Finland officially became the 31st member of NATO on Tuesday, completing ratification in well under a year – the fastest membership process in the alliance’s recent history. As Western allies strengthen ties, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview published Tuesday that Russia could get “tough” with a hostile EU. Follow our live blog for the latest updates on the war in Ukraine. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
15:30: Britain congratulates Finland, urges Sweden next for NATO entry
Prime Minister of Great Britain Rishi Sunak has hailed Finland’s “historic” accession to NATO and urged the alliance to include Sweden next.
“All NATO members must now take the necessary steps to also allow Sweden, so that we can stand together as an alliance to defend freedom in Europe and around the world,” Sunak said in a statement, moments after Finland officially joined.
15:20: Finland works “relentlessly” for Sweden to join NATO
Finland will work “relentlessly” to secure Swedens membership in NATO, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has said, shortly after his own country formally became the 31st member of the Atlanta alliance.
“Finland’s membership is not complete without Swedish membership. The work for Sweden’s early membership continues relentlessly,” says Niinisto in a statement.
Finland and Sweden jointly applied to join NATO after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but two of NATO’s existing members – Hungary and Turkey – still need to ratify Sweden’s membership application.
Analysts do not expect Turkey to ratify Sweden’s application until after Turkey’s election on May 14 at the earliest. Even then, it is unclear what would trigger a change of heart in President Tayyip Erdogan should he remain in power.
14:55: Finland formally joins the NATO military alliance
Finland has formally joined NATO military alliance in a historic political shift in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which drew a threat from Moscow of “retaliation”.
Finland’s accession roughly doubles the length of the border NATO shares with Russia and strengthens its eastern flank as the war in Ukraine continues with no resolution in sight.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto concluded the accession process by handing over an official document to the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who welcomed Finland to his ranks, noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin had cited opposing NATO expansion as justification for his invasion.
“He gets exactly the opposite… Finland today, and soon Sweden will also become a full member of the alliance,” Stoltenberg said in Brussels.
14:37: Russian wanted by US says he escaped house arrest in Italy, back in Russia
The son of a senior Russian official who was arrested in Italy at Washington’s request reappeared in Russia on Tuesday after escaping house arrest.
“I am in Russia! During these few particularly dramatic days, I had strong and reliable people by my side. I want to thank them,” Artyom Uss, son of the governor of the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk, told RIA Novosti. state news agency.
Uss disappeared in late March, the day after an Italian court approved his extradition to the United States.
Italian authorities arrested Uss on October 17 following a request from Washington, which accused him of illegally selling American technology to Russian arms companies.
Uss was one of five Russians arrested at Washington’s request for “illegal plans to export powerful” US military technology to Russia.
14:10: Russia accuses St. Petersburg bomb suspect of terrorism
Russian investigators on Tuesday formally charged Darya Trepova, a 26-year-old woman, with terrorism offenses after the killing of pro-war military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky in a bomb blast at a cafe in St Petersburg on Sunday.
Tatarsky, a cheerleader for Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, whose real name was Maxim Fomin, was killed on Sunday when an explosion tore through a cafe where he was to speak.
The Investigative Committee, which investigates major crimes, said it had accused Trepova of committing “a terrorist act by an organized group causing intentional death”.
It said she had acted on instructions from people working on behalf of Ukraine.
11:35: The Russian defense minister says that Finland’s accession to NATO increases the risk of conflict
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that Finland’s accession to the NATO military alliance and NATO’s investment in increasing its own combat readiness increases the risk of conflict.
Shoigu also said that some Belarusian military jets could now carry nuclear warheads and that Iskander missile systems had been transferred to Belarus, which could be used to carry conventional or nuclear missiles.
11:32: Finland will add strategic importance, increased military power to NATO
10:56: Lithuania bans Russians from buying real estate
Lithuania’s parliament decided on Tuesday to ban Russian citizens from buying real estate in the Baltic country, citing risks to national security.
The ban, which will apply until 2024, would not apply to Russians who are granted a residence permit in the country
10:10am: Russian Children’s Commission dismisses ICC war crimes allegations
Russia’s Commission on Children’s Rights, whose head was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) with Vladimir Putin on war crimes in Ukraine, said on Tuesday that the ICC’s charges were unclear.
It said in a statement that it had also received no documents on the case from the ICC, whose jurisdiction Russia does not recognize.
10:08: China has “moral duty” to contribute to peace in Ukraine, says EU’s Borrell
China has a moral duty to contribute to the establishment of peace in Ukraine, and must not support the aggressor in the war started by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU’s top diplomat said on Tuesday.
“China has a moral duty to contribute to a just peace, it cannot side with the aggressor,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said after a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Brussels.
07:32: Finland joins NATO as the 31st member
Finland will become the 31st member of NATO on Tuesday, in a historic strategic shift provoked by Moscow’s war on Ukraine, doubling the US-led alliance’s border with Russia.
At NATO headquarters in Brussels, Finland’s foreign minister will hand over the formal accession documents to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, holder of NATO’s founding treaty.
Then the country’s blue-and-white flag will be raised next to its new allies, between Estonia’s and France’s, in front of the shiny headquarters in Brussels.
“This is truly a historic day. It is a great day for the alliance,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said.
06:45: Russians, Belarusians return to taekwondo World Cup
Russian and Belarusian taekwondo athletes will compete at next month’s world championships after the sport’s global governing body said it would allow them back as neutrals following the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) guidance.
The IOC last week issued recommendations for athletes from the two countries to return to international competition since their ban last year in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”.
Table tennis, fencing and judo are the other Olympic sports that have reinstated Russians and Belarusians as neutrals.
03:53: Russia launches 17 drones at Ukraine, 14 destroyed
Russia sent 17 Iranian-made Shahed drones to attack Ukraine overnight, Ukraine’s air force command said early Tuesday, with its air defense system destroying 14 of them.
“In total, up to 17 launches of UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) attacks have been recorded, probably from the eastern coastal area of the Sea of Azov,” the command said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.
12:00: Lavrov says Russia may get “tough” with hostile Europe
The European Union has become hostile and has “lost” Russia, and Moscow will deal with Europe in a tough way if necessary, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview published on Tuesday.
“The European Union has “lost Russia. But it is its own fault,” Lavrov told the website Argumenty in Fatky. “It is the EU member states and EU leaders who openly declare that it is necessary to inflict, as they call it, a strategic defeat on Russia.”
Lavrov said Russia had decided how to approach Europe as it supplies the “criminal regime” in Kiev with weapons and instructors.
Important events from Monday 3 April:
Russia’s Vladimir Putin has posthumously decorated high-profile military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky with Russia’s Bravery Order. Tatarsky, whose real name was Maxim Fomin, was killed in an explosion at a cafe in St Petersburg on Sunday. Russian officials have detained the 26-year-old woman Darya Trepova, suspected of carrying out the bomb attack.
Evan Gershkovich, the American journalist who was was arrested in Russia last week on espionage claims, is appealing his detention, a Moscow court said. Gershkovich, 31, is believed to be the first foreign journalist to be arrested on espionage charges since the collapse of the Soviet Union. His arrest has sparked outrage from the West and is seen as a serious escalation in Moscow’s crackdown on the media.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)