Finland took a step Thursday towards fast-track NATO membership, triggering a blunt warning from the Kremlin, as the war in Ukraine throttled supplies of Russian gas to Europe and the number of people who fled the country passed six million.
In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council decided to probe alleged Russian atrocities in Ukraine, in a vote overwhelmingly approved by its members but snubbed by Russia.
And in graphic new evidence of potential war crimes by Moscow s forces, CNN aired footage it said showed Russian troops shooting two unarmed civilians in the back. AFP has not independently verified the footage.
Finland s leaders declared their nation must apply to join NATO “without delay” — a seismic change in policy since Russia invaded its neighbour in February.
“As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance,” President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned Russia would “definitely” see Finnish membership as a threat.
The Russian foreign ministry said Moscow would be “forced to take reciprocal steps, military-technical and other, to address the resulting threats”.
In launching the invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin cited in part what he called the threat from NATO, which expanded eastwards after the Cold War.
Finland has been a declared neutral in East-West crises for decades, and as recently as January its leaders ruled out NATO membership.