NATO deputy secretary general ‘confident’ on consensus over Finland and Sweden
NATO’s deputy secretary general said Sunday that if Finland and Sweden decide to apply to join the military alliance, “will be able to welcome them.”
Speaking to reporters as he arrived at the informal meeting of foreign ministers in Berlin, Mircea Geoana said the two countries were already the closest partners of NATO.
“I am confident that if these two countries will decide, in the next few days I understand, to seek membership in NATO, that [we] will be able to welcome them and to find all conditions for consensus to be met,” he said.
Geoana described Turkey — whose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cast doubt on Sweden and Finland’s potential membership — as an important ally.
“They expressed concerns that are addressed and discussed in between friends and allies,” Geoana said.
Turkey joined NATO in 1952, and has the second-largest military in the 30-member alliance after the United States.
Meanwhile, Finland’s leaders on Thursday called for NATO membership “without delay” and neighboring Sweden is expected to follow suit, leaving it all but certain that the Scandinavian countries would soon abandon their traditional positions of neutrality toward both NATO and Russia in favor of joining the mutual defense pact.
— Katrina Bishop and Natasha Turak
Russia has lost one third of its original invasion force, UK estimates
Ukrainian servicemen with a downed Russian drone in Kyiv in March.
Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images
Russia has probably lost a third of the ground combat force it originally committed to its invasion of Ukraine, and Moscow has little prospect of accelerating its advance in eastern Ukraine, according to an intelligence estimate from the British government.
Russia’s attempted offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region has lost momentum and “failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the past month whilst sustaining consistently high levels of attrition,” the U.K. Ministry of Defence said Sunday.
The Russian Ministry of Defense did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.
The British assessment singled out destroyed Russian drones and river-bridging equipment as worsening the situation for Russian troops. “Russian UAVs are vital for tactical awareness and directing artillery, but have been vulnerable to Ukrainian anti-air capabilities,” the U.K. Ministry of Defence said.
A Russian attempt to cross the Seversky Donets River in Ukraine’s east last week was repulsed by Ukrainian defenders with heavy losses of equipment. Ukrainian officials on Thursday released a video showing burnt out vehicles and a destroyed pontoon bridge.
Low Russian morale and reduced combat effectiveness are exacerbating delays in its planned offensive, the British ministry said.
“Under the current conditions,” the British ministry said, “Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days.”
— Ted Kemp
Ukraine wins Eurovision Song Contest
Ukrainian music act Kalush Orchestra won the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest.
Kalush Orchestra, which fuses hip hop with Ukrainian folk music, made a plea during the contest on behalf of people trapped in a steel mill in Mariupol, Ukraine, by a Russian siege.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy released a video cheering on his countrymen, saying “for us today, any victory is important,” according to an NBC News translation of his remarks.
Performers from around the continent compete in the contest, each from a different country, and the winner is determined by a complicated voting system. This year’s finale was held in Turin, Italy.
More than 180 million people watched the finale last year, according to Sky News.
— Ted Kemp
Russian forces retreating from around Kharkiv
A police officer in a school gymnasium near Kharkiv, Ukraine, after the surrounding village was liberated by Ukrainian troops on May 13.
Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images
Russian troops are withdrawing from around Ukraine’s second-largest city after bombarding it for weeks, the Ukrainian military said Saturday, as Kyiv and Moscow’s forces engaged in a grinding battle for the country’s eastern industrial heartland.
Ukraine’s military said the Russian forces were pulling back from the northeastern city of Kharkiv and focusing on guarding supply routes, while launching mortar, artillery and airstrikes in the eastern province of Donetsk in order to “deplete Ukrainian forces and destroy fortifications.”
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine was “entering a new — long-term — phase of the war.”
— Associated Press
Former MI6 officer and Trump dossier author Christopher Steele reportedly says sources tell him Putin is ‘quite seriously ill’
Christopher Steele, a former MI6 officer and author of the Russian dossier on former President Donald Trump, told Sky News that his sources have said Russian President Vladimir Putin is “quite seriously ill” though the nature of the illness remains unclear.
“Certainly, from what we’re hearing from sources in Russia and elsewhere, is that Putin is, in fact, quite seriously ill,” Steele, who ran the Russia desk at MI6 in London between 2006 and 2009, told Sky News. “It’s not clear exactly what this illness is — whether it’s incurable or terminal, or whatever.”
His comments come after Ukrainian Major General Kyrylo Budanov, in a separate interview with Sky News, said Putin is seriously ill with cancer and that a coup to remove him is under way in Russia.
CNBC was not able to independently verify these remarks.
Read the full Sky News report here.
— Terri Cullen
Ukraine band makes plea for Mariupol at Eurovision
The Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine performs the song “Stefania” at the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest. The international music competition is taking place for the 66th time.
Picture Alliance | Picture Alliance | Getty Images
Ukrainian band, Kalush Orchestra, made an impassioned plea to free people still trapped in a besieged steel mill in a strategic Ukrainian port city on Saturday night after performing in the final of the Eurovision Song Contest, where bookmakers tip them to win.
“I ask all of you, please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal, right now,” the band’s front man, Oleh Psiuk, said, to the live crowd of some 7,500, many of whom gave a standing ovation, and global television audience of millions.
The plea to free the remaining Ukrainian fighters trapped beneath the sprawling Azovstal plant by Russians served as a somber reminder that the hugely popular and at times flamboyant Eurovision song contest was being played out against the backdrop of a war on Europe’s eastern flank.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave signs that he was watching from Kyiv, and rooting for Ukrainian band.
“Indeed, this is not a war, but nevertheless, for us today, any victory is very important,” Zelenskyy said, according to a .presidential statement. “So, let’s cheer for ours. Glory be to Ukraine!”
Kalush Orchestra was among 25 bands performing in the Eurovision Song Contest final front of a live audience in the industrial northern city of Turin, while millions more watched on television or via streaming around the world.
The Ukrainian band was heavily tipped to win by bookmakers, who are giving the group that mixes traditional Ukrainian rhythms, costumes and dance moves with contemporary hip hop a 60% chance of winning.
— Associated Press