Finns call Putin after Russia cut electricity supply due to NATO conflict


(AFP) — Finland on Saturday tried to allay Moscow’s fears of joining NATO as fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine slowed Russia’s hoped-for advance.

Meanwhile, the wives and parents of the Ukrainian fighter imprisoned inside a besieged steel mill in southern Ukraine desperately appealed to China for release.

And the G7 has vowed never to recognize the borders it is trying to redraw with a destructive force, further screwing up the Kremlin with new sanctions.

One of Europe’s fiercest conflicts since World War II saw more than six million people fleeing for their lives, costing an estimated $90 billion in damage to private infrastructure, according to Kyiv.

A high-ranking Ukrainian general predicted that the turning point would come in the next few months and that the battle would be over by the end of the year.

In Turin, Italy, far from the battlefield, Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra is gaining public support at the Eurovision Song Contest, the world’s largest live music event favored by bookmakers.

But even here, the war cast a shadow.

Lead singer Oleh Psiuk said, “There was one band member who joined the defense of Kyiv’s territory on the third day of the war.

“We are very worried about him, and we hope to see him safely when he returns.”

telephone

Finland and Sweden are poised to abandon decades of military non-alignment to join NATO as a defense against further Russian attacks.

Moscow has warned that it will take “mutual action” against Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) border.

Hours after Finland’s grid operator said Russia had unplugged its electricity supply overnight, President Sauli Ninisto spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Niinisto’s office said, “The conversation was direct and straightforward and went on without deterioration.”

“It was considered important to avoid tension. Phone calls originated in Finland.”

But Putin said it would be a “mistake” for Finland to join NATO, claiming Russia “does not pose a threat to Finnish security”, the Kremlin said.

Finland’s offer to join NATO will be announced this weekend.

unhappy turkey

Helsinki and Stockholm must first convince NATO member Turkey without attending an informal meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers in Berlin.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday accused the two countries of covering up a “terrorist organization”. Sweden and Finland have significant Kurdish communities.

Ankara, in particular, has regularly accused Stockholm of harboring members of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been designated a terrorist organization in the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United States.

It also outraged Sweden’s recognition of the genocide of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1917 and allegations of human rights violations.

The two Nordic countries say they did not recognize Turkey’s unrest. Analysts told AFP that Erdogan could take a hard line to overthrow Washington for refusing to sell fighter jets.

Withdrawal from Kharkiv

In Ukraine, the government and military are thwarting Moscow’s attempts to annex the South and the East, claiming that they are deterring Russian attacks on the eastern Donbas region.

Russia, which sent troops to Ukraine on February 24, failed to retake the capital, Kyiv, and has been looking to eastern Ukraine since the end of March.

The governor of the eastern Lugansk region, Serhi Gaidai, said Ukrainian forces had stopped Russian forces from crossing the river and besieging the city of Sevedonetsk.

Defense and military intelligence officials in London and Washington said Russian forces suffered heavy losses and made no significant progress as they attempted to cross the river.

The Ukrainian Chief of Staff said the Russians had succeeded in pushing the Russians out of Moscow’s top target, Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, to the northeast.

“The enemy’s main efforts are focused on withdrawing troops from the city of Kharkiv,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, Ole Sinegubov, governor of Kharkiv, said in a video on Telegram that Ukrainian forces were fighting back in the direction of the northeastern city of Izyum.

Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, Major-General Kirillo Budanov, said the coming months will play a decisive role in the course of the war.

“The nodal point will be late August,” he told Sky News television in the UK.

“Most active combat activities will be completed by the end of this year.”

Chinese appeal

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that his troops would fight to retake all occupied territories and besieged people, including the southern port city of Mariupol.

There, the city’s last defenders are locked in underground tunnels and bunkers in the vast Azovstal Works under bombardment.

“The next phase of the evacuation mission is very difficult negotiations to save the seriously injured medical staff. That’s a lot of people,” said Zelensky.

The United Nations and the Red Cross helped evacuate women, children and the elderly from factories earlier this month.

However, local officials said about 600 fighters from the Ukrainian Azov regiment were wounded and should be evacuated for treatment.

In Kyiv, the wives of five imprisoned factories and the father of a fighter have appealed to Chinese President Xi Jinping directly to intervene.

“China has a huge personal influence on Russia and on President Putin. We ask him to intervene,” said a man named Stavr Vychniak.

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