The United States "won't let President [Vladimir] Putin impose his will on other nations," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday in Finland, where he delivered an address on Russia's war in Ukraine. Blinken said the United States is committed to helping build Ukraine's military strength and called for long-term investment.
"Let me say directly to the Russian people: The United States is not your enemy," he said from the Finnish capital, Helsinki, as he was wrapping up a Nordic tour. "We cannot choose your future for you, and we won't try to do so."
In Ukraine, the army's commander said air defenses shot down more than 30 missiles and drones in a new round of Russian air attacks overnight. Air raid sirens blared around the country early Friday, from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, to the Black Sea port of Odessa.
Blinken said Washington has worked to pursue stable relations with Moscow for decades "because we believed that a peaceful, secure and prosperous Russia was in America's interest." He added that proposals to impose cease-fires or territorial concessions to end the war in Ukraine would only encourage future assaults. Helsinki is his last stop on a trip that included a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Norway.
U.S. officials say they expect Sweden to join NATO soon, after the admission of Finland into the military alliance in April.
President Joe Biden, speaking at the Air Force Academy, said he expects Sweden to become the newest member "as soon as possible," while Blinken told reporters in Norway that Washington anticipates Sweden's accession will happen by next month. Turkey and Hungary have held up Sweden's bid to join NATO.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused local officials of negligence after civilians who were locked out of a shelter in Kyiv were killed in a Russian attack. In his nightly address, he warned that this "should never happen again" and said it was the duty of local authorities to ensure that shelters are available and accessible.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said investigations into the incident are underway. Three people died in the attack.
U.S.-led training for Ukrainians on the operation of U.S. Abrams tanks began in Germany last weekend, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told journalists Friday at the start of a trip to France, the AP reported. Some 200 Ukrainian soldiers are taking the 12-week training course designed to teach them how to maneuver, fire and carry out combined arms operations with the tanks.
The first 31 of the 70 Abrams tanks the Biden administration pledged to Ukraine are scheduled to arrive by the fall. Milley also said the United States was in talks with allies about plans for training Ukrainians on F-16 fighter jets.
Air raid warnings were activated early Friday, including in Kyiv, Odessa and the southern Kherson region. No casualties were immediately reported in Kyiv, and the mayor warned residents about debris on the roads.
Russia and Ukraine gave conflicting accounts of the damage caused by the latest salvo: Russia's defense ministry claimed it struck air defense systems "protecting key elements of Ukrainian critical military infrastructure" early Friday, while Ukraine's army chief said air defenses destroyed all 15 cruise missiles and 21 attack drones.
The governor of Russia's Belgorod region said two women were killed in shelling there, which borders Ukraine. Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov accused Ukrainian forces of shelling districts in Belgorod on Friday. The Washington Post could not independently verify the claim.
Two drones attacked fuel and energy facilities inside Russia's Smolensk region, southwest of Moscow, the Smolensk governor, Vasily Anokhin, claimed early Friday. He said long-range drones were used in the attack but did not cause casualties or large-scale damage.
Ukraine shelled Berdyansk, a city in the Russian-occupied part of Zaporizhzhia, Russian-backed official Vladimir Rogov said Friday. Rogov said on Russian radio nine people were reported injured in the attack.
Rogov said the shelling was "presumably carried out by British Storm Shadow missiles," without providing evidence. The Post could not independently verify the claim.
A senior Chinese diplomat called for an end to the provision of weapons for the war in Ukraine to prevent the conflict from escalating, after concluding a tour of European capitals intended to position China as a potential mediator.
Li Hui, China's special representative for Eurasian affairs, acknowledged a "stalemated battlefield rife with uncertainty" while underscoring China's position that a political settlement can be reached. Beijing, one of Moscow's closest diplomatic partners, initially kept a distance from the war, but Chinese diplomats have recently shifted into promoting a vision for a negotiated cease-fire.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told The Post that NATO member nations must increase their military spending if the alliance is to deter Russia effectively beyond the war in Ukraine and manage other security threats. Amid questions about who will become the next NATO secretary general this year, officials in the alliance have suggested Wallace as a possible contender.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spent Friday shoring up relations with counterparts in the BRICS alliance and "friends of BRICS" countries. Ministers for the bloc -- which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa and has sought to position itself as a counterweight to Western dominance -- met in Cape Town, South Africa, this week ahead of a summit planned for August.
On the sidelines Friday, Lavrov held bilateral talks with foreign ministers from Brazil, Iran and the United Arab Emirates, according to Russia's Foreign Ministry, which said in a Telegram post that "significant attention was paid to Brazilian efforts to find ways to resolve the situation in Ukraine."