Russia accused an American journalist of espionage as NATO moved closer to joining Finland, exacerbating tensions between Moscow and the West as the war in Ukraine entered its 400th day on Friday.
In his daily video speech on Thursday evening, Ukrainian President Vlodomir Zelensky spoke of the terrible path that his country had taken during the 400 days of resistance since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022.
“Ukraine will be victorious on the front… We won’t leave a single trace of Russia on our land and we won’t leave any enemy unpunished,” he said.
The Ukrainian president didn’t elaborate, but his army is planning a counterattack.
On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal denied Russia’s espionage charges against its reporter, Evan Gershkovich, and demanded his immediate release.
The Kremlin said that he was caught red-handed, without providing evidence supported by documents or videos.
The White House condemned Russia’s actions and urged US citizens living or traveling within Russia to leave immediately.
Gershkovich was transferred to Moscow, where a closed court decided to hold him in remand until May 29.
Under Russian law, the penalty for espionage can be up to 20 years in prison.
Western political analysts expected that Moscow would seek to barter Gershkovich in a prisoner exchange deal with Washington, or to use him to achieve diplomatic influence in another way.
On Thursday, the Turkish Parliament approved a bill to allow Finland to join NATO.
The Turkish Parliament was the last to ratify Finland’s membership among the 30 member states of the alliance, after the Hungarian Legislative Council approved a similar bill earlier this week.
Sweden is also seeking membership in the alliance.
NATO countries individually, especially the United States, Britain and European countries, as well as the coalition collectively provided significant military and financial support to the Kiev government.
“Soon Finland and Sweden will become members of NATO, which means that Russian President Vladimir Putin gets exactly the opposite of what he wanted,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Fox News.
He added that Putin wanted the size of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to be smaller, while the alliance increased in size.
On the battlefield, Ukraine said on Thursday that Russian forces continued their offensive on the eastern city of Bakhmut and nearby towns, as well as on the city of Avdiivka and the surrounding area.
The small mining town of Bakhmut is witnessing the deadliest battle between infantry forces in Europe since World War II, as Russian forces seek their first victory since mid-2022.
“Our defenders hold the city and repel many enemy attacks,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a Facebook report Thursday night.
The Ukrainian military said that Russian forces are achieving some success in Bakhmut, as currently the Russian forces controlled half of the town.
In addition, the head of the Organization and Mobilization Department in the Russian Ministry of Defense, Admiral Vladimir Tsimlyansky, announced that the number of those wishing to join military service under contract has increased significantly.
The official in charge of mobilization at the Ministry of Defense added that the number of citizens who decided to volunteer to join the military service recorded a significant increase, and to ensure their registration in a timely manner.
The Russian Ministry of Defense expanded the network of registration points and increased the number of trainers.
Admiral Tsimlyansky also confirmed that work on selecting volunteers willing to contract to serve in the Russian armed forces is continuing in close cooperation with the regional authorities.
In a related context, Tsimlyansky announced that the plans of the General Staff of the Armed Forces don’t include a second wave of mobilization, and that the number of volunteers is sufficient.
He said, “I assure everyone that the plans of the General Staff don’t include a second wave of mobilization, and that the number of those called up for military service, as well as volunteers willing to participate in the special operation, is sufficient.
Last October, the Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, informed the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, of completing the partial mobilization in Russia, which began on the 21st of last September, when he said that 300,000 people had been summoned, and he made it clear at the time, there were no plans for any additional missions as part of the partial mobilization.