Biden requests $33 billion for Ukraine war; Putin threatens ‘lightning fast’ retaliation to nations that intervene

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has warned the West of a “lightning fast” response to any country that intervenes in its war against Ukraine war and creates what he called “strategic threats for Russia.”

“We have all the instruments [to respond] that no one can boast of … we’re going to use them if we have to,” he said, in what has widely been seen as an allusion to Russia’s arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

Russia shocked the European community by halting gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday because they had refused to pay for the gas in Russian rubles, as Moscow demanded.

The move comes as tensions remain high between Western allies and Russia after Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday said the threat of a nuclear war is very significant and the risks should not be underestimated.

U.S. President Joe Biden has asked Congress to approve $33 billion in additional money for the Ukraine war, which includes funding for U.S. military support to the embattled nation and a mix of direct cash and supplies for Ukraine.

Some Russian troops are leaving positions in Mariupol, U.S. Defense official says
This picture shows the partially destroyed Mariupol drama theatre on April 12, 2022. The U.K. defense ministry said Russia is probably unable to effectively discriminate targets when conducting air strikes in Mariupol because of its likely use of unguided free-falling bombs, increasing the risk of civilian casualties,
This picture shows the partially destroyed Mariupol drama theatre on April 12, 2022. The U.K. defense ministry said Russia is probably unable to effectively discriminate targets when conducting air strikes in Mariupol because of its likely use of unguided free-falling bombs, increasing the risk of civilian casualties,
Alexander Nemenov | Afp | Getty Images
The Pentagon has seen some Russian forces leave positions in the coastal Ukrainian city of Mariupol, a senior U.S. Defense official said.

“We don’t have an exact number on how many Russian forces are leaving Mariupol,” the official said, adding that the number is not insignificant. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to share new details from the Pentagon’s latest assessment of the war, said Russian forces are focusing a large number of airstrikes on Mariupol.

Russia has launched more than 1,900 missiles since the beginning of the invasion, according to the official. The person added that almost all of the strikes are coming from Russian airbases and not from inside of Ukraine.

“We are seeing them begin to leave Mariupol,” the official said, adding that some troops have moved north and northwest.

— Amanda Macias

Finland and Sweden could join NATO quickly, Stoltenberg says
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg talks speaks during a joint press with Sweden and Finland’s Foreign ministers after their meeting at the Nato headquarters in Brussels on January 24, 2022.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg talks speaks during a joint press with Sweden and Finland’s Foreign ministers after their meeting at the Nato headquarters in Brussels on January 24, 2022.
John Thys | AFP | Getty Images
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Finland and Sweden would be “welcomed with open arms to NATO” should they apply to the 30-member strong alliance.

“It’s their decision,” Stoltenberg said. “But if they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be warmly welcomed, and I expect that process to go quickly,” he said, without offering a timeline. He said the Nordic nations are NATO’s closest partners and already have “strong and mature democracies.”

“EU members and we have been working with Finland and Sweden for many, many years,” he added.

Stoltenberg’s comments, which came on the heels of a meeting with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, added that the militaries of Finland and Sweden are interoperable with NATO forces.

In recent weeks, Finland and Sweden have said they would consider joining the military alliance amid the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. Russia has long warned against any future enlargement of NATO, reportedly accusing the alliance of being “a tool geared towards confrontation.”

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