War in Ukraine live updates: Finland abandons neutrality and will move to immediately join NATO

Published May 12, 2022 at 8:11 AM EDT
Finnish soldiers participate in the Arrow 22 exercise May 4 at the Niinisalo garrison in Kankaanpää, western Finland.
Heikki Saukkomaa
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Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images
Finnish soldiers participate in the Arrow 22 exercise May 4 at the Niinisalo garrison in Kankaanpää, western Finland.

Finland's prime minister and president said Thursday that the country must apply to the military alliance without delay. The announcement was widely expected and is broadly supported among the Finnish public, with nearly three-fourths in favor in a recent poll. Finland’s neighbor Sweden is also considering joining NATO.

Here's what we're following:

The Russian-installed government in the Ukrainian port city of Kherson reportedly will ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to annex the area, according to Russian state media. It's the latest evidence that Russia wants to claim more territory in Ukraine.

An estimated 4.8 million jobs have been lost in Ukraine since the start of the war, according to a brief published Wednesday. The International Labor Organization says the refugee crisis is also creating labor disruptions in neighboring countries.

The European Union would like to ban imports of Russian oil in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine, but there's one major obstacle to that effort: Hungary and its prime minister, Viktor Orban.

Energy

One man stands between Europe and a ban on Russian oil: Hungary's Viktor Orban

Posted May 12, 2022 at 11:03 AM EDT
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban gives an international press conference April 6 in the Karmelita monastery housing the prime minister's office in Budapest.
Attila Kisbenedek
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AFP via Getty Images
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban gives an international press conference April 6 in the Karmelita monastery housing the prime minister's office in Budapest.

The European Union would like to ban imports of Russian oil in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine, but there's one major obstacle to that effort: Hungary and its prime minister, Viktor Orban.

The move would have to be adopted unanimously to take effect, and so far, Orban has refused to get on board. Negotiations are ongoing.

There are economic reasons for Hungary's refusal, said András Simonyi, a former Hungarian ambassador to the United States who is now with the Atlantic Council.

"The Hungarian oil industry, the Hungarian so-called national oil company, MOL, is dependent on Russia imports for its production," he tells Morning Edition.

But there are also clearly political aspects to the situation, Simonyi adds, starting with the affinity for Putin and Russia's oligarchic regime held by the populist Orban. And Simonyi says there are other factors that might make Orban's government less cooperative with the rest of Europe.

"He has had his own problems unrelated to the Ukraine crisis with the European Commission, related to the rule of law and the state of democracy in Hungary," Simonyi says.

Like Putin, Orban has leveraged his political strength — his party holds a two-thirds majority in the Hungarian legislature — to suppress his country's press and the arts as well as crack down onitsLGBTQ population.

Listen to the full interview.

Business

German industrial giant Siemens is leaving Russia after nearly 170 years

Posted May 12, 2022 at 10:32 AM EDT
A sign reading "Siemens" sits in front of a silver sculpture and multi-story office building.
Christof Stache
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AFP via Getty Images
Siemens headquarters in Munich, Germany, pictured in May 2019. The German industrial giant is ending operations in Russia after more than a century.

At the start of the war, Siemens put all new business and international deliveries in Russia and Belarus on hold. Now the German manufacturing giant says it will exit the Russian market entirely.

The company announced today that it "has started proceedings to wind down its industrial operations and all industrial business activities" in line with regulatory requirements and international sanctions.

It called the decision a direct consequence of Russia's war in Ukraine, saying that international sanctions "as well as current and potential countermeasures" are impacting its business — particularly rail service and maintenance — in Russia.

The Munich-based, multinational conglomerate is one of Europe's largest industrial manufacturing companies, with divisions spanning energy, healthcare, infrastructure and other sectors

It has about 3,000 employees in Russia, which contributes about 1% of the company's annual revenue, according to Reuters. Most of its business there now involves service work on high-speed trains.

