ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

EU backs Ukraine's membership bid as war brings huge shift

Ukraine applied to join the EU just four days after Russian troops poured across its border in February. Four days later, so did Moldova and Georgia — smaller ex-Soviet states also contending with separatist regions occupied by Russian troops.

Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Donetsk region
A police officer speaks with an elderly woman in a shelter during an evacuation of local residents between shelling, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in the town of Marinka, in Donetsk region, Ukraine on June 16, 2022.
GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS
We are part of The Trust Project.

BRUSSELS/KYIV — The European Union gave its blessing on Friday for Ukraine and its neighbor Moldova to become candidates to join, in the most dramatic geopolitical shift to result from Russia's invasion.

Ukraine applied to join the EU just four days after Russian troops poured across its border in February. Four days later, so did Moldova and Georgia — smaller ex-Soviet states also contending with separatist regions occupied by Russian troops.

More from Ukraine
Russia's invasion, the biggest attack on a European state since 1945, has seen more than 6.5 million people flee abroad, turned entire cities into rubble and brought down severe economic sanctions on Moscow.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters after talks in Lviv, Ukraine, on Thursday that he was gravely concerned by circumstances at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant and called for military equipment and personnel to be withdrawn.
Moscow blamed saboteurs for blasts that engulfed an ammunition depot in northern Crimea on Tuesday. Plumes of smoke were later seen rising at a second Russian military base in central Crimea, Russia's Kommersant newspaper said.
The blasts engulfed an ammunition depot at a military base in the north of the Crimean peninsula, disrupting trains and forcing the evacuation of 2,000 people from a nearby village, according to Russian officials and news agencies.
Ukraine and Russia have traded accusations over multiple recent incidents of shelling at the Zaporizhzhia facility, Europe's largest nuclear power plant. Russian troops captured the station early in the war.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday said Ukrainian forces would respond to the shelling of Marhanets. Ukraine's military said Russia also bombarded several other areas in the Zaporizhzhia region including the coal-mining town of Vuhledar.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy this week described the pressure his armed forces were under in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine as "hell." He spoke of fierce fighting around the town of Avdiivka and the fortified village of Pisky, where Kyiv has acknowledged its Russian foe's "partial success" in recent days.
Schroeder, a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin and increasingly derided in Germany for his pro-Russia stance, said last month's agreement on grain shipments from Ukraine, aimed at easing a global food crisis, might offer a way forward.
Russia said it was responding to comments by Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine's deputy head of military intelligence, about the way Kyiv had used U.S.-made and supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers based on what he called excellent satellite imagery and real-time information.
Washington was "deeply concerned" that Moscow was now using the plant as a military base and firing on Ukrainian forces from around it, Blinken told reporters after nuclear nonproliferation talks at the United Nations in New York.

"Ukraine has clearly demonstrated the country's aspiration and the country's determination to live up to European values and standards," the EU's executive Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said in Brussels. She made the announcement wearing Ukrainian colors, a yellow blazer over a blue shirt.

President Voloymyr Zelenskyy thanked von der Leyen and EU member states on Twitter for a decision he called "the first step on the EU membership path that'll certainly bring our victory closer."

Moldova's President Maia Sandu hailed a "strong signal of support for Moldova & our citizens!" and said she counted on the support of EU member states.

ADVERTISEMENT

"We're committed to working hard," she said on Twitter.

While recommending candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova, the Commission held off for Georgia, which it said must meet more conditions first.

Von der Leyen said Georgia has a strong application but had to come together politically. A senior diplomat close to the process cited setbacks in reforms there.

Leaders of EU countries are expected to endorse the decision at a summit next week. The leaders of the three biggest — Germany, France and Italy — had signaled their solidarity on Thursday by visiting Kyiv, along with the president of Romania.

"Ukraine belongs to the European family," Germany's Olaf Scholz said after meeting Zelenskyy.

Ukraine and Moldova will still face a lengthy process to achieve the standards required for membership, and there are other candidates in the waiting room. Nor is membership guaranteed — talks have been stalled for years with Turkey, officially a candidate since 1999.

