Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin (L) and President Sauli Niinistö announce the Finnish application for NATO membership at the Presidential Palace, Helsinki, Finland, May 15, 2022 (Alessandro Rampazzo/AFP/Getty)
Source: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1821 GMT:
The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeated his opposition to Finnish and Swedish membership of NATO.
In a Monday press conference, Erdoğan said delegations from the two countries should not come to Ankara seeking to change his mind. He proclaimed Sweden a “hatchery” for terrorist organizations –a reference to Kurds who allegedly support the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK — with terrorists in its parliament.
Sweden and Finland have pursued discussions with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who has taken a more conciliatory line while maintaining the warning about the PKK.
UPDATE 1814 GMT:
European Union Foreign Ministers have failed to agree on a sixth package of sanctions against Russia, said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell during a press conference.
Hungary, whose Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is close to Vladimir Putin, has objected to a EU cutoff of imports of Russian oil by the end of 2022.
Ministers did approve another €500 million ($521 million) in military aid to Ukraine, bringing the total to €2 billion ($2.084 billion).
UPDATE 1759 GMT:
Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has confirmed Sweden’s application for NATO membership:
There is a broad majority in Sweden’s Parliament for Sweden to join NATO. This is the best thing for the security of Sweden and its people. We will inform NATO we want to become a member of the alliance.
Andersson said Sweden’s Ambassador to NATO will formally present Stockholm’s request in Brussels “within the next few days”, simultaneously with Finland’s.
The leader of the opposition Moderate Party, Ulf Kristersson, praised a “historic” decision: “Not about party politics, but taking joint responsibility for the country’s security interests. We will take responsibility jointly for this process.”
UPDATE 1358 GMT:
Vladimir Putin has hinted that he will accept Finland and Sweden joining NATO, provided the two countries do not host foreign bases.
Speaking to the leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization — Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan — Putin said the US was using NATO enlargement in an “aggressive” way to aggravate global security tensions.
But he said that as he had no problem with Finland or Sweden, he saw no direct threat from NATO enlargement including those countries.
However, he added:
The expansion of military infrastructure into this territory would certainly provoke our response. What that will be — we will see what threats are created for us.
Problems are being created for no reason at all. We shall react accordingly.
On Sunday, Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats endorsed NATO accession but said the country should not host foreign bases or nuclear weapons.
UPDATE 1122 GMT:
McDonald’s is following other international companies and selling its interests in Russia.
In March the fast food giant closed all of its 847 restaurants in the country. However, employing 62,000 people, it retained the outlets.
But it announced today, “The humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and the precipitating unpredictable operating environment, have led McDonald’s to conclude that continued ownership of the business in Russia is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values.”
The company said it is seeking to sell “its entire portfolio of McDonald’s restaurants in Russia to a local buyer”. It said it will continue to pay employees’ salaries until the sale is completed, and to ensure their employment continues with the future owner.
Russia had accounted for 9% of McDonald’s revenue and 3% of its operating profit.
Most Western food retailers have hesitated to leave Russia completely, citing difficulties of re-entering the market and concerns for their local employees.
Earlier on Monday, French automaker Renault announced it is handing over its assets in Russia to the Government, in the first major nationalization since the invasion of Ukraine.
Renault ceded its 68% stake in Russia’s biggest carmaker AvtoVAZ with an option to buy it back within six years — reportedly for one rouble.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said the Renault plant will remain in operation — “we cannot allow thousands of workers to be left without work” — making passenger cars under the Soviet-era Moskvich brand.
UPDATE 1026 GMT:
Another clip of Ukrainian troops, in their counter-offensive in northeast Ukraine, reaching the Russian border (see Original Entry):
“Mr. President, we reached Ukraine’s state border with the enemy state. Mr. President, we made it!”
— olexander scherba🇺🇦 (@olex_scherba) May 15, 2022
UPDATE 0806 GMT:
Russia continues to fire missiles on the port city of Odesa in southern Ukraine.
The regional military administration said the latest strike damaged “tourist infrastructure” and destroyed buildings amid a fire.
The administration also said Russia continues to attack the heavily-damaged bridge across the Dniester estuary south of Odesa.
A shopping mall and two hotels were struck last week when Russia fired three Kinzhal hypersonic missiles.
UPDATE 0746 GMT:
Struggling for a breakthrough in its offensive in eastern Ukraine, Russian forces fired around a dozen shells on Sunday at a hospital in the key city of Severodonetsk, according to the regional military administration.
No details were given of casualties, but officials said 200 of the hospital’s 300 beds are no longer usable.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said two people were killed and one wounded when the Russians shelled a house in Luhansk city.
