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BRUSSELS — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has said stopping NATO expansion helped him invade Ukraine. But on Thursday, Finland declared its unequivocal intention to join, not only upending Putin’s plan but also placing the alliance’s potential new member on the doorstep of northern Russia.

Finland’s leaders’ declaration that they will join NATO, with the expectation that neighboring Sweden will soon follow suit, could now reshape a strategic balance in Europe that has prevailed for decades. It is the latest example of how the Russian invasion of Ukraine 11 weeks ago has backfired on Putin’s intentions.

Russia reacted angrily, with Putin’s main spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, saying Finland and Sweden joining NATO would not make Europe safer. Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyanskiy, seemed to go further, saying in a interview with a British news site posted on Twitter that as members of NATO, the two Nordic countries “become part of the enemy and run all the risks.”

Finland, long known for a non-alignment so ruthless that “Finnishization” became synonymous with neutrality, had been signaling that the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 was giving the Finns a reason to join the NATO. But Thursday was the first time Finland’s leaders had said publicly that they definitely intended to join, making it almost certain that Russia would share an 810-mile border with a NATO country.

Finland and Sweden joining NATO carries significant risks of raising the prospects for war between Russia and the West, under the alliance’s underlying principle that an attack on one is an attack on all.

Credit…Alessandro Rampazzo/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But Finnish leaders, President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin, said “NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security,” adding that “as a NATO member, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance.”

Putin has offered a variety of reasons for his full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but in part it was intended to block NATO’s eastward expansion and was based on what he had apparently assumed would be a confrontational European response. Instead, the invasion united the West and helped isolate Moscow.

With the likely redrawing of Europe’s security borders, Western officials have also moved to reshape Europe’s economic infrastructure by taking steps to establish new transportation routes from Ukraine, which is under a Russian naval embargo. Russia, meanwhile, found itself further isolated from the global economy when Siemens, the German electronics giant, became the latest company to pull out of Russia, leaving after 170 years of doing business there.

The European Union on Thursday announced a set of measures to facilitate Ukraine’s exports of blocked food products, mainly grains and oilseeds, in a bid to ease war strain on the Ukrainian economy and avert a looming global food shortage.

The Russian navy blocked exports from Ukraine, a major world supplier of wheat, corn and sunflower oil before the invasion, at the country’s Black Sea ports. The long-term goal of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, is to establish new transport routes from Ukraine to Europe, bypassing the Russian blockade by using Polish ports, although creating new routes could take months, if not years.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

On the ground in Ukraine, where the Russian invaders still face strong resistance from Western armed Ukrainian forces and the prospect of a protracted war, the Kremlin has redeployed troops to strengthen its territorial gains in Donbas, the eastern region where the struggle. fiercer

Ukrainian and Western officials say Russia is withdrawing forces from around Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, where it has been losing territory, a pushback the British Defense Ministry described on Thursday as “a tacit acknowledgment of the inability to Russia to capture key cities in Ukraine where they expected limited resistance from the population.”

By contrast, in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which together make up the Donbas, the Russians now control about 80 percent of the territory. In Lugansk, where Russian shelling rarely stops, “the situation has deteriorated significantly” in recent days, according to regional governor Serhiy Haidai.

“The Russians are destroying everything in their path,” Haidai said Thursday in a post on Telegram. “The vast majority of critical infrastructure will have to be rebuilt,” he said, adding that there was no electricity, water, gas or cell phone connection in the region, where most residents have fled.

Russia’s withdrawal from Kharkiv represents one of the biggest setbacks Moscow has faced since its withdrawal from areas near Kyiv, the capital, where the costs of the Russian occupation became clearer on Thursday.

The bodies of more than 1,000 civilians have been recovered from areas north of kyiv that were occupied by Russian forces, United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Thursday. Among them several hundred who were summarily executed and others who were shot by snipers, Bachelet said.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

“The numbers will continue to rise,” Bachelet told a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, the second in two weeks, that focused on abuses uncovered by investigators in Bucha, Irpin and other kyiv suburbs. that were seized. by Russian forces in the early stages of the invasion. Russia has denied committing atrocities in Ukraine.

Finnish leaders’ announcement to apply for NATO membership was much anticipated. Public opinion in Finland has shifted significantly in favor of joining the alliance, from 20 percent six months ago to almost 80 percent now, especially if Sweden, Finland’s strategic partner and also a militarily non-aligned one, joins as well.

“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” Finnish leaders said in a statement. “We hope that the national steps that are still needed to make this decision will be taken quickly in the coming days.”

A parliamentary debate and vote were expected on Monday.

The debate in Sweden is less advanced than in Finland, but Sweden is also moving towards applying to join NATO, perhaps next week.

Putin has cited NATO’s eastward expansion into Russia’s sphere of influence, including to former Soviet states on its borders, as a national threat. He has used Ukraine’s desire to join the alliance to help justify his invasion of that country, though Western officials have repeatedly said the possibility of Ukraine becoming a member remains remote.

One reason is that NATO would be highly unlikely to offer membership to a country embroiled in war.

Credit…Sergei Ponomarev for The New York Times

If Ukraine were to become a NATO member, the alliance would be obligated to defend it against Russia and other adversaries, in accordance with NATO’s Article 5 application that an attack on one member is an attack on the entire alliance.

Even without the geopolitical risks, Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that has struggled with endemic corruption since gaining independence, would find it difficult to meet several requirements needed to join NATO, including the need to demonstrate commitment to the state. of law.

Sweden and Finland, by contrast, have for decades become vibrant and healthy liberal democracies.

Still, NATO members would have to act if Finland and Sweden were attacked by Russia or others, raising the risks of a direct confrontation between the nuclear powers.

Putin is likely to try to rally support for the Ukraine invasion by presenting the Finnish and Swedish moves as further evidence that NATO is becoming increasingly hostile.

If Finland and Sweden apply, they are expected to be approved, although NATO officials are publicly discreet, saying only that the alliance has an open-door policy and that any country that wishes to join can apply for an invitation. Still, even a quick application process could take a year, raising concerns that the two countries would be vulnerable to Russia while outside the alliance.

In addition to a long border, Finland shares a complicated and violent history with Russia. The Finns fended off a Soviet invasion in 1939-40 in what is known as “The Winter War”.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

The Finns eventually lost, ceding some territory and agreeing to remain formally neutral during the Cold War, but their ability to temporarily contain the Soviet Union became a central point of Finnish pride.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Finland moved to join the European Union in 1992, becoming a member in 1995, without aligning itself militarily and maintaining working relations with Moscow.

Finland has maintained its military spending and sizeable armed forces. Finland joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace program along with Sweden in 1994 and has moved closer to the alliance without joining it.

Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels and Norimitsu Onishi from Paris. Cora Engelbrecht from London, Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva, Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia, Monika Pronczuk from Brussels, and Dan Bilefsky from Montreal contributed reporting.

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