Clear signs on status of Ukraine’s EU candidate bid next week, says premier Ursula von der Leyen

The European Commission will provide a clear indication next week on Ukraine’s bid for EU candidate status, its chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Saturday, as battles raged in the east and south of the country.

Making a surprise visit to Kyiv, von der Leyen said his talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “will enable us to finalize our assessment by the end of next week” – the first time the bloc has publicly given time. Zelensky is pushing for faster accession to the European Union as a way of mitigating Ukraine’s geopolitical vulnerability, which was brutally exposed by Russia’s February 24 invasion.

But officials and leaders in the bloc have warned that even with candidacy status, actual EU membership could take years or even decades. Von der Leyen, who appeared with Zelensky during his second visit to Kyiv since the start of the war, made no promises, noting that further reforms were needed.

Ukraine’s president warned it was a “decisive time” for his country and the European Union. “Russia wants to destroy European unity, divide Europe and leave it vulnerable. The whole of Europe is on Russia’s target. Ukraine In this aggression, these plans have only the first phase,” he said.

Despite reservations among some member states, EU leaders are expected to approve Ukraine’s candidate status at a summit on 23–24 June, albeit with stricter conditions.

crisis and famine

The European Union and the United States have strongly supported Ukraine, sending weapons and cash to help ward off Russian forces, and punishing Moscow with unprecedented economic sanctions.

Zelensky has urged him during a diplomatic attack, which has seen him regularly appear via video link in various parliaments and summits around the world. Addressing the Shangri-La Dialogue Security Summit in Singapore on Saturday, he highlighted the dangers of the global food crisis posed by Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

He warned of “an acute and severe food crisis and famine”, adding that “food shortages would lead to political chaos” – all of which were “a direct result of the acts of the Russian state”.

Before the war, Russia and Ukraine produced 30 percent of the global wheat supply, but grain is stuck in Ukraine’s ports – while Western sanctions on Moscow have disrupted exports from Russia. Speaking to delegates including Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and China’s defense minister, Zelensky urged international pressure to end the blockade.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart held talks in Ankara this week to secure safe passage for Ukrainian grain exports, but discussions made little progress.

‘Destroy every city’

After withdrawing from the capital Kyiv, Russian forces focused their firepower on the eastern Donbass region and the south. Zelensky’s office said they continued to bombard towns and villages around Kharkiv and the Donbass regions of Lugansk and Donetsk overnight through Saturday.

“Russia wants to destroy every city in the Donbass, without any exaggeration,” the president said in his nightly speech on Friday.

Moscow has focused particularly on the major eastern industrial city of Severodnetsk, which was “ruined” by Russian forces, Lugansk regional governor Sergei Gede said on Saturday.

“This is their strategy – people are not needed, infrastructure is not needed, houses are not needed, everything should just be ruined,” he said in an interview posted on his Telegram channel. He declined to estimate the number of civilian victims, but said he expected the figure to be “enormous and terrifying”.

In the Mykolaiv area near the front lines to the south, regional governor Vitaly Kim stressed the urgent need for international military assistance.

“Russian army is more powerful, they have a lot of artillery and gunpowder. For now, it is artillery war… and we are out of gunpowder,” he said. Brings brush with you.

Igor Karputov, 31, recalled how his neighborhood was hit last week, his apartment shook, and he helped a bleeding man while he waited for an ambulance.

“Then I went to another place that was affected, where emergency services were already taking care of someone,” he said. AFP, “But they were dead. And the one I helped died in the ambulance.

Russian passport issued

In areas now controlled by its forces, Moscow has sought to enforce its authority. Officials in the occupied southern Ukrainian city of Kherson on Saturday handed over Russian passports to local residents for the first time, news agencies reported.

Russia’s TASS agency said 23 Kherson residents received Russian passports in a ceremony through a “simple procedure” facilitated by a decree signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in May.

Ukraine condemned the move as a “gross violation” of its territorial integrity and said Putin’s decree was “legally void”. This follows the introduction last month of the Russian ruble as an official currency along with the Ukrainian hryvnia in the Kherson region.

(Written by Benot Finck with Blaise Gauquelin at MycoLive)

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