EU leaders yesterday were set to make Ukraine a candidate for joining the 27-nation bloc, as the Russian military captured two Ukrainian villages and was vying for control of a key highway in an offensive that could cut supply lines and encircle some frontline forces, British and Ukrainian military officials said.
Making Ukraine a contender seems to be a done deal after national leaders were initially divided on how quickly to embrace the war-torn country’s request to become an EU member, which the Ukrainian government submitted only a few days after Russia invaded on Feb. 24.
Several diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity before a leaders’ summit in Brussels said that Ukraine was to receive the unanimous approval required for candidate status and the launch of eligibility negotiations.
“This is a decisive moment for the European Union,” said European Council President Charles Michel, the EU summit chair.
Members of the European Parliament endorsed Ukraine’s bid hours before the summit started, voting to pass a resolution that calls EU heads of state and government to “move without delay” and “live up to their historical responsibility.”
EU nations have been united in backing Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s invasion, adopting unprecedented economic sanctions against Moscow.
Ukraine’s application last week got a boost when the European Commission gave its seal of approval based on the country’s answers to a questionnaire received in April and early last month.
Ukraine received another shot in the arm when the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania visited the country and vowed to back its candidacy.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he spoke with 11 EU leaders on Wednesday, following calls with nine the day before, and called the meeting in Brussels a “historic session of the European Council.”
Meanwhile, the British Ministry of Defence said that Ukrainian forces had withdrawn from some areas near the city of Lysychansk, the latest major battlefield in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against the country, to avoid the possibility of being encircled as Russians sent in reinforcements and concentrated their firepower in the area.
The Ukrainian Chief of the General Staff office said that Russian forces took control of the villages of Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka, and were trying to capture Syrotyne outside Sievierodonetsk, the administrative center of the Luhansk region.
“The enemy is burning everything out in a bid to encircle the Ukrainian group of forces,” Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said.
“The Russians are advancing without trying to spare the ammunition or troops, and they aren’t running out of either,” Haidai said. “They have an edge in heavy artillery and the number of troops.”
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