Russia on alert as NATO chief ‘absolutely confident’ Sweden and Finland to join in 2023. Source: EXPRESS. Daily Briefing

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Russia on alert as NATO chief ‘absolutely confident’ Sweden and Finland to join in 2023

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has suggested that Sweden and Finland could both join the military bloc in 2023.

By Tim McNulty

12:05, Mon, Dec 26, 2022 | UPDATED: 12:43, Mon, Dec 26, 2022

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The expansion of NATO in the Baltics looks set to take place in the New Year presenting a national-security headache for Vladimir Putin. Sweden and Finland dropped their longstanding policies of military nonalignment this year and decided to apply to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

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General Jens Stoltenberg is reported to have said that Sweden and Finland are expected to officially join NATO in the coming year.

The move requires the unanimous approval of the alliance’s current 30 members.

Turkey has held up the process while pressing the two Nordic countries to crack down on groups it considers to be terrorist organizations and to extradite people suspected of terror-related crimes.

The parliaments of 28 NATO countries have already ratified Sweden and Finland’s membership. Turkey and Hungary are the only members that haven’t yet given their approval.

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NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg

NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg (Image: GETTY)

Russia: Vladimir Putin facing threat of NATO expansion

Russia: Vladimir Putin facing threat of NATO expansion (Image: GETTY)

It comes as Putin said in a state television interview, excerpts of which were released on Sunday afternoon that Russia is “prepared to negotiate some acceptable outcomes with all the participants of this process.”

He said that “it’s not us who refuse talks, it’s them” — something the Kremlin has repeatedly stated in recent months as its 10-month-old invasion kept losing momentum.

Putin also repeated that Moscow has “no other choice” and said he believed the Kremlin was “acting in the right direction.”

He said: “We’re defending our national interests, the interests of our citizens, our people.”

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Putin’s remarks come as attacks on Ukraine continue. A country-wide air raid alert was announced twice on Sunday alone, and three missiles in the afternoon hit the city of Kramatorsk in the partially occupied Donetsk region, local officials reported.

The missiles hit an industrial area of the city, and there weren’t any casualties, according to the Ukrainian governor of Donetsk, Pavlo Kyrylenko.

Kyrylenko said that the city of Avdiivka was also attacked on Sunday with six rounds of shelling, and a woman was wounded there.

Elsewhere in the front-line region, around the city of Bakhmut, where fierce battles have been underway in recent weeks, the Russian forces were struggling to keep up the pace of their offensive, a U.S.-based think tank reported this weekend.

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Russia military power

Russia military power (Image: EXPRESS)

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“Russian forces’ rate of advance in the Bakhmut area has likely slowed in recent days, although it is too early to assess whether the Russian offensive to capture Bakhmut has culminated,” the Institute for the Study of War wrote in its recent update.

The think tank cited Russian military bloggers, who it said have recently acknowledged “that Ukrainian forces in the Bakhmut area have managed to slightly slow down the pace of the Russian advance around Bakhmut and its surrounding settlements.”

Sources on Ukrainian social media “previously claimed that Ukrainian forces completely pushed Russian forces out of the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut” around December 21, the report added.

“Russian forces will likely struggle to maintain the pace of their offensive operations in the Bakhmut area and may seek to initiate a tactical or operational pause,” the institute concluded.

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