NATO to invite Finland and Sweden to join after Turkey lifts objections

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NATO leaders will formally invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance Wednesday after the two Nordic countries reached an agreement with Turkey, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said Helsinki and Stockholm agreed “to cooperate fully with Turkey in its fight” against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and other groups Ankara considers terrorist organisations. Read FRANCE 24's coverage below to see how the day's events unfolded. All times are Paris time, GMT+2.

11:45pm: Zelenskiy addresses UN, calls Russia 'terrorist state'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Russia of being a "terrorist state" at the United Nations on Tuesday, prompting Russia to charge that he was using a Security Council address as a "remote PR campaign" to solicit more Western weapons.

Zelenskiy pushed the Security Council to expel Moscow from the United Nations and to create a tribunal to investigate actions of the Russian military in Ukraine, which invaded on Feb. 24. However, Russia is a council veto power and can shield itself from any such action.

"Russia does not have the right to take part in discussing and voting in regard to the war in Ukraine, which is unprovoked and simply colonialist of the part of Russia," Zelenskiy told the council. "I urge you to deprive the delegation of the terrorist state of its powers."

9:55pm: Swedish PM Andersson hails agreement with Turkey on NATO membership

Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson on Tuesday hailed a "very good agreement" with Turkey to back Swedish and Finnish membership in NATO and said the move would make the military alliance stronger.

"Taking the next step toward a full NATO membership is of course important for Sweden and Finland. But it's also a very important step for NATO, because our countries will be security providers within NATO," Andersson told AFP in an interview.

9:41pm: Finland’s president says deal with Turkey does not list individuals for extradition

The trilateral memorandum that Turkey, Finland and Sweden signed on Tuesday to confirm Turkish support for the Nordic countries' bid to join NATO does not list individuals for extradition, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told reporters.

Niinisto said the memorandum, which will be made public only later, describes principles for extraditions related to terrorism, not individual citizens.

Turkey had until today blocked bids by Sweden and Finland to join the Western military alliance, accusing them of supporting groups Ankara views as terrorists.

9:34pm: Zelensky calls for UN to visit site of deadly missile strike on Kremenchuk

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky called for the United Nations to visit the site of a missile strike on a shopping mall in the central city of Kremenchuk, as he addressed the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

"I suggest the United Nations send either a special representative, or the secretary-general of the United Nations, or a plenipotentiary commission to the site of this terrorist act ... so the UN could independently find out information and see that this indeed was a Russian missile strike," Zelensky said of Monday's attack, in which at least 18 people were killed.

9:02pm: Turkey 'got what it wanted' from Finland and Sweden before agreeing to back NATO membership

Turkey "got what it wanted" from Sweden and Finland before agreeing to back their drives to join the NATO defence alliance, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office said on Tuesday.

"Turkey has made significant gains in the fight against terrorist organisations," said the Turkish statement, adding: "Turkey got what it wanted."

The two Nordic countries agreed to "cooperate fully with Turkey in its fight against the PKK" and other Kurdish militant groups, said the statement.

8:56pm: NATO will formally invite Finland and Sweden to join alliance

NATO leaders will formally invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance Wednesday after Turkey inked a deal to drop its objections, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said.

"I'm pleased to announce that we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO. Turkey, Finland and Sweden have signed a memorandum that addresses Turkey's concerns, including around arms exports, and the fight against terrorism," Stoltenberg said Tuesday after crunch talks in Madrid.

5:52pm: Bulgaria to expel 70 Russian diplomatic staff

Bulgaria will expel 70 Russian diplomatic staff, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov announced on Tuesday, the biggest number ordered out in one go from the Balkan EU member state.

"Bulgaria is going to expel 70 Russian diplomats. ... Our services identified them as people who worked against our interests," Petkov told reporters.

5:38pm: Biden says Putin wants to ‘eliminate Ukrainian culture’ ahead of NATO summit

US President Joe Biden said that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s objective is to “eliminate Ukrainian culture” at a joint press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Madrid on Tuesday ahead of the opening of a NATO summit.

Biden also said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “has shattered peace in Europe”, and that “what’s important” is that NATO “reinforces its position”.

5:23pm: Pro-Russia forces ‘kidnap’ elected mayor of Ukrainian city of Kherson, counselor says

Pro-Russia forces “kidnapped” the elected mayor of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, Igor Kolykhayev, on Tuesday morning, the mayor’s counselor Galyna Lyashevska said on Facebook.

Russian media reported Tuesday that pro-Moscow forces had detained Kolykhayev.

"Ex-mayor Kolykhayev has been detained," Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russia-backed administration of Kherson, told state news agency RIA Novosti.

4:45pm: Stoltenberg says NATO member states need to boost military spending

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked a “fundamental shift” in NATO’s approach to defence, and member states will have to boost their military spending in an increasingly unstable world, the alliance’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday.

