In Kiev, EU chief Von der Leyen promises a signal on Ukraine’s bid next week

  • The European Commission will send a signal on Ukraine’s EU membership.
  • This is happening as Ukraine calls for support in its war against Russia.
  • EU leaders will meet for a summit on 23-24 June.

The European Commission will next week give a clear signal about Ukraine’s bid for EU candidate status, its chief Ursula von der Leyen has said as fighting rages in the eastern and southern parts of the country.

On a surprise visit to Kiev on Saturday, Von der Leyen said talks she held with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “will allow us to complete our assessment by the end of next week” – the first time the bloc has publicly given a sense of timing.

DEVELOPMENT | Huge cloud of smoke seen after explosion in Ukraine city with chemical plant – RIA news agency

Zelensky has pushed for too rapid accession to the EU to reduce Ukraine’s geopolitical vulnerability, which was brutally exposed by Russia’s invasion on 24 February.

But officials and leaders in the bloc warn that even with candidate status, EU membership can take years or even decades.

Von der Leyen, who appeared alongside Zelensky during her second visit to Kiev since the war began, made no promises, noting that further reforms were needed.

The Ukrainian president warned that it was a “crucial moment” for his country and the EU.

He said:

Russia wants to destroy European unity, wants to leave Europe divided and wants to leave it weak. The whole of Europe is a destination for Russia. Ukraine is only the first phase of this aggression.

Candidate status

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

In a speech to the Shangri-La Dialogue Security Summit in Singapore on Saturday, Zelensky highlighted the dangers of a food crisis posed by Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports.

He warned of “an acute and severe food crisis and famine”, adding that “the lack of food will inexorably lead to political chaos” – all “the direct consequence of the actions of the Russian state”.

Also on Saturday, Lugansk’s regional governor Sergiy Gaiday quoted reports of Russians reading trucks of Ukrainian wheat and bringing it to Russian-controlled areas.

Before the war, Russia and Ukraine produced 30% of the global wheat supply, but grain is stuck in Ukraine’s ports, and Western sanctions have disrupted exports from Russia.

At the summit, Zelensky called for international pressure to end the blockade and spoke to delegates, including Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, who on Sunday reiterated Beijing’s position on the crisis.

“With regard to the Ukrainian crisis, China has never given any material support to Russia,” he said, adding that they supported peace talks, hoping that “NATO will have talks with Russia.”

Ukraine’s Western allies have warned China, which has not yet condemned Russia’s invasion, against offering any kind of support to Moscow.

Since withdrawing from Kiev, Russian forces have concentrated their firepower on the eastern Donbas region and the southern part.

Two civilian deaths and 11 injured were reported Saturday at locations across Donetsk, the regional governor said.

“All major cities in the free zone” in Donetsk “have been without electricity” since Saturday night, according to the district military administration.


Moscow has particularly focused on the important industrial city of Severodonetsk in Lugansk, which Gaiday said on Saturday was “destroyed” by Russian forces.

In an interview broadcast on Telegram, he said:

This is their tactic – people are not needed, infrastructure is not needed, houses are not needed, everything simply has to be destroyed.

Gaiday later said on television that Ukrainian warriors in Severodonetsk won street battles, but that Russian artillery would then destroy the buildings that these warriors used for cover – “floor by floor”.

Gaiday said the number of civilian casualties would be “huge and terrible”.

In Odessa, a man died after coming into contact with an explosive object while swimming at a beach with his wife and son, according to the regional Ukrainian command.

Visits to beaches that are currently banned due to mines.

The town of Chortkiv in the west of the country was shelled on Saturday, regional governor Volodymyr Trush said on Telegram, while his counterpart in the Mykolaiv region in the south, governor Vitaliy Kim, stressed the urgent need for international military assistance.

“Russia’s army is more powerful, they have a lot of artillery and ammunition … and we have run out of ammunition,” he said.

On Sunday, the southern command said the Ukrainian air force had destroyed ammunition depots and equipment in three air strikes within the last 24 hours without specifying their locations.

“To deter our troops, the enemy is shelling our positions and trying to win the battle by artillery fire,” the commando’s statement read.

A high school building seen destroyed by Russian military attack. Russian forces have invaded Ukraine on February 24. To date, their offensive has caused up to 1.5 million to flee, which has drawn criticism and protests from people around the world.

For residents of Mykolaiv bring every day a brush with death.

Igor Karputov, 31, remembered how his neighborhood was hit last week, shaking his apartment and how he helped a bleeding man to an ambulance.

“Then I went to another place that had been hit, where the emergency services were already taking care of someone,” he told AFP.

He added:

But they were dead. And the one I had helped died in an ambulance.

In areas now controlled by its forces, Moscow has tried to impose its authority.

Officials in the occupied southern city of Kherson handed out Russian passports to residents for the first time on Saturday, news agencies reported.

Russia’s TASS agency said 23 Kherson residents received a Russian passport at a ceremony through a “simplified procedure” permitted by a decree of President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine has called the passports “legally invalid”.

Last month, Russian authorities introduced the ruble in the Kherson region as an official currency along with the Ukrainian hryvnia.

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In Kiev, EU chief Von der Leyen promises a signal on Ukraine’s bid next week

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