NATO will discuss plans to boost forces in Europe by placing about 300 000 troops on high alert to counter Russian aggression as leaders from the 30-member military alliance gather for talks in Madrid.
Finland and Sweden are set to be invited to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation during the group’s summit in the Spanish capital after Turkey dropped its opposition, all but ensuring NATO’s expansion on Russia’s doorstep.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo arrived in Ukraine to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Widodo, who will host this year’s Group of 20 summit, is due to visit Russia Thursday.
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On the ground
Kremlin forces are pressing ahead with their goal of occupying all of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Ukrainian military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said during a video briefing. The Russian military is closing in on Lysychansk, Kyiv’s last major foothold in the Luhansk region. Russian missiles continued to strike Ukrainian cities away from the front lines, keeping up a barrage that has intensified over the last several days amid a trip by US President Joe Biden to Europe for G-7 and NATO summits. There were reports of civilian casualties in Kharkiv, Mykolayiv, Dnipro and other areas.
(All times CET)
NATO Set to Place More Forces on High Alert (11:03 a.m.)
NATO leaders are expected to sign off on the so-called new force model, under which the alliance will pre-position more equipment, boost air defenses and earmark forces to defend specific allies and maintain those forces at a certain level of readiness.
Biden said in Madrid on Wednesday that the US will establish a permanent headquarters in Poland for the Fifth Army Corps, maintain an additional rotational brigade of thousands of troops in Romania and bolster other deployments in the Baltic states.
The Pentagon will also send two more F-35 squadrons to the UK and bolster air-defense systems in Germany and Italy, in addition to 100,000 US troops already in Europe.
Indonesia’s Jokowi Arrives in Ukraine (8:54 a.m.)
Jokowi will visit Irpin, a war-torn suburb of Kyiv, in addition to meeting Zelenskiy, Indonesia’s presidential secretariat said.
He will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday. Both Putin and Zelenskiy have accepted invitations to attend the G-20 summit in November in Bali, although the Kremlin hasn’t confirmed if the Russian leader will go in person or take part online.
NATO to Invite Sweden and Finland to Join in Madrid (8:47 a.m.)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters that the alliance would invite the two Nordic countries to join while leaders are still in the Spanish capital for the group’s summit.
Stoltenberg called the invitation “a historic decision,” with the alliance’s 30 members then due to confirm membership. “I expect that also to go rather quickly because allies are ready to make that ratification process happen as quickly as possible,” he said.
Turkey earlier dropped opposition to the membership bids. Ankara is satisfied with Finnish and Swedish pledges addressing its security concerns, including restrictions on Kurdish groups that Turkey considers terrorists, according to an official who asked not to be identified because the issue is confidential.
Zelenskiy Dismisses Russian Claims on Mall Strike (6:37 a.m.)
Zelenskiy dismissed Russian claims over a missile strike on a mall in Kremenchuk that left at least 20 people dead.
“Obviously there was an order to do this,” the Ukrainian president said in his nightly video statement. “They wanted to kill as many people as possible in a peaceful location.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said it carried out a strike on hangars storing Western arms and ammunition, which triggered the fire at the mall. The ministry didn’t provide evidence to back up its claims.
Zelenskiy Says Sanctions Will Work (12:09 a.m.)
In an interview with NBC News, Zelenskiy said that sanctions against Russia will greatly impact the state but when that takes place is a matter of time.
He also repeated his calls for support from the outside world, saying his country’s forces were outnumbered 10-to-1 and need more weapons on the battlefield to hold out. “The war will end for sure with Ukraine winning,” he said.