But launching the candidacy process, a move that would have seemed unthinkable just months ago, amounts to a shift on par with the decision in the 1990s to welcome the ex-Communist countries of Eastern Europe.

"Precisely because of the bravery of the Ukrainians, Europe can create a new history of freedom, and finally remove the grey zone in Eastern Europe between the EU and Russia," Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

ADVERTISEMENT

If admitted, Ukraine would be the EU's largest country by area and its fifth most populous. All three hopefuls are far poorer than any existing EU members, with per capita output around half that of the poorest, Bulgaria.

All have recent histories of volatile politics, domestic unrest, entrenched organized crime, and unresolved conflicts with Russian-backed separatists proclaiming sovereignty over territory protected by Moscow's troops.

Macron, Scholz, Iohannis and Draghi meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrive for a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine on June 16, 2022.
LUDOVIC MARIN/REUTERS

PORT BLOCKADE

President Vladimir Putin ordered his "special military operation" officially to disarm and "denazify" Ukraine. One of his main objectives was to halt the expansion of Western institutions which he called a threat to Russia.

But the war, which has killed thousands of people, destroyed whole cities and set millions to flight, has had the opposite effect. Finland and Sweden have applied to join the NATO military alliance, and the EU has opened its arms to the east.

Within Ukraine, Russian forces were defeated in an attempt to storm the capital in March, but have since refocused on seizing more territory in the east.

The nearly four-month-old war has entered a punishing attritional phase, with Russian forces relying on their massive advantage in artillery firepower to blast their way into Ukrainian cities.

UPDATED UKRAINE WEB MAP

Ukrainian officials said their troops were still holding out in Sievierodonetsk, site of the worst fighting of recent weeks, on the east bank of the Siverskyi Donets river. It was impossible to evacuate more than 500 civilians who are trapped inside a chemical plant, the regional governor said.

ADVERTISEMENT

In the surrounding Donbas region, which Moscow claims on behalf of its separatist proxies, Ukrainian forces are mainly defending the river's opposite bank.

Near the frontline in the ruins of the small city of Marinka, Ukrainian police made their way into a cellar searching for anyone who wanted help to evacuate. A group of mainly elderly residents huddled on mattresses in candlelight.

"There's space down here, you could join us," joked one man as the officers came in. A woman named Nina sighed in the darkness: "There is nowhere. Nowhere. Nowhere to go. All the houses have been burnt out. Where can we go?"

In the south, Ukraine has mounted a counter-offensive, claiming to have made inroads into the biggest swath still held by Russia of the territory it seized in the invasion. There have been few reports from the frontline to confirm the situation in that area.

Ukraine claimed its forces had struck a Russian tugboat bringing soldiers, weapons and ammunition to Russian-occupied Snake Island, a strategic Black Sea outpost.

(Additional reporting by Abdelaziz Boumzar in Marinka and Reuters bureaus; writing by Peter Graff; editing by Angus MacSwan.)

French President Macron, German Chancellor Scholz, Italian PM Draghi and Romanian President Iohannis visit Ukraine
Ukrainian Minister for Communities and Territories Development Oleksiy Chernyshov shows a wartime map to French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis (partially obscured) during their visit, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Irpin, near Kyiv, Ukraine on June 16, 2022.
VIACHESLAV RATYNSKYI/REUTERS

______________________________________________________

This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

Related Topics: UKRAINERUSSIAWAREUROPE
What to read next
Both Wyoming and Alaska are reliably Republican, making it unlikely that either's result will influence whether President Joe Biden's Democrats lose their razor-thin majorities in Congress. Republicans are expected to retake the House and also have a chance of winning control of the Senate.
The world nuclear watchdog has said the world risks a disaster if the fighting does not stop. Ukrainian and Russian-installed officials have traded accusations over who is responsible for attacks close to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine.
In the 12 months since the United States' chaotic withdrawal, some Afghans have welcomed improved security but struggled with poverty, drought, malnutrition and the fading hope among women that they will have a decisive role in the country's future.
Nearly 116,000 square miles are still seen as "contaminated," according to data released by Ukraine's Emergency Services. Making that area safe could take a decade, the government said.