Live: live updates | Turkey keeps pressure on Sweden and Finland

ISTANBUL – Turkey’s foreign minister says Sweden and Finland must now take “concrete steps” to ease their country’s security concerns to overcome Ankara’s objections to its bid for NATO membership.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday that delegations from the two Nordic countries had returned home with Turkey’s demands after a visit this week and Ankara is awaiting their responses.

The countries’ membership offers require the support of all NATO countries, but Turkey opposes them. She has cited alleged support for Kurdish militants that Turkey considers terrorists and restrictions on arms sales to Turkey.

Cavusoglu said that “an approach of ‘we will convince Turkey in time anyway, we are friends and allies’ would not be correct.” He insisted that “these countries need to take concrete steps.”

He added that “we understand the security concerns of Finland and Sweden, but… everyone must also understand the legitimate security concerns of Turkey.”



— ‘Relentless’: Russia squeezes Ukrainian strongholds in the east

– The West believes that Russian oligarchs buy the way out of sanctions

— US wins latest legal battle to seize Russian yacht in Fiji

— US General: No need to add ground forces in Sweden, Finland


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ROME – Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi discussed the emerging food crisis in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Draghi’s office said Thursday’s call “focused on the situation in Ukraine and efforts to find a shared solution to the current food crisis and its severe repercussions on the world’s poorest countries.”

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but the war and the Russian blockade of its ports have stopped much of that flow, jeopardizing the world’s food supply. Many of those ports are now heavily mined as well.

Russia is also a major grain exporter. Moscow pressed the West on Thursday to lift sanctions against Russia, seeking to deflect blame for the food crisis.


BERLIN — Germany’s development minister has traveled to Ukraine to pledge more civilian support and discuss rebuilding the country.

Svenja Schulze is the second German minister to visit Ukraine since the Russian invasion began. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited on May 10 and reopened the country’s embassy in Kyiv.

Schulze’s ministry said he planned to meet Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and other top officials in Kyiv on Friday.

He said the talks will address immediate help to address the problems Ukraine is facing now and “strategic issues” related to the country’s reconstruction.

Schulze said in a statement that “we must already lay the groundwork for internationally coordinated support for the reconstruction of a free and democratic Ukraine” and Germany will contribute.


MOSCOW — Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine say they have seized control of Lyman, a town in the Donetsk region. There has been no confirmation from Ukrainian officials yet.

The army of the self-proclaimed Donetsk republic said on Telegram that rebel forces, backed by Russian troops, as of Friday “have liberated and taken full control of 220 settlements, including Lyman.”

Lyman, which before the war had a population of more than 20,000, is a large railway hub in the Donetsk region, north of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, cities that remain under Ukrainian control.


MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry announced that it will expel five Croatian diplomats in response to “hostile measures” taken by Zagreb to reduce the size of Russia’s diplomatic mission there.

The ministry said in a statement that it summoned Croatian ambassador Tomislav Car on Friday. He said that he “expressed a strong protest in connection with the baseless attempts by the Croatian authorities to blame Russia for war crimes in Ukraine and Croatia’s provision of military assistance to the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv.”

Last month, Croatia expelled 18 Russian diplomats.


KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s foreign minister is pleading with Western nations to provide Kyiv with heavy weapons to enable it to push back Russian forces.

Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday night tweeted a video of himself answering questions posted on Twitter and said: “We need heavy weapons. The only position where Russia is better than us is in the number of heavy weapons they have. Without artillery, without multiple rocket launch systems, we won’t be able to push them back.”

Kuleba said the situation in the east of the country, where Russian forces are on the offensive, “is as dire as people say.”

He added: “I would even say that it is even worse than what people say. We need weapons. If you really care about Ukraine, weapons, weapons and weapons again”, the minister stressed.


KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian regional governor says four people have been killed in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk in the past 24 hours by Russian airstrikes. One more person was killed by a Russian shell in the village of Komushuvakha.

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, wrote in a Telegram post on Friday that “Sievierodonetsk residents have forgotten when the last time there was silence in the city for at least half an hour.” He said “the Russians are hitting the suburbs relentlessly.”

Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said Thursday that 60% of the city’s residential buildings have been destroyed and 85-90% have been damaged and require major repairs.


WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The United States has won the latest round of a legal battle to seize a Russian-owned superyacht valued at $325 million in Fiji, and the case now appears headed to the Pacific nation’s high court.

The case has highlighted the thorny legal ground the United States finds itself in as it tries to seize the assets of Russian oligarchs around the world. Those intentions are welcomed by many governments and citizens who oppose the war in Ukraine, but some actions raise questions about how far US jurisdiction extends.

The Fiji Court of Appeal on Friday dismissed an appeal by Feizal Haniff, who represents the company that legally owns the Amadea superyacht. Haniff had argued that the US had no jurisdiction under Fiji’s mutual assistance laws to seize the ship, at least until a court determined who actually owned the Amadea.

Haniff said he now plans to take the case to the Fiji Supreme Court and will seek an injunction to stop US agents from sailing the Amadea from Fiji before the appeal is heard.


WASHINGTON — The US general nominated to take over the European Command told senators that Sweden and Finland’s push to join NATO will not require adding more US ground forces to either country. But Army General Christopher Cavoli said Thursday that military exercises and occasional US troop rotations will likely increase.

Cavoli, who currently serves as head of the US Army in Europe and Africa, said the greatest military focus will likely continue to be on Eastern Europe, where nations are most concerned about potential Russian aggression and any spillover effects of the war in Ukraine.

Cavoli told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his nomination hearing that “the center of gravity of NATO forces has shifted to the east.” He said that “depending on the outcome of the conflict, we may have to continue with that for some time.”

Cavoli was asked about the US troop presence in Europe, which has grown from fewer than 80,000 to around 102,000 since the buildup to the Russian invasion. He said the increase had no links to the latest move by Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership.


KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk is the center of fierce fighting in the east. Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk says he is holding out despite the fact that a Russian reconnaissance and sabotage group entered a city hotel.

Stryuk said at least 1,500 people have been killed in Sievierodonetsk and between 12,000 and 13,000 remain in the city, where he said 60% of residential buildings have been destroyed.

Sievierodonetsk is the only part of the Luhansk region of the Donbas under the control of the Ukrainian government, and Russian forces have been trying to isolate it from the rest of the Ukrainian-controlled territory.

Stryuk said the main highway between the neighboring city of Lysychansk and Bakhmut to the southwest remains open, but travel is dangerous. He said only 12 people were able to be evacuated on Thursday.

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