Yesterday at 12:50 a.m. EDT|Updated today at 8:40 p.m. EDT
Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to justify his invasion of Ukraine by citing the possibility of NATO expansion, but now, more than 11 weeks into the war, the military alliance could grow by two, with Sweden and Finland poised to apply for membership and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto expected to announce Thursday his position on joining.
If Niinisto voices support, it would mark a significant step toward the alliance for Finland, which shares an 800-mile border with Russia. Officials have said the two Scandinavian countries could apply in concert, and the United Kingdom on Wednesday signed security agreements with both Finland and Sweden, promising military support if Russia attacks — a move that would aid them if Moscow retaliates during the accession process. The Kremlin said it was monitoring closely the prospect of NATO enlargement.
Elsewhere in Europe, diplomats failed to make a deal on a long-sought Russian oil embargo. The European Union, which proposed the ban last week, would like to cut off one of Moscow’s key sources of funding, but Hungary has objected, and talks on Wednesday again ended without an agreement.
Here’s what else to know
- The Senate is expected to vote in the coming days on a nearly $40 billion aid package for Ukraine that the House overwhelmingly approved Tuesday night.
- Ukraine said it would stop the transit of some Russian gas running through its borders into Europe starting Wednesday morning local time.
- Ukraine is willing to turn over Russian prisoners in exchange for the evacuation of injured fighters at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, a top official said Wednesday.
- Ukraine’s prosecutor general announced Wednesday that a Russian soldier in custody will be the first to stand trial for an alleged war crime during the conflict. The 21-year-old is accused of killing an unarmed 62-year-old civilian by the side of a road in a village in the Sumy region of northeastern Ukraine in late February.
- The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel.