ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Ukraine takes tentative step toward EU membership as Donbas battles reach 'fearsome climax'

Although the approval of the Kyiv government's application by EU leaders meeting in Brussels is just the start of what will be a years-long process, it marks a huge geopolitical shift and will anger Russia as it struggles to impose its will on Ukraine.

Ukrainians call on EU leaders to approve candidate status
Ukrainians living in Belgium protest outside the European Council building, on the day leaders are set to meet to discuss giving Ukraine candidate status to join the European Union, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Brussels, Belgium on June 23, 2022.
JOHANNA GERON/REUTERS
We are part of The Trust Project.

KYIV — Ukraine will be accepted as a candidate to join the European Union on Thursday, a move that will boost the country's morale as the battle with Russian troops for two cities in the east reached what one official called a "fearsome climax."

Although the approval of the Kyiv government's application by EU leaders meeting in Brussels is just the start of what will be a years-long process, it marks a huge geopolitical shift and will anger Russia as it struggles to impose its will on Ukraine.

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.
With the war entering its next phase, Ukrainian forces took up new defensive lines in the eastern part of the country.
The cause of the blasts was not immediately clear, although Russia later said it had hit army command posts in the area. Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
Russia said it had decided to withdraw from the outcrop off Ukraine's southwestern coast as a "gesture of goodwill" to show Moscow was not obstructing U.N. attempts to open a humanitarian corridor allowing grains to be shipped from Ukraine.
Putin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying he could not rule out that tensions would emerge in Moscow's relations with Helsinki and Stockholm over their joining NATO.
Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš met with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz Wednesday ahead of a six-day Latvian song and dance festival in St. Paul.
The attack in the central city of Kremenchuk and the reported strike in the Dnipropetrovsk region were far from any frontlines. The mall attack drew a wave of global condemnation, with France's Emmanuel Macron calling it a "war crime."
Leaders of the Group of Seven major democracies, meeting at a German alpine resort, said they would keep sanctions on Russia for as long as necessary and intensify international pressure on President Vladimir Putin's government and its ally Belarus.
Russia has stepped up air strikes on Ukraine this weekend, which has also seen the fall of a strategic eastern city to pro-Russian forces.
Ukraine called its retreat from the city a "tactical withdrawal" to fight from higher ground in Lysychansk on the opposite bank of the Siverskyi Donets river.

Friday will mark four months since Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops across the border in what he calls a "special military operation" partly necessitated by Western encroachment into what Russia views as its sphere of influence.

The conflict, which the West sees as an unjustified war of aggression by Russia, has killed thousands, displaced millions and destroyed cities as well as having ramifications across much of the world as food and energy exports have been curtailed.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged his country's allies to speed up shipments of heavy weapons to match Russia on the battlefield.

ADVERTISEMENT

"We must free our land and achieve victory, but more quickly, a lot more quickly," Zelenskiy said in a video address on Thursday.

Moscow's massive air and artillery attacks are aimed at destroying the entire Donbas region, he said.

Russia focused its campaign on southern and eastern Ukraine after its advance on the capital Kyiv in the early stages of the conflict was thwarted by dogged Ukrainian resistance.

The war of attrition in the Donbas — Ukraine's industrial heartland — is most critical in the twin cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, which sit on opposite sides of the Siverskyi Donets River in Luhansk province.

The battle there is "entering a sort of fearsome climax," said Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Zelenskiy.

Funeral of a Ukrainian serviceman in Kyiv
People attend a funeral ceremony for Oleh Kutsyn, commander of Karpatska Sich battalion, who was recently killed in a battle against Russian troops, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in central Kyiv, Ukraine on June 22, 2022.
GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS

Ukrainian forces were defending Sievierodonetsk and the nearby settlements of Zolote and Vovchoyrovka, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Thursday, but Russian forces had captured Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka to the south.

Hundreds of civilians are trapped in a chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk while Ukraine and Russia dispute who controls the bombed-out city.

Moscow says Ukrainian forces in the city are surrounded and trapped. But Gaidai told Ukrainian television on Wednesday that Russian forces did not have full control of Sievierodonetsk.

ADVERTISEMENT

Gaidai said all Lysychansk was within reach of Russian fire.

"In order to avoid encirclement, our command could order that the troops retreat to new positions. There may be a regrouping after last night," he said.

TASS news agency cited Russian-backed separatists saying Lysychansk was now surrounded and cut off from supplies after a road connecting the city to the town of Sieviersk was taken.

Reuters was unable to immediately confirm the report.

Britain's defense ministry said on Twitter some Ukrainian units had withdrawn, probably to avoid being encircled.

"Russian forces are putting the Lysychansk-Sievierodonetsk pocket under increasing pressure with this creeping advance... However, its efforts to achieve a deeper encirclement to take western Donetsk Oblast remain stalled," the ministry said .

A newly installed direction sign "Donetsk People's Republic Square" is seen in front of the U.S. embassy in Moscow
A newly installed direction sign "Donetsk People's Republic Square" is seen in front of the U.S. embassy in Moscow, Russia on June 22, 2022.
MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS

On the southern front, Russian forces struck Ukrainian army fuel tanks and military equipment near Mykolaiv with high-precision weapons, Russia's defense ministry said, quoted by the Interfax news agency.

A river port and ship-building center just off the Black Sea, Mykolaiv has been a bastion against Russian efforts to push West towards Ukraine's main port city of Odesa.

ADVERTISEMENT

'HISTORY ON THE MARCH'

Zelenskyy said he had spoken to 11 EU leaders on Wednesday about Ukraine's candidacy and will make more calls on Thursday.

European Union chief executive Ursula von der Leyen, speaking ahead of the two-day EU summit in Brussels, said: "History is on the march."

She added: "I am not just talking about Putin's war of aggression. I am talking about the wind of change that once again blows across our continent."

As well as Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia are also seeking to the join the EU in what would be its most ambitious expansion since welcoming Eastern European states after the Cold War.

Russia has long opposed closer links between Ukraine, a fellow former Soviet republic, and Western groupings like the European Union and the NATO military alliance.

Diplomats say it will take Ukraine a decade or more to meet the criteria for joining the EU. But EU leaders say the bloc must make a gesture that recognizes Ukraine's sacrifice.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; writing by Angus MacSwan; editing by Mark Heinrich.)

Ukrainians call on EU leaders to approve candidate status
Ukrainians living in Belgium protest outside the European Council building, on the day leaders are set to meet to discuss giving Ukraine candidate status to join the European Union, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Brussels, Belgium on June 23, 2022.
JOHANNA GERON/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: UKRAINERUSSIAWAR
What to read next
The 22-year-old Danish male, accused of opening fire on Sunday afternoon on shoppers in the Field's mall a few kilometers south of downtown Copenhagen, was arrested and charged with manslaughter and intent to kill.
Much of Italy has been baking in an early-summer heatwave and scientists said climate change was making previously stable glaciers more difficult to predict.
Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesman for the Odesa regional administration, said 21 people had been confirmed killed, including a 12-year-old boy. Among the fatalities was an employee of the Children's Rehabilitation Center set up by Ukraine's neighbor Moldova in the resort.
Pictures circulating on social media, still unverified by authorities, showed the bodies of youths lying scattered across the floor of the tavern, some also seen motionless on tables and couches.