Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed NATO admission prospects of Finland and Sweden with the country’s Security Council, the Kremlin spokesman said on Friday.
“An exchange of views took place on the topic of Finland and Sweden’s decision to join NATO and the potential threats to Russia’s security arising in this regard,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow.
The spokesman added that Putin also spoke with the council members about the upcoming meeting of the Russian-led military bloc Collective Security Treaty Organization that will be held on May 16 in Moscow.
Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu briefed the participants about the meeting on Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, Peskov said.
Asked about the evacuation of people besieged at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Peskov said a possibility to leave in any direction was provided only for civilians, “not for the militants.”
“As for the military, it was said they can also leave by laying down their weapons, (then) they will be treated accordingly, and all the wounded will be provided with the necessary medical assistance,” Peskov recalled.
Earlier, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk said a new round of negotiations has begun around the evacuation from Azovstal with the participation of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Vereshchuk also said Turkiye will mediate in the current round of negotiations, and the evacuation itself will be carried out in several stages, the first of which concerns the seriously injured.
On May 7, she reported that all civilians had been evacuated from the factory.
At least 3,541 civilians have been killed and 3,785 others injured since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war on Feb. 24, according to UN estimates. The true toll is feared to be much higher.
More than 6 million people have fled to other countries, with some 7.7 million people internally displaced, according to the UN refugee agency.