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BUDAPEST: Hungary’s parliament on Monday ratified Sweden’s bid to join NATO, clearing the final obstacle for an enlargement of the military alliance spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The vote ends more than a year of delays that left fellow NATO partners furious as Ukraine battled Russian troops.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson hailed a “historic day”, while NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Sweden will make the alliance “stronger and safer”.

Russia’s February 2022 invasion prompted Sweden and neighbouring Finland to apply to join the bloc, ending a long-standing stance of non-alignment in both countries.

Speaking about Russia’s potential reaction at a press conference, Kristersson said, “The only thing we can expect with any certainty is that they don’t like Sweden becoming a member of NATO, nor Finland”.

While Finland became the 31st member of the US-led defence alliance in April last year, Sweden’s bid had been held up. Turkey only ratified it last month.

On Monday, Hungary finally followed, with 188 members of parliament voting in favour and six against Sweden’s accession.

“Today is a historic day... Sweden stands ready to shoulder its responsibility for Euro-Atlantic security,” Kristersson said in a statement on X.

Stoltenberg welcomed Sweden as the 32nd NATO ally, saying its “membership will make us all stronger and safer.”

People in Sweden also cheered the approval.

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