Turkey’s parliament has approved a bill to allow Finland to join Nato, clearing the way for Helsinki to join the western defence alliance as war rages in Ukraine.
The Turkish parliament was the last among the 30 members of the alliance to ratify Finland’s membership, after Hungary’s legislature approved a similar bill this week.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said this month that Finland had secured Turkey’s blessing after moves to support its promised crackdown on groups seen by Ankara as terrorists, and to free up defence exports.
Finland and Sweden asked to join the transatlantic military alliance last year in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But the process has been held up by Turkey and Hungary.
The parliaments of all Nato members must ratify newcomers. Sweden’s faces objections from Ankara over claims it is harbouring what it considers members of terrorist groups.
Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin said soon after the Turkish vote: “Finland stands with Sweden now and in the future and supports its application.”
The development came as Ukraine commemorated the first anniversary of the discovery of the Bucha massacre.
The suburb of the capital Kyiv became synonymous with Russian brutality after a military retreat last March revealed ravaged streets littered with civilian bodies.
“For many residents of the Kyiv region, the past year has become the most horrific in their entire lives. And the liberation of the Kyiv region has become a symbol of the fact that Ukraine will be able to win this war,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
Mr Zelenskiy said on Friday Ukraine would never forgive Russian troops responsible for atrocities in Bucha.
“When Bucha was de-occupied, we saw that the devil was not somewhere out there but on the ground. The heinous truth about what was happening in the temporarily occupied territories was revealed to the world,” he said.
International investigators are collecting evidence in Bucha and in other places where Ukraine says Russian troops committed widespread atrocities in their invasion that began on February 24th, 2022. Moscow denies the allegations.
Russia’s forces abandoned their assault on Kyiv a month into the war, withdrawing from Bucha in the north and other areas.
In a separate development on Friday, Russia said that if the United States threatened Moscow over its arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, it would reap a “whirlwind”, the state-owned news agency RIA reported.
US president Joe Biden urged Moscow on Friday to “let him go”, after his administration said on Thursday it was unacceptable for Russia to target US citizens and urged all Americans in Russia to leave at once.
The Wall Street Journal denied that Gershkovich was a spy and, in an opinion column,its editorial board wrote: “Expelling Russia’s ambassador to the US, as well as all Russian journalists working here, would be the minimum to expect.”
However, Mr Biden said expelling Russian diplomats was “not the plan right now”.
Speaking on the 60 Minutes programme of Russia’s flagship Rossiya 1 channel, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the United States had made no attempt to understand what had happened to Gershkovich.
“They immediately turn to threats, reprisals against Russian journalists. If this logic continues in the public space, they will reap a whirlwind,” Ms Zakharova said.
Both Zakharova and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that Gershkovich had been “caught red-handed” but offered no evidence to back up their assertion.
Gershkovich pleaded “not guilty” on Thursday as a court remanded him in pre-trial detention for two months. – Guardian/Reuters