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Ukraine Update: Mariupol Falls, Sweden and Finland Want to Join NATO, and Turkey Objects

Tanks in Ukraine
Tanks from Ukraine's Army in combat. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Ukraine War Update – On day 83 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military finally captured Mariupol. Thus ends the longest battle of the war so far.

Mariupol and Russian Casualties in Ukraine

After a siege that lasted 82 days, the last Ukrainian defenders surrendered. Wounded troops are being evacuated to Ukrainian and Russian hospitals, while the Ukrainian government indicates that there might be a prisoner swap.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Tuesday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 27,900 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 201 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 167 attack and transport helicopters, 1,235 tanks, 578 artillery pieces, 3,009 armored personnel carriers, 198 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 13 boats and cutters, 2,109 vehicles and fuel tanks, 90 anti-aircraft batteries, 436 unmanned aerial systems, 43 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 97 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.

Russian Indiscriminate Shelling in Ukraine

In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense focused on the widespread damage caused by the Russian invasion on Ukrainian urban centers.

“In the Chernihiv region north of Kyiv, approximately 3,500 buildings are estimated to have been destroyed or damaged during Russia’s abandoned advance towards the Ukrainian capital. 80% of the damage has been caused to residential buildings. The scale of this damage indicates Russia’s preparedness to use artillery against inhabited areas, with minimal regard to discrimination or proportionality,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.

Although at the beginning of its “special military operation” the Kremlin insisted that it was only hitting targets with precision strike munitions to avoid any collateral damage, in reality the Russian military has been targeting Ukrainian urban centers indiscriminately. Whether that is a result of technological shortcomings—for example, a lack of precision-guided munitions—or a general disregard for the lives of civilians—or indeed a combination—the outcome is the same: Ukrainian cities in rubbles and dead civilians lying in their apartments and streets.

“Russia has likely resorted to an increasing reliance on indiscriminate artillery bombardment due to a limited target acquisition capability, and an unwillingness to risk flying combat aircraft routinely beyond its own frontlines. In the coming weeks, Russia is likely to continue to rely heavily on massed artillery strikes as it attempts to regain momentum in its advance in the Donbas,” the British Military Intelligence added.

Ukraine Impact – NATO, Finland, Sweden, Russia…and Turkey 

Finland’s and Sweden’s decision to join NATO has triggered an expected reaction from Russia and an unexpected one from Turkey.

On Tuesday, the Finnish parliament overwhelmingly approved the decision to apply for a NATO membership, with 188 lawmakers voting in favor and 8 against.

Russia is warning that any serious movement of NATO military infrastructure into the two Scandinavian countries would trigger a proportional response.

“I think there’s a few things that we all need to keep in mind. One, NATO is a defensive alliance, it has never, and it does not now pose a threat to any other nation. And that includes Russia,” Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said.

This is the usual Russian rhetoric, and it is highly unlikely that Moscow will take any military action against Finland and Sweden. To be sure, it will commence or intensify hybrid warfare operations, such as cyberattacks and information operations, against Stockholm and Helsinki but will not take any military action.

“Two, it’s not up to Mr. Putin, or any other third party to get a veto on whether a nation joins NATO or not, that is between that nation and the other members of NATO to decide. And again, there’s a multi-step process here. And three, I think we need to remember who is actually the aggressor here, and whose actions probably are motivating those two nations to want to join NATO. And that’s Mr. Putin and Russia themselves,” Kirby added.

However, the prospect of Finland and Sweden joining NATO has stirred controversy within the alliance. Turkey, a NATO member since 1952, has publicly said that it would oppose the membership application of the two Scandinavian countries.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan asserts that the two countries should first lift an arms embargo they have placed on his country after he invaded Syria in 2019, thereby turning a strategically crucial decision into a personal feud.

All NATO members must agree for a new country to join them.

1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.