The EU backs Ukraine’s “European dream” and accepts its candidacy
“We all know that Ukrainians are willing to die to defend their European aspirations. We want them to live with us, for the European dream,” said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, dressed in the blue and yellow colours of the Ukrainian flag.
Fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops continues in Severodonetsk, a key donbas city that Moscow has been trying to conquer for weeks.
Some 10,000 civilians remain in the city, which had 100,000 inhabitants before the war, according to the governor of Luhansk (which together with Donetsk makes up the Donbas region), Sergei Gaidai.
Gaidai called for a total ceasefire to evacuate the 568 civilians, including 38 children, who took refuge in a huge chemical plant in the city.
Leaving the factory is “impossible and dangerous” because of the fighting, he said.
In the village of Adamivka, on the front line of the Donbas, near the city of Sloviansk, a rocket landed in the garden of a community of Orthodox nuns, who live under almost constant bombardment by Russian forces.
“We trust in God’s will. This is our home, we have nowhere else to go,” Sister Anastasi said.
In Mikolaiv, southern Ukraine, at least two people were killed and 20 wounded in a Russian attack, the region’s governor, Vitali Kim, said.
The EU Commission, the European Executive, yesterday endorsed Ukraine’s candidacy for the European Union (EU), in a gesture of strong solidarity that coincides with the intensification of fighting against Russian forces in the east of the country.
The European Commission recommended granting Ukraine candidate status and thanks to this approval the issue can be discussed at the next European summit on 23 and 24 June in Brussels.
The 27 members of the EU will have to give their green light unanimously, but Kiev already has the approval of Germany, France and Italy, which staged their support on Thursday in a trip to Ukraine of their top leaders.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed that “historic decision” and said he expected a “positive outcome” at the upcoming summit.
Ukraine’s accession to the EU bloc could take years, as the country has to meet a number of requirements.
There is still “much to be done,” especially in the fight against corruption and respect for the rule of law, von der Leyen said.
Hours after the Commission’s announcement, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Kiev by surprise, for the second time since the start of the Russian offensive on February 24.
“The many days that this war lasts have demonstrated Britain’s firm and determined support for Ukraine,” Zelensky tweeted.
In the Ukrainian capital, Johnson offered “a great training program” for Ukrainian troops. The plan could train up to 10,000 troops every 120 days, his cabinet said.
Humanitarian situation “worrying”. In Ukraine, 113 days after the start of the war, “the humanitarian situation, particularly in the eastern Donbas region, is extremely worrying and continues to deteriorate rapidly,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned.