The European Commission will announce next week Ukraine’s candidacy to the European Union (EU) is considered viablesaid on Saturday the president of the bloc’s Executive during a surprise visit to Kiev, in the midst of Russian military offensive in the east.
“The talks we had today will allow us to have our assessment by the end of next week,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
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Ukraine’s government is pushing for a concrete “legal commitment” from the EU to examine its candidacy, as a way of reducing the country’s geopolitical vulnerability, invaded on February 24 by Russia.
There is an expectation that Ukraine’s candidacy will receive a green light at the bloc’s next summit, on June 23 and 24.
Several senior officials and leaders of the 27 have warned that even if Ukraine obtains candidate country status, an admission process could take years or even decades.
Von der Leyen highlighted that the former Soviet republic has recorded “progress in strengthening the rule of law, but reforms to fight corruption, for example, still need to be implemented.”
Zelensky responded that the fate of the EU is largely at stake in Ukraine.
“Russia wants to destroy European unity, wants to divide Europe and weaken it. All of Europe is a target for Russia. Ukraine is just the first step in this aggression,” he declared.
Von der Leyen’s visit – the second since the start of the war – coincides with the intensification of fighting in the Donbass region (east), already partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.
‘Devastate every city in the Donbass’
Zelensky’s office on Saturday cited night-time bombings by “occupiers” in the Kharkiv region, as well as in Lugansk and Donetsk, which form the Donbass.
An AFP photographer reported artillery duels during the day around Severodonetsk.
Taking this city would open the way from Moscow to another major city, Kramatorsk, an important step towards conquering the entire basin.
“The enemy” tries to “intensify the concentration of its troops”, but Ukrainian forces resist “successfully” in Severodonetsk, near Metiolkiné, where “the occupiers retreated”, and “near Popasna”, indicated the Ukrainian General Staff. .
“Russia wants to devastate every city in the Donbass, every one of them, without exaggeration,” Zelensky declared on Friday.
In Lysychansk, residents face a dilemma: stay and endure the bombings or flee and abandon their homes.
A separatist leader from Lugansk, Leonid Pasechnik, admitted that “Severodonetsk was not 100% liberated”. “At the moment, we are unable to control the industrial zone,” Pasechnik told AFP during a visit to a Russian military hospital under construction in the region.
“But we will achieve our goal, we will liberate the industrial zone, Severodonetsk … and Lysychansk will be ours,” he added.
“Russia still has enough potential to wage a long war against our country,” the military intelligence department of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said.
The United States and the EU gave strong support to the country under attack, supplying weapons and supporting its economy, in addition to applying tough sanctions against Russia.
But Ukraine is pushing for long-range weapons and an embargo on Russian fuel imports, which many European countries now depend on.
The consequences of the conflict affect the world, especially the food market due to the important role of Ukraine and Russia as wheat exporters.
Ukraine’s maritime outlets are effectively blocked, which prevents the export of millions of tons of wheat.
Before the Russian invasion, Ukraine was the world’s largest producer of sunflower oil and a major exporter of wheat, but now millions of tons of grain are blocked.
In a video shown at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a security forum held in Singapore, Zelensky warned that if Ukraine does not resume exports, “the world will face a serious food crisis, including famine”, in several countries in Asia. and from Africa.
The UN and several countries are trying to open a maritime corridor to allow exports.