Russian troops said to be ‘losing momentum’

- Contributi­ng: Katie Wadington, Jorge L. Ortiz and Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

Russia’s military advance in Ukraine is “losing momentum,” a senior NATO official noted Sunday, adding that with the alliance’s help, Kyiv could come out of the war victorious.

“The brutal invasion (by) Russia is losing momentum,” NATO Deputy-Secretary General Mircea Geoana told reporters in Berlin. “We know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian people and army, and with our help, Ukraine can win this war.”

An intelligen­ce update from Britain’s Ministry of Defence on Sunday echoed Geoana’s words and also said the invading army has probably lost one-third of the ground combat forces it committed at the beginning of the war.

Top NATO diplomats, including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, met Sunday in Berlin to discuss added assistance to Ukraine. Also on the agenda was expansion of the alliance to include Finland and possibly Sweden.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba met with Blinken on Sunday. He noted on Twitter that more American aid and weapons are on the way.

Blinken and Kuleba “also discussed the impact of Russia’s brutal war, including on global food security, and committed to seeking a solution to export Ukraine’s grain to internatio­nal markets,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Ukrainian official opines: Finland, Sweden, NATO

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishy­na said on ABC News’ “This Week” that the likely acceptance of Finland and Sweden into NATO would show the alliance has learned from how it handled Ukraine’s 2008 membership applicatio­n.

One of the mistakes to learn from, Stefanishy­na said, was “making promises without delivering on decisions in terms of membership, which has basically led to three wars, two of which are now happening on Ukrainian territory.”

Finland formally announced Sunday it would seek entry into NATO, citing the Russian invasion as a major factor, and Sweden’s governing party endorsed a bid for membership, which could lead to an applicatio­n in days.

Both nations are hoping to avoid the brutal assault Ukraine is now trying to repel. Stefanishy­na noted Russian troops are now pulling away from major areas in western Ukraine, but her country is not “overly optimistic.”

Niinsto: Putin calls joining NATO ‘a mistake’

Finnish President Sauli Niinsto said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “quite calm and cool” when Niinsto told him that Finland would be applying for NATO membership.

Niinsto said Sunday on CNN that Putin did not repeat earlier threats about what would happen if the neutral Nordic country that borders Russia tried to join the alliance.

Niinsto said he doesn’t think Russia will attack Finland for trying to join NATO, though Putin called the move “a mistake.”

Niinsto noted the security situation has changed to the point Finland has no choice but to align itself with other Western countries in NATO.

McConnell: Finland, Sweden good for NATO

A day after he and other Republican senators visited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday that Finland and Sweden would be “important additions” to NATO.

“I think the United States ought to be first in line to ratify the treaty for both these countries to join,” McConnell, a longtime NATO supporter, told reporters from Stockholm. He noted Finland and Sweden, unlike some members of the Western alliance, would likely be in a position to pay their NATO obligation­s and would offer significan­t military capabiliti­es.

Will Putin use a nuclear weapon?

From nearly the start of the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has teased the use of a nuclear weapon.

But most political scientists, nuclear arms experts, Western officials and seasoned Kremlin watchers say that it’s highly unlikely he would detonate a nuclear weapon to break an impasse over Russia’s stalled offensive in Ukraine, now in its third month.

“If the conflict in Ukraine essentiall­y remains an overt one between Russian and Ukrainian forces, with the West playing more of a proxy role, if we stay where we are today in terms of Western involvemen­t in the conflict, I see no likelihood at all,” said Dmitri Trenin, until recently director of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank.

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