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Finland and Sweden have formally applied to join the Nato alliance, a decision driven by increasing security concerns following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The ambassadors of the two countries to the alliance officially handed over the letters of application to Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.

In a statement, Nato said that Stoltenberg warmly welcomed the requests, identifying the move as a ‘historic step’.

Stoltenberg said: “This is a good day, at a critical moment for our security. Thank you so much for handing over the applications for Finland’s and Sweden’s membership in Nato.

“Every nation has the right to choose its own path. You have both made your choice, after thorough democratic processes. And I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join Nato.

“You are our closest partners. And your membership in Nato would increase our shared security.”

The applications will now be deliberated by the 30 member countries. The Nordic countries require the support of all the members to accede to the military alliance.

Several members have already voiced their support while Turkey expressed its reservations.

Finland and Sweden will focus on the joint procurement of portable firearms and anti-tank weapons, Reuters reported, quoting Finland’s defence ministry.

Finland will join an agreement to buy anti-tank weapons from Sweden’s Saab Dynamics. The ministry has also approved a plan that will enable the joint purchase of firearms such as assault rifles, shotguns, and arms for personal protection.

Last week, the UK signed mutual security assurances with Sweden and Finland to strengthen its defence collaboration.