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Russia would not ‘simply put up’ with Finland and Sweden joining Nato, says Moscow.

Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov on Monday said Finland and Sweden should have no illusions that Moscow will simply put up with their joining the Nato military alliance, calling it a mistake that would have far-reaching consequences.

The move from two historically neutral powers would be one of the biggest changes to Europe’s security architecture for decades, reflecting a sweeping shift in perceptions in the Nordic region since Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24th.

“The situation is, of course, changing radically in light of what is happening,” the Interfax news agency quoted Mr Ryabkov as saying. “The fact that the security of Sweden and Finland will not be strengthened as a result of this decision is very clear to us.

“They should have no illusions that we will simply put up with it,” Mr Ryabkov said.

“The general level of military tension will rise, predictability in this sphere will decrease. It is a shame that common sense is being sacrificed to some phantom provision about what should be done in this unfolding situation,” he said.

Nato and the United States said on Sunday they were confident Turkey would not hold up membership of the two Nordic states in the Western military alliance.

Repelled

Meanwhile, Ukraine said on Monday troops defending the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, had repelled Russian forces and advanced as far as the border with Russia.

Reuters could not immediately verify Ukraine’s battlefield account and it was not clear how many troops had reached the Russian border and where.

If confirmed, it would suggest a Ukrainian counter-offensive is having increasing success in pushing back Russian forces in the northeast after Western military agencies said Moscow’s offensive in the Donbas region had stalled.

Ukraine’s defence ministry said in a Facebook post that the 227th Battalion of the 127th Brigade of Ukraine’s armed forces had reached the border with Russia, adding: “Together to victory!”

Kharkiv region governor Oleh Sinegubov wrote on the Telegram messaging app that troops of the 227th Battalion had restored a sign on the state border.

“We thank everyone who, risking their lives, liberates Ukraine from Russian invaders,” Sinegubov said.

Ukraine has scored a series of successes since Russia invaded, forcing Russia’s commanders to abandon an advance on the capital Kyiv before making rapid gains around Kharkiv.

Moscow calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation” to rid the country of fascists, an assertion Kyiv and its Western allies say is a baseless pretext for an unprovoked war. – Reuters

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