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Biden praises Sweden, Finland NATO bid; Senate approves $40 billion in Ukraine aid

President Biden on May 19 gave Finland and Sweden the “complete backing” of the United States in their application to join NATO. (Video: The Washington Post)
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President Biden praised Finland and Sweden for seeking admission to NATO, saying the addition of the two Nordic nations will strengthen the Western alliance and provide a strong counterweight to autocracy and aggression.

Standing alongside Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in the Rose Garden on Thursday, Biden said their countries “meet every NATO requirement and then some.” In his remarks, Niinisto acknowledged Turkey’s continued hesitation about NATO’s looming expansion and said he is “open to discussing all the concerns Turkey may have.”

The Senate, meanwhile, approved $40 billion in new military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and Biden is expected to sign the measure soon. Later Thursday, the United States announced that it is sending an additional $100 million in arms and equipment, bringing the total in military aid to $3.9 billion since the war’s start.

Here’s what else to know

  • The first Russian soldier to be tried for war crimes committed during Moscow’s invasion asked for forgiveness in an emotional court session Thursday, one day after pleading guilty to killing a civilian.
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross is gathering information on Ukrainian prisoners of war who surrendered at the Mariupol steel plant this week. Their fate remains uncertain.
  • The Russian military has fired or replaced some field commanders in Ukraine in recent weeks, including one who was suspended after his unit failed to capture the northeastern city of Kharkiv, according to the British Defense Ministry.
  • Heavy Russian shelling on Thursday hit Severodonetsk, the easternmost city still under Ukrainian control, leaving at least 12 people dead and another 40 wounded, local officials said. The attack could be a precursor to a larger drawn-out battle.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel.
2:38 a.m.
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National and breaking news reporter
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked his country’s parliament to extend martial law and the period of general mobilization for another 90 days, he said Wednesday. Zelensky first signed the decrees when Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, and he has extended martial law twice before.The emergency declarations have allowed Ukraine’s government to impose curfews, restrict fighting-age men from leaving the country and curb travel. Zelensky has also cited martial law in consolidating the country’s national TV channels into one platform to ensure a “unified information policy.”“Our army and all those who defend the state must have all the legal tools to act steadily,” Zelensky said in an address Wednesday evening.