Live: Fighting rages in Donbas, Russian forces appear stalled

Live: Fighting rages in Donbas, Russian forces appear stalled


Turkey voiced readiness Saturday to discuss Finland and Sweden’s plans to join NATO, despite accusing them of habouring “terrorist organisations”.  “A big majority of the Turkish people are against the membership of those countries who are supporting PKK terrorist organization … but these are the issues that we need to talk of course with our NATO allies as well as these countries,” said foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu while arriving for talks in Berlin.

10:16pm: Zelensky says situation in Donbas remains very difficult

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Saturday said the situation in the Donbas region remained very difficult, adding that Russian forces were still trying to demonstrate some kind of victory.

“On the 80th day of a full-scale invasion this seems especially crazy, but they are not stopping their efforts,” he said in a late night video address.

9:25pm: G7 ‘will never recognise’ borders redrawn by Russia

The Group of Seven industrialised nations said Saturday they would never recognise the borders Russia is trying to shift by force in its war against Ukraine and pledged enduring support for Kyiv. FRANCE 24’s Nick Spicer reports from Berlin:

9:10pm: Turkey to hold talks with Sweden, Finland at NATO meet

Foreign ministers from Finland, Sweden and Turkey will hold clear the air talks in Berlin on Saturday to resolve disagreements over Finnish and Swedish plans to join NATO, as the alliance meets against the backdrop of the Ukraine war.

The Nordic states are gearing up to apply for membership of the 30-strong transatlantic alliance in response to what they see as a fundamentally altered security situation due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. That has drawn threats of retaliation from Moscow and objections from NATO member Turkey.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters as he arrived in Berlin that it was “unacceptable and outrageous” that prospective new NATO members gave support to the PKK Kurdish militant group, potentially complicating the alliance’s enlargement.

7:10pm: Norway backs Finnish, Swedish plans to join NATO

Norway on Saturday backed Finnish and Swedish plans to join NATO against criticism from Turkey. “We don’t know what Turkey really means but from (the) Norwegian perspective, we are 100% behind Finland and Sweden ifthey decide to apply for membership in NATO,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeld said as she arrived for a meeting with her NATO counterparts in Berlin.

“This will also strengthen the Nordic cooperation because we chose differently after World War 2, so I think that this is a historic moment right now,” she added.

6:10pm: Finland ‘confident’ of overcoming Turkey’s NATO opposition

Finland believes it can find a “solution” with Turkey to end Ankara’s opposition to its bid to join NATO, the EU nation’s foreign minister said Saturday.

Speaking ahead of talks with NATO members including Turkey in Berlin, Pekka Haavisto said he was “confident that in the end we will find a solution and Finland (and) Sweden will become members of NATO”.

Referring to a phonecall initiated by Finland’s president to his counterpart in Russia, Vladimir Putin, the minister said it was “very important that we communicate with our neighbour” even if “we don’t ask any permission for our political steps”.

2:45pm: Putin would see end of Finnish military neutrality as mistake, says Kremlin

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin told his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto on Saturday that Finland scrapping its military neutrality would be a “mistake”, the Kremlin said.

“Putin stressed that the end of the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake since there is no threat to Finland’s security,” the Kremlin said in a statement ahead of Helsinki’s expected announcement of its NATO membership bid on Sunday. 

1:25 pm: Finnish president speaks with Putin about NATO membership

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto spoke with Russian President Putin on Saturday regarding his country’s application for NATO membership, which is expected to be announced this weekend, his office said.

Niinistro “told President Putin how fundamentally the Russian demands in late 2021 aimed at preventing countries from joining NATO and Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 have altered the security environment of Finland,” said a statement released by the Finnish president’s office.

“The conversation was direct and straight-forward and it was conducted without aggravations. Avoiding tensions was considered important,” said the statement, adding that the phone call was “initiated by Finland”.

The phone call came a day after Niinistro had a conversation with US President Joe Biden about Finland’s NATO bid. 

“President Biden underscored his support for NATO’s Open Door policy and for the right of Finland and Sweden to decide their own future, foreign policy, and security arrangements,” the White House said in a statement.

12:10 pm: G7 ‘will never recognise’ borders changed by force by Russia

Foreign ministers from the G7 group of nations have vowed to reinforce Russia’s economic and political isolation, continue supplying weapons and work to ease global food shortages stemming from the war in Ukraine in a joint statement on Saturday.

“We reaffirm our determination to further increase economic and political pressure on Russia, continuing to act in unity,” the foreign ministers said in a statement after meeting in northern Germany.

The Group of Seven industrialised nations also said they would never recognise the borders Russia is trying to shift in its war against Ukraine.

“We will never recognise borders Russia has attempted to change by military aggression, and will uphold our engagement in the support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea, and all states,” the G7 foreign ministers said in a statement.

11:07am: Russia suspends electricity to Finland: Finnish grid operator

Russia suspended electricity supplies to Finland overnight after its energy firm RAO Nordic threatened to cut off supplies over payment arrears, according to an official for Finland’s grid operator.

The supplies “are zero since midnight,” Timo Kaukonen told AFP.

RAO Nordic had said it would suspend supplies, citing problems with payments, as Helsinki prepares to announce its application for NATO membership in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

9:15am: Erdogan’s ‘opportunistic’ opposition to Finland, Sweden NATO bid

Reporting from Ankara, FRANCE 24’s Jasper Mortimer says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s expressed opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO “appears to be opportunistic”.

Erdogan on Friday accused Finland and Sweden of harbouring “terrorist organisations” and said Turkey did not have a “positive opinion” on the Nordic nations’ NATO membership bid.

Mortimer explains that the “terrorist organisations” Erdogan referred to appeared to be the Kurdish PKK and DHDKP-C groups, and the Gulenists, a group accused of masterminding a failed 2016 coup attempt. “These groups are present in other European countries as well,” explained Mortimer. “Erdogan’s picking on Finland and Sweden appears to be opportunistic. I think what’s going on here is Erdogan is saying a big “no” in order to gain concessions, to get the governments in Helsinki and Stockholm to promise to crack down on the PKK.”

8:05am: Moscow-administered Kherson to ask to be included in Russia: UK 

The Russian-imposed military-civilian administration in Ukraine’s Kherson region said it will ask Russia to include it in the Russian federation, according to the British defence ministry. 

If Russia carries out an accession referendum in Kherson, it will almost certainly manipulate the results to show a clear majority in favour of leaving Ukraine, Britain said in a regular Twitter bulletin.

7:43am: Duma deputy head visits Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Kherson: reports

Senior Russian lawmaker Anna Kuznetsova visited the Russian-occupied region of Kherson in Ukraine to discuss social and healthcare needs of the local population, the state RIA news agency reported on Saturday.

The report could not be independently confirmed.

Kherson is the first region set to be annexed after Moscow said in April it had gained full control of the region, which has seen sporadic anti-Russian protests.

Kuznetsova, deputy head of Russia’s Duma or lower house of parliament, discussed the supply of foodstuffs as well as medical and other products needed for children, RIA reported.

4:33am: Heavy fighting in Donbas region

Intense fighting is raging in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, according to a local officials.

“There is heavy fighting on the border with the Donetsk region, near Popasna,” said Lugansk regional governor Sergei Gaidai in a Facebook post late Friday. There were heavy losses in personnel and equipment on the Russian side, he added.

The British ministry of defence on Friday said Ukrainian forces had “successfully” repelled a Russian attempt to cross the Siverskyi Donets river west of Severodonetsk.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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