For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.
The latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT:
2:17 a.m.: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the decision of Finland and Sweden to apply for membership in the alliance is “a good day at a critical moment for our security.” Speaking alongside the ambassadors of both nations at NATO headquarters in Brussels. the secretary-general said:
“You have both made your own choice after thorough democratic processes, and I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO,” Stoltenberg said to them.
“All allies agree on the importance of NATO enlargement,” said Stoltenberg. “We all agree that we must stand together. And we all agree that this is an historic moment which we must seize.”
2:00 a.m.: In its latest battleground intelligence report Wednesday, the British defense ministry said “staunch Ukrainian resistance delayed Russia’s ability to gain full control over” Mariupol despite encircling the city for over ten weeks. “This frustrated its [Russia’s] early attempts to capture a key city and inflicted costly personnel losses amongst Russian forces,” the ministry said.
1:20 a.m.: A Ukrainian court held a preliminary hearing on Friday in the first war crimes trial arising from Russia’s February 24 invasion, after charging a captured Russian soldier with the murder of a 62-year-old civilian.
The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said the defendant was a 21-year-old tank commander in the Kantemirovskaya tank division from the Moscow region. The prosecutor general had published a photograph of him ahead of the hearing. The defendant identified himself as Vadim Shishimarin, and confirmed that he was a Russian serviceman.
Prosecutors said Shishimarin and four other soldiers stole a car after their convoy came under attack. As they were travelling near the village of Shupakhivka in the Sumy region, they encountered the man on a bicycle.
“One of the soldiers ordered the accused to kill the civilian so that he would not denounce them,” the prosecutor’s office said.
In a video released earlier this month by authorities announcing his arrest, Shishimarin said he had come to fight in Ukraine to “support his mother financially.”
The court will reconvene on May 18, the judge said.
1:15 a.m.: Lawmakers in Finland voted overwhelmingly Wednesday in favor of the country joining NATO by a vote of 188-8, marking a dramatic reversal of Finland’s military non-alignment policy dating back more than 75 years. Agence France-Presse has the video:
12:30 a.m.: The fall of the Ukrainian port of Mariupol to Russia appeared imminent Tuesday as Ukraine moved to abandon the city’s sprawling steel plant, and hundreds of Kyiv fighters who had been holed up there turned themselves over to Russian forces in a deal reached by the warring parties.
The capture of Mariupol, a prewar city of 430,000 people along the north coast of the Sea of Azov, would be Moscow’s biggest success in its nearly three-month offensive against Ukraine. But Russia is struggling to capture more territory in eastern Ukraine and has failed to topple the government of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy or take the capital, Kyiv. VOA’s National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin reports.
Under constant Russian shelling, which Ukraine estimates has killed 20,000 civilians in Mariupol, much of the city has been reduced to rubble. What’s left of it is situated between the Russian mainland and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.
More than 260 Ukrainian fighters — some of them seriously wounded and lying on stretchers — left the ruins of the Azovstal steel plant on Monday and turned themselves over to Russian forces. Ukrainian authorities said they were working to remove its remaining soldiers from the steel mill, but it was not clear how many remained.
Russia called the operation a mass surrender. The Ukrainians, in contrast, said its garrison had completed its mission.
12:01 a.m.: In an interview with VOA’s Ukranian Service Tuesday, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko spoke of the courage of Ukrainian forces who defended the once-thriving Southeastern seaport besieged by Russian artillery for 82 days.
“There is still a Ukrainian flag over Mariupol. And they were doing it against the powers that were [a] dozen times stronger. They were working professionally, almost without food or water. Without [much] weapons,” Boychenko said.
He praised Denys Prokopenko, commander of Azov special regiment, who was in charge of the defense and others who supported Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion.
“They were not only holding Mariupol, but they’ve held back an immense power of 20-30 professional Russian military, said Boychenko. “It has allowed the other [Ukrainian] military groups, other cities to better prepare for this war.”
Some information in this report came from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.