Ukraine at war suspended over decision on EU membership
The fate of Ukraine is being played out in Brussels where the Twenty-Seven are considering its candidacy for membership of the European Union on Thursday, a highly symbolic milestone nearly four months after its invasion by the Russian army.
Meanwhile, Russian forces continue to tighten their grip in the Donbass on the twin cities of Lysytchansk and Severodonetsk.
The pocket of Ukrainian resistance around these two strategic industrial cities is increasingly tightly surrounded by the Russians, in this region of Lugansk destroyed by artillery battles.
“As actively as we are fighting for a positive decision by the European Union on Ukraine’s candidacy, we are fighting daily to obtain deliveries of modern weapons,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky insisted on Wednesday evening. participate virtually in the European Council summit in Brussels.
“We are expecting a key European decision in the evening,” said the man who has been repeating for weeks that his former Soviet republic belongs to the “European family”.
He was to continue Thursday his “telephone marathon” with European leaders to snatch a 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.
The European executive also issued a favorable opinion on Ukraine’s candidacy 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.
– ‘Destroy all of Donbass’ –
“Lyssychansk is under fire from artillery fire and air attacks”, according to the last point Wednesday evening from Serguiï Gaïdaï, the governor of the Lugansk region.
“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. .
The two cities of Lyssytchansk and Severodonetsk are a key step for the Russians in their plan to conquer the entire Donbass, a mainly Russian-speaking basin and partly held by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.
In Lysytchansk, an AFP team saw Ukrainian soldiers digging a trench on Wednesday to serve as a firing post in a central street, and erecting barricades with barbed wire and branches.
Further north, Kharkiv, the second city of Ukraine, held by the Ukrainians and bombarded daily, the streets seemed emptied of their inhabitants on Wednesday, according to another AFP team on the spot.
“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.
And two grain storage terminals were hit by Russian shelling on Wednesday in the port city of Mykolaiv, Ukraine, their operators told AFP.
“The occupiers hit Mykolaiv with seven missiles,” President Zelensky confirmed in his last video message overnight Wednesday to Thursday, reporting five injuries.
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.
– “Marshall Plan” –
The European summit must be followed by another of the G7 and a third of NATO, in which the American 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.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called on Wednesday from Berlin to set up “a Marshall plan” for the reconstruction of Ukraine, with a budget of several billion euros.
In addition, the journalists’ defense organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) will file a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) after its publication on Wednesday of an investigation according to which the Ukrainian photo-reporter Maks Levin and a soldier who accompanied him were “executed”, and probably tortured, by Russian soldiers in March.