Finland will apply to join NATO; Russian invasion 'losing momentum': Live Ukraine updates

Finland will apply to join NATO; Russian invasion 'losing momentum': Live Ukraine updates

A senior NATO official said Sunday that Russia’s military advance in Ukraine appears to be faltering and he expressed hope that Kyiv can win the war, as Russia’s neighbor Finland announced it wants to join the Western military alliance.

Top NATO diplomats are meeting Sunday in Berlin to discuss providing further support to Ukraine and moves by Finland, Sweden and others to join NATO in the face of threats from Russia.

“The brutal invasion (by) Russia is losing momentum,” NATO Deputy-Secretary General Mircea Geoana told reporters. “We know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian people and army, and with our help, Ukraine can win this war.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Berlin on Sunday. He noted on Twitter that more American aid and weapons are on the way, and that the countries would work together to get Ukrainian food exports out of the country to Asia and Africa.

MAPPING THE WAR:Mapping and tracking Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Latest developments:

►Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and a small group of Republican senators met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Saturday.

►The U.S. is again accusing Russia of using the U.N. Security Council to spout disinformation and conspiracy theories about biological weapons in Ukraine to distract from its war in Ukraine. U.S. deputy ambassador Richard Mills called the Russian claims “categorically false and ludicrous.”

USA TODAY ON TELEGRAM: Join our Russia-Ukraine war channel to receive the latest updates straight to your inbox

Finland wants to join NATO

The president and government of Finland announced Sunday that the previously neutral Nordic country that shares a long border with Russia intends apply for membership in NATO, paving the way for the 30-member Western military alliance to expand.

President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin made the announcement at a joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki.

“This is a historic day. A new era begins,” Niinisto said.

ICYMI:The week in Ukraine’s war with Russia: Key events explained in 5 graphics

Will Putin use a nuclear weapon?

From nearly the start of the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has teased the use of a nuclear weapon. 

But most political scientists, nuclear arms experts, Western officials and seasoned Kremlin watchers say it’s highly unlikely he would detonate a nuclear weapon to break an impasse over Russia’s stalled offensive in Ukraine, now into its third month. 

“If the conflict in Ukraine essentially remains an overt one between Russian and Ukrainian forces, with the West playing more of a proxy role, if we stay where we are today in terms of Western involvement in the conflict, I see no likelihood at all,” said Dmitri Trenin, until recently director of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank. 

Read more on Putin’s strategy here. 

– Kim Hjelmgaard

Ukraine wins Eurovision contest

Ukraine celebrated a morale-boosting victory in the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday.

The folk-rap ensemble Kalush Orchestra won the glitzy, televised Eurovision contest with its song “Stefania,” which has become a popular anthem among Ukrainians during the war. Votes from home viewers across Europe cemented the victory.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed his nation would claim the customary honor of hosting the next annual competition.

“Step by step, we are forcing the occupiers to leave the Ukrainian land,” Zelenskyy said.

Republican senators visit Zelenskyy

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, along with Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John Cornyn of Texas and John Barrasso of Wyoming, visited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday.

The visit marks “a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from the United States Congress, as well as from the American people,” Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram.

McConnell told Senate colleagues this week that he supports the latest round of assistance recently passed by the U.S. House.

“Helping Ukraine is not an instance of mere philanthropy. It bears directly on America’s national security and vital interests that Russia’s naked aggression not succeed and carries significant costs,” McConnell said Thursday, according to a press release published on the senator’s site. 

Contributing: Associated Press

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