Roland Busch, president and CEO of Siemens AG, said in a statement that the pullout was not an easy decision to make, especially because the company has been active in the Russian market for nearly 170 years. Siemens first arrived in Russia in 1851 to deliver devices for the telegraph line connecting Moscow and St. Petersburg.

"We are evaluating the impact on our people and we will continue to support them to the best of our abilities," Busch added. "At the same time, we provide humanitarian assistance to our colleagues and the people of Ukraine and stand with the international community in calling for peace.”

Siemens also released its second-quarter financial results today, revealing that it faced 600 million euros in charges and impairments as sanctions on Russia hampered its mobility business, as CNBC explains. Its net income halved to 1.21 billion euros (or $1.27 billion) in the first three months of the year, falling short of analysts' forecasts.

Busch predicted further financial fallout related to the winding down of Siemens' legal entities, revaluation of financial assets and restructuring costs.

"From today's perspective, we foresee further potential risks for net income in the low- to mid-triple-digit million range, although we can't define an exact time frame," he said, according to Reuters.

Siemens is among the many foreign and international firms to distance themselves from Russia following its invasion of Ukraine in late February. Nearly 1,000 companies have curtailed operations in Russia to some degree, according to researchers from the Yale School of Management.

Politics

Blinken will travel to Germany and France this weekend

Posted May 12, 2022 at 9:42 AM EDT
Secretary of State Antony Blinken smiles while sitting in front of a microphone.
Chip Somodevilla
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Getty Images
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies on Capitol Hill on April 28, 2022 in Washington, DC.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Berlin and Paris over the weekend, where he will meet with European leaders to discuss the response to Russia's war in Ukraine and trade between the U.S. and European Union.

The State Department says Blinken will attend an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin on Saturday. They plan to discuss their unified response to the war as well as an upcoming summit in Madrid.

"Allies will also adopt a new NATO Strategic Concept to guide the Alliance’s work over the next decade," the department adds.

The following day, Blinken will travel to Paris for the second ministerial meeting of the U.S.-E.U. Trade and Technological Council (TTC), which was established last year to promote coordination on key economic and technology issues based on shared democratic values.

Blinken will be joined by his fellow U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Secretary of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. They will speak with EU leaders about "how democratic approaches to trade, technology and innovation can serve as a force for greater prosperity."

News of Blinken's trip comes just over a week after the State Department announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.

It said at the time that while he had since tested negative twice, he would work virtually from home in consultation with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and department guidelines, and looked forward to "resuming his full duties and travels as soon as possible."

Economy

Among the many losses of the war in Ukraine: nearly 5 million jobs

Posted May 12, 2022 at 9:14 AM EDT
People carrying bags walk through a parking lot where a white bus is parked.
Leon Neal
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Getty Images
Refugees from war-torn regions of Ukraine board a coach to Warsaw at a coach station on Saturday in Lviv, Ukraine.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has wrought significant destruction and disruption, with millions of people displaced as refugees, thousands of civilians killed and worldwide implications for the supply of necessities like food and energy.

Now, new data from a United Nations agency measures the extent of the economic disruption within and beyond Ukraine's borders.

An estimated 4.8 million jobs have been lost in Ukraine since the start of the war, according to a brief published Wednesday by the International Labour Organization (ILO). And that number could go up or down depending on how the conflict goes.

"The study estimates that if hostilities were to escalate employment losses would increase to seven million," the ILO says. "However, if the fighting was to cease immediately a rapid recovery would be possible, with the return of 3.4 million jobs."

Some 2.75 million of the more than 5 million refugees who have fled to neighboring countries since February are of working age, the ILO explains. Of them, 43.5% either left or lost the jobs they used to hold.

The ILO says the refugee crisis in Ukraine also is creating labor disruptions in the neighboring countries, of Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

"If the hostilities continue, Ukrainian refugees would be forced to remain in exile longer, putting further pressure on the labor market and social protection systems in these neighboring states and increasing unemployment in many of them," it explains.

