Russia threatens to retaliate as Finland seeks NATO membership 'without delay'

Finland said on Thursday it would apply to join NATO "without delay", with Sweden expected to follow, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine looked set to bring about the very expansion of the Western military alliance that Vladimir Putin aimed to prevent.

The decision by the two Nordic countries to abandon the neutrality they maintained throughout the Cold War would be one of the biggest shifts in European security in decades. Moscow called Finland's announcement a direct threat to Russia, and threatened retaliation, including unspecified "military-technical" measures.

It came even as Russia's war in Ukraine was suffering another big setback, with Ukrainian forces driving Russian troops out of the region around the second largest city Kharkiv, the fastest Ukrainian advance since forcing Russia to withdraw from the capital and northeast more than a month ago.