Russia signals annexation of seized Ukrainian territory

Rebutting Turkey, Biden lauds NATO bids of Sweden, Finland
G7 to launch Global Alliance for Food Security

Kyiv: Fresh from its triumph over the last armed Ukrainian resistance in the devastated city of Mariupol, Russia appeared to be laying the groundwork Thursday for annexing swaths of southeast Ukraine, described by a high-ranking Kremlin official as having a “worthy place in our Russian family.’’

Marat Khusnullin, Russia’s deputy prime minister for infrastructure, toured the region this week and outlined plans to take full control of vital infrastructure, including Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, as Russia fortified its defensive positions there and exerted its authority over the local population.

After failing to capture the capital Kyiv and northern Ukraine, Russia has refocused its efforts on taking control of the east and south of the country. Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, but Ukrainian forces retook large areas around the capital Kyiv in early April after Russia abandoned its push toward Kyiv.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that the Russian troops were intensifying their attacks in the Donbas. “It is hell there and that’s not an exaggeration,” he said in his nightly video address to the nation.

Meanwhile, the Group of Seven countries is launching a new Global Alliance for Food Security that is aimed in part at addressing the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine. German Development Minister Svenja Schulze said Thursday after meeting her counterparts from the G-7′s major economies that the aim is to better coordinate the efforts of aid donors and to ensure that looming crises don’t get overlooked. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has produced a sharp increase in food and energy prices. Both countries are big exporters of wheat, barley, and sunflower oil.

While President Biden hosted Swedish and Finnish leaders at the White House, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday he was “confident that we will come to a quick decision to welcome both Sweden and Finland to join the NATO family.”

Stoltenberg told reporters in Copenhagen, Denmark that “we are addressing the concerns that Turkey has expressed.” Turkey’s leader opposes having Sweden and Finland join NATO, but the military alliance’s top official says he expects the issue to be resolved and the two Nordic nations to become members soon.

Senate votes final congressional OK for $40B Ukraine aid

The Senate overwhelmingly approved a $40 billion infusion of military and economic aid for Ukraine and its allies on Thursday. The legislation contains around $24 billion for weapons, equipment, and military financing for Ukraine, restoring Pentagon stocks of arms sent to the region and paying for U.S. reinforcements sent there. The rest includes economic aid to keep Zelenskyy’s government functioning, food programs for countries that rely on Ukraine’s diminished crop production, refugee assistance, and funds for Kyiv to investigate Russian war crimes.

Image courtesy of (Image Courtesy: The Times of Israel)

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