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Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

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By Reuters

– Finland said it would apply to join NATO “without delay”, with Sweden expected to follow suit, suggesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will bring about the very expansion of the Western military alliance that Vladimir Putin aimed to prevent.

Russia said Finland’s decision was a hostile move that “definitely” posed a threat to its security.

FIGHTING

* Ukraine reported pushing back Russian forces in a counterattack that could signal a shift in the momentum of the war and shut gas flows on a route through Russian-held territory, raising the spectre of an energy crisis in Europe.

* Russia said its forces hit two ammunition depots in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine. The defence ministry said Russia had destroyed a Ukrainian S-300 air defence missile system in the Kharkiv region and a radar station near Odesa.

* One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies warned the West that the increasing military support given to Ukraine by the United States and its allies risked triggering a conflict between Russia and NATO.

* The Russian military’s failure to seize the Ukrainian capital was inevitable as in the preceding years they had never directly faced a powerful enemy, and they are not up to the job in Ukraine, said a former mercenary with the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group who fought alongside the Russian army.

Reports of battlefield developments could not be immediately verified by Reuters.

ENERGYANDSANCTIONS

* Pressure on Europe to secure alternative gas supplies increased after Moscow imposed sanctions on European subsidiaries of state-owned Gazprom and Ukraine stopped a gas transit route, pushing prices higher.

* President Vladimir Putin said the West had triggered a global economic crisis and a wave of ruinous inflation by imposing on Russia the most severe sanctions in recent history.

INTERNATIONALRESPONSE

* NATO allies expect Finland and Sweden to apply to join the alliance in the coming days and will grant membership quickly, diplomats and officials said. French President Emmanuel Macron said he fully supported Finland’s choice.

* The European Commission said it would work with EU governments to help Ukraine export millions of tonnes of grain stuck in the country because the Russian navy is blocking Ukraine’s ports. Ukraine was the world’s fourth largest grain exporter in 2020-21.

HUMANIMPACT

* The U.N. Human Rights Council decided to launch an investigation into possible war crimes by Russian troops in the Kyiv area, a move that Russia said would amount to political score-settling. Russia denies targeting civilians.

* In the battered hamlet of Vilkhivka, villagers have only just begun filtering back to retrieve possessions from properties, salvaging what they can despite the peril from unexploded ordnance.

* In epic detours via Russia, Ukrainians are skirting the war front to flee to the European Union.

QUOTES

* “The war will end when Russia returns our right to live,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told French students via videolink.

* “This war will not last forever. There will be a time when peace negotiations will take place. I do not see that in the immediate future. But I can say one thing. We will never give up,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.