Live Updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

The Finnish government is planning to issue a second white paper on Sunday proposing that the country joins NATO, Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters in a media briefing in Helsinki on Thursday.

The proposal would then be put into a parliamentary vote with a plenary scheduled for Monday morning.

Haavisto noted that it is “important to go through a proper parliamentary debate”

The Finnish foreign minister said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had “changed very much the security landscape in Europe,” adding that it also changed the public opinion on NATO membership.

“For the first time ever the majority of Finns support a NATO membership,” he said.

Finland’s support for joining NATO is the result of a “very drastic change in our security environment” after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Klaus Korhonen, Finnish Ambassador to NATO told CNN on Thursday.

Here are the latest updates from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:

Ukraine welcomes positive changes in Germany’s position: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba praised Germany’s response to the war with Russia, saying Germany has now moved in ”the right direction” following tensions between Kyiv and Berlin.

”We see an evolving position of Germany on the most important issues — this position is moving into the right direction,” Kuleba told reporters in Berlin Thursday.

This could be the supply of weapons to Ukraine or the sanctions that need to be imposed against Russia, he said. “We see the positive dynamic.”

In recent months, the German government and Chancellor Olaf Scholz have come under pressure from Ukraine and politicians at home for not doing enough to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian invasion. But at the end of April, Germany agreed to deliver Gepard anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine, and last week it said it will supply Ukraine with seven self-propelled howitzers.

Russia “waging war against our children,” says Ukrainian first lady: At least three people have died and 12 were injured after a school and a boarding school were shelled at night by Russian forces in the northern Ukrainian city of Novhorod-Siversky, Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska said, as she accused Russian of “waging war against our children.”

“Tonight, the Russian army fired rockets from a plane at a school and boarding school in the city of Novhorod-Siversky, Chernihiv region. Rescuers are currently working there, but we already know of 3 dead and 12 injured. The bombing was aimed. The Russians, who claim to be attacking only military installations, are waging war against our children. In fact, they are waging war against our future,” Zelenska said in a Telegram post Thursday.

She added that, according to the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, 1,635 educational institutions in the country have been affected by bombing and shelling, with 126 being completely destroyed.

“Whether Russia’s actions in Ukraine are genocide is currently being debated around the world. Instead of answering, look at the map. Every day a new school or kindergarten appears there, which was deliberately destroyed with unprecedented cynicism by the Russians,” she said.

Russia is using energy as “a weapon,” German vice chancellor says: German Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck accused Russia on Thursday of using energy “as a weapon,” following an announcement by the Russian government on Wednesday to impose sanctions on 31 foreign energy companies in retaliation for Western penalties over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

“It has to be said that the situation is coming to a head, in such a way that the use of energy as a weapon is now being realized in several areas,” Habeck told reporters at a news conference in Berlin. This is not the first time Habeck has said Russia is using energy as ”a weapon.”

Germany has been under pressure from Ukraine and other nations in Europe to make progress in weaning itself off Russian energy supplies since the start of the invasion on Feb. 24. On Thursday, Habeck said that Germany was focusing on building up gas reserves to prepare for winter. “The gas storage facilities must be full by winter or else we will be in a situation where we can easily be blackmailed,” Habeck said. 

Families of Azovstal fighters appeal to Turkish president to initiate an extraction procedure: Families of Azov regiment fighters holed up in the Azovstal plant in Mariupol sent an emotional appeal to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urging him to “be a hero” and initiate an extraction procedure for all remaining fighters at the plant. At a news briefing in Kyiv, a father of an 18-year-old fighter urged the Turkish leader to seize “a historical opportunity to go down in history as a peacemaker, as a hero.”

“As a man to man, a father to a father, I implore you to save my son and his comrades,” Evheniy Suharnikov pleaded, referencing Turkey’s experience with military extraction operations in the Middle East. Using examples of extractions in Syria and Dunkirk during World War II, Suharnikov asked for a civilian vessel to be sent for the fighter’s collection from Azovstal. The fighter’s father also suggested they are taken to a neutral country, away from the hostilities. 

“We need a hero, a person with enough political authority to carry out this procedure. From a political and geographical perspective, we think Turkey can be that country and Erdogan can be that person,” he added.

EU proposes streamlined export plan for Ukrainian produce: The European Union is proposing to establish “solidarity lanes” exclusively for exporting agricultural goods from Ukraine to help ease the blockade of produce, which is “threatening global food security,” the commission said in a news release Thursday. The plan aims to integrate Ukrainian and EU infrastructure to mobilize 20 million metric tons of grain that must leave Ukraine within three months, EU Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said in the release. 

“Thousands” of trucks and wagons are stuck on the Ukrainian side of many EU borders, with an average waiting time of 16 days to pass through — rising to 30 days at some borders — the commission said.  

US: “Several thousand Ukrainians” sent to so-called filtration centers and tens of thousands taken to Russia: The United States assesses that Russian forces have sent “at least several thousand Ukrainians” to be processed at Russia’s so-called filtration centers “and evacuated at least tens of thousands more to Russia or Russia-controlled territory,” US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Michael Carpenter said Thursday.The forced displacement — and reported violence that are faced by those at the so-called filtration centers — amount to war crimes, Carpenter said according to the transcript of his remarks to the OSCE Permanent Council.

“Numerous eyewitness accounts indicate that ‘filtering out’ entails beating and torturing individuals to determine whether they owe even the slightest allegiance to the Ukrainian state,” Carpenter said.