The European Union will quickly say if it opens the way to Ukraine’s accession

The European Commission will indicate next week if it sees Ukraine’s candidacy for the European Union (EU) as viable, the president of the bloc’s executive said on Saturday during a surprise visit to kyiv, in the midst of a Russian military offensive in the east.

"Today’s talks will allow us to make our assessment between now and the end of next week."said the head of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, at a press conference together with the Ukrainian president, Volodimir Zelensky.

The Ukrainian government seeks to obtain a "legal commitment" of the EU to examine his candidacy, as a way of reducing the vulnerability of the country confronted since February 24 with the Russian invasion.

There are expectations that the study of the candidacy will receive the green light at the bloc’s next summit, on June 23 and 24.

But senior officials from the EU and some of its 27 member states have warned that the admission 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 still needs to implement reforms to fight corruption". Zelensky replied that the fate of the EU is largely at stake in Ukraine.

"Russia wants to destroy European unity, wants to divide Europe and weaken it. All of Europe is a target of Russia. Ukraine is only the first step in this aggression"he declared.

This visit by Von der Leyen – the second since the start of the war – coincides with the intensification of fighting in the Donbas region (east), partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

Zelensky’s office reported "bombing" night by the "occupants" in the Kharkov region, as well as in Lugansk and Donetsk, the two provinces that make up Donbas. An AFP photographer reported artillery duels during the day around Severodonetsk.

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The capture of this city would open the way to Kramatorsk for Moscow, an important stage in the conquest of the entire basin.

"The enemy" try "intensify the concentration of their troops"but the Ukrainian forces resist "successfully" in Severodonetsk, near Metiolkiné, where "the occupants have moved back"Y "near Popasna"indicated the Ukrainian General Staff.

"Russia wants to devastate every city of Donbas, every one of them, without exaggeration"Zelensky said on Friday.

In Lysychansk, residents explained to AFP their difficult choice: endure the shelling or flee and abandon their homes.

Yevhen Zhyryada, 39, said the only way to get water was to go "under the bombing" to a distribution center. "this is how we survive"he added.

A separatist leader from Lugansk, Leonid Pasechnik, admitted that "Severodonetsk has not been liberated 100%".

"At the moment, we are not able to control the industrial zone"Pasechnik told AFP during a visit to a Russian military hospital under construction in that region.

"But we will achieve our goal, we will liberate the industrial zone, Severodonetsk (…) and Lysychansk will be ours."he added.

"Russia still has sufficient potential to wage a long war against our country", said the military information department of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. The United States and the EU gave strong support to Ukraine, supplying it with weapons and supporting its economy.

But Ukraine is calling for more long-range weapons and an embargo on imports of Russian hydrocarbons, on which many European countries so far depend.

 

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