International

EU Grants Ukraine Candidate Status Amid Russian Invasion

Ukraine

Ukraine receives candidate status from the EU: Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky called the EU decision on his nation and Moldova “a unique and historic moment.”

Kyiv: According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), in a powerful show of support against Russia’s invasion, European Union leaders gave Ukraine and Moldova candidate status on Thursday, while the US said it was sending Kyiv new high-precision rocket systems.

The West’s latest efforts to rally around Ukraine came as Russia pressed in on major cities in the country’s beleaguered east, raising global concerns about gas and grain export limits.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky called the EU decision on his nation and Moldova “a unique and historic occasion,” albeit the two former Soviet republics still have a long way to go before enjoying the benefits of free movement and a unified market.

“Ukraine’s future lies in the EU,” Zelensky, who had been on the phone for weeks, added.

“We will triumph, rebuild, join the EU, and then rest. Or, more likely, we shall not relax.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said the EU leaders’ decision sends a powerful signal to Russia that Europeans support Ukraine’s pro-Western objectives.

President Vladimir Putin declared Ukraine to be part of his sphere of influence, claiming that he acted in response to attempts to pull the country into NATO. This Western alliance provides security guarantees. Before the invasion, European powers had distanced themselves from US support for Ukraine’s NATO ambitions, and EU membership is still years away.

Ukraine and Moldova will have to go through lengthy negotiations. As reported by AFP, the European Union has outlined steps Kyiv must do even before that, such as strengthening the rule of law and combating corruption.

WEAPONS TO COUNTER RUSSIAN GAINS

The White House said that another $450 million in new armaments would be sent to Ukraine, including new High Mobility Artillery Rocket systems, which have been high on Kyiv’s wish list.

The Himars system can launch numerous precision missiles at a long-range at the same time.

After President Joe Biden’s administration declared Kyiv had offered assurances that it would not fire into Russia, an initial four units were sent, with Ukrainian forces being trained to operate the weaponry.

Ukraine’s demands have become more pressing as Russia moves in the east, extending its hold on strategically crucial Severodonetsk and its twin city Lysychansk over the Donets river after failing to take Kyiv immediately after invading on February 24.

Taking the city would give Moscow control of the whole Lugansk region, allowing Russia to push deeper into the Donbas region and maybe further west.

AFP reported that Ukraine admitted Thursday that it had lost control of two areas from where it had been defending the cities, with Russian soldiers closing in on the industrial powerhouse.

According to the British defense ministry, some Ukrainian soldiers were likely compelled to retreat “to prevent being besieged.”

“Russia’s better performance in this sector is most likely the result of recent unit reinforcement and heavy fire concentration,” it wrote in its most recent intelligence bulletin. According to a representative of pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine, the struggle of Ukrainian soldiers defending Lysychansk and Severodonetsk is “pointless and fruitless.”

“At the rate our men are going, the entire region of the Lugansk People’s Republic will be liberated very soon,” said Andrei Marochko, a spokesman for the Lugansk army.

The Russian army also announced Thursday that it had destroyed 49 gasoline storage tanks and three tank repair facilities in the southern city of Mykolaiv, following strikes that killed several Ukrainian troops on Wednesday.

THERE ARE JUST GRANNIES LEFT

The northeastern city of Kharkiv, near the Russian border, was almost vacant on Wednesday, according to AFP reporters, a day after Moscow’s soldiers shelled the area, killing five people.

“Last night, while I was sleeping, the building next to mine collapsed from the bombardment,” said Leyla Shoydhry, a young woman in a park near the opera house.

According to Roman Pohuliay, a 19-year-old in a pink sweater, most locals had abandoned the city. “Only the grannies remain,” he explained.

As Russian forces approached the central city of Zaporizhzhia, women were training to wield Kalashnikov assault weapons in urban combat. “It’s not so scary to take a machine gun in your hands when you can do something,” Ulyana Kiyashko, 29, said after traveling through an artificial combat zone in a basement.

WEAPONIZATION OF GRAIN AND GAS

Western authorities have also accused Russia of weaponizing its important exports of gas and grain from Ukraine, which has contributed to global inflation and increased hunger.

“We are very clear that this grain situation is serious and must be resolved within the next month,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said during a visit to Turkey. “Otherwise, we could face disastrous repercussions,” she warned.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, encouraged African governments to pressure Russia to provide a safe path for food. “African capitals are important, and they have an impact on Russia’s posture,” he told African journalists.

At the Group of Seven summit, which begins Sunday in Germany, a US official warned of more retaliatory actions against Russia, as reported by AFP.

After Russia cut supply, Germany raised its emergency gas plan to the second level, just one shy of the maximum that might necessitate rationing in Europe’s largest economy.

“Gas is becoming a precious commodity,” Economy Minister Robert Habeck told reporters, urging residents to reduce their consumption. Summer demand for gas is lower, but shortfalls could lead to heating difficulties in the winter.

According to Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, France aims to have its gas storage reserves at full capacity by early autumn and will develop a new floating methane terminal to increase energy supply by sea.

A Kremlin spokesman maintained the Kremlin’s allegation that the supply cutbacks were due to maintenance and that necessary foreign equipment had not arrived.

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