Live blog | Kiev: Ukraine war enters third phase, Finnish government backs NATO membership

It is day 80 of the war in Ukraine. Russia’s war in Ukraine is entering its ‘third phase’, say leaders in Ukraine’s capital Kiev. According to them, the latest phase will be marked by ‘prolonged struggles’.

Workers remove debris from buildings destroyed by shelling a month ago in CherkasyANP / AFP / Yasuyoshi CHIBA

Kharkiv’s mayor claims deportation of Russians

14:01 | Kharkiv’s mayor, Ihor Terekhov, told the BBC on Saturday that the Ukrainian army had expelled Russians from the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. “It’s quiet now, the citizens are gradually returning to the city,” Terekhov said.

According to witnesses, the Russian army is still carrying out air strikes on villages near Kharkov. For example, a village 6 kilometers north of Kharkov would have been bombed.

Kharkiv is the second largest city in Ukraine. There have been fierce fighting in the metropolis since the start of the war in February. It is unknown how many civilians and soldiers from both sides have been killed in Kharkov since February.

The Finnish ruling party backs NATO membership

13:29 | The Finnish Social Democratic ruling party is in favor of joining NATO, says Prime Minister and Party Chairman Sanna Marin. There is also ‘strong support’ in the parliamentary group for membership of the Western military alliance.

Read the whole article here | The Finnish ruling party backs NATO membership

G7 countries call on Russia to unblock Ukrainian grain exports

12:39 | Foreign ministers from the G7 countries are calling on Russia to lift the blockade on Ukrainian grain exports in order to avoid a major humanitarian crisis. The Russian invasion has caused rising food, fuel and energy prices, putting 43 million people at risk of starvation, their final statement said after several days of negotiations in Wangels in northern Germany.

Read the whole article here | G7 countries call on Russia to unblock Ukrainian grain exports

German newspaper: EU wants maximum price for gas under Russian embargo

11:33 | The European Union wants to set a maximum price for natural gas if Russia stops gas supply. For example, consumers must be protected from a large price increase. This is stated by the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag on the basis of documents from the European Commission that have been seen. Regulating gas prices will cost a lot of money.

The European Commission will present a detailed plan later this month to phase out Russian fuel imports by 2027. At present, the EU is still heavily dependent on Russia, but it is being phased out since the war in Ukraine. For example, several terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) are being built.

Earlier this week, Germany accused the Russians of using energy as a weapon against the West. Moscow has imposed sanctions on Western energy companies. In addition, less gas flows from Russia to Europe through pipelines across Ukrainian territory.

Russia: Finland and Sweden have no reason to join NATO

10:14 | Russia has no intentions of taking hostile action against Finland and Sweden. Therefore, there are no ‘real’ reasons why these countries join NATO. This was stated by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko on Saturday.

Finland and Sweden have not yet made an official decision to join NATO, but they appear to be inclined to do so. More information will be released over the weekend on both countries’ ambitions to join the alliance. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said earlier that the countries could soon join.

NATO foreign ministers meet in Berlin on Saturday night. Sweden and Finland also participate in the working dinner. Their possible accession and the Russian war against Ukraine are the main items on the agenda. Minister Hoekstra is present on behalf of the Netherlands.

Ukraine’s intelligence chief: the war over before the end of the year

05:38 | The head of the Ukrainian intelligence service Kirilo Budanov predicts that the war in his country will end with a Russian defeat before the end of the year. He said this on Friday night in a weather forecast with the British TV station Sky News. It is the most detailed and optimistic forecast from a senior Ukrainian official to date.

According to Budanov, the war is going so well that by the end of the year Ukraine will regain all conquered territories, including the Crimean peninsula and the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. The turning point would come in the second half of August.

According to Budanov, the Russian army is not nearly as strong as people think. “Russian power is a myth. It’s not that strong. The Russian army is just a horde of people with weapons, “the intelligence chief said.

The intelligence chief says a coup is already underway against Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Eventually, the leadership of the Russian Federation will change. That process has already started and it is moving in that direction. It is impossible to stop,” Budanov told Sky News.

In addition, he claimed that Putin would be seriously ill and would be in “mentally and physically” bad shape. Budanov provided no evidence for these allegations.

Kiev: Russian war in Ukraine enters the third phase

03:41 | Russia’s war in Ukraine is entering its ‘third phase’, say leaders in Ukraine’s capital Kiev. According to them, the latest phase will be marked by ‘prolonged struggles’.

According to an adviser to the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior, Viktor Androesiv, the first phase consisted of Russia’s attempt to occupy Ukraine “within a few days”. This was followed by a phase in which Russia sought to encircle and eliminate Ukrainian troops in several besieged areas.

In the latest phase, the Russian army will defend the territorial gains it has gained since the invasion on February 24, Androesiv said. This is, for example, the conquered territory of the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. “This shows that they intend to make it a long war,” the adviser said.

According to Andrusiv, by extending the war, it appears that Moscow hopes to bring the West to the negotiating table. The West would then be able to convince Ukraine to surrender, the idea would be.

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