Russia considers Finnish threat to NATO

Finland says it will apply for NATO membership “without delay”, with Sweden to follow, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine seemed destined to provoke the very expansion of the military alliance that Vladimir Putin intended to prevent.

The decision by the two Nordic countries to abandon the neutrality they maintained during the Cold War would be one of the biggest changes to European security in decades.

Russia called Finland’s announcement a direct threat to the country and threatened retaliation, including unspecified “technical military” measures.

This came as Russia’s war in Ukraine was suffering another major setback, with Ukrainian forces pushing Russian troops out of the region around the second-largest city of Kharkiv, the fastest Ukrainian advance since forcing Russia’s withdrawal from the capital and the northeast for over a month.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Finns would be “warmly welcomed” and promised a “smooth and quick” accession process.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he fully supports Finland’s choice to join the alliance.

Finland’s 1,300-kilometer border will more than double the length of the border between the US-led alliance and Russia, putting NATO guards within a few hours’ drive of the northern outskirts of St.

“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement, hoping that steps to take the decision “will be taken quickly in the coming days.”

Asked whether Finland’s accession posed a direct threat to Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Definitely. NATO expansion does not make our continent more stable and secure.

“This cannot but arouse our regret and is a reason for corresponding symmetrical responses on our side,” added Peskov.

The Foreign Ministry said Russia would be forced to take “retaliation measures, both of a military-technical and other nature”, without giving further details.

Russian officials have spoken in the past about possible measures, including the deployment of nuclear-armed missiles in the Baltic Sea.

Asked on Wednesday whether Finland would provoke Russia by joining NATO, Niinisto said: “My answer would be that you caused it. Look in the mirror.”

Five diplomats and officials told Reuters that NATO allies expect both countries to join quickly, paving the way for a greater troop presence in the Nordic region to defend them during a year-long ratification period.

Putin, the president of Russia, cited the potential expansion of NATO as one of the main reasons he launched a “special military operation” in Ukraine in February.

NATO describes itself as a defensive alliance, built around a treaty that declares that an attack on one member is an attack on all, granting US allies protection of superpower power, including its nuclear arsenal.

Russia considers this a threat to its security.

But Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine has changed Nordic public opinion, with political parties that had long supported neutrality now taking the view that Russia is a threat.

Finland, in particular, has centuries of unsettling history in Russia’s shadow.

Ruled by the Russian Empire from 1809 to 1917, it fought Soviet invasions on the eve of World War II and accepted some Soviet influence as a price to avoid taking sides in the Cold War.

There was an intensification of disputes on Thursday over Russian energy supplies to Europe – still Russia’s biggest source of resources and Europe’s biggest source of heat and power.

Russia said it would stop the flow of gas to Germany via the main pipeline over Poland, while Ukraine said it would not reopen a closed pipeline route this week unless it regains control of areas from pro-Russian fighters.

Gas prices in Europe have soared.

In Geneva, the United Nations Human Rights Council decided to launch an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Russian troops during the occupation of the area near Kiev, before being expelled at the end of March.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said there were many examples of possible war crimes, including unlawful killings and summary executions.

Russia denies deliberately attacking civilians.

On the front lines, Ukraine has mounted a counter-offensive in recent days, driving Russian forces out of villages north and east of Kharkiv they had held since the start of the invasion.

Reuters journalists confirmed that Ukraine is now in control of the territory that stretches to the banks of the Siverskiy Donets River, about 40 km east of Kharkiv.

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