Russia has "no problem" if Finland and Sweden join NATO, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday. "We don't have problems with Sweden and Finland like we do with Ukraine," Putin told a news conference in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat. Finland and Sweden will be formally invited to join the alliance after Turkey dropped its opposition on Tuesday. Read our live blog to see how all the day's events unfolded.
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4:20am: US disburses $1.3 bn of promised aid to Ukraine
The US Treasury Department announced Wednesday the transfer of $1.3 billion in economic aid to Ukraine as part of the initial $7.5 billion promised to Kyiv by the Biden administration in May.
"With this delivery of economic assistance, we reaffirm our resolute commitment to the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Putin's war of aggression and work to sustain their economy," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.
The payment, part of the $7.5 billion aid package signed by President Joe Biden in May, is set to be made through the World Bank.
According World Bank estimates, the war, which began with Russia's invasion of its former Soviet neighbor in February, could cause the Ukrainian economy to contract by up to 45 percent in 2022.
The country is currently running a budget deficit that is growing by $5 billion every month, exacerbated by its inability to raise funds or to access financing on external markets.
Allies have rushed to pump Ukraine with aid, with the G7 and the European Union also announcing commitments of $29.6 billion in further money for Kyiv, with $8.5 billion of that coming from the United States, according to the Treasury Department.
Washington already disbursed two payments of $500 million of that through the World Bank in April and May to help cover Ukraine's immediate costs as it dealt with "Russia's unprovoked and unjustified invasion," the Treasury said.
Washington has already supplied Kyiv with more than $6 billion in military equipment since Russia's invasion.
12:30am: If Putin was a woman, there would be no Ukraine war, says UK's Johnson
Russian President Vladimir Putin would not have started the war in Ukraine if he was a woman, according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
"If Putin was a woman, which he obviously isn't, but if he were, I really don't think he would've embarked on a crazy, macho war of invasion and violence in the way that he has," Johnson told German broadcaster ZDF on Tuesday evening.
Putin's invasion of Ukraine is "a perfect example of toxic masculinity", he said, calling for better education for girls around the world and for "more women in positions of power".
Putin, speaking in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat, dismissed Johnson's comments as "incorrect".
"I'd like to point to events in modern history when (former British prime minister) Margaret Thatcher decided to launch an offensive against Argentina for control of the Falkland Islands" in 1982, he said.
"There, a woman decided to start a war," which ended in British victory the same year, the Russian leader said.
11:30pm: Britain unveils Pound 1 bn of new military aid for Ukraine
Britain pledged another Pound 1 billion ($1.2 billion) in military aid to Ukraine Wednesday to help it fend off Russia's invasion, including air-defence systems and drones.
The fresh funds will bring Britain's total military support to Kyiv since the start of the war in late February to Pound 2.3 billion, Downing Street said in a statement.
The package includes "sophisticated air-defence systems, uncrewed aerial vehicles, innovative new electronic warfare equipment and thousands of pieces of vital kit for Ukrainian soldiers," it said.
This will be a "first step" to allow Ukraine to go beyond its "valiant defence" efforts and move towards "mounting offensive operations" to regain territory.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Vladimir Putin's attacks against Ukraine were "increasingly barbaric" as the Russian leader "fails to make the gains he had anticipated and hoped for and the futility of this war becomes clear to all.
"UK weapons, equipment and training are transforming Ukraine's defences against this onslaught," the statement quoted him as saying.
"And we will continue to stand squarely behind the Ukrainian people to ensure Putin fails in Ukraine."
10:28pm: Putin says Russia will respond if NATO sets up infrastructure in Finland, Sweden
President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia would respond in kind if NATO set up infrastructure in Finland and Sweden after they join the US-led military alliance.
Putin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying he could not rule out that tensions would emerge in Moscow's relations with Helsinki and Stockholm over their joining NATO.
Putin's comment came a day after NATO ally Turkey lifted its veto over Finland and Sweden's bid to join the alliance after the three nations agreed to protect each other's security.
10:21pm: Zelensky says ties cut with Syria after it recognised separatist republics
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday announced the end of diplomatic ties between Kyiv and Damascus after Moscow ally Syria recognised the independence of eastern Ukraine's two separatist republics.
"There will no longer be relations between Ukraine and Syria," Zelensky said in a video posted on Telegram, adding that the sanctions pressure against Syria "will be even greater".
9:24pm: Frequency of shelling in Lysychansk is 'enormous', regional governor says
The frequency of shelling on Lysychansk, a city in eastern Ukraine under Russian attack, is "enormous", the regional governor of Lugansk said on Wednesday.
Lysychansk "is constantly being shelled with large calibres. The fighting is continuing at the outskirts of the city. The Russian army is trying to attack constantly," Sergiy Gaiday told Ukrainian television, later posting the video on his Telegram channel.
"Now there is a peak of fighting. The frequency of shelling is enormous," he said, adding that there were still about 15,000 civilians remaining in the city which had a population of nearly 100,000 before the war.