Elsewhere, the global sanctions and other economic disruptions affecting Russia are having "significant ripple effects" on Central Asia, the ILO says. That's especially true for countries where economies depend on remittances from expatriates working in Russia, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The agency says that Central Asia as a whole will suffer economic losses if those migrant workers return to their countries of origin.

The ILO — which in March passed a resolution calling for an end to Russian aggression — stresses that the war is making an impact on markets and labor even outside of the region, by creating a shock to the global economy and further complicating its pandemic recovery.

So what steps can be taken to mitigate the impact of the war on Ukraine's labor market? The ILO recommends four measures, including providing targeted employment support in the "comparatively safe" parts of Ukraine and supporting the country's social protection system to ensure it keeps paying benefits.

International Dispatch
Diplomacy

American diplomats are back in Kyiv as the embassy gets closer to reopening

Posted May 12, 2022 at 8:38 AM EDT
Kvien walks in a blue shirt and white jacket past piles of sandbags.
YURIY DYACHYSHYN/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
U.S. Embassy Charge d'Affaires Kristina Kvien walks in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

KYIV - U.S. diplomats have returned to the Ukrainian capital for the first time since before the Russian invasion. The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv is expected to reopen in the coming weeks.

The acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Kristina Kvien, says her return is important logistically but also underscores the U.S. commitment to Ukraine right now.

Kvien tells NPR that the current war is about more than just Ukraine or U.S. interests. She calls Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an unprovoked breach of international norms and “completely unacceptable behavior”.

"It is basically fundamentally destabilizing the global international order, and that is a concern for all of us," Kvien says.

She says donated American weapons are already in the hands of Ukrainian troops and more military and financial assistance is on the way.

International Dispatch
From Berlin

After decades of wartime neutrality, Finland now wants to join NATO without delay

Posted May 12, 2022 at 8:11 AM EDT
A man and a woman in suits speak from separate podiums in front of white doors with gold designs.
Markku Ulander
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Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images
Finland's President Sauli Niinistö (R) and Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin hold a press conference about Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Helsinki, Finland, on February 24, 2022.

In a joint statement released this morning, Prime Minister Sanna Marin and President Sauli Niinistö said Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay.

The announcement was widely expected and has broad support in the country: A recent poll showed that nearly three-quarters of all Finns support joining the military alliance.

The invasion of Ukraine in February prompted Finland, which shares an 830-mile border with Russia, to move away from its long history of neutrality and military nonalignment.

Finland’s neighbor Sweden also is considering joining NATO. Moscow has warned both countries against joining.

On Thursday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called Finland's entry into NATO a threat to Russia and said it "does not make our continent more stable and safe.”

Russia's reaction will depend on what the expansion process looks like and how close NATO's military infrastructure gets to Russia's borders, he said, adding that Russia will analyze events and take measures to "keep the situation in balance and maintain our security."

🎧 Hear more from NPR's Frank Langfitt onMorning Edition.

International Dispatch
From Odesa

The puppet government in Kherson reportedly plans to declare the region part of Russia

Posted May 12, 2022 at 8:11 AM EDT
A wreath with flowers stands in the middle of a street, where soldiers and military vehicles stand in the distance.
Olexandr Chornyi
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AP
A ceremonial wreath is placed in a street as Russian army soldiers stand near their trucks during a rally against the Russian occupation in Kherson, Ukraine in March.

The Russian-installed government in the Ukrainian port city of Kherson reportedly will ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to annex the area, according to state media in Russia.

It's the latest evidence that Russia wants to claim more territory in Ukraine.

Kirill Stremousov, the deputy regional governor installed by the Kremlin, says "the city of Kherson is Russia.” He said his government wouldn’t hold a referendum seeking public consent to join Russia, but simply would appeal to Moscow.

The Russian puppet government is deeply unpopular in Kherson. This week, as the local government prepared to celebrate Victory Day — when Russia marks the Soviet victory in World War II — Russian soldiers set up checkpoints throughout the city to snuff out any public protests.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser in the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said in response: “The invaders may ask to join even Mars or Jupiter. The Ukrainian army will liberate Kherson.”