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Ukraine becomes EU membership candidate as battle in the east enters ‘fearful climax’ According to Reuters

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© Reuters. Ukrainian military members watch as a tank fires towards Russian troops in the industrial area of ​​Sievierodonetsk, as Russia’s offensive on Ukraine continues, Ukraine June 20, 2022. Photo taken June 20, 2022. REUTERS / Oleksandr Ratushniak

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By Pavel Polityuk and Vitalii Hnidyi

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine became a candidate to join the European Union on Thursday, a bold geopolitical move kicked off by Russia’s invasion that Kyiv and Brussels hailed as a “historic moment” history”.

Starting on the long road to EU membership will be a huge boost to morale in the troubled country, as Russia attacks two cities in Ukraine, according to a Ukrainian government adviser. the eastern Donbas region is approaching a “frightening climax”.

“Ukraine’s future is in the EU,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy tweeted after the official announcement.

“A historic moment,” European Council Director Charles Michel tweeted, adding: “Our future is together.”

The approval of the Kyiv government’s application by EU leaders meeting in Brussels will anger Russia as it struggles to impose its will on Ukraine. Moldova also became an official candidate on Thursday, signaling the bloc’s intention to push deeper into the former Soviet Union.

Friday will mark four months since Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops across the border in what he called a “special military operation” in part forced by the West’s encroachment on what Russia considers. is their sphere of influence.

The conflict, which the West sees as a war of irrational aggression by Russia, has killed thousands, displaced millions and destroyed cities, while cutting food exports and energy has affected countries around the world.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain was ready to assist with demining operations off Ukraine’s southern coast and was considering providing insurance for ships to move millions of tonnes of grain trapped in the country. this.

Russia has focused its campaign on southern and eastern Ukraine after its advance on the capital in the early stages of the conflict was thwarted by Ukrainian resistance.

The war of attrition in Donbas – the industrial center of Ukraine – was most acute in the twin cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, located on the opposite bank of the River Siverskyi Donets in Luhansk Oblast.

Oleksiy Arestovych, Zelenskiy’s adviser, said the battle there was “entering a terrifying climax”.

HOT SUMMER

Russian forces are trying to encircle Ukrainian troops defending Lysychansk, senior Ukrainian defense official Oleksiy Gromov said at a press conference on Thursday.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai specifically said that all of Lysychansk was within Russian range and that Ukrainian troops there could retreat to new positions to avoid being trapped.

Russian-backed separatist forces say there is heavy fighting around Ukrainian positions in Hirske, west of the main north-south road to Lysychansk, and Zolote, another settlement in southern.

Gaidai said Ukrainian forces were defending Sievierodonetsk and nearby Zolote and Vovchoyrovka, but the Russians had captured Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka to the south.

Hundreds of civilians are trapped in a chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk while Ukraine and Russia dispute over who controls the bombed city.

On the southern front, Russian forces attacked the fuel tanks and military equipment of the Ukrainian army near Mykolaiv with high-precision weapons, the Russian Defense Ministry quoted the Interfax news agency as saying.

A river port and shipbuilding hub just off the Black Sea, Mykolaiv was a bastion against Russia’s efforts to push the West toward the main Ukrainian port city of Odesa.

Zelenskiy called on Ukraine’s allies to speed up the delivery of heavy weapons to match Russia on the battlefield.

“We must liberate our land and achieve victory, but much faster, much faster,” he said in a video address early Thursday.

Later, Ukraine’s Defense Minister said many HIMARS missile systems had come from the United States. With a range of 70 km, the system can challenge Russian artillery batteries to bombard Ukrainian cities from afar.

“Summer will be very hot for the occupiers of Russia. And the last summer for some of them,” Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov tweeted.

SHIELD FOR EU

Russia has long opposed closer links between Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, and Western groups such as the European Union and the NATO military alliance.

Diplomats say it will take Ukraine a decade or more to meet EU accession criteria. But EU leaders said the bloc must make a gesture in recognition of Ukraine’s sacrifice.

The country’s accession to the EU, along with Sweden and Finland’s NATO applications after Russia’s invasion, is a sign that the Kremlin’s military actions have backfired on its geopolitical goals. this country.

In Kyiv, the site of mass protests eight years ago that ousted the then-president after he broke his promise to develop closer ties with the EU, 22-year-old soldier Volodymyr Yanishan welcomed the position of the candidate. Ukrainian candidate.

“It means that people have almost achieved what we’ve been striving for since 2014, in a bloody war that cost us a lot of work… I think the majority would be happy and that’s the thing. that means changes for the better.”

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