Finland leadership announced support Thursday for expedited NATO membership despite dire Kremlin warnings of “military and political repercussions.”
The decision by President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin is strongly supported by lawmakers and citizens of Finland, though a few steps remain before the application process can begin. Neighboring Sweden is expected to decide on joining NATO in coming days.
“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security,” the leaders said in a joint statement. “As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay.”
They said they hoped the application would be submitted in the next few days.
Finland’s minister for European Affairs, Tytti Tuppurainen, said Finland’s parliament will vote on the matter early next week. Finland shares a 830-mile border with Russia.
“We want to defend our freedom and our equality,” Tuppurainen said. “This is not only about territories and borders. This war is also about values and ideology.”
The response from the Kremlin, which previously had warned that membership could draw a military and political response, was more muted Thursday. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow’w response will depend on how close NATO infrastructure draws to the Russian border.
“The expansion of NATO and the alliance’s military infrastructure approaching our borders do not make the world, and, what’s important, our Eurasian continent more stable and safe,” Peskov said. “This is unmistakable.”
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►The International Atomic Energy Agency says it is again receiving remote data from the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine for the first time in two months following an interruption caused by the Russian occupation of the site.
►U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said a ban on sales of semiconductors and other technology to Russia by the U.S. and its allies is having a serious impact on Russia’s ability to manufacture military equipment.
The war in Ukraine has caused food, fuel and fertilizer prices to skyrocket to record levels in many parts of the world, leaving some of the world’s poorest countries vulnerable to food insecurity.
Ukraine and the Russian Federation provide about 30% of the world’s wheat and barley, one-fifth of its maize, and more than half of its sunflower oil. And Russia is the world’s top natural gas exporter and second-largest oil exporter.
According to the United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development, small-scale farmers can’t keep up with worldwide price hikes caused by the war, leaving them unable to pay for machine fuel and fertilizer.
Parts of Africa, the Near East, and Central Asia have been hit the hardest by price shocks, the UN said. In Somalia, many farmers rely on irrigation powered by diesel engines: high fuel prices compounded with drought have experts worried about famine.
Russia still has plans to take control of Ukraine’s capital, a Ukrainian general said Wednesday.
Brigadier General Oleksiy Hromov said at a briefing that Russian troops will try to storm Kyiv and have plans to take control over the southern Mykolaiv and Odessa regions to build a land corridor to Moldova, a Transnistria separatist region.
Hromov also said Russia will try to hold sham elections in captured Ukrainian territories to annex them into Russia. Russian-appointed authorities have already announced plans to seek annexation in the southern Ukraine city of Kherson.
Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to capture the capital at the beginning of his invasion, but Russian troops have since refocused on the hotly contested eastern Donbas region.
Contributing:Deirdre Shesgreen and Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY; The Associated Press