Sweden wants to join NATO, the Russian army is bogged down in eastern Ukraine

Latest political and commercial developments

  • Sweden plans to join NATO after holding a parliamentary debate.

  • Joly said Canada is keen to ratify Sweden and Finland’s membership as soon as possible.

  • McDonald’s is pulling out of Russia, where it has 850 locations.

War Day 82 Terrain Updates

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson announced on Monday that Sweden would join Finland in its bid to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The historic change, which comes after more than 200 years of military non-alignment in the Nordic country, is likely to upend the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Finland announced on Sunday that it was seeking to join the alliance, saying Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly three months ago had changed the security landscape in Europe. Several hours later, Sweden’s ruling party approved a membership offer, which could lead to a candidacy within days.

Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said Canada was in favor of a “rapid joining” of the two countries ahead of the meeting in Brussels with the European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell.

“Our goal is to be among the first countries to be able to ratify the accession of Sweden and Finland,” said Joly. In the past, this process took eight months to a year.

The moves would be a blow to Putin, who has branded post-Cold War NATO expansion in Eastern Europe a threat and cited it as a reason to attack Ukraine. NATO says it is a purely defensive alliance.

WATCH | Former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb wants to join NATO:

Neighboring countries fear they will be next after Russia invades Ukraine. Finland shares a 1,340 kilometer land border and the Gulf of Finland with Russia. Putin told Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in a phone call on Saturday that joining NATO would be a “mistake”.

Sweden: NATO, but not the bases

Sweden’s parliament debated the NATO issue on Monday after the ruling Social Democratic Party broke its party’s long-standing position that Sweden must remain non-aligned and approved a plan to do so.

“Sweden needs formal security guarantees that come with NATO membership,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said during the parliamentary debate, adding that the country was acting in concert with neighboring Finland.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson speaks during a Monday news conference in Stockholm, Sweden, Monday, May 16, 2022. Sweden’s Social Democrats have reversed their long-standing position on joining the alliance . (Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency/AP)

Andersson said Sweden would refuse nuclear weapons or permanent NATO bases on its soil – similar terms to those neighboring Norway and Denmark insisted on when the alliance was formed after World War II.

Putin warned the West on Monday that Russia would react if NATO began to strengthen the military infrastructure of Sweden and Finland.

Addressing the leaders of a Russian-dominated military alliance of former Soviet states, Putin said NATO enlargement was being used by the United States “aggressively” to worsen a global security situation. already difficult.

Village-by-village battles

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, meeting senior alliance diplomats in Berlin, said the war “is not going the way Moscow had planned”.

“Ukraine can win this war,” he said, adding that NATO must continue to offer military support to kyiv.

Roman Pryhodchenko cries inside his house damaged by multiple shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine on Sunday. (Bernat Armangue/Associated Press)

On the ground, Russia inflicted damage but failed to make any significant territorial gains in eastern Ukraine, the center of its war effort since its forces failed to secure seize the capital, kyiv.

Russian and Ukrainian fighters are fighting village by village for the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine, the Donbass. Ukrainian soldiers have been fighting Moscow-backed separatists there for eight years.

On Sunday, a Ukrainian battalion from the Kharkiv region reached the Russian border and made a victorious video there addressed to President Volodymyr Zelensky. The video posted on Facebook by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense shows a dozen fighters around a pole covered in blue and yellow, the colors of Ukraine.

One said the unit had gone “to the demarcation line with the Russian Federation, the occupying country. Mr. President, we have reached it. We are there”.

Other fighters made victory signs and raised their fists.

It is difficult to paint a full picture of the fighting, especially the battle in the east. Airstrikes and artillery barrages make travel for journalists extremely dangerous, and Ukraine and Moscow-backed separatists fighting in the east have introduced strict restrictions on reporting from the combat zone.

Russia hit 11 high-rise buildings

Over the weekend, Russian forces struck a chemical plant and 11 high-rise buildings in Siverodonetsk, Donbass, regional governor Serhii Haidaii said. Russian missiles also destroyed “military infrastructure” in Yavoriv district in western Ukraine near the Polish border, the governor of the Lviv region said. Lviv is a gateway for arms supplied by the West to Ukraine.

The Ukrainian army said it had stopped a new Russian offensive in the Donetsk region of Donbass. It also blew up two railway bridges that had been seized by Russian forces in the eastern region of Luhansk, Ukraine’s Special Operations Command said on Sunday. The objective was to prevent Russia from sending more troops to attack the cities of Lisichansk and Severodonetsk.

On Sunday, Ukrainian soldiers march through the forest near a recently recaptured village north of Kharkiv. (Mstyslav Chernov/Associated Press)

The Ukrainian claims could not be independently verified, but Western officials also painted a grim picture for Russia.

The Russians withdraw from the vicinity of Kharkiv

Russian troops were withdrawing from the vicinity of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city and a key military objective at the start of the war. After weeks of continuous shelling and strikes across the Kharkiv region, the regional governor said there had been no shelling in the city for several days.

Despite the lingering threat of missile attacks, many people were returning to their homes in Kharkiv and other Ukrainian cities, said Anna Malyar, deputy director of the defense ministry.

WATCH | Ukrainians face the aftermath of war near Kharkiv:

Ukrainians face the aftermath of war near Kharkiv

Remnants of the war can still be seen in villages around Kharkiv, where Russian troops retreated, leaving behind destruction in the streets and fear in the minds of residents.

Refugees were not returning just because they thought the war might run out of steam.

“Living somewhere like that, not working, paying for accommodation, eating… they are forced to return for financial reasons,” Malyar said in remarks relayed by the RBK-Ukraine news agency.

McDonald’s and Renault are the latest to give in

McDonald’s said on Monday it began the process of selling its Russian business, which includes 850 restaurants employing 62,000 people, making it the last major Western company to leave Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February.

The fast-food giant highlighted the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, saying retaining its business in Russia “is no longer tenable, nor in line with McDonald’s values”.

A boy walks past a ‘No War!’ A sign taped to the window of a McDonald’s restaurant with the restaurant’s closure notice in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on March 15. (The Associated Press)

McDonald’s was the first American fast food restaurant to open in the Soviet Union, which would collapse in 1991.

Companies ranging from British energy giants Shell and BP to French carmaker Renault have withdrawn from Russia, dealing a hit to their results as they seek to sell their holdings there. Other companies have remained at least partially, with some facing a backlash.

Renault announced on Monday that it was selling its Russian subsidiary to the city of Moscow and its 67% stake in Russian company Avtovaz to a local public institute.

Renault group CEO Luca de Meo called it a “difficult but necessary decision” and did not rule out returning to the country, “in the future, in a different context”.