Finland makes history. Sweden could be next.

12 min ago

Analysis: Why Finland joining NATO is bad news for Putin

Analysis from CNN’s Luke McGee

Crew from a CV9030 light assault tank during the Finnish Army Arrow 22 training exercise in Niinisalo, Finland, on May 4. (Roni Rekomaa/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Before Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, he made clear his belief that NATO had edged too close to Russia and should be stripped back to its borders of the 1990s, before some countries that either neighbor Russia or were ex-Soviet states joined the military alliance.

Russia currently shares about 755 miles of land border with five NATO members, according to the alliance.

Finland’s accession would mean that a nation with which Russia shares an 800-mile border would become formally militarily aligned with the United States.

Not only would this be bad news for the Kremlin, but the addition of Finland would be quite a boon for NATO.

Despite its relatively small population, Finland is a serious military power that has been unofficially aligned with the West.

Its military has for decades used equipment purchased from the US that is compatible with NATO allies, meaning it could easily join NATO missions should it choose to do so.

Read the full analysis:

9 min ago

Finland’s political leadership makes history in signaling desire to join NATO. And Sweden could be next

From CNN’s Luke McGee

Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö, left, and Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin, right. (Getty Images)

The statement of support for NATO from Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin had been expected, after the Finnish government recently submitted to the country’s parliament a report on national security which outlined the path to joining the alliance as one of Finland’s options.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, public support for joining NATO has leaped from around 30% to nearly 80%.

Once parliament has approved the idea in principle and any other domestic legislative hurdles have been cleared, it is expected that NATO would invite Finland to negotiate its accession.

Sweden could be next: It is also expected that Sweden, Finland’s neighbor to the west, will soon announce its intention to join the alliance through a similar process.

Russia has warned both countries against joining NATO, saying there would be consequences.

Finland joining NATO would have both practical and symbolic consequences for Russia and the Western alliance.

Change in stance: Since the end of World War II, Finland has been non-aligned militarily and nominally neutral in order to avoid provoking Russia. It has indulged the Kremlin’s security concerns at times and tried to maintain good trading relations.

The war in Ukraine, however, has sufficiently changed the calculation, so that joining NATO now seems the best way forward, regardless of what Russia’s reaction might be.

Read the full story here:

40 min ago

What to know about Finland announcing support for NATO membership

From CNN’s Chris Liakos, Lauren Kent and Nic Robertson in Helsinki.

A Leopard 2A6 battle tank during the Finnish Army Arrow 22 training exercise, with participating forces from the U.K., Latvia, U.S. and Estonia, in Niinisalo, Finland, on May 4. (Roni Rekomaa/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Finland’s leaders have just announced in a joint statement they are in favor of applying for NATO membership.

Here’s some context on the announcement:

  • The leaders’ stance does not constitute a formal decision on the country’s NATO application.
  • The coalition government and the President are expected to issue a decision on NATO membership in the next few days, according to the Office of the Prime Minister.
  • The final decision to apply for NATO membership would then require a vote in parliament, which is expected early next week. 

How will parliament vote? Parliamentarian Johannes Koskinen told CNN he expects the overwhelming majority of the Finnish Parliament to vote in favor. 

“I think in the plenary, the results, maybe around 180 out of 200 are in favor of membership,” Koskinen said. 

Is joining NATO popular? More than 75% of Finns support joining the military alliance, according to the latest state media polling data. 

What are the next steps? Should Finland and Sweden decide to apply to NATO, the accession process would “go quickly” and interim measures would be put in place until they become formal members of the alliance, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in April.

What is Russia’s reaction? Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that Russia is closely monitoring NATO configuration close to its borders, commenting on the prospect of Finland and Sweden joining the alliance.

Read more here:

38 min ago

Ukraine acknowledges some Russian advances in east

From CNN’s Tim Lister in Lviv

The Ukrainian military has acknowledged Russian advances in some areas in the east of the country — though it says the extent of the progress is difficult to measure.

In its daily operational update, the General Staff said Russian forces had crossed the Siverskiy Donets river in the direction of Lyman, which is in the Donetsk region. 

Lyman is a town to the northeast of Sloviansk, one of the Russians’ strategic objectives. Several bridges across the river had been brought down during earlier fighting. CNN is unable to quantify the scale of the Russian advance. 

“In the Sloviansk direction, the occupiers are regrouping troops to resume the offensive on Barvinkove and Sloviansk. The enemy moved the battalion tactical group in order to strengthen the advanced units,” the update said.

CNN has previously reported that Russia has added further battalion tactical groups to its offensive in this area.  

The General Staff also said that further east “the enemy is advancing in the direction of Kudriashivka bear Severodonetsk; with partial success … Their main task is to establish full control over Rubizhne, to capture Lyman and Severodonetsk.”

Kudriashivka is a small settlement close to Severodonetsk and Rubizhne, where Ukrainian forces have been holding off a Russian advance for weeks. The humanitarian situation in Severodonetsk, where some 15,000 people still live, is said to be dire.

River crossing attempts in Luhansk: The regional military administration in Luhansk said that “in total, towns and villages of Luhansk region were fired at 26 times during May 11. The largest number was in Severodonetsk.”

The Russians have repeatedly tried to cross the Siverskiy Donets in this area, but Ukrainian forces have quickly destroyed several pontoon bridges in recent days, according to a CNN analysis of satellite imagery. The General Staff said Thursday that another attempt to cross the river was being made near Kreminna.

An aerial view of burnt vehicles and the remains of what appears to be a makeshift bridge across the Siverskyi Donets River, eastern Ukraine, in this image distributed on May 12. (Ukrainian Airborne Forces Command/Reuters)

If the Russians were able to sustain a river crossing, Ukrainian troops in the Severodonetsk area would be vulnerable to being cut off.

Northeastern battles: In the Kharkiv region, a Ukrainian counterattack continues, and the General Staff says the Russians are reinforcing units in the border area.

“The enemy is regrouping troops in order to prevent a further advance of our troops in the direction of the state border. … In the areas north of Kharkiv city, the enemy fires artillery at units of our troops.”

Line holds to the south: In the south of Ukraine, the Ukrainian military reports further shelling by Russian forces but no changes in frontline positions. The authorities in Dnipro said there had been shelling throughout the night and one civilian had been killed.

UK weighs in: The UK Defense Ministry commented Thursday that “Russia’s prioritisation of operations in the Donbas has left elements deployed in the Kharkiv Oblast vulnerable to the mobile, and highly motivated, Ukrainian counter-attacking force. Despite Russia’s success in encircling Kharkiv in the initial stages of the conflict, it has reportedly withdrawn units from the region to reorganise and replenish its forces following heavy losses.”

51 min ago

Finnish President and Prime Minister say “Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay”

In a joint statement Thursday, Finland’s President and Prime Minister announced their support for joining NATO, moving the Nordic nation – which shares an 800-mile border with Russia – one step closer to membership of the US-led military alliance.

“During this spring, an important discussion on Finland’s possible NATO membership has taken place,” said Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin.

“Time has been needed to let parliament and the whole society establish their stands on the matter. Time has been needed for close international contacts with NATO and its member countries, as well as with Sweden. We have wanted to give the discussion the space it required.”

The leaders said that the “moment of decision-making is near” and Finland must apply for NATO membership.

“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay. We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days,” the joint statement said.

57 min ago

Breaking News: Finland’s leaders announce support for NATO membership

In a statement Thursday, Finland’s President and Prime Minister announced their support for joining NATO, moving the Nordic nation – which shares an 800-mile border with Russia – one step closer to membership of the US-led military alliance.

1 hr 2 min ago

Siemens to exit Russian market as a result of invasion of Ukraine

From CNN’s Jake Kwon and Alex Stambaugh

A Russian railways Desiro train by Siemens is on display at the Innotrans 2012 International Trade Fair for Transport and Mobility in Berlin September 18, 2012. Russian railways ordered 38 Desiro vehicles for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. (John MacDougall/AFP/GettyImages)

German manufacturing conglomerate Siemens says it will exit the Russian market as a result of the war in Ukraine. 

“We join the international community in condemning the war in Ukraine and are focused on supporting our people and providing humanitarian aid,” the company said in a statement Thursday. 

The multinational corporation said it has started “proceedings to wind down its industrial operations and all industrial business activities.”

Siemens said it had earlier put all new business in Russia and international deliveries to Russia on hold “while it evaluated the situation to ensure the safety of its 3,000 employees in the country.”

Read more about the effects of the war on German manufacturers:

1 hr 18 min ago

Top US House Democrat says leaders are working with Senate to get Ukrainian aid package approved

From CNN’s Travis Caldwell and Corey James

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. in the U.S. Capitol on May 11 in Washington DC. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images)

US Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN Wednesday night that leaders are working with Senate counterparts to get a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine approved in order to be signed into law by President Joe Biden.

The House approved the package Tuesday night by a vote of 368-57.

Schiff credited the US and Ukraine for their quick action on previous aid packages, getting humanitarian aid to citizens and military aid onto the battlefield.

“Those supply lines are now well-orchestrated, and Ukrainians, I think, have done an extraordinary job in getting the materiel to their fighters and to defend the country,” he said.

Additional aid packages from the US will depend largely on how long Russian President Vladimir Putin continues his war in Ukraine, Schiff said.

“The more that we do now, the quicker we can bring this to an end once Putin realizes he is not going to accomplish his objectives there,” Schiff said.

“And the costs to Russia have simply becoming too high. Costs in terms of Russian lives, and costs in terms of the sanctions and the impact on the Russian economy and the Russian people.”

Read more about what’s in the $40 billion aid package here.

2 hr 1 min ago

Russia is the “most direct threat” to world order, says European Commission president

From CNN’s Alex Stambaugh and Junko Ogura

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks at a press conference during the EU-Japan summit in Tokyo, on Thursday. (Yoshikazu Tsuno/Pool/Getty Images)

Russia’s behavior in Ukraine and abroad is the greatest threat to global stability, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday.

Russia “is today the most direct threat to the world order with a barbaric war against Ukraine and its worrying pact with China and their call for new, and very much arbitrary, international relations,” von der Leyen told reporters after talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and European Council President Charles Michel in Tokyo. 

Michel and von der Leyen are in Tokyo for the 28th EU-Japan summit, during which their support for Ukraine was high on the agenda. 

“Our cooperation in Ukraine is critical in Europe, but it’s also important in the Pacific and we also want to deepen our consultation on a more assertive China,” Michel told reporters. “We believe that China must stand up to defend the multilateral system that it has benefited from in developing its country.” 

Michel also said “those responsible for war crimes must be and will be brought to justice.”

Speaking alongside von der Leyen and Michel, Kishida told reporters, “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine shakes the very foundation of the entire international order, not just for Europe, but for Asia as well, and can never be condoned.”

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Japan and the European Union have imposed a series of sanctions against Russia, including freezing the assets of President Vladimir Putin and his family members.