However, their evacuation "might be dangerous at the moment", he said.
7:09pm: Putin still wants most of Ukraine, war outlook grim, US intelligence chief says
Russian President Vladimir Putin still wants to seize most of Ukraine, but his forces are so degraded by combat that they likely can only achieve incremental gains in the near term, the top US intelligence officer said Wednesday.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, outlining the current US intelligence assessment of the more than four-month war, said that the consensus of US spy agencies is that it will grind on "for an extended period of time".
"In short, the picture remains pretty grim and Russia's attitude toward the West is hardening," Haines told a Commerce Department conference.
5:35pm: Relief and concern in Sweden after NATO deal with Turkey
Sweden may have clinched a surprise deal with Turkey paving the way for its NATO membership, but Kurds and leftwing parties expressed concern Wednesday about the concessions made to Ankara.
"We did not cave in to (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan", Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said from the NATO summit in Madrid where the deal was announced. "We will not agree to any extraditions unless there is proof of terrorist activity," she told Swedish daily Aftonbladet. "There's no reason for Kurds to think that their human rights or democratic rights are at risk."
The agreement, which ends Ankara's veto of their membership bids, was signed by Finland, Sweden and Turkey in front of news cameras, and the Nordic countries' relief was visible.
4:31pm: Kaliningrad row: EU nears compromise deal to defuse standoff with Russia
Trade through Lithuania to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad could return to normal within days, two sources familiar with the matter said, as European officials edge towards a compromise deal with the Baltic state to defuse a row with Moscow.
Kaliningrad, which is bordered by European Union states and relies on railways and roads through Lithuania for most goods, has been cut off from some freight transport from mainland Russia since June 17 under sanctions imposed by Brussels.
European officials are in talks about exempting the territory from sanctions, which have hit industrial goods such as steel so far, paving the way for a deal in early July if EU member Lithuania drops its reservations, said the people, who declined to be named because the discussions are private.
3:51pm: Kyiv praises NATO stance on Russia, seeks 'strong and active position' on Ukraine
Ukraine praised NATO on Wednesday for having a "clear-eyed stance" on Russia and for inviting Finland and Sweden to join the military alliance, and called for an "equally strong and active position on Ukraine" to protect Euro-Atlantic security.
"Today in Madrid, NATO proved it can take difficult, but essential decisions," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
"We welcome a clear-eyed stance on Russia, as well as accession for Finland and Sweden. An equally strong and active position on Ukraine will help to protect the Euro-Atlantic security and stability."
2:40pm: EU reassigns €3.5 billion of regional funds to hosting Ukraine refugees
The European Union's executive on Wednesday made a fresh €3.5 billion ($3.7 billion) from regional development funds available to host Ukrainian refugees after some 6.2 million fled to the bloc since Russia invaded its neighbour on February 24.
Russia intensified its attacks on all fronts on Wednesday, a day after a missile strike on a shopping mall killed at least 18 people in central Ukraine.
"EU member states have welcomed millions of Ukrainians fleeing from this war, but they also have to deal with its economic consequences - extra costs and supply chain difficulties," said Valdis Dombrovskis, a deputy head of the executive European Commission.
2:35pm: Zelensky asks NATO for modern artillery and money
President Volodymyr Zelensky told NATO leaders on Wednesday that Ukraine needs modern weapons and more financial aid in its fight against Russia's invasion.
"We need to break the Russian artillery advantage... We need much more modern systems, modern artillery," Zelensky told the NATO summit in Madrid via videolink.
He added that financial support was "no less important than aid with weapons".
"Russia still receives billions every day and spends them on war. We have a multibillion-dollar deficit, we don't have oil and gas to cover it," Zelensky said, adding that Ukraine needs around $5 billion a month for its defence.
The United States and Canada, which are far less reliant on Russia as an energy supplier than Europe, have banned all Russian oil imports.
The European Union, however, has introduced a gradual oil embargo as part of its sanctions on Moscow.
2:18pm: Ukrainians search for 20 missing after Russia strikes mall
Russian forces battled Wednesday to surround the Ukrainian military's last stronghold in a long-contested eastern province as shock reverberated from a Russian airstrike on a shopping mall that killed at least 18 people in the center of the country a day earlier.
Moscow's battle to wrest the entire Donbas region from Ukraine saw Russia forces pushing toward two Luhansk province villages south of the city of Lysychansk while Ukrainian troops fought to prevent their encirclement.
Britain's Defense Ministry said Russian forces were making "incremental advances" in their offensive to capture the city. Lysychansk is the last major area of the province under Ukrainian control following the retreat of Ukraine's fighters from the neighboring city of Sievierodonetsk.
2:08pm: Russia not 'intimidated' by US military buildup in Europe, deputy foreign minister says
Russia said Wednesday it would not be intimidated by US military reinforcements in Europe as tensions spiral over Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine.
"I think that those who propose such solutions are under the illusion that they will be able to intimidate Russia, somehow restrain it -- they will not succeed," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters.