Stoltenberg spoke as US President Joe Biden and other NATO leaders began to arrive in Madrid for an alliance summit. He said the meeting would chart a blueprint for the alliance “in a more dangerous and unpredictable world”.

“To be able to defend in a more dangerous world we have to invest more in our defence,” Stoltenberg said. Just nine of NATO's 30 members meet the organisation’s target of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defence. Spain, which is hosting the summit, spends just half that.

Top of the agenda for leaders in meetings Wednesday and Thursday is strengthening defences against Russia and supporting Ukraine.

4:30pm: NATO concerned about Beijing’s ties with Moscow, but does not ‘regard China as an adversary’

NATO does not see China as an adversary but it is concerned about Beijing's ever-closer ties with Moscow since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.

"We don't regard China as an adversary," Stoltenberg said on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid, adding that China would soon be the biggest economy in the world and that NATO needed to engage with Beijing on issues like climate change.

"But we are disappointed by the fact that China has not been able to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, that China is spreading many of the false narratives about NATO, the West, and also that China and Russia are more close now than they have ever been before," he added.

3:28pm: NATO chief Stoltenberg says Moscow ‘using energy as a weapon’ ahead of alliance summit

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said “Russia is using energy as a weapon of coercion” on Tuesday ahead of an alliance summit in Madrid, and pledged that NATO would be carbon neutral by 2050.

1:29pm: G7 leaders pledge to hurt Russia economically

Leaders of the world’s wealthiest democracies struck a united stance to support Ukraine for “as long as it takes” as Russia’s invasion grinds on, and said they would explore far-reaching steps to cap Kremlin income from the oil sales that are financing the war.

The final statement Tuesday from the Group of Seven summit in Germany underlined their intent to impose “severe and immediate economic costs” on Russia, maintaining sanctions on Moscow “for as long as necessary, acting in unison at every stage”.

Leaders also agreed on a ban on imports of Russian gold and to step up aid to countries hit with food shortages by the blockage on Ukraine grain shipments through the Black Sea.

The price cap on Russian oil would in theory work by barring service providers such as shippers or insurers from dealing with oil priced above a fixed level. That could work because the service providers are mostly located in the European Union or the UK and thus within reach of sanctions. To be effective, however, it would have to involve as many consuming countries as possible, particularly India, where refiners have been snapping up the cheap Russian oil shunned by Western traders.

1:14pm: ‘Russia is trying to destabilise international order,’ says Macron

Speaking at the close of the Group of Seven summit in Germany, French President Emmanuel Macron said that: “Russia is trying to destabilise international order” by using the world’s reliance on food and energy “to put certain states under pressure”.

Macron said he did not see the war in Ukraine coming to an end in the next few weeks or even months, but that he hoped it would be over by year-end. “Russia cannot and must not win this war,” he said, noting the West would continue to make Vladimir Putin pay a high price for his invasion of Ukraine through sanctions, arms deliveries to Kyiv and possibly also by capping Russian oil prices.

“I am in favour of capping Russian oil prices because higher prices help Russia finance the war,” he said.

11:55am: G7, five emerging countries, condemn Russia’s ‘illegal’ war on Ukraine

G7 leaders on Tuesday condemned Tuesday Russia’s invasion as “illegal and unjustifiable” in their draft final statement.

“We, the leaders of the Group of Seven ... were joined by the leaders of Argentina, India, Indonesia, Senegal and South Africa, as well as Ukraine.”

“We reemphasise our condemnation of Russia’s illegal and unjustifiable war of aggression against Ukraine.”

11:44am: G7 urges countries, companies to release food stockpiles

The Group of Seven industrialised nations on Tuesday urged countries and companies with large food stockpiles to help ease a hunger crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We call on those partners with large food stockpiles, as well as on the private sector, to make food available without distorting the market,” it said in a statement.

They called “on all countries to avoid excessive stockpiling of food which can lead to further price increases”.

The war in Ukraine, a country known as Europe’s breadbasket, has pushed up food prices and led to shortages, as Russia’s blockade of Black Sea ports prevents millions of tonnes of grain from being shipped out.

11:12am: Russia expands US sanctions list to include Biden’s wife and daughter

Russia on Tuesday expanded its US ‘stop-list’, including in it the wife and daughter of President Joe Biden as well as other prominent figures.

The step was taken “as a response to the ever-expanding US sanctions against Russian political and public figures”, Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

11:07am: Erdogan says he wants results, not words from Sweden and Finland

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that Finland and Sweden must take Turkey’s concerns into consideration and deliver not just 'empty words' but results if they wanted to be NATO members.

Turkey has blocked bids by Sweden and Finland to join the Western military alliance, accusing them of supporting groups Ankara views as terrorists.

