After decades of neutrality, Finland and Sweden now want to join NATO. Kremlin boss Putin threatens to react. Meanwhile, Ukraine reports more civilian deaths after Russian attacks in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. This happened today in Ukraine.

The military situation

According to the authorities, at least 19 civilians have been killed in the contested eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. At least ten people were killed as a result of the shelling of Sieverodonetsk, military governor of the Luhansk region Serhiy Hayday told the Telegram news service on Monday. Nine more civilians were killed in neighboring Donetsk Oblast, according to local military governor Pavlo Kyrylenko. Six other people were injured.

A Russian attack has hit a warehouse of highly flammable ammonium nitrate in the region around the city of Kharkiv in north-eastern Ukraine. The governor of the neighboring Donetsk region shared a photo of a cloud of orange smoke over fields on Telegram on Monday, but added that the explosion “poses no danger to the local population”.

A Bundeswehr situation report shows that the Russian forces in the Kharkiv area had already had to move five to ten kilometers to the Ukrainian-Russian border as a result of Ukrainian counter-offensives at the end of last week. This is reported by the “Business Insider”.

“Russian forces are finding themselves increasingly confronted with territorial gains by Ukrainian forces north of Kharkiv,” it says. “Russian forces have probably been pushed out about 15 kilometers from the center of Kharkiv.” Russian artillery fire on Kharkiv has also abated.

The political development

Under the impression of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, Sweden is breaking with its long tradition of non-alignment and wants to apply for NATO membership together with Finland. “We are leaving one era and entering a new one,” said Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. The plan is to submit the application for NATO membership together with Finland in the coming days. Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö visits Sweden on Tuesday. The planned NATO accession of the two countries should also be a topic.

Putin said Russia has no problems with Finland and Sweden. “And that’s why the expansion to include these countries does not pose an immediate threat to Russia in this sense.” Nevertheless, there will be a reaction from Russia, depending on the danger of the military infrastructure that NATO is building there.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey will not approve Sweden and Finland’s plans to join NATO. This is reported by the AFP news agency. Delegations from either country should not bother going to Turkey to convince the Turkish government of their bids for membership.

After Finland and Sweden officially decided to apply for NATO membership, Turkey accused both countries of not extraditing “terrorists” living there. In the past five years, neither Sweden nor Finland have responded positively to Turkey’s total of 33 extradition requests, the state news agency Anadolu reported on Monday, citing the Ministry of Justice in Ankara.

A unanimous vote by NATO and the ratification of the alliance expansion by the parliaments of the 30 existing member states are required for Finland and Sweden to join.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for an immediate ban on Russian oil and gas imports. “I would like to remind you that European countries continue to spend millions of euros on Russian oil and gas every day,” said Kuleba on the sidelines of discussions with EU colleagues in Brussels. This money then finances “the Russian war machine, aggression and atrocities”.

In the event of an EU embargo on Russian oil, Hungary in particular is on the brakes. The country only wants to agree if it receives billions in aid or far-reaching exemptions from the EU. Baerbock emphasized that it is important that “all countries can walk the path of exit together”. “In the next few days we will come to a joint result – I am very confident about that,” said the Green politician.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced a further 500 million euros for the supply of weapons and equipment to the Ukrainian armed forces. This increases the EU funds available for military aid to Ukraine to two billion euros.

The EU Commission has drastically revised its growth forecast for the European economy downwards because of the war in Ukraine. The economy of the EU and the euro countries will grow by only 2.7 percent this year instead of the previously expected 4 percent, according to the authority’s spring forecast. The forecast for inflation in the euro countries in 2022 has almost doubled to 6.1 percent.

The military situation

The Russian army has apparently abandoned its main objective in eastern Ukraine. This is the conclusion reached by the war researchers of the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and the governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai. Accordingly, Putin’s troops are no longer trying to encircle the Ukrainian fighters in an area from Donetsk to Izyum. Instead, efforts are focused on capturing the entire Luhansk region, they say. The Russians would have realized that they could not conquer the entire Donetsk region and could not make any decisive progress west of Luhansk either.

You can read exactly what that means here in the course of the war ticker.

Ukrainian troops report a symbolic success in their counter-offensive in the eastern Kharkiv region: they have at least at one point advanced to the border with Russia. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense released a video showing a dozen soldiers next to a border post in the national colors of blue and yellow on Monday night. According to the information, they belong to a volunteer brigade from the city of Kharkiv.

The Russian army shelled a hospital in the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk on Sunday. This was announced by the governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, via Telegram. Nine people were injured in the attack. Work continued in the hospital during the shelling. Haidai continued: “The orcs (editor’s note: derogatory term for the Russian troops) carried out a total of eleven air strikes against Severodonetsk on Sunday.” A chemical plant and a school were also hit.

According to the observers of the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the Russian troops are converting conquered areas into fortresses. Accordingly, Putin’s fighters are digging trenches and erecting concrete barriers in order to gain permanent control over the regions. Such incidents are reported, for example, in the west of the city of Zaporizhia, in the Mykolayiv region and near the city of Melitopol.

Ukrainian militants are still trapped in the Mariupol Azov steelworks. The situation is “terrible,” say several wives. There is only one glass of water per day. Drugs and narcotics are rare. The women asked again for the evacuation of the plant. But Russian President Vladimir Putin is opposed to this.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Anna Malyr said a military operation to liberate those trapped is currently not possible. They are working on proposals to get them released – but “Putin simply does not agree to it.” The wives of those trapped commented: “Our men do not believe in a diplomatic solution. They are preparing for the final battle.”

The political development:

So far, Ukraine has been supported mainly by the West with arms deliveries, money and sanctions against Russia. Now President Volodymyr Zelenskyj wants to expand the sphere of influence. In his nightly speech, Selenskyj said that he also wants to increasingly seek support in Asia and Africa.

Zelenskyj will also contact the World Economic Forum in Davos. One goal is the tightening of sanctions against Russia, stressed Selenskyj. “The occupiers must constantly feel the increasing price of war for them.” The oil embargo against Russia is a priority. “No matter how much Moscow tries to obstruct this decision, Europe’s period of dependence on Russian energy resources is coming to an end. And that will not change either,” Zelenskyj said.

Russian hackers have attacked the city administration of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. The attackers stole internal information from the city administration, which was then published in “hostile” information channels on the Telegram chat service, Deputy Mayor Andriy Moskalenko wrote on Facebook. Russia is also conducting attacks on the “IT front” and one needs to be careful offline as well as online.

Read more about the political developments surrounding the Ukraine war in the news ticker.

What will be important on Monday:

The EU foreign ministers want to discuss the latest developments in the Ukraine war in Brussels. The meeting is overshadowed by the dispute within the EU over an import ban on Russian oil. The plans for this are hanging in the balance because Hungary is unwilling to support them.

In Sweden and Finland, the parliaments meet to debate whether the two countries should join NATO. A decision on the Swedish government’s application for membership is expected on Monday.

Also read: The Ukraine update: What happened today – Kyiv accuses Russia of phosphorus bomb attacks, Finland and Sweden on a NATO course