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Sweden says it received U.S. security assurances if it hands in NATO application

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(Last Updated On: May 5, 2022)

Sweden has received assurances from the United States that it would receive support during the period a potential application to join NATO is processed by the 30 nations in the alliance, Foreign Minister Ann Linde said in Washington on Wednesday.

Sweden and neighbour Finland stayed out of NATO during the Cold War, but Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its invasion of Ukraine have led the countries to rethink their security policies, with NATO membership looking increasingly likely.

Both countries are concerned they would be vulnerable during an application process, which could take up to a year to be approved by all NATO’s members.

“Naturally, I’m not going to go into any details, but I feel very sure that now we have an American assurance,” Linde told Swedish TV from Washington after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“However, not concrete security guarantees, those you can only get if you are a full member of NATO,” she added.

Linde declined to say what assurances she had received from Blinken.

“They would mean that Russia can be clear that if they direct any kind of negative activities against Sweden, which they have threatened, it would not be something that the U.S. would just allow to happen … without a response,” she said.

A U.S. State Department statement issued after the meeting said Blinken had reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to NATO’s policy of welcoming new members, but it made no mention of security assurances.

Sweden’s defence minister said last month that an application could trigger a number of responses from Russia, including cyber attacks and hybrid measures – such as propaganda campaigns – to undermine Sweden’s security.

Moscow has warned it could deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in the European exclave of Kaliningrad if Sweden and Finland become NATO members.

Linde, who will now travel to Canada to discuss security matters with its government, said the United States was strongly supportive of Swedish and Finnish membership in NATO, which would increase stability in the Baltic and Arctic regions.

Both Sweden and Finland are expected to make a decision about whether to apply to join NATO this month.

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NATO’s Stoltenberg says Russia’s Ukraine offensive not going to plan

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(Last Updated On: May 16, 2022)

Russia’s offensive in Ukraine is failing and its operation in the Donbass region has stalled, NATO’s secretary general said on Sunday, Reuters reported.

“Russia’s war in Ukraine is not going as Moscow had planned. They failed to take Kyiv,” Jens Stoltenberg told reporters by video link. “They are pulling back from Kharkiv and their major offensive in Donbass has stalled.”

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Churchgoers hog-tie gunman after shooting in California kills one

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(Last Updated On: May 16, 2022)

A gunman opened fire in a Southern California church during a lunch banquet on Sunday, killing one person and wounding five, before churchgoers detained the suspect and hog-tied his legs with an electrical cord, authorities said.

Police responded to the incident that unfolded at about 1:30 p.m. local time (2039 GMT) at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods and arrested an unidentified suspect in his 60s, Orange County Undersheriff Jeff Hallock told a news conference.

“That group of churchgoers displayed … exceptional heroism and bravery in intervening to stop the suspect. They undoubtedly prevented additional injuries and fatalities,” he said.

One person died at the scene while four other victims were critically wounded. Another person suffered minor injuries, he said. All of the injured were taken to hospitals.

About 30 to 40 people were in the church when the shooting occurred, Hallock said.

“At this time, we do not know what the suspect’s motive may be or whether he had an intended target, or whether this is even a hate-related incident,” Hallock said, adding that authorities believe the suspect does not live in the area.

Two handguns were found at the scene.

“No one should have to fear going to their place of worship. Our thoughts are with the victims, community, and all those impacted by this tragic event,” Governor Gavin Newsom’s office said on Twitter.

It was at least the second mass shooting of the weekend in the United States, which has been plagued with gun violence in recent years. In Buffalo, New York, on Saturday, a white 18-year-old man opened fire at a supermarket in a mostly Black neighborhood, killing 10 and wounding three in what authorities described as a purely racist attack.

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Britain says Russia has lost a third of its forces in Ukraine

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(Last Updated On: May 15, 2022)

Russia has probably lost around a third of the ground forces it deployed to Ukraine and its offensive in the Donbas region “has lost momentum and fallen significantly behind schedule”, British military intelligence said on Sunday.

“Despite small-scale initial advances, Russia has failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the past month whilst sustaining consistently high levels of attrition,” the British defence ministry said on Twitter.

“Russia has now likely suffered losses of one third of the ground combat force it committed in February.”

It said Russia was unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days, Reuters reported.

Since Russia’s invasion on February 24, Ukraine’s military has forced Russia’s commanders to abandon an advance on the capital Kyiv, before making rapid gains in the northeast and driving them away from the second biggest city of Kharkiv.

A Ukrainian counteroffensive has been under way near the Russian-held town of Izium, though Ukraine’s military reported on Sunday that Russian forces were advancing elsewhere in the Donbas region, the main theatre of war over the past month.

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