On Saturday, during a surprise visit to Kyiv, in the midst of a Russian military offensive in the east, the head of the European Commission said that the European Commission will determine next week whether it considers Ukraine’s candidacy for EU membership possible.
“Today’s talks will allow us to make our assessment by the end of next week,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Ukrainian government is seeking a “legal obligation” from the European Union to examine its candidacy, as a way to reduce the vulnerability of the country that it has faced since February 24 with the Russian invasion.
There are expectations that the candidacy study will receive the green light at the next summit of the bloc on June 23 and 24.
But senior officials in the European Union and some of its 27 member states have warned that the admissions process could take years or even decades.
Von der Leyen stressed that the former Soviet republic “has made progress in strengthening the rule of law, but it still needs to implement reforms to fight corruption”.
Zelensky responded that the fate of the European Union is largely at stake in Ukraine.
He declared that “Russia wants to destroy European unity, wants to divide and weaken Europe. All of Europe is a target for Russia. Ukraine is only the first step in this aggression.”
Von der Leyen’s visit – the second since the start of the war – coincides with the intensification of fighting in the Donbass region (east), which has been partly controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.
Zelensky’s office reported that there was a night “bombing” by the “occupiers” in the Kharkov region, as well as in Lugansk and Donetsk, the two provinces that make up the Donbass.
An AFP photographer reported artillery duels during the day around Severodonetsk.
The capture of this city will open the way for Moscow to Kramatorsk, an important stage in the conquest of the entire basin.
The Ukrainian General Staff said that the “enemy” was trying to “intensify the concentration of its forces”, but the Ukrainian forces were “successfully” resisting in Severodonetsk, near Metyolkin, where the occupiers “withdrew”, and “near Popasna”.
“Russia wants to destroy every city in the Donbass, every single one of them, without exaggeration,” Zelensky said on Friday.
In Lysichansk, residents explained to AFP their difficult choice: endure the bombing or flee and leave their homes.
The only way to get water is to go “under bombardment” to a distribution center, said Yevin Zhiriada, 39. “This is how we live,” he added.
The Lugansk separatist leader, Leonid Bashnik, admitted that “Severodonetsk was not 100% liberated.”
“At the moment, we cannot control the industrial zone,” Pasnik told AFP during a visit to a Russian military hospital under construction in the area.
“But we will reach our goal, and we will liberate the industrial zone, Severodonetsk … and Lesichansk will be ours,” he added.
“Russia still has enough potential to wage a long war against our country,” the Military Intelligence Department of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said.
The United States and the European Union provided strong support to Ukraine, providing it with weapons and supporting its economy.
But Ukraine is calling for more long-range weapons and a ban on imports of Russian hydrocarbons, on which many European countries have so far relied.