Ukraine counterattack north of Kharkiv continues; Russia warns NATO on risk of ‘catastrophic’ conflict. Follow our live updates – CNBC

Russia warns the West over risk of ‘direct and open’ conflict

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, has warned the West that military assistance for Ukraine risks creating a conflict between Russia and NATO.

Medvedev, who is now deputy chairman of Russia’s security council, said such a conflict could easily escalate.

“The pumping of Ukraine by NATO countries with weapons, the training of its troops to use Western equipment, the dispatch of mercenaries and the conduct of exercises by the countries of the alliance near our borders increase the likelihood of a direct and open conflict between NATO and Russia instead of their ‘war by proxy,'” Medvedev claimed in a Telegram post.

“Such a conflict always has the risk of turning into a full-fledged nuclear war,” Medvedev said. “This will be a catastrophic scenario for everyone.”

Medvedev’s comments come as tensions between Russia and NATO are likely to rise even further after Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced that the country should apply to join NATO “without delay.” Sweden could also be set to announce its intention to apply to join the military alliance.

Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine counterattack north of Kharkiv continues

Ukrainian forces are continuing to counterattack to the north of the city of Kharkiv, recapturing several towns and villages toward the Russian border, according to the latest intelligence update from the British Ministry of Defence.

“Russia’s prioritisation of operations in the Donbas has left elements deployed in the Kharkiv Oblast vulnerable to the mobile, and highly motivated, Ukrainian counter-attacking force,” the ministry said on Twitter.

Despite Russia’s success in encircling Kharkiv in the initial stages of the conflict, it has reportedly withdrawn units from the region to reorganize and replenish its forces after heavy losses, the intelligence update stated.

“Once reconstituted, these forces will likely deploy to the eastern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, forming a blocking force to protect the western flank of Russia’s main force concentration and main supply routes for operations in the vicinity of Izium.”

On Thursday, Ukraine’s armed forces posted on Twitter images purporting to show Russian forces that had been destroyed as they attempted to cross the Siverskyi Donets River.

— Holly Ellyatt

Finland’s leaders say the country should apply to join NATO ‘without delay’

Three NATO warships from the Standing Nato Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1 group), EML Sakala from Estonia, Dutch HNLMS Schiedam and the flagship LVNS Virsaitis from Latvia, arrive to a harbour, to train with Finland’s coastal fleet, in the Finnish southwestern coastal city of Turku, Finland April 25, 2022.

Roni Lehti | Reuters

Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Thursday that the country should apply to join NATO “without delay.”

Finland has had a decades-long policy of military neutrality that would come to an end if it becomes a full member of the military alliance.

At the same time, the move from Helsinki could spark aggression from Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has expressed his opposition against NATO’s enlargement.

Finland shares a 830-mile border with Russia meaning that joining the military alliance would roughly double the land border that Russia has to share with NATO territories (Russia has land borders with 14 countries and five of them are NATO members: Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Norway).

Russian airstrikes hit schools in northeastern Ukraine, governor says

The governor of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine has reported a number of casualties following multiple Russian airstrikes targeting critical infrastructure, including schools overnight in Novhorod-Siversky.

There were “several air strikes on critical infrastructure” including schools, Governor Vyacheslav Chaus said on his Telegram channel, posting images of damaged buildings.

“There are dead and wounded,” he said, without specifying numbers. He said rescuers and medics were working at the scene.

Other administrative buildings and private houses were also damaged, he added.

NBC has not independently verified reports.

Russia is the ‘most direct threat’ to world order, EU leader says

Russia is the “most direct threat” to the international order, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned during a meeting in Japan.

Speaking after talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, von der Leyen said at a press conference “is today the most direct threat to the world order with the barbaric war against Ukraine.”

She also cited what she called Russia’s “worrying pact” with China and “their call for new, and very much arbitrary, international relations.”

European Council President Charles Michel also took part in the summit in the Japanese capital of Tokyo, which saw both Japan and the EU pledge to strengthen ties.

Commenting on the invasion, Japan’s Kishida said: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not just a matter for Europe, but it shakes the core of the international order including Asia. This must not be tolerated.”

Ukraine says more than 500 members of its National Guard have been killed since invasion

Ukrainian national guard soldiers stand watch near frontline positions on May 7, 2022 in Zelenodolsk, Ukraine. More than 500 members of the National Guard of Ukraine have died since Russia’s invasion, Oleksiy Nadtochyi, the head of its operational department, said, NBC News reported.

John Moore | Getty Images News | Getty Images

More than 500 members of the National Guard of Ukraine have died since Russia’s invasion in late February, said Oleksiy Nadtochyi, the head of its operational department, according to NBC News.

This is the first time the military force has announced its death toll since the war began.

Nadtochyi told state media that 501 members were killed and 1,697 have been injured, NBC News reported.

The National Guard covers Ukraine’s northern border with Belarus and is also involved in operations in the country’s eastern and south regions, Nadtochyi added.

Ukraine’s National Guard was formed in March 2014 when Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and serves as a military unit with law enforcement powers.

— Chelsea Ong

Pro-Russian leader installed in Ukraine’s Kherson will ask Putin to annex it

The pro-Russian leader installed in Ukrainian’s southern city of Kherson, the first city to have fallen fully under Russian control, says he will request that Putin annex the territory for Russia.

“There will be a request to make Kherson region a full subject of the Russian Federation,” said Kirill Stremousov, the newly-appointed deputy head of the military-civilian administration in Kherson, according to Russian news agencies. He added that Kherson will be entirely under Russian law by the end of this year.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov responded by saying that it was up to Kherson’s residents to decide whether they would join Russia. But Ukrainian and Western officials warn that Moscow is planning to hold a sham referendum there to justify Russian rule.

Kherson is a strategically important capture for Moscow as it provides a land link between Russian separatist-backed territories in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk and Crimea to the south, which it annexed in 2014.

— Natasha Turak

Boris Johnson signs security declaration with Sweden

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed a security declaration with Sweden, pledging to support the Nordic country if it comes under military attack. The security pact can also mean intelligence sharing or joint military drills, Johnson said.

“The declaration makes clear, it’s upon request of Sweden that the U.K. will of course provide assistance,” the U.K. leader said. “What matters primarily is what Sweden decides to request.”

The news comes as Sweden and Finland, the latter of which borders Russia, are set to make their decisions on whether to apply for membership to the NATO alliance, breaking a long-held position of neutrality when it comes to the alliance and Russia. Moscow has threatened consequences if the countries were to join NATO.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson sign documents as they meet at the Swedish Prime Minister’s summer residence in Harpsund, Sweden May 11, 2022. 

Christine Olsson | Tt News Agency | Via Reuters

Public support for joining the defensive alliance in both Sweden and Finland has soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking in Sweden alongside Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Johnson stressed the rights of sovereign countries to chart their own courses of action.

“The war in Ukraine is forcing us all to make difficult decisions, but sovereign nations must be free to make those decisions without fear or influence or threat of retaliation,” he said. Johnson is scheduled to visit Finland as well to sign a similar security agreement.

— Natasha Turak

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