NATO leaders announced a new “strategic concept” in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine, describing Moscow as “the most significant and direct threat to the security and stability of the allies”. NATO has invited Sweden and Finland to become members of the military alliance, according to a statement issued by the NATO summit in Madrid. The leaders also pledged additional aid to Kyiv and agreed on a package of support measures aimed at modernizing the country’s defense sector.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued fresh warnings that Russia would react in the same way if NATO sets up military infrastructure in Finland and Sweden after they join the US-led alliance. If Sweden and Finland wanted to join NATO, they should “go ahead”, Putin said. “But they must understand that there was no threat before, whereas now, if military contingents and infrastructure are deployed there, we will have to respond in kind and create the same threats for the territories from which the threats against us are created.”
Putin also pushed back against allegations that Russian forces were responsible for a strike at a crowded shopping center in the Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk. Monday in which 18 people were killed. “Our army is not attacking any civilian infrastructure sites. We have all the capabilities to know what is where,” Putin said. Moscow said its military launched a “high-precision airstrike on hangars where weapons and ammunition were stored” and that the explosion of these weapons caches caused a fire in the nearby shopping center – a claim discredited by first-hand accounts from survivors and expert analysis. .
Ukraine announces the largest exchange of prisoners of war since the invasion of Russia, obtaining the release of 144 of its soldiers, including 95 who defended the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. Ukrainian military intelligence said most of the released Ukrainians suffered serious injuries, including burns and amputations, and were now receiving medical treatment.
The frequency of shelling on the eastern Ukrainian city of Lysychansk is “enormous”, the regional governor of Lugansk said on Wednesday. Lysychansk “is constantly bombarded with heavy caliber. Fighting continues on the outskirts of the city. The Russian army is constantly trying to attack,” Serhiy Haidai said.
At least four people have been killed and five injured by a Russian missile strike on a residential building in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv., local officials said. Photographs from the scene showed smoke billowing from a four-story building whose top floor was partly destroyed by the attack on Wednesday morning. Moscow admitted to hitting the town but said its forces struck what it called a training base for “foreign mercenaries” in the area.
US President Joe Biden has announced that the United States will increase its military forces across Europe with more land, sea and air deployments. At the NATO summit in Madrid, Biden announced the stationing of a 3,000-man combat brigade in Romania, two squadrons of F-35 fighters in the United Kingdom and two navy destroyers in Spain. NATO members are expected to announce new commitments to build up forces on the alliance’s eastern flank.
Britain will also commit 1,000 additional troops and one of its two new aircraft carriers to the defense of NATO’s eastern flank.. The forces will be assigned to the defense of Estonia, where Britain already has around 1,700 troops deployed, but will be based in the UK, ready to fly out to defend the Baltic country if deemed necessary.
Separately, Downing Street said it had pledged an additional £1 billion ($1.2 billion) in military aid, almost doubling the UK’s commitment to military support. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said money would likely be spent on providing longer-range rocket artillery. It will be a “first step” to allow Ukraine to move towards “mounting offensive operations” to regain territory,” Downing Street said.
Zelenskiy announced the end of diplomatic relations between Ukraine and Syria after Russia’s ally recognized the independence of the two breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk. “There will be no more relations between Ukraine and Syria,” Zelenskiy said, adding that the sanctions pressure against Syria “will be even greater.”
Ukraine and the European Union have signed an agreement that liberalizes road transport. According to the agreement, Ukrainian carriers no longer need to obtain permits to enter the European Union.
Turkey says it will seek extradition of 33 suspected Kurdish activists and coup plot suspects from Sweden and Finland as part of a deal to win Ankara’s support for Nordic countries’ NATO membership bids. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has dropped weeks of resistance to Sweden and Finland joining NATO after tense talks ahead of this week’s NATO summit.