BRUSSELS - NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will host a meeting Monday in Brussels with officials from Finland, Sweden and Turkey. Ankara has objected to the two Nordic countries’ push to join the alliance, launched during Russia’s war in Ukraine. Some NATO officials are frustrated that their Turkey’s objections were voiced so late in the process and worry that Moscow will be able to exploit signs of division.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said this week will be “truly historic” as his country awaits a decision on whether it will be granted candidate status in its bid to join the European Union, but he warned that Russia could retaliate against Ukraine and European countries. “Obviously, we should expect greater hostile activity from Russia,” Zelensky said, without offering specifics. The European Council is set to make the decision after a summit Thursday and Friday.
In the south of the country, Ukrainian forces have intensified their attacks against Russian positions. Ukrainian military officials said their fighters in the Zaporizhzhia region moved from defensive to offensive action, and in neighboring Kherson, “repelled” Russians from the first line of defense. The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said Russian forces had faced successful counterattacks between the cities of Kherson and Mykolaiv and had been forced to “rush reinforcements” to Zaporizhzhia.
E.U. foreign ministers are also meeting in Luxembourg to discuss how to free up millions of tons of grain stuck in Ukraine due to a Russian blockade in the Black Sea that European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called a “war crime.”
“We call on Russia to deblockade the ports,” Borrell said, according to Reuters. “One cannot imagine that millions of tons of wheat remain blocked in Ukraine while in the rest of the world people are suffering hunger.”
Russia’s war on Ukraine has hiked food and energy prices worldwide. From Nigeria to Yemen, the crisis is hitting developing countries particularly hard, exacerbating hunger.
In eastern Ukraine, Russian forces control most of the key city of Severodonetsk, according to local officials, but they are still struggling to advance. The stalemate has contributed to low morale on both sides.
Street fighting in the city is almost constant, and Russian troops have forced residents out of their neighborhoods while bringing in heavy weaponry, according to the city’s mayor, Oleksandr Stryuk.
Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region, said that in nearby Gorskoye, 19 houses were damaged when the area was struck Sunday. Seven homes in Vrubovka and several administrative buildings in Lysychansk were also shelled, he said.
Russia also gained control of Metolkin, a small area just outside Severodonetsk, he said.
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