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Ukraine watches the EU as Russia drives on

by Anthony L. Gonzalez

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has praised the European Union’s anticipated offer of candidate status for his combative nation as Russian forces continue to pound Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and the eastern Donbas region.

European leaders will formally help Ukraine on the long road to EU membership at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.

Though mostly symbolic, the move will help boost national morale at a very difficult time in a four-month conflict that has killed thousands, displaced millions, and flattened towns and cities.

Ukraine watches the EU as Russia drives on

The war also greatly impacted the global economy and European security arrangements, pushing up gas, oil, and food prices, prompting the EU to reduce its heavy dependence on Russian energy, and prompting Finland and Sweden to join NATO. Search for membership.

The EU will temporarily switch back to coal to cope with dwindling Russian gas flows without derailing longer-term climate goals, an EU official said Wednesday, as a tight gas market and rising prices sparked a race for alternative fuels.

President Zelensky said he met with 11 European Union leaders on Wednesday about Ukraine’s candidacy and will call more on Thursday.

He previously said all 27 EU countries would support Ukraine’s candidate status.

“We deserve it,” President Zelensky told the crowd in Amsterdam via a video link.

Diplomats say it will take Ukraine ten years or more to meet the criteria for EU accession.

With its troops running out of ammunition and a fierce war of attrition raging in the Donbas, Ukraine has more pressing priorities in the short term.

Artillery strikes on Tuesday and Wednesday on Khinkiv, near the Russian border, were the worst in weeks in an area where normal life had returned since Ukraine pushed back troops from Moscow last month.

Kyiv characterized the attacks, which reportedly killed at least 20 people, as an attempt to force Ukraine to withdraw resources from key battlefields in the Donbas to protect civilians.

Oleh Synehubov, governor of the Kharkiv region, said Russia continues to shell residential areas and cities.

“The shelling of civilians by the Russian occupiers is not lagging behind,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

“This proves that we cannot expect the same scenario as in Chernihiv or Kyiv, where Russian troops are withdrawing under pressure.”

President Zelensky has warned that fighting could escalate ahead of the EU summit.

Russia has long opposed closer ties between Ukraine, a former Soviet state, and Western organizations such as the EU and NATO’s military alliance.

“There were massive air and artillery strikes in Donbas,” he said in a video speech released early Thursday, adding that Russia “wants to destroy the entire Donbas step by step”.

Indicating that the military situation for Ukraine in the Donbas was becoming more difficult, the Tass news agency said Russian troops were about to take the village of Vovchoyarivka, some 12 km southwest of Lysychansk.

The village is near a major highway from Lysychansk to Bakhmut in the southwest.

Reuters could not immediately confirm the message.

In an evening military update, the Ukrainian General Staff took stock of ongoing heavy Russian shelling on Kharkiv and other nearby towns and villages, along with air strikes on the destroyed city of Sievierodonetsk.

Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said in an online post on Wednesday evening that Russian troops continue to build reserves in Sievierodonetsk in an attempt to encircle Ukrainian forces.

He rejected Russian claims that the military already controlled the city.

“The fighting continues,” he told Ukrainian television. “Russian troops are not in full control.”

Moscow says Ukrainian troops are trapped in Sievierodonetsk, the scene of the heaviest recent fighting. It ordered them to surrender or die last week after the last bridge over the Siverskyi Donets River was destroyed.

In Russia, a fire tore through an oil refinery just 5 miles from the Donbas after what the refinery described on Wednesday as a cross-border attack by two drones.

There was no immediate Ukrainian comment on the strike, which suspended production at the Novoshakhtinsk refinery.

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