Ukraine warns of new Russian offensive; Sweden, Finland inch closer to joining NATO

Moscow has repeatedly warned the two Scandinavian countries against joining the treaty organisation



Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

By Reuters

Published: Thu 4 Aug 2022, 6:53 AM

Ukraine said Russia had started creating a military strike force aimed at President Volodymyr Zelensky's hometown of Kryvyi Rih, as NATO moved closer to the most significant expansion of the alliance in decades, in response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

On Wednesday, the US Senate and the Italian parliament both approved Finland and Sweden's accession to the 30-member North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Under NATO membership, which must be ratified by all 30 member states, an attack on one member is an attack against all.

"This historic vote sends an important signal of the sustained, bipartisan US commitment to NATO, and to ensuring our Alliance is prepared to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow," US President Joe Biden said, in a statement.

Russia, which attacked Ukraine on February 24, has repeatedly warned Finland and Sweden against joining NATO.

NATO's 30 allies signed the accession protocol last month, allowing them to join the US-led nuclear-armed alliance, once its members ratify the decision. Ratification could take up to a year.

On Wednesday, Ukraine dismissed suggestions by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that Russia wanted a "negotiated solution" to the five-month war, and pointed out that any dialogue would rest upon a Russian ceasefire and withdrawal of troops. Tentative attempts at peace talks in March were fruitless.

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The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Thursday that Ukraine was seeking an opportunity to speak "directly" with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help end the war. In an interview with SCMP, Zelensky urged China to use its political and economic influence over Russia to bring an end to the fighting.

"It's a very powerful state. It's a powerful economy… So [it] can politically, economically influence Russia. And China is [also a] permanent member of the UN Security Council," the report quoted Zelensky as saying.

New southern offensive

On Wednesday night, Ukraine spoke of Russia being engaged in considerable military activity in the east, northeast and south of the country, and warned that Moscow could be preparing new offensive operations in southern Ukraine.

Dmytro Zhyvytsky, the Governor of the Sumy region bordering Russia, said that three towns had been shelled by Russian forces on Wednesday, with a total of 55 missiles fired. There were no injuries, but homes and commercial premises were damaged. He said eight artillery shells hit residential parts of the Krasnopilska community. Reuters was not able to verify these battlefield reports.

Russia denies it targets civilians, but many towns and cities have been destroyed, and thousands of civilians killed, in the biggest conflict in Europe since World War Two. Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russian forces of war crimes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops in Ukraine in what he said was a "special military operation", to rid the country of fascists. Ukraine and the West said Putin launched an unprovoked "imperial" land grab.

The war has sparked a global energy and food crisis. Russia and Ukraine produce about one third of global wheat and Russia is the main energy supplier to Europe.

An agreement between Moscow and Kyiv, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, to allow safe passage of grain ships from Ukraine has been hailed as a rare diplomatic success in the war. The first ship carrying Ukrainian grain since the war began, passed through the Bosphorus Strait on Wednesday.

The ship, Razoni, left Odessa on the Black Sea early on Monday, carrying 26,527 tonnes of corn to the Lebanese port of Tripoli.

A senior Turkish official said that three ships could leave Ukrainian ports daily following the Razoni's departure, while Ukraine's infrastructure minister said that 17 more ships had been loaded with agricultural produce, waiting to set sail.


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