1:55pm: Macron, Erdogan discuss ways to export Ukraine grain
French President Emmanuel Macron and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan discussed the importance of finding ways to let Ukraine export its grain and ensuring security at the port of Odessa at the NATO summit in Spain.
Macron also welcomed plans by Sweden and Finland to join NATO, added a statement from Macron's office.
1:08pm: Russia may buy 'friendly' countries' currencies to weaken rouble
Russia may start buying the currencies of "friendly" countries and use those holdings to try to influence the exchange rate of the dollar and euro, as a means of countering sharp gains in the rouble, its finance minister said on Wednesday.
The rouble has soared to seven-year highs, boosted by capital controls that include curbs on Russians withdrawing foreign currency savings, thereby eating into Russia's export income by denting the value of dollar and euro proceeds from sales abroad of commodities and other goods.
Authorities in Russia stopped buying foreign currency via market interventions in early 2022, under a budget rule designed to shield it from external shocks, to ease pressure on the rouble at a time when it was falling sharply.
12:50pm: Pope Francis says shopping centre bombing the latest 'barbarous' attack
Pope Francis on Wednesday called the bombing of a crowded shopping centre in the city of Kremenchuk the latest in a string of "barbarous attacks" against Ukraine.
Ukraine said at least 18 people were killed and about 60 injured on Monday by a Russian missile strike. Russia's defence ministry said it had hit a legitimate military target in the city, and that the shopping centre was not in use.
12:05pm: Task force has frozen $330 bn in Russian assets since Ukraine invasion
A sanctions task force of leading Ukraine allies has frozen more than $330 billion in financial resources owned by Russia's elite and the central bank since Moscow's troops invaded, the group announced Wednesday.
The Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs Task Force (REPO) said in a joint statement that they had blocked $30 billion in assets of Russian oligarchs and officials and immobilised $300 billion owned by the Russian central bank.
REPO was formed on March 17, three weeks after the invasion of Ukraine, to increase pressure on Moscow economically in hopes of getting Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war. Its members include top finance and justice officials of the United States, Australia, France, Canada, Germany, Japan, Italy, Britain and the European Commission.
11:53am: Biden says US changing its force posture in Europe based on threat
The United States is changing its force posture in Europe based on threats coming from Russia after its invasion of Ukraine and other directions, U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday during a NATO summit in Madrid.
He confirmed the U.S. will raise the number of destroyers in Spain to six from four and said Washington will send two additional F-35 squadrons to Britain and establish the 5th Army headquarters in Poland.
11:34am: NATO delegates expect summit to 'redefine European-Atlantic order'
FRANCE 24's Sarah Morris reports from Madrid.
9:56am: 'You will not win', Spanish PM tells Putin
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, the host of this week's NATO summit, said on Wednesday that the alliance was delivering a strong message to President Vladimir Putin over Russia's invasion of Ukraine: 'You will not win'.
Earlier, Sanchez said that Russia would be identified as NATO's "main threat" in its new strategic concept, as opposed to its previous status as a strategic partner.
9:50am: NATO to supply weapons to Ukraine as long as necessary, says Scholz
NATO allies will continue to supply Ukraine with weapons in its war against Russia for as long as necessary, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in Madrid on Wednesday.
"It is good that the countries that are gathered here but many others, too, make their contributions so Ukraine can defend itself - by providing financial means, humanitarian aid, but also by providing the weapons that Ukraine urgently needs," Scholz told reporters as he arrived for the second day of the NATO summit.
8:55am: Russia poses a direct threat to NATO security, says Stoltenberg
NATO leaders meeting in Madrid Wednesday are set to label Russia a menace to their security as they overhaul the alliance's defences in response to the war on Ukraine, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said.
"We'll state clearly that Russia poses a direct threat to our security," Stoltenberg said ahead of the unveiling of NATO's strategic blueprint.
8:15am: NATO to invite Finland, Sweden to join after Turkey lifts objections
NATO leaders will formally invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance Wednesday after the two Nordic countries reached an agreement with Turkey, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday. FRANCE 24's Joseph Keen reports:
7:40am: At least three killed in Russian missile strike in Mykolaiv
At least three people were killed and five wounded by a Russian missile strike on a residential building in Ukraine's southern city of Mykolaiv on Wednesday, said local authorities who have launched a rescue effort for survivors.
Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said eight missiles had hit the city and urged residents to evacuate. He said the building appeared to have been hit by a Russian X-55 cruise missile.
7:15am: Madrid summit pivotal for alliance's future, says NATO chief
More than 40 leaders will gather for what NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called a "pivotal summit" for the alliance's future.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been invited to participate and will speak twice via videolink, as Kyiv pushes for accelerated weapons deliveries from its allies.
NATO countries, which have already committed billions of dollars in military assistance to Kyiv, will agree on a "comprehensive assistance package to Ukraine, to help them uphold the right for self-defence", said Stoltenberg.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)