Finland and Sweden getting closer to NATO

A Russian soldier pleaded guilty Wednesday to the first war crimes trial opened in Kiev since the start of the invasion of Ukraine.

At the same time, Moscow claimed that around 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers, who had been taking cover for weeks at the massive Azovstal steelworks in southeastern Mariupol, “surrendered as prisoners.”

In a strong symbolic measure, the United States has reopened its embassy in the Ukrainian capital, which was closed just before the Russian attack.

And meanwhile, the Kremlin announced the expulsion of 34 French, 24 Italian and 27 Spanish diplomats in retaliation for Russian diplomats, shortly after the outbreak of the offensive in Ukraine on February 24. An action that Paris “absolutely condemned”, described as “hostile” by Rome and “rejected” by Madrid.

In Brussels, the ambassadors of Sweden and Finland – the latter with more than 1,300 km of land borders with Russia – presented their candidacy files to Atlantic Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

However, Turkey, a NATO member, opposes their integration. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hoped other states of the organization would hear his “concerns”, which Washington predicted would be able to “answer” on Wednesday, declaring himself “very optimistic” about the ongoing debate. in this respect.

Until this membership process is complete, the White House said, “The United States will work with Finland and Sweden to remain vigilant of any threat to our shared security and to deter and respond to any threat of aggression or aggression.”

“A strong signal”

In Ukraine, the trial of a 21-year-old Russian soldier accused of killing a 62-year-old civilian in late February began Wednesday.

This will be the first war crimes trial since the outbreak of the conflict. Many journalists gathered in the small chambers of the Solomiansky district court in Kiev.

In a glass box, shaved head, hooded sweatshirt, soldier Vadim Chichimarine pleaded guilty. He is facing life in prison.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said it had “no information” about the case, claiming that war crimes attributed to the Russian military were “fake or staged”.

For Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venicetova, appearing in court is in any case a “clear sign”. “There is no executioner […] He will flee justice”, noting that he has opened more than 11,000 war crimes investigations, and international institutions are also investigating alleged abuses.

How many warriors are left?

On the site of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, “959 fighters [ukrainiens] The Russian Ministry of Defense announced on Wednesday that 80 injured have been sentenced since Monday. Information that Ukraine did not comment on.

“Commanders and high-ranking warriors [régiment] Pro-Russian separatist leader Denis Pushilin said that Azov has not yet left the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in this port city. According to him, a thousand members of this paramilitary unit integrated into the Ukrainian army are still hiding there. Ukraine also gave the same number last week.

The chief of staff of the Ukrainian forces said on Wednesday that the Russian army is focusing its efforts on “interfering with our troops near Azovstal with artillery fire and air strikes”.

On the streets of the Ukrainian capital, the population paid tribute to the “supermen” of this steel complex. “They’ve accomplished the impossible,” said Andriï, 37.

The complete capture of Mariupol, which was besieged in the Sea of ​​Azov from the beginning of March and was defended wholeheartedly by the Ukrainians to great destruction, will constitute an important advance for Russia.

It would allow Moscow to control a territory stretching from the Crimean peninsula, which it annexed in 2014, to parts of Donbass currently held by pro-Russian separatists.

siege attempt

The Ukrainian army said in the evening that at least 15 civilians were killed by “occupiers bombing 43 settlements in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions” in eastern Ukraine.

A senior local official warned that the Russians are trying to advance towards Severodonetsk, near Popasna and one of Ukraine’s most important cities in this region.

The Russian military is trying to “encircle” and “defeat” Ukrainian troops to take full control of the Donetsk, Lugansk and Kherson regions, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday.

In this regard, the American Institute for War Studies (ISW) talked about the preparation of a major war for Severodonetsk.

Eastern Ukraine has been the primary target of Russian troops since their withdrawal from the vicinity of the Ukrainian capital at the end of March.

The ISW also noted that artillery fire had intensified on Ukrainian border facilities in the north, not far from Cherniguiv and Sumy, in recent weeks, including 70 attacks on Tuesday alone.

In this regard, the Kremlin, deciding that the talks between Moscow and Kyiv were “not advancing”, accused the Ukrainian negotiators of “a complete lack of will” in reaching a political agreement.

The day before, the Ukrainian presidency announced that the negotiations were suspended because of Russia.

Towards a decline in Russian GDP

Brussels on Wednesday offered “new exceptional macro-financial assistance” to Ukrainians amounting to “up to nine billion euros in 2022”.

Volodymyr Zelensky said, “He said he was grateful. [ce] “Support for Ukraine” that will help it win the war, overcome the consequences of Russian aggression and accelerate the EU accession process.

The Commission also presented a €210 billion plan to bail the EU out of Russian gas imports “as soon as possible”.

French bank Societe Generale announced that it has finalized the sale of Rosbank, of which it is the largest shareholder in the Russian banking sector, to the Interros investment fund, founded by Vladimir Putin’s close friend, oligarch Vladimir Potanin. .

The Russian economy is expected to contract between 7.8% and 8.8% this year, particularly as a result of the sanctions, the government forecast on Wednesday.

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