The European Commission will meet on Friday to give its fast-track opinion on Ukraine’s EU candidacy, a step closer to the country’s membership a day after the bloc’s most powerful leaders visited Kyiv as it fights against the Russian invasion.
Never before has an opinion been given so quickly on an application to join the EU, which must be approved by all 27 member states.
The opinion will serve as the basis for discussion at next week’s EU summit, where leaders are expected to approve Ukraine’s candidate status with strict conditions, although membership could take years or even decades.
France, Germany, Italy and Romania are in favor of Ukraine receiving “immediate” candidate status, French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday in Kyiv.
Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi arrived in Ukraine by train and were joined by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis before meeting Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, who lobbied his allies for his support .
“The most important message from our visit is that Italy wants Ukraine in the EU,” Draghi told a joint press conference.
Scholz said Ukraine “is part of the European family” and that Berlin would continue to send weapons to Kyiv “as long as necessary”.
After meeting with the visiting leaders, Zelensky said he explained “basic defense needs.”
“We are expecting new deliveries, especially heavy weapons, modern artillery, anti-aircraft defense systems,” he said, even as Macron said France would send six Caesar self-propelled howitzers to s add to the 12 already deployed on Ukraine’s eastern front.
Zelensky promised that Ukraine was ready to work to become a member of the EU.
Think tank director Sebastien Maillard said he expected a positive opinion on Ukraine’s status in the EU, but with conditions and a deadline.
“It is a very delicate exercise for the Commission because it cannot be less demanding for Ukraine than for other countries for which it has given a favorable opinion in the past. Its credibility depends on maintaining high,” said the boss of Jacques Delors. says the Institute.
Russia has already “strategically lost” its war with Ukraine, suffering heavy losses and strengthening NATO, Britain’s chief of defense staff said in an interview published Friday.
“This is a terrible mistake on Russia’s part. Russia will never take control of Ukraine,” said Tony Radakin, the country’s highest ranking officer.
The admiral said Russian President Vladimir Putin had sacrificed a quarter of the might of his country’s military for “tiny” gains and lacked high-tech troops and missiles.
“Russia is failing.
Nuns survive the bombings
In eastern Ukraine, Russian forces have moved closer to controlling the twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk after weeks of battle.
Regional Governor Sergiy Gaiday said on Friday that airstrikes had killed six people in the region, including a mother and son, and that the number of shellings by the Russian military was increasing every day.
Under near-constant shelling by Russian forces, black-clad Sister Anastasia and a group of Orthodox nuns and pilgrims live in one of the villages closest to the Ukrainian front line.
Entry to the religious community, in the village of Adamivka near the city of Sloviansk, is possible only with the permission of the Ukrainian army.
Their compound has not had electricity for months and its surrounding walls are riddled with shell holes.
AFP reporters heard steady incoming gunfire a few miles away, and soldiers said a cluster bomb had just fallen nearby.
Sloviansk was taken by Russian-backed separatists in 2014 but retaken by Kyiv forces after a months-long siege.
“This is our house, we have nowhere to go,” Sister Anastasia said.
US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday called on Russia to quickly open Ukrainian ports to allow the export of millions of tons of stored grain.
“We shouldn’t use food as a weapon,” Vilsack told reporters at the United Nations.
As world grain prices soar and importers in the Middle East and Africa face supply shortages, Moscow demanded that economic sanctions against it be lifted in exchange for allowing the exports.
As Russia – the world’s largest wheat exporter – appears to be taking the lead in the grain stalemate, experts say its own agricultural sector is also bracing for tough times.
Yevgeny Shifanov, co-owner of an organic farm, says his business has been spurred on by Western sanctions and he is no longer able to sell his grain in Europe.
But the 42-year-old puts on a brave face, saying he is looking to ex-Soviet countries such as Belarus as well as domestic customers.
“We are more interested in our internal market, our economy,” he told AFP.