Russian forces continue to be deployed to eastern Ukraine where the Ukrainian army is preparing for another major battle. Senior Ukrainian officials expect Russia to launch a massive offensive in a bid to take the entire eastern part of the country, as reinforcements are arriving at the border from throughout Russia.
Croatia has expelled 18 Russian diplomats and six members of their administrative and technical staff. Russian Ambassador to Croatia, Andrej Nesterenko, was invited to the Foreign and European Affairs Ministry to receive a note on the decision, which reduces the scope of their diplomatic mission in Zagreb to the level of the Croatian embassy in Moscow. Croatia strongly condemned Russia's invasion into Ukraine, called for an immediate cessation of military activities and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory, and repeated its call for evacuation routes and the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Russian attacks continued on the cities of Kharkiv and Dnipro today, with the Russian Defense Ministry claiming to have destroyed Ukrainian air-defense systems it received from Europe. Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in besieged cities such as Mariupol remains extremely difficult. Citizens are fleeing the fighting through nine humanitarian corridors from cities in eastern Ukraine.
As NATO continues to work on plans to establish a permanent military presence on its eastern borders, on Friday Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on news that Finland and Sweden appear to be closer and closer to joining the alliance: “We have repeatedly said that NATO was made for conflict, and that it is not an organization for ensuring peace and stability. In any event, expanding the alliance will not contribute to security on the European continent.”
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