By The Associated Press
HELSINKI — The Finnish Parliament’s defense committee is supporting the Nordic country seeking membership in NATO, saying it would be the best solution to guarantee the country’s security and would be a way to raise the bar on being the target of aggression by neighboring Russia.
The committee chairman Petteri Orpo, leader of the main opposition National Coalition Party, said in a statement that Finland’s security situation has drastically changed as a result of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
Orpo stressed possible NATO membership would be purely a defense-related solution for Finland, a nation of 5.5 million that shares the longest border with Russia out of all European Union members.
“Finland would join NATO to maximize its own security and defend the country. This would not be directed against anyone,” Orpo told reporters on Tuesday.
Finland is expected to announce later this month whether it will seek to join the military alliance.
Recent polls show a support of over 70% among Finns for membership in NATO, a dramatic shift in support of 20-30% regularly recorded in the past few decades until Feb. 24 when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Russia pounds Odesa as civilian bodies uncovered elsewhere
— Crucial NATO decisions expected in Finland, Sweden this week
— Biden signs Ukraine bill, seeks $40B aid, in Putin rejoinder
— German minister: Civilian killings demand accountability
Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
KYIV, Ukraine — Germany’s foreign minister has reopened her country’s embassy in Kyiv that was closed more than two months ago following the Russian invasion.
Annalena Baerbock said Tuesday that the diplomatic mission would work with a skeleton staff, headed by Ambassador Anka Feldhusen.
Baerbock, the first German Cabinet member to visit Ukraine since the start of the war, pledged further support to Kyiv, including when it comes to investigating and prosecuting war crimes.
Speaking after visiting the towns of Bucha and Irpin, where Russian soldiers are believed to have killed numerous civilians, Baerbock said there can “never again be impunity for the war crimes committed by Russia.”
She said Germany will provide funds to pay for two additional Ukrainian prosecutors who will investigate sexual violence committed during the conflict.
Baerbock also stressed that Germany will reduce its dependence on Russian energy supplies “to zero, forever.” The German government has said it will end imports of Russian oil and coal this year and of natural gas from Russia by 2024 at the latest.
GENEVA — The U.N.’s top human rights body will hold a special session this week following a request from Ukraine to discuss the worsening human rights situation in the country “stemming from the Russian aggression.”
The 47-member Human Rights Council said more than one-third of member states, the required minimum, backed the call that will pave the way for Thursday’s session at the U.N.’s European headquarters in Geneva.
Supporters included many Western countries, as well as Gambia, Marshall Islands and Mexico. A total of 55 countries, including observer states, backed the call, but the list could grow.
The council also held an “urgent dialogue” during its last session to discuss Ukraine just days after the Feb. 24 invasion by Russian forces.
KYIV, Ukraine — The governor of the eastern Luhansk region on Tuesday rejected Russia’s claims its forces have breached Ukrainian defenses near the city of Popasna and moved the region’s administrative borders.
In a Telegram post, Serhiy Haidai described the claim as “fantasies.” He insists that “the defense is strong. There are no breakthroughs.”
Moscow considers the eastern Ukrainian region a sovereign state.
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s foreign minister is suggesting that Kyiv’s goals in fighting the Russian invasion have expanded.
In an interview with The Financial Times published Tuesday, Dmytro Kuleba said “the picture of victory is an evolving concept.”
“In the first months of the war, the victory for us looked like withdrawal of Russian forces to the positions they occupied before Feb. 24 and payment for inflicted damage,” Kuleba said.
“Now, if we are strong enough on the military front and we win the battle for Donbas, which will be crucial for the following dynamics of the war, of course the victory for us in this war will be the liberation of the rest of our territories,” the minister said.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the latest package of European Union sanctions against Russia, particularly highlighting a proposed ban on imports of Russian oil.
Zelenskyy told lawmakers in Slovakia’s Parliament on Tuesday that he understands Slovakia is not able to immediately replace Russian oil but stressed it is important to do so, calling it a price to be paid for freedom.
Slovakia, which is fully dependent of Russian oil, supports the sanctions but has asked for a three-year exemption from the ban until its key refinery Slovnaft makes technological changes needed to process other than Russia’s heavy oil.
Speaking through a translator, Zelenskyy also thanked Slovakia for its help in supplying his country’s military with the arms it needs. Acting at his request, Slovakia gave Ukraine its Soviet-era S-300 air defense system.
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials say around 100 civilians still remain trapped at the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol despite earlier reports that all have been evacuated.
Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in televised remarks on Tuesday those left behind are the civilians that “the Russians have not selected.”
“How and based on what criteria they take people out (of the plant) is something only the occupiers know,” Kyrylenko said. He explained that everyone in Mariupol “de-facto is held hostage by the Russians, and the occupiers take advantage of it, constantly changing the conditions of the evacuation.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Petro Andryushchenko, an advisor to the Mariupol mayor, also said civilians are still trapped at the Azovstal mill that is the last pocket of resistance in the embattled port city.
