Ukraine gets big EU support as war rages in east

  • Ukraine’s candidacy for the EU signals a major shift in European geopolitics
  • Putin seeks to play down the EU issue
  • The battle continues for Sievierodonetsk
  • Russian media said two Americans were caught fighting for Ukraine

BRUSSELS/Kyiv (Kyiv) (Reuters) – As war rages in eastern Ukraine, Kyiv received a major boost on Friday when the European Union recommended it become a candidate to join the bloc, heralding a dramatic geopolitical shift in the wake of Russia’s invasion. .

At a summit next week, EU leaders are expected to endorse the bloc’s executive committee’s recommendations on neighboring Ukraine and Moldova. Read more

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Twitter that the courage of Ukrainians provided the opportunity for Europe to “create a new history of freedom, and finally remove the gray area in Eastern Europe between the EU and Russia”.

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As diplomacy with Brussels progresses, heavy fighting continues in the eastern Donbass region, as Russia seeks to consolidate and extend recent gains, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a surprise visit to the capital, Kyiv.

In a nightly televised speech, Zelensky said that the decision of the EU member states had not yet appeared, but added: “You can only imagine a really strong European power, European independence and European development with Ukraine.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the decision, wearing the Ukrainian colors of a yellow jacket over a blue blouse.

“Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective,” she said. We want them to live with us the European dream.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the West, and the United States in particular, in an grievance-filled speech in St Petersburg, but sought to downplay the EU issue.

“We have nothing against him,” he said. “It is not a military bloc. It is the right of any country to join an economic union.”

However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia is closely following Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union, especially in light of increased defense cooperation between the 27-nation bloc.

Ukraine applied to join the European Union four days after Russian troops poured across its border in late February. Within days, it was joined by Moldova and Georgia, smaller ex-Soviet states also competing with Russia-backed separatist regions.

Although it is just the beginning of a process that could drag on for years and require wide-ranging reforms, the move by the European Commission puts Kyiv on course to realize an ambition that was seen as elusive only months ago.

One of Putin’s stated goals was to launch what Moscow calls a “special military operation” that killed thousands of people, destroyed cities, sent millions to flee, and halted the west’s eastward expansion via NATO’s military.

But Friday’s announcement underscored how the war had the opposite effect: persuading Finland and Sweden to join NATO, and now the European Union to embark on its most ambitious expansion since welcoming Eastern European nations after the Cold War.

Escalating the global standoff, Russian media broadcast pictures of what they said were two Americans who were captured while fighting for Ukraine. “I am against the war,” the men said in separate videos posted on social media. Read more

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post-Soviet generation

EU membership is not guaranteed – talks have stalled for years with Turkey, a candidate since 1999. But if accepted, Ukraine would be the largest EU country by area and fifth largest by population.

Ukraine and Moldova are much poorer than current EU members and have a recent history of volatile politics and organized crime, as well as their struggles with Russian-backed separatists.

But in Zelensky, 44, and Maya Sandhu, 50, there are pro-Western leaders who came outside the Soviet Union.

Johnson, the latest in a series of foreign leaders to visit Kyiv, showed exercises for Ukrainian forces and said Britain would stand by the Ukrainian people “until we win in the end”. Read more

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged the West not to “propose peace initiatives on unacceptable terms,” ​​an apparent reference to French President Emmanuel Macron’s comments this month that finding a diplomatic solution required Russia not to be humiliated. Read more

Instead, Kuleba wrote in an online article in Foreign Policy, the West should help Ukraine win, not just by providing heavy weapons but by maintaining and increasing sanctions against Moscow.

“The West cannot afford any stress from sanctions, regardless of the broader economic costs,” he wrote. “It is clear that Putin’s path to the negotiating table lies only through defeats on the battlefield.”

Since Ukraine defeated Russia’s attempt to storm Kyiv in March, Moscow has refocused its eastern Donbass region, which it claims on behalf of separatist proxies, and its forces have used their artillery advantage to make their way into the cities in a punitive phase of the war. .

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Russia is also being bombed.

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said its army was “suffering heavy losses” after concentrating the vast majority of its available fighting force to capture Severodonetsk and its sister city of Lysekhansk at the expense of other axes of progress. In a note on Friday.

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Additional reporting by Abdelaziz Boumzar, Marinca and Reuters. Written by David Bronstrom and Clarence Fernandez; Editing by William Mallard

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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