The EU considers kyiv’s candidacy, the Russians advance in eastern Ukraine
The European Union is expected to endorse Ukraine’s candidacy in Brussels on Thursday, a highly symbolic step nearly four months after the invasion launched by the Russian army, which continues to advance in the east with destructive bombardments.
The EU summit, devoted to granting candidate status to Ukraine and its neighbor Moldova, “is a historic moment in geopolitical terms”, European Council President Charles Michel said on Thursday.
“A choice must be made today which will affect the future of the European Union, our stability, our security, our prosperity”, he added.
“We are waiting for the green light”, declared in echo Thursday morning the head of the Ukrainian presidential administration Andriï Yermak, recalling that “the clear objective is full membership of the EU”, even if this procedure can take years.
Except surprise, kyiv should obtain the status of candidate on Thursday: the European executive gave a favorable opinion on the candidacy of Ukraine a few days ago and on Tuesday, France, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU , indicated that a “total consensus” between the Twenty-Seven had emerged on this issue.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who keeps repeating that his country belongs to the “European family”, continued his “telephone marathon” with European leaders on Thursday to ensure consensus in favor of yes.
He can count on the support of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who called on European leaders to “rise to the occasion” by acceding to kyiv’s request.
This scenario, unimaginable until recently, imposed itself on the Twenty-Seven with the war waged by Russia for almost 4 months. But the process of joining the EU then remains very long for any candidate country.
Blocked for years in the antechamber of the EU, the Western Balkan countries already candidates for membership did not hide their bitterness by recalling it on Thursday.
If he considers “it is a good thing to give status” to Ukraine, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama advised Ukrainians on Thursday not to “have any illusions”.
“North Macedonia has been a candidate for 17 years, if I haven’t lost count, and Albania for eight years, so welcome to Ukraine,” he quipped on his arrival in Brussels.
– Russian advances –
Militarily, Ukrainian forces continue to give ground in the Donbass, particularly around the strategic twin cities of Lysytchansk and Severodonetsk, their last pocket of resistance in the Lugansk region.
Bombed by the Russians for weeks, Severodonetsk is a key step in their plan to conquer all of Donbass, a basin in eastern Ukraine partly held by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.
The Russians are “increasing the offensives to encircle our troops”, said Thursday morning on Telegram Serguiï Gaïdaï, the regional governor, admitting that the enemy had conquered Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka, two localities located a few kilometers from Lyssytchansk, and attacked Syrotyne , at the gates of Severodonetsk.
Ukrainian resistance in Lysytchansk and Severodonetsk is “futile”, a representative of pro-Russian separatists said Thursday.
“At the rate our soldiers are going, very soon the entire territory of the Lugansk People’s Republic will be liberated,” Lt. Col. Andrei Marochko told AFP by video call.
“They want to destroy all of Donbass, step by step. Entirely. Lysytchansk, Sloviansk, Kramatorsk… They want to transform all the cities into Mariupol”, a city martyred by the war, President Zelensky declared on the night of Wednesday to Thursday. .
Further north, in Kharkiv, the second city of Ukraine, held by the Ukrainians and bombarded daily, the streets seemed emptied of their inhabitants on Wednesday, according to an AFP team.
“So many people have left. There are only grannies left”, testifies Roman Pohuliay, 19, pink Hello Kitty sweatshirt and diamond in his ear, in a street of this city located 50 km from the Russian border.
The Russian army also continues to bombard the Mykolaiv region (south), where it announced Thursday that it had notably destroyed 49 fuel tanks and three armored repair centers.
On Wednesday, two grain storage terminals were hit by Russian shelling in the same area, according to their operators.
– “Devastating” –
According to the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russian forces likely recaptured the eastern bank of the Inhoulets River, located between Mykolaiv, still held by the Ukrainians, and Kherson, further east, occupied by the Russians.
The ports of Mykolaiv and Odessa have been blocked since the beginning of the conflict, which has paralyzed the maritime transport of agricultural raw materials, the main export route for Ukraine until then.
However, a prolonged blockage could have serious consequences on food in many countries that depend on the Ukrainian grain storehouse and Russian fertilizers.
“This crisis is urgent and must be resolved within a month, otherwise the consequences could be devastating,” British Foreign Minister Liz Truss said on Thursday during a visit to Ankara, blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin. to “use hunger as a weapon” in this conflict.
The global food crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine will claim millions of victims by making large populations more vulnerable to infectious diseases, at the risk of triggering a new health crisis, warned on Thursday the head of the Global Fund, an organization that fights against the AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
Thursday’s European summit in Brussels is to be followed by another from the G7 and a third from NATO, in which US President Joe Biden will participate. The question of financial aid to kyiv should be at the heart of the discussions of these three meetings.
The G7 summit in Germany this weekend will produce “a set of concrete proposals to increase pressure on Russia and show our collective support for Ukraine,” a senior White House official promised on Wednesday.
The White House stressed that Volodymyr Zelensky would intervene, virtually, during these two meetings.