It wasn’t immediately clear how the two officials knew about the remaining civilians at the Azovstal plant and the fighters still there were yet to confirm this.
Hundreds of civilians had sheltered at the plant. Scores of them have been evacuated in recent days in a joint effort by Ukrainian authorities, the Russian military, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
On Saturday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that all women, children and elderly have been evacuated from Azovstal.
BRUSSELS — A video conference focusing on a potential European Union ban on oil imports from Russia that was set to take place Tuesday has been postponed to a later date as Hungary continues to block the proposal.
EU commission officials did not give any reason for the postponement. The meeting was set to involve EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban, French President Emmanuel Macron and other leaders from countries neighboring Hungary.
To further sanction Russia for its war in Ukraine, Von der Leyen has proposed having the 27 EU member nations phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year. But Hungary says it won’t vote for the proposed sanctions, saying they would have the effect of an “atomic bomb” on its economy and destroy its “stable energy supply.”
MOSCOW — The Russian military on Tuesday reported breaching Ukrainian defenses near the city of Popasna in the Luhansk region and moved to the administrative border of the region, which Moscow considers a sovereign state.
Spokesman of Russia’s Defense Ministry Igor Konashenkov said Tuesday that the breakthrough happened after “clearing Popasna from the nationalists was completed.”
Officials of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic claimed that their forces and the Russian troops seized most of Popasna on Sunday. That same day, the Ukrainian governor of the Luhansk region Serhiy Haidai admitted that Ukrainian troops had withdrawn from the city.
BUCHA, Ukraine — German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock pledged Tuesday that the international community would hold to account those responsible for the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.
Speaking during a visit to the town on the outskirts of Kyiv, Baerbock said that “the worst crimes imaginable” had been perpetrated in Bucha during the Russian occupation.
Witnesses have told how Russian soldiers targeted civilians seemingly at random, leaving their bodies lying on the street.
“We owe it to the victims that we don’t just commemorate them here but that we hold the perpetrators to account,” said Baerbock. “And we as the international community will do this. That’s the promise we can and must make here in Bucha.”
Baerbock is the first member of the German government to visit Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in late February.
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban are scheduled to talk about a potential European Union ban on oil imports from Russia, according to Macron’s office.
European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen will also attend the meeting, which is taking place by video conference on Tuesday. France currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
To further sanction Russia for its war in Ukraine, Von der Leyen has proposed having the 27 EU member nations phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year.
Hungary says it won’t vote for the proposed sanctions, saying they would have the effect of an “atomic bomb” on its economy and destroy its “stable energy supply.”
LVIV, Ukraine — The secretary-general of the United Nations has met with Moldova’s president as Russia’s war on neighboring Ukraine has seen tensions rise in a breakaway region of Moldova.
A statement issued after the meeting said U.N. chief António Guterres offered President Maia Sandu “his support for the full respect for Moldova’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Mysterious explosions have struck Moldova’s breakaway Transnistria region, raising concerns about the war in Ukraine spreading into a western front as Russia targets the Ukrainian city of Odesa with missiles.
Transnistria hosts some 1,500 Russian troops and other forces.
Pro-Russian forces broke off the border section from Moldova in 1992, and Russian troops have been stationed there since, ostensibly as peacekeepers.
LVIV, Ukraine — The Azov Regiment of Ukraine’s National Guard, one of several Ukrainian units holed up at a Mariupol steel plant, says Russian war planes targeted the sprawling plant 34 times over the past 24 hours.
The regiment said in an online statement Tuesday that the Russians continue pounding the besieged Azovstal steel mill with naval and barrel artillery while using tanks and other weapons in “attempts to seize the Ukrainian fortress.”
Attempts to storm the plant with the support of the infantry continue daily, the statement added.
BRUSSELS — The head of the European Investment Bank says Ukraine is currently “sitting on 8 billion euros worth of wheat” it can’t export because of the war and its lost access to the Black Sea.
Speaking during a press conference at the European Commission in Brussels on Tuesday, Werner Hoyer said unblocking Ukraine’s seaports is crucial to fix the war-torn country’s trade crisis.
“They are sowing like crazy right now, and they will expect probably a good harvest, maybe 70% of last year’s harvest in a couple of months,” Hoyer said. “And then what to do with it?”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked his allies to take immediate measures to unlock Ukrainian ports for wheat exports.
Hoyer also looked at Ukraine’s reconstruction once the war started by Russia ends, saying it “is going to be a huge challenge” that costs trillions of euros.
LVIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian official says authorities have found the bodies of 44 civilians in the rubble of a building destroyed by Russia in March.
Oleh Synehubov, the head of Kharkiv’s regional administration, made the announcement Tuesday via a message on social media. He said the five-story building had collapsed with the civilians inside.
He said, “This is another horrible war crime of the Russian occupiers against the civilian population!”
Synehubov did not identify specifically where the building was.
Russia has been holding Izyum, an eastern Ukrainian city in the Kharkiv region, as a key frontline node.
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