US Senator delays $ 40 billion aid package to Ukraine

US Senator Rand Paul on Thursday blocked a vote on a $ 40 billion aid package to Ukraine, which is slowing down US efforts to quickly provide more aid to Ukraine as it fights a Russian invasion.

“We can not save Ukraine by judging the US economy,” Paul said.

A unanimous vote in the Senate would have accelerated the delivery of aid to Ukraine.

However, Paul’s move has delayed the vote for another week, as the Senate is expected to approve the bill.

Donetsk People's Republic Emergency Situations Ministry staff clear debris next to the damaged Mariupol theater building during heavy fighting in Mariupol, on the territory of the Government of the Donetsk People's Republic of Eastern Ukraine, May 1 Donetsk People's Republic Emergency Situations Ministry staff clear debris next to the damaged Mariupol theater building during heavy fighting in Mariupol, on the territory of the Government of the Donetsk People's Republic of Eastern Ukraine, May 1

Latest developments in Ukraine: 13 May

Ukraine says negotiations are underway to release 38 incapacitated soldiers from Azovstal’s steel plant in Mariupol in exchange for Russian prisoners.

In a post on Facebook, Deputy Iryna Vereschuk described the talks as “very difficult”.

She said comments from “some politicians, journalists and public figures” about the talks had hurt the process and called for people to refrain from “making public comments about what you do not know.” On Thursday, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister expressed their approval to join NATO, a move that would complete a major political shift for the country in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance, “they said in a joint statement. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay. We hope that the national measures still needed to take this decision will be taken quickly in the coming days.

The leaders said they came to their decision after giving time to the Finnish Parliament and the public to consider the issue and to consult with NATO and neighboring . Officials in Sweden are expected to consider their own possible NATO application in the coming days.

NATO Secretary General said on Thursday that if Finland applied for membership, “they would be warmly welcomed to NATO and the accession process would be smooth and rapid.”

“Finland is one of NATO’s closest partners, a mature democracy, a member of the and a major contributor to Euro-Atlantic security,” Stoltenberg said.

FIL - Finnish border guards patrol the border between Finland and Russia, 3 November 2009. FIL - Finnish border guards patrol the border between Finland and Russia, 3 November 2009.

Will Finland’s 1,300 kilometer long border become the border between NATO and Russia?

Russia has warned of NATO expansion, saying the accession of Finland and Sweden would have “serious and political consequences”.

“The expansion of NATO and the Alliance’s rapprochement with our borders does not make the world and our continent more stable and secure,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted that he praised Finland’s decision in a telephone conversation with Niinisto.

The battle for Ukraine took place outside the battlefields on Wednesday, when Kyiv closed a Russian pipeline supplying European homes and industry, while a -based official in southern Ukraine said the Kremlin should annex the city of Kherson after Russian troops took control.

Ukraine’s natural gas pipeline operator said it stopped Russian transport through a hub in eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists due to interference from enemy forces, including the apparent suction of gas.

About a third of Russian gas pipelines to Western Europe pass through Ukraine, although one analyst said the immediate effect may be limited, as much of it could be diverted through another pipeline. Russia’s giant state-owned Gazprom said gas flowing to Europe through Ukraine fell 25 percent from a day earlier.

The European Union, as part of its announced effort to punish Russia for its 11-week invasion of Ukraine, plans to end its significant dependence on Russian energy to heat homes and fuel industries.

However, it has met with some opposition from its 27-member bloc, especially from Hungary, which says its economy would be a big hit if its access to Russian energy were shut down.

Meanwhile, Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of Kherson’s regional administration installed by Moscow, told Russian news agency RIA Novosti, “The city of Kherson is Russia.”

He called for Putin to declare Kherson a “real region” in Russia, much as Moscow did in 2014 when it captured Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and declared Luhansk and Donetsk as independent entities just before invading Ukraine on February 24.

Peskov said it would be “up to the people of the Kherson region” to make such a request, and to ensure that there is an “absolutely clear” legal basis for the measure.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak mocked the idea of ​​its annexation, tweeting: “The invaders can ask to join even Mars or Jupiter. The Ukrainian army will liberate Kherson, no matter what game of words they play.”

Kherson is a port on the Black Sea with a population of about 300,000 and provides access to fresh water for neighboring Crimea. Russian forces captured it early in the war.

Some information for this story came from the , Agence France-Press and Reuters.

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