KIEV, Ukraine – On Monday, Europe pushed for a stronger response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden joined Finland in its bid to seek NATO membership, and European Union officials are working to bail out proposed sanctions against Russian oil.

Ukrainian troops repulsed attempts to attack Russia and even in some places rolled back the front line. In recent days, Moscow forces have retreated from the northeastern city of Kharkiv after weeks of bombing.

On Monday, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky thanked his servicemen who had advanced to the Russian border in the Kharkiv region.

“I am very grateful to you on behalf of all Ukrainians, on my behalf and on behalf of my family,” he said in a video message. – I am very grateful to all the fighters like you.

Ukrainian border guards said they had defeated Russia’s attempt to send sabotage and reconnaissance troops to the Sumy region, about 90 miles (146 kilometers) northwest of Kharkiv.

And a glimmer of hope appeared in the wounded Ukrainian servicemen, who were trapped in the bombed-out remains of a giant metallurgical plant, the last stronghold of resistance in the port city of Mariupol. Russia’s Defense Ministry has announced that the wounded have agreed to leave a metallurgical plant in the city held by pro-Moscow separatists.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Ukrainian side, and there was no word on whether the wounded would be considered prisoners of war. It was also unclear how many fighters could be evacuated.

As fighting broke out in eastern Ukraine, the international response to Russia picked up. Sweden has announced that it will seek NATO membership, following a similar decision by neighboring Finland. It would be a historic shift on the European continent for two countries that have not joined generations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who launched the invasion on February 24 in an attempt to curb NATO enlargement but now sees that the strategy is having the opposite effect, warned that building up troops in Finland and Sweden “will certainly lead to our response.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the membership process for both could be very quick, although a Turkish member has expressed some reservations.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson has said that joining a 30-member military alliance is her country’s best defense against Russian behavior.

“Unfortunately, we have no reason to believe that the trend (of Russia’s actions) will change in the foreseeable future,” she said.

Europe is also working to stop funding the Kremlin’s war by cutting the billions of dollars it spends on Russian energy imports.

But the proposed EU embargo faces opposition from a small group of countries dependent on Russian imports, including Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Bulgaria also has reservations.

“We will do everything possible to unblock the situation,” said EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Joseph Borel. “I can’t guarantee it will happen because the positions are pretty strong.”

Russia is suffering from failures in the war, especially in its failures at an early stage to take the capital Kyiv. Since then, most of the fighting has moved to the Donbass, the eastern industrial territory of Ukraine, but it has become a slogan.

Both sides fought from village to village. Ukrainian forces defeated the Russians, but also suffered casualties.

“I think the chances of Russia’s quick success are gone,” said Chris Yes, a ground war expert at King’s College London. “Russia’s ability to conduct offensive operations will bleed … I just don’t think we’ll see any major Russian breakthroughs.”

The death toll, already in the thousands, continues to grow.

In the Luhansk region of Donbass, two people were killed and nine were injured in a hospital attack in Severodonetsk during the night, including a child, the regional military command said. The night strikes affected other cities as well. Regional military governor Sergei Gaidai said that Ukrainian special forces blew up railway bridges held in Russia.

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