the steel plant after dark on Monday, but it was not clear who was on the buses.

The international response to the Russian invasion accelerated.

Sweden’s decision to seek NATO membership followed a similar decision by neighboring Finland in a historic shift for countries that have been non-aligned for generations.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said her country was in a “vulnerable position” during the bid period and urged fellow citizens to brace themselves.

“Russia has said that if we join NATO, it will take countermeasures,” she said. “We cannot rule out that Sweden, for example, will face disinformation and attempts to intimidate and divide us.”

But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, a NATO member, heightened his objection to their accession. He accused the countries of not taking a “clear” stance on Kurdish militants and other groups Ankara considers terrorists and imposing military sanctions on Turkey.

He said Swedish and Finnish officials expected in Turkey next week shouldn’t bother coming if they want to try to persuade Turkey to drop its objection.

“How can we trust them?” Erdogan asked at a joint press conference with the visiting Algerian president.

All 30 current NATO members must agree to allow their Nordic neighbors to join.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow has “no problem” with Sweden or Finland if they bid for NATO membership, but that “expanding military infrastructure to that area will of course provoke our reaction”.

Putin launched the invasion on February 24 in an attempt to stem NATO expansion, but has seen the strategy backfire. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the accession process for both could be quick.

Europe is also working to choke off funding for the Kremlin war by reducing the billions of dollars it spends importing Russian energy. A proposed EU embargo has met opposition from some countries dependent on Russian imports, including Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Bulgaria also has reservations.

“We will do our best to unblock the situation,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. “I cannot guarantee that this will happen as the positions are quite strong.”

Also on Monday, McDonald’s said it had begun selling its business in Russia, ending a relationship that had lasted more than three decades. Noting the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, it stated that a stay in Russia “is no longer sustainable and also inconsistent with McDonald’s values.” The company was the first fast food restaurant to open in the Soviet Union.


McQuillan reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov and Andrea Rosa in Kharkiv, Elena Becatoros in Odessa, and other AP staffers around the world contributed.


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