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RUSSIA

Putin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying he could not rule out that tensions would emerge in Moscow's relations with Helsinki and Stockholm over their joining NATO.
The attack in the central city of Kremenchuk and the reported strike in the Dnipropetrovsk region were far from any frontlines. The mall attack drew a wave of global condemnation, with France's Emmanuel Macron calling it a "war crime."
Ukraine called its retreat from the city a "tactical withdrawal" to fight from higher ground in Lysychansk on the opposite bank of the Siverskyi Donets river.
The Russian advances appeared to bring the Kremlin closer to taking full control of Luhansk province, one of Moscow's stated war objectives, and set the stage for Lysychansk to become the main frontline city on that front.

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Although the approval of the Kyiv government's application by EU leaders meeting in Brussels is just the start of what will be a years-long process, it marks a huge geopolitical shift and will anger Russia as it struggles to impose its will on Ukraine.
The Russian strikes on Kharkiv, throughout Tuesday and continuing on Wednesday morning, were the worst for weeks in the area where normal life had been returning since Ukraine pushed Russian forces back in a major counter-offensive last month.
The latest diplomatic crisis is over the Kaliningrad enclave, a port and surrounding countryside on the Baltic Sea that is home to nearly a million Russians, connected to the rest of Russia by a rail link through EU- and NATO-member Lithuania.
Moscow's separatist proxies claimed to have captured Toshkivka, a town on the mostly Ukrainian-held western bank of the Siverskyi Donets river, south of Sievierodonetsk, which has become the main battlefield city in recent weeks.
In a grievance-filled speech in St Petersburg, Russian President Vladimir Putin railed at the West, and the United States in particular, but sought to play down the EU issue. "We have nothing against it," he said. "It is not a military bloc. It's the right of any country to join economic union."
Ukraine applied to join the EU just four days after Russian troops poured across its border in February. Four days later, so did Moldova and Georgia — smaller ex-Soviet states also contending with separatist regions occupied by Russian troops.

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Air raid sirens blared in Kyiv as the visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, Germany's Olaf Scholz and Italy's Mario Draghi began, with the leaders touring a nearby town wrecked early in the war. After holding talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the leaders signaled that Ukraine should be granted European Union candidate status, a symbolic gesture that would draw Kyiv closer to the economic bloc.
On the battlefield, Ukrainian officials said their troops were still holding out against massive Russian bombardment in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, and described new progress in a counteroffensive in the south.
Moscow has focused most of its firepower on the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk while also trying to consolidate control over southern territory encompassing the strategic city of Kherson, north of the Black Sea. Ukrainian soldiers are fighting to retake ground in wheat fields and empty villages along a deserted motorway between the city of Mykolaiv and Russian-occupied Kherson.

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