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EU hikes military aid for Ukraine as Sweden edges to NATO membership


Oleksandr Smagliuk, left, helps to bury his relative Mykhailo Romaniuk, who was shot dead while riding a bicycle in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha in March

Europe pledged another half billion dollars in military support for Kyiv on Friday and Sweden edged closer to joining NATO as the war in Ukraine entered its 12th week.

At a meeting of the world’s most powerful democracies, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell promised Ukraine an extra 500 million euros ($520 million), bringing the bloc’s total military aid to two billion euros.

Group of Seven foreign ministers are in the German sea resort of Wangels, where they are discussing the crisis with counterparts from Ukraine and Moldova.

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French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian declared the G7 would provide support “over the long term… until Ukraine’s victory.”

Finland’s leaders on Thursday recommended their country ditch a decades-long posture of neutrality and join NATO as soon as possible.

“Swedish NATO membership would raise the threshold for military conflicts and thus have a deterrent effect in northern Europe,” it said.

The report stopped short of offering a concrete recommendation, although expectations are high Sweden will follow Finland when the government announces its decisions in coming days.

Many analysts see the war as turning into a grinding conflict after expectations of a lightning victory by Russia sputtered out.

Since then, Russia has focused its efforts in the eastern region of Donbas, where it has been supporting ethnic Russian-separatists.

Russian troops are trying to establish “full control” over the eastern town of Rubizhne, it said.

The Russians are now making “massive use” of supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles to target civilian infrastructure, Ukrainian armed forces chief Valery Zaluzhny said on Facebook.

– War crimes –

Vadim Shishimarin, 21, allegedly gunned down an unarmed 62-year-old civilian who had witnessed a carjacking by fleeing Russian troops.

The trial marks a significant moment in Ukraine, where accounts of murder, torture and rape by Russian forces are multiplying.

They said six people who lived in the house were drinking tea in the courtyard when a tank approached.

“Four people died, two were injured. My daughter died from a shrapnel wound in the back of her head,” Karpenko said.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has already begun its own inquiry, sending investigators to the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.

– Gas supplies –

Russian energy giant Gazprom announced Thursday it would stop supplying gas via the Polish part of the Yamal-Europe pipeline following retaliatory sanctions that Moscow imposed on Western companies.

Ole Hvalbye, a specialist with the Scandinavian bank SEB, said the loss through Ukraine amounted to around two percent of European gas consumption, while the Polish pipeline had carried little gas for several months.

Ukraine and Poland are major supply routes for Russian gas to Europe and the two sides have kept flows going despite the conflict.

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