BRUSSELS – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that Finland and Sweden have applied to join the world’s largest military alliance, due to security concerns over Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“I warmly welcome the requests of Finland and Sweden to join NATO. You are our closest partners, ”Stoltenberg told reporters on Wednesday after receiving their letters of request from the ambassadors of the two northern countries.

The application must now be weighed by 30 member countries.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed concerns about the accession of Finland and Sweden.

If his objections are overcome and accession talks go as expected, they could become members in a matter of months. The process usually takes 8 to 12 months, but NATO wants to move fast, given the threat from Russia that hangs over the heads of the Nordic countries.

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KEY DIVISIONS OF THE RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN WAR:

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– Ukraine hopes to exchange the fighters of the metallurgical plant for Russian prisoners of war

– Will Turkey hinder NATO enlargement? U.S. officials are seeking clarity

– The State Department insists on Greener; The NBA commissioner weighs

– Aiming at Ukrainian schools, Russia is bombing the future

– Follow all AP materials about Russia’s war with Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

KIV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman says Russian troops are holding more than 3,000 civilians in Mariupol in another former colony near Olenovka in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine.

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Seven buses with an unknown number of Ukrainian servicemen, evacuated from the Mariupol Metallurgical Plant, arrived on Tuesday at the former colony № 120 near Alenauka.

The Commissioner for Human Rights Lyudmila Dzyanisava told Telegram earlier on Tuesday that civilians were being held in the former penal colony № 52, also near Alenauka.

She said most civilians were detained for a month, but those considered “particularly unreliable”, including ex-soldiers and police, were detained for two months.

Dzyanisava said that about 30 volunteers were among the detainees who were delivering humanitarian goods to Mariupol when it was under Russian siege.

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MELITOPAL, Ukraine – Ukrainian guerrillas reportedly killed several high-ranking Russian officers in the southern city of Melitopol, the regional administration told Telegram.

Russian troops have occupied the city since the beginning of the war.

According to the regional administration, the occupiers are trying to hide the situation, but on Tuesday Russian troops were more active in checking personal cars in the city, most likely looking for guerrillas.

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No details of the killings were reported, and the report could not be confirmed immediately.

Throughout the war, Ukrainians claimed to have killed many Russian generals and other officers. Several deaths have been confirmed by the Russians.

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LVIV, Ukraine – President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday began with a combination of Russian attacks with rocket fire on Russian troops in the western Lviv region and Sumy and Chernihiv regions in the northeast and air strikes in the eastern Luhansk region.

Zelensky said that in the border regions of Ukraine there is a “subversive activity” of Russia.

“All this is not just creating tensions for our state, not just a test of our strength,” Zelensky said in his night video. “This is a kind of attempt to compensate the Russian army for a number of failures in the east and south of our country.”

According to Zelensky, the Russians cannot demonstrate success in the areas where they are trying to attack.

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Thus, “they are trying to show success with their missiles and other actions, but also to no avail,” – said Zelensky. “These strikes, like many previous ones, do not fundamentally change anything. Moreover, our air defense and anti-sabotage measures are being strengthened. ”

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KIEV, Ukraine – The fall of Mariupol seems imminent, as Ukraine intends to abandon a large metallurgical plant where its soldiers have kept under relentless bombing for months, making it the largest city to fall into Russian hands.

Much of the metallurgical plant has turned to rubble.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine is working to safely withdraw the remaining troops from the metallurgical plant “Azovstal”.

In his evening video address to the people, Zelensky said that the evacuation mission is controlled by the military and special services of Ukraine, and “it involves the most influential international mediators.”

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However, hundreds of Ukrainian fighters left the Azovstal metallurgical plant and surrendered to Russia.

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