Russian President Vladimir Putin told French President Emmanuel Macron that he wants to “seize the whole of Ukraine” during a call between the two leaders on Thursday afternoon. A senior aide to Mr Macron told reporters, on the condition of anonymity: “The expectation of the president is that the worst is to come, given what President Putin told him. “There was nothing in what President Putin told us that should reassure us. He showed great determination to continue the operation.” This comes as major Ukrainian cities continue to come under attack, with the city of Kherson falling to Russian forces on Wednesday night.
And on Thursday, airstrikes on two schools in the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv killed nine people and left four others injured, local authorities said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is also causing concern in other European countries, including Finland.
Finnish ambassador to the UK, Jukka Siukosaari, told Express.co.uk that some Finns are “frightened” as a result of the invasion of Ukraine.
Asked if there are concerns in the country, he said: “Indeed, we have a very long border with Russia, we have a thousand years of history which has not been without conflict so we do know where we stand.
“At the same time, we know we cannot change Geography, and we have built resilience over decades.
“Our emergency preparedness is very highly ranked, but I think it’s natural Finns are concerned, even frightened, on an individual basis.
“Finns are quite stubborn, we don’t much like being told how we should think. Russia’s attempts to make a sphere of influence in Europe is completely unacceptable.”
Finland has a conflict-ridden history with Russia, with which it shares a 1,340km (830-mile) border.
Finns have taken part in dozens of wars against their eastern neighbour – for centuries as part of the Swedish Kingdom, and as an independent nation during the world wars, including two fought with the Soviet Union from 1939-1940 and 1941-1944.
In the postwar period, however, Finland pursued pragmatic political and economic ties with Moscow, remaining militarily nonaligned and a neutral buffer between East and West.
Finland has a history of neutrality when it comes to military alliances, but the country has integrated with the West, having joined the EU in 1995.
Putin’s aggression towards Ukraine may have only pushed Finland closer to NATO membership, however.
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A poll commissioned by Finnish broadcaster YLE this week showed that, for the first time, more than 50 percent of Finns support joining the Western military alliance.
In neighbouring Sweden, a similar poll showed those in favour of NATO membership outnumber those opposed.
Elina Valtonen is an MP and vice-president of the National Coalition Party, which has supported NATO membership for Finland since 2006.
She told the Telegraph in January: “Finland is closer than it has ever been to applying for NATO membership.
“For the first time, people feel that the aggression that Russia has been executing towards its neighbours […] also concerns Finland and Sweden.”