UPDATE 0735 GMT:
Fifteen Ukrainian servicewomen have died in the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Russian-occupied Mariupol in southern Ukraine, says a commander in the complex, Sviatoslav Palamar.
Nika Melkozerova, the New Voice of Ukraine executive editor who spoke with Palamar, tweets:
When you write "they are Nazis, so let them die protecting their country" at AzovStal, think about what you write. Those are families, people. They are mostly traditionalists, like ordinary republicans The only thing those people did is they dared to stand against Kremlin.
— Nika Melkozerova (@NikaMelkozerova) May 15, 2022
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Finland has applied to join NATO, with it Nordic neighbor Sweden likely to follow on Tuesday.
The two countries have been prompted to replace their long-held positions of neutrality by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. While they have increasingly cooperated in recent years with NATO members — including fellow Nordic countries Norway, Denmark, and Iceland — they had held out against a move to accession.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö confirmed a “historic day” on Sunday, “The President and the government’s foreign policy committee have agreed that after consulting Parliament, Finland will apply for NATO membership.” The application will be tabled in the legislature on Monday in Parliament for ratification.
A new era is opening. A protected Finland is being born as part of a stable, strong and responsible Nordic region. We gain security, and we also share it. It’s good to keep in mind that security isn’t a zero-sum game.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin also spoke of the “historic moment” and the hope that Parliament ratification would be completed in “the coming days”.
Niinistö had told Vladimir Putin on Saturday, “Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine in Feb. 2022 has altered the security environment of Finland….Finland decides to seek NATO membership in the next few days.”
Russia has already tried to retaliate by announcing the cut-off of electricity supplies to Finland. Russian companies provide 10% of the country’s demand, but Finnish officials and the national grid company brushed aside the threat, saying supplies will be covered from Sweden and from domestic sources.
In Sweden, the ruling Social Democrats said they have set aside their long-standing opposition to NATO membership. Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said, “The best thing for the security of Sweden and the Swedish people is to join NATO. We believe Sweden needs the formal security guarantees that come with membership in NATO.”
Noting that in the face of Russia’s action, Sweden would be “vulnerable” as the only country region outside NATO, she said Stockholm hopes to submit a joint application with Helsinki.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov issued the Kremlin’s latest threat on Monday, “They should not have any illusions that we will simply put up with this.”
1st Ukraine Troops Reach Russian Border
The first Ukrainian troops have reached the Russian border, as their counter-offensive pushes back Vladimir Putin’s invasion in northeast Ukraine.
A Ukrainian battalion in the Kharkhiv region made it to the frontier, only weeks after Russian forces had threatened to overrun Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.
Beyond words. Today Ukrainian military 227th battalion of the 127th territorial defense brigade reached the border with Russia in the Kharkiv region. Glory to Ukraine! 💪🏻🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/wFEFS89GhV
— Maria Avdeeva (@maria_avdv) May 15, 2022
Last week Ukrainian officials announced that Russian units are now outside artillery range of the city, which is about 30 miles from Russia. They said the frontline was halfway to the border.
Ukraine’s fightback has forced Russia to redeploy forces that would have been used in its offensive in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian advance is also threatening the rear supply lines for that offensive.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the Russian offensive had stalled, “Russia’s war in Ukraine is not going as Moscow had planned.” He added that Ukraine had not only resisted the invasion, but win the conflict.
Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana echoed, “The brutal invasion [by] Russia is losing momentum. We know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian people and army, and with our help Ukraine can win this war.”
“Russia Has Lost 1/3 of Invasion Force”
UK military intelligence assesses that Russia has lost up to 1/3 of the forces committed to the invasion with the Donbas offensive “increasingly constrained by degraded enabling capabilities, continued low morale, and reduced combat effectiveness”.
The report concluded, “Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days.”
Over 400 Russian soldiers are estimated to have been killed or wounded last week trying to cross the Donets river in Ukraine. “Western military analysts … say the attempted crossing demonstrated a stunning lack of tactical sense.” https://t.co/5kmFyb6qsX
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) May 15, 2022
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry claimed that Russia has lost about 27,400 troops, 1,220 tanks, 2,958 armored personnel vehicles, 555 artillery systems, 200 planes, 164 helicopters, and 13 naval craft.
The US-based Institute for the Study of War reinforced its Saturday analysis that Russia has narrowed the scope of the eastern offensive, adding on Sunday that commanders have “likely abandoned the objective of completing a large-scale encirclement of Ukrainian units from Donetsk City to Izyum in favor of completing the seizure of Luhansk Oblast”.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy maintained caution in his nightly address to the nation:
We are preparing for new attempts by Russia to attack in Donbas, to somehow intensify its movement in the south of Ukraine.
The occupiers still do not want to admit that they are in a dead-end and their so-called ‘special operation’ has already gone bankrupt.