COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said Thursday that he expects Denmark to join the European Union’s common defense on July 1.
In a referendum on Wednesday, two-third of voters decided to abandon a 30-year-old waiver that kept the Scandinavian EU country out. With 100% of the votes counted, 66.9% voted in favor of abandoning the 30-year opt-out and 33.1% against.
The move is the latest example of a country in Europe seeking closer defense links with allies after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The referendum follows historic bids by fellow Nordic countries Sweden and Finland to join NATO.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
– Photo Gallery: 100 days of extraordinary images from Ukraine
– US, Germany agree to supply Ukraine advanced weapons
– Ukraine’s quest to qualify for the World Cup surges on during war
– Ukrainian stabs Ukrainian at New York bar, thinking he’s Russian
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
LONDON – Britain says it will send sophisticated medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine, in a move coordinated with the United States.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace says the U.K. will send an unspecified number of M270 launchers, which can send precision-guided rockets up to 80 kilometers (50 miles).
Britain says the decision has been coordinated closely with a U.S. decision to send Ukraine High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems. The two missile systems are similar, though the American one has wheels while the British one — also U.S.-built — runs on tracks.
Britain says Ukrainian troops will be trained in the U.K. to use the equipment.
Ukraine has implored its Western allies to send longer-range missiles to help it counter Russian artillery assaults in the eastern Donbas region, the focus of Moscow’s offensive.
The U.S. said Ukraine has promised not to launch the weapons into Russia. But Russia accused Washington of “pouring fuel on the fire” of the conflict.
KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s emergency officials said Russian shelling overnight set a school in the city of Kharkiv on fire and that a woman died in the blaze.
Another man sustained injuries, Ukrainian officials said Thursday. Fires from the shelling also occurred in other areas of the Kharkiv region.
Russian forces overnight also shelled the Dnipropetrovsk region, its governor, Valentyn Reznichenko, said on Telegram. He said the shelling took place on the border with the Kherson region, much of which is under Moscow’s control.
In the Sumy region that borders Russia, three people were wounded as a result of overnight missile strikes, governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyi said.
In the east, according to Ukraine’s General Staff, Russian troops continued storming the key city of Sievierodonetsk. Moscow’s forces also stormed the town of Komyshuvakha in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region, large parts of which are under Russian control, the General Staff’s morning update said.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia – Slovakia has signed a deal to deliver eight Slovak-made Zuzana howitzers to Ukraine.
The Slovak Defense Ministry announced the deal between the state-run Konstrukta Defense company and the Ukrainian side on Thursday.
Unlike previous arms supplies from Slovakia to Ukraine, this is a commercial deal. Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad says it’s worth more than 40 million euros ($43 million).
Among other arms, Slovakia previously donated a Soviet-era S-300 air defense system at the request of the Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
LVIV, Ukraine – A Russian missile hit rail lines in the western Lviv region, a key conduit for supplies of Western weapons and other supplies, officials said.
Lviv region Gov. Maksym Kozytskyy said five people were wounded in the strike, adding that more information would be available Thursday.
Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the country’s interior minister, said the Russians hit the Beskidy railway tunnel in the Carpathian Mountains in an apparent effort to cut a key railway link and disrupt shipments of weapons and fuel.
However, the head of Ukrainian railways said the damage to the railroad was still being assessed but the tunnel was spared.
The strike reportedly delayed three passenger trains, but all later resumed their journeys.
KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday that 200,000 children are among the Ukrainians who have been forcefully taken to Russia and dispersed across the vast country. They include children from orphanages, children taken with their parents and those separated from their families.
“The purpose of this criminal policy is not just to steal people but to make those who are deported forget about Ukraine and unable to return,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to the nation on Wednesday, which was International Children’s Day.
Zelenskyy said Ukraine would punish those responsible but first it would show Russia on the battlefield that “Ukraine cannot be conquered, that our people will not surrender and our children will not become the property of the occupiers.”
Zelenskyy said 243 children have been killed so far in the war, 446 have been wounded and 139 are missing, adding that it could be more as his government doesn’t have a full picture of the situation in areas occupied by Russian troops.
He then described the deaths of 11 children, calling them by their first names and saying how they were killed.
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