A Ukrainian serviceman from the Oleksa Dovbush 68th Hunting Brigade patrols a street in the recently recaptured village of Blahodatne, Ukraine, on June 17, 2023.

On Saturday, US President Joe Biden said that his administration would not “make it easy” for Ukraine to join NATO, saying the war-torn nation must abide by the same standards as other member states.

Under the NATO Membership Action Plan, candidate nations must undergo military and democratic reforms before NATO membership is considered.

Last week, Biden officials said the president “was open to” waiving the requirement for Ukraine, which this week launched a counterattack amid Russia’s war of aggression.

Biden noted that the United States has “done a lot” to make sure Ukraine has the “ability to coordinate militarily,” Politico reports.

But when asked on Saturday if Ukraine’s path to joining the transatlantic alliance would be smoothed, he said no. “Because they have to abide by the same rules. So we’re not going to make it easy for them.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Friday that there is a “grave danger” that the NATO military alliance could be drawn further into Russia’s war against Ukraine. He made the remarks during a plenary session of the flagship St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, where he touted the Russian economy despite heavy international sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Western journalists were barred from entering.

African delegation

Putin welcomed a delegation of African leaders who intend to mediate peace between Ukraine and Russia. The delegation met Putin in St. Petersburg on Saturday after leaving Kyiv.

Leaders of Senegal, Egypt, Zambia, Uganda, Congo, the Comoros Islands, and South Africa told Putin the time had come to negotiate an end to the fighting, which they said was hurting the entire world.

The Kremlin downplayed the possibility of meaningful talks with Kyiv, saying any peace deal must take “new realities” into account, but was willing to listen.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told African leaders on Friday that he did not understand what could be made of the delegation’s meeting with Putin.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in Kyiv that the leaders had come “to share the African perspective” and considered talks with Russia part of the mission.

However, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian Presidential Office, told the independent Ukrainian news agency Unian on Saturday that the African leaders’ peace delegation was interested in suspending Putin’s arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court.

On March 17, the ICC issued arrest warrants for Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian official who allegedly oversaw the forced deportations of Ukrainian children to Russia. This means that Putin and Lvova-Belova can now be detained in countries that have ratified the Rome Statute.

Podolyak added that the real plan to end the war was Ukraine’s 10-point peace plan, which Zelenskyy presented at a G20 summit in November 2022.

The peace plan includes the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory, the creation of a Russian war crimes court, the release of all prisoners and forcibly relocated people, and the prevention of ecocide.

Nuclear weapons

Putin confirmed that the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus has begun, reminding the West that it cannot inflict a strategic defeat on Russia.

«The first nuclear warheads were delivered to the territory of Belarus. But only the first ones, the first part. However, we will complete this work by the end of the summer or by the end of the year,’ he declared.

Speaking at the Russian economic forum in St. Petersburg on Friday, Putin stressed that he saw no need for Russia to resort to nuclear weapons for now. He said the delivery of smaller-range nuclear weapons to Belarus, which could be used on the battlefield, was intended as a warning to the West about arming and supporting Ukraine.

The White House denounced Putin’s comments, saying the United States had not made any adjustments to its nuclear position in response to the rhetoric.

American humanitarian aid

The United States announced an additional $205 million in humanitarian aid for Ukraine on Friday that will provide critical support like food, clean water, accessible shelter and more for Ukraine.

“The US response is boosting Ukraine’s overall security, economic recovery, energy security, and ability to deal with the humanitarian crisis created by Russia’s war. We welcome other donors’ contributions to this crisis response and urge more donors to generously support the dire humanitarian needs of Ukraine and the region,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The US aid package brings total humanitarian aid to Ukraine to more than $605 million in fiscal year 2023. Since February 2022, the United States has provided more than $2.1 billion in humanitarian aid to Ukraine.