Reports Say Sweden, Finland Are Applying for NATO Membership
STOCKHOLM — Two newspapers — one Swedish, the other one Finnish — report that the governments of Sweden and Finland have agreed to submit NATO applications at the same time and that it will happen in the middle of next month.
The Finnish newspaper Iltalehti said that the Swedish government has expressed a wish to Finland that they apply together in the week ending May 22, and Swedish government sources confirmed the information to Sweden’s Expressen tabloid.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to growing support in Sweden and Finland, a Russian neighbor, for joining NATO.
Though not members, both Nordic countries closely cooperate with NATO, allowing, among other things, the alliance’s troops to exercise on their soil. Helsinki and Stockholm have also substantially intensified their bilateral defense cooperation in the past years.
Massive Fire at Russian Oil Depot
MOSCOW — Russia’s Energy Ministry says a massive fire at an oil depot in western Russia will not cause fuel shortages.
The ministry said in a statement that Monday’s fire inflicted damage to a depot containing diesel fuel in Bryansk, and authorities are dealing with the consequences of the blaze.
The ministry said fuel supplies to consumers haven’t been interrupted and noted that the region has enough diesel fuel for 15 days.
The Emergencies Ministry said earlier that a huge blaze erupted overnight at the depot owned by Transneft-Druzhba, a subsidiary of the Russian state-controlled company Transneft, which operates the western-bound Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline carrying crude to Europe. It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the blaze, and whether it could affect deliveries to Europe.
Bryansk is about 60 miles north of the border with Ukraine. Last month, two Ukrainian helicopter gunships hit an oil reservoir in Russia’s Belgorod region that borders Ukraine, causing a fire.
Key Developments in Russia-Ukraine War
— US promises new aid to Ukraine in fight against Russia
— To Europe’s relief, France’s Macron wins but far-right gains
— Russian officer: Missile to carry several hypersonic weapons
— Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
Brits Say 15,000 Russian Troops Killed
LONDON — The British government says it believes 15,000 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine since Moscow launched its invasion two months ago.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said 25% of the Russian combat units sent to Ukraine “have been rendered not combat effective,” and Russia had lost more than 2,000 armored vehicles and more than 60 helicopters and fighter planes.
Russia has acknowledged 1,351 military casualties.
Wallace said Russia had failed in most of its military objectives so far. He told British lawmakers that “we anticipate this next phase of the invasion will be an attempt by Russia to occupy further the Donbas in order to connect it via Mariupol” to Russian-controlled Crimea. He said international aid and weapons are crucial to help Ukraine withstand the anticipated onslaught.
Wallace said Britain had sent more than 5,000 antitank missiles, as well as air-defense systems and anti-air missiles, and would soon send “a small number” of Stormer armored vehicles equipped with missile launchers.
State Department Approves Sale of $165 Million in Ammunition
WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department says it has approved the sale of $165 million in legacy Warsaw Pact ammunition and other non-standard ammunition to Ukraine to help in its defense against Russia.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency approved the potential sale and has provided the legally required notification to Congress. Lawmakers can block weapons sales but are unlikely to do so because of strong support for Ukraine following the Feb. 24 invasion.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a partner country that is a force for political stability and economic progress in Europe,” the State Department said in announcing the potential sale Monday.
The sale came at the request of Ukraine’s government and includes rounds for mortars, automatic grenade launchers, and howitzers.
Russia Expels German Diplomats
Russia is expelling 40 German diplomats in response to Germany expelling the same number of Russian diplomats earlier this month.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday that it had summoned German ambassador Géza Andreas von Geyr for a “strong protest at the clearly unfriendly decision” to expel the Russian diplomatic staff.
The ministry said von Geyr was told that 40 members of staff at German diplomatic missions in Russia would be officially declared unwelcome in Russia.
Germany announced the expulsion of 40 Russian diplomats on Apr. 4 following mounting evidence of civilian killings and mass graves in Bucha, near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
Russian Oil Tanker Stopped From Unloading
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Environmental campaigners have used kayaks and a dinghy to stop a Russian oil tanker from unloading its cargo south of Norway’s capital, saying Norwegian companies “are financing Russia’s warfare”.
Greenpeace says its members chained themselves to the Hong Kong-registered Ust Luga, leased by Russian oil company Novatek, as it arrived at its destination, an Esso’s terminal near Toensberg.
The tanker with 95,000 tonnes of fuel had left St. Petersburg.
Esso spokeswoman Anne Fougner told Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet that the oil had been bought before Russia invaded Ukraine. She added that Esso Norway “does not have other contracts for the purchase of products from Russia.”
Several other activists were stopped by police before they could take part in the action, Norwegian news agency NTB reported.
Putin Accuses the US of Trying to ‘Split Russian Society’
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the U.S. and its allies of trying to “split Russian society.”
Speaking Monday at a meeting with top officials at the Prosecutor General’s office, Putin said Russia has come under “unprecedented Western sanctions” amid its military action in Ukraine.
He charged that the U.S, and its allies have sought to “split the Russian society and to destroy Russia from within,” adding that their plans have failed.
Putin urged Russian prosecutors to act more quickly to block unsanctioned demonstrations organized from abroad. He also noted that they should focus on exposing “open provocations” against the Russian military allegedly involving international media and social platforms.
Zelenskyy Meets With Blinken, Austin
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has hailed talks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as “encouraging” and “effective.”
Speaking in Monday’s video address, he said the U.S. is offering “powerful” support to his country. Zelenskyy added that they agreed “on further steps to strengthen the armed forces of Ukraine and meet all the priority needs of our army.” He noted that ramping up sanctions against Moscow also was on the meeting’s agenda.
Blinken and Austin said the United States had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition for Ukraine’s war effort, along with more than $300 million in foreign military financing.
Zelenskyy noted that Ukraine would expect the United States to lead other allies in offering a set of security guarantees in the future.
The Ukrainian president also denounced Russia for launching strikes on Orthodox Easter Sunday, describing them “deliberate destruction of life in Ukraine.”
Russians: We Will Open Humanitarian Corridor in Mariupol
MOSCOW — The Russian military says it will open a humanitarian corridor for civilians to evacuate from the besieged steel plant in Mariupol.
The Russian Defense Ministry said a humanitarian corridor will open Monday for all civilians to leave the Azovstal plant in Mariupol. It said Russian troops will cease fire to allow civilians to safely exit the plant.
The mammoth steel plant, which has a sprawling maze of underground channels. has remained the last bulwark of Ukrainian resistance in the strategic Sea of Azov port city.
Ukrainian officials have said that up to 1,000 civilians have sheltered there. They have repeatedly urged Russia to offer them a safe exit.