Ukraine: Zelensky welcomes support from Brussels, heavy fighting near Severodonetsk

Ukraine: Zelensky welcomes support from Brussels, heavy fighting near Severodonetsk

President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed Brussels’ support for Ukraine’s EU candidate status as “positive news” for the country as fierce fighting rages near Severodonetsk in Donbass.

The European Commission on Friday recommended granting Ukraine EU candidate status. His opinion will be discussed next Thursday and Friday at a European summit, where the 27 EU leaders will have to give the green light – unanimously – for kyiv to officially obtain this status.

For Mr. Zelensky, who “expects a positive result” at this summit, “this is the first step” on the road to EU membership. Ukraine “deserves this positive news”, he said in a video intervention, hailing a “historic success of all those who work for our state”.

“We all know that Ukrainians are ready to die for their European aspirations. We want them to live with us, for the European dream,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, dressed in blue and yellow, the colors of Ukraine.

“The Commission recommends to the Council, firstly, to give Ukraine a European perspective and, secondly, to grant it candidate status”, she added, the day after the visit to kyiv of the German, French and Italian leaders. , the first three European powers to have delivered this message.

– Express review –

Speaking at the Saint Petersburg Economic Forum, President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Russia had “nothing against” Kyiv’s membership of the EU, while believing that “Ukraine (would) be transformed in a semi-colony” of Western countries.

These statements come as heavy fighting rages near Severodonetsk (east), which Russian troops have been trying to take control for weeks.

Ukrainian forces remain struggling in the Donbass region, which has been partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

“The fiercest battles are taking place near Severodonetsk,” said the governor of the eastern region of Lugansk, Sergey Gaidai.

“In the neighboring villages the fighting is very difficult – in Toshkivska, Zolote. (The Russians) try to break through but fail,” he clarified on Telegram, adding: “Our defenders are fighting the Russians in all directions “.

The governor also said Lyssychansk – a city separated from Severodonetsk by a river – was “heavily shelled”. The Russians “can’t get near it and that’s why they just shoot the town with airstrikes.”

Residents of Lysychansk were preparing to be evacuated. “We give up everything and leave. No one can survive such a strike,” said Alla Bor, a history teacher.

Serguiï Gaïdaï has also reported “more destruction” at the besieged Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk, where 568 people are hiding, including 38 children.

The UN on Friday deemed “extremely alarming” the humanitarian situation across Ukraine, particularly in eastern Donbass.

The Ukrainian president, whose trips outside the capital have been rare since the start of the Russian invasion, made a visit to Mykolaiv, in the south of the country, for the first time on Saturday. This city, still under Ukrainian control, remains a target of Moscow because it is on the road to Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port.

The Russian army also claimed that just under 7,000 “foreign mercenaries”, from 64 countries, had arrived in Ukraine since the start of the conflict and that nearly 2,000 of them would have been killed.

Videos of two Americans who had gone to fight as volunteers with the Ukrainian forces and had been missing for several days were broadcast on Friday by a Russian public television channel.

A State Department spokesperson confirmed on Saturday that he had seen the photos and videos of the two American citizens “who were allegedly captured by Russian military forces in Ukraine”. “We are monitoring the situation closely,” he told AFP.

In kyiv, hundreds of people flocked to the Saint-Michel-au-Dôme-d’Or monastery on Saturday to attend the funeral of Roman Ratouchny, 24, killed in action in the East and who was a figure of the pro- European Maidan, which led to the fall of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, AFP noted.

– “Strong test” –

A new stage in the showdown with the West, Moscow is gradually but massively cutting off its gas deliveries to Western Europe, which is very dependent on it.

The manager of the French gas network, GRTgaz, announced Friday that it will no longer receive Russian gas by pipeline since June 15, with “the interruption of the physical flow between France and Germany”.

The Russian giant Gazprom has considerably reduced its deliveries in recent days, particularly to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, causing an explosion in prices. In Italy, Gazprom will deliver only 50% of the gas requested by Eni on Friday, the Italian group announced.

“We should have no illusions, we are in a showdown with Putin,” said German Economy Minister Robert Habeck. “That’s how dictators and despots act.”

US President Joe Biden, whose country is a possible supplier of LNG liquefied gas to Europe, has accused Russia of fueling a “global energy crisis” with its war against Ukraine.

“Our actions to liberate the Donbass have nothing to do with that,” retorted Vladimir Putin. “It is the result of systemic errors by the American administration and European bureaucracy.”

The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, also estimated that Russia was putting the world in danger of famine with the blocking of grain exports from Ukraine and restrictions on its own exports.

Ukraine is also fighting on another front: the country which won the Eurovision Song Contest this year denounced on Friday the decision to withdraw its hosting of the next edition for security reasons.

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