Ankara has accused Finland and more particularly Sweden of providing a safe haven for outlawed Kurdish insurgents against the Turkish state. Erdogan has also called on Sweden and Finland to lift arms embargoes imposed on Turkey in 2019 over Ankara’s military offensive in Syria.

The sides have held talks to address Turkish concerns, but have not reached an agreement.

Speaking before departing for a NATO summit in Madrid where he will meet the leaders of the Nordic nations and NATO, Erdogan said the Nordic states must meet Ankara’s expectations.

10:40am: Russia says it targeted Kremenchuk weapons depot, not shopping mall

Russia’s defence ministry on Tuesday said it fired missiles at a weapons depot in the Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk, with the subsequent explosion of ammunition triggering a fire in a nearby “non-functioning” shopping mall, leaving at least 18 people dead and dozens missing.

“In Kremenchuk, Russian forces struck a weapons depot storing arms received from the United States and Europe with high-precision air-based weapons. As a result of the precision strike, Western-made weapons and ammunition concentrated in the warehouse ... were hit,” it said on its Telegram channel.

“The detonation of stored ammunition for Western weapons caused a fire in a non-functioning shopping center located next to the depot,” it added.

Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilian areas during its four-month offensive against Ukraine. The UN says it has confirmed 4,700 civilians have been killed since Russia invaded on February 24, though it believes the actual number to be much higher.

09:58am: G7 leaders agree on push to ban import of Russian gold

G7 leaders have agreed to push for a ban on imports of Russian gold as part of efforts to tighten the sanctions squeeze on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, an EU official said on Tuesday.

Britain, the United States, Japan and Canada agreed at the start of the G7 summit on Sunday that they would ban imports of newly mined or refined Russian gold, while the European Union expressed some reservations.

09:26am: Moody’s says Russia defaulted on debt

Moody’s ratings agency has confirmed that Russia defaulted on foreign debt for the first time in a century after bond holders did not receive interest payments.

The missed payments follow a series of unprecedented Western sanctions that have increasingly isolated Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

“On 27 June, holders of Russia’s sovereign debt had not received coupon payments on two eurobonds worth $100 million by the time the 30-calendar-day grace period expired, which we consider an event of default under our definition,” Moody’s said, noting: “Further defaults on future coupon payments are likely.”

Moscow said Monday there were “no grounds to call this situation a default” as the payments did not reach creditors due to the “the actions of third parties”.

06:43am: G7 denounces Russian strike on mall as ‘war crime’, death toll rises

The Group of Seven leaders have branded the Russian air strike which hit a crowded shopping mall in the city of Kremenchuk in central Ukraine as a war crime.

“Indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime,” they said in a statement condemning Monday’s “abominable attack”. The leaders vowed that Russian President Vladimir Putin and those responsible would be held to account for the strike.

Ukraine accused Russia of deliberately targeting civilians, with President Volodymyr Zelensky calling it “one of the most brazen terrorist acts in European history” in his evening broadcast posted on Telegram.

Dmytro Lunin, governor of the Poltava region where Kremenchuk is located, on Tuesday said the death toll had risen to 18 people.

The summit of the G7 - which comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States - ends Tuesday and will be immediately followed by a NATO meeting in Spain.

02:07am: Russian opposition politician detained - sources

Prominent Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin was detained in Moscow on Monday, a lawyer for opposition figures and a Russian journalist said on their social media accounts.

Irina Babloyan, a journalist and a host at the now-defunct Ekho Moskvy radio station, said Yashin was detained while the two were walking together.

"I was walking with my friend, Ilya Yashin, in the park ... The police came and took Ilya away," Babloyan said on the Telegram messaging app.

Lawyer Vadim Prokhorov, who has represented many Russian opposition figures, also said Yashin was in police custody for the alleged administrative violation of disobeying a police officer

01:40am: Putin promises Bolsonaro to maintain supply of fertilisers

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday promised his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro that Russia "is committed" to maintaining its delivery of much-needed fertilisers to the South American agricultural giant.

Speaking in Brasilia, Bolsonaro said the two leaders had discussed "food security" and "energy insecurity" by telephone without giving more details.

In its own statement on the conversation, the Kremlin said Putin "stressed that Russia is committed to carry out its obligations to guarantee the uninterrupted delivery of Russian fertilisers to Brazilian farmers."

The statement added that Putin asked for "the restoration of the architecture of free commerce of food products and fertilisers that have collapsed due to Western sanctions" against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

01:14am: Russian strike death toll rises to 16

The Russian missile strike on a crowded mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk killed at least 16 people, the head of emergency services said early Tuesday, sparking international outrage.

"As of now, we know of 16 dead and 59 wounded, 25 of them hospitalised. The information is being updated," Kruk said on Telegram.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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