The European Commission has recommended Ukraine be brought under the EU umbrella after months of warfare with Russia.
The European Commission on Friday recommended war-torn Ukraine be formally named a “candidate” for joining the EU, a move that could open up a years-long path towards joining the bloc.
“We have one clear message – and that is, yes, Ukraine deserves European perspective, yes, Ukraine should be welcomed as a candidate country,” President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said.
“This is on the understanding that good work has been done – but important work remains to be done.
“The entire process is merit-based, so it goes by the book and progress depends entirely on Ukraine. So it is Ukraine that has it in its hands.”
The recommendation now needs to be approved by all 27 member states. Ukraine would then have to undergo a number of reforms before it could eventually become a full member of the EU.
The significant move is likely to anger the Kremlin. It’s widely believed that Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian invasion of Ukraine because of concerns over Kyiv’s move towards closer alignment with Nato and the EU.
It came after French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi visited Irpin on Thursday, a battle-damaged suburb of Ukraine’s capital, in a show of support for the country at war with Russia.
The European leaders arrived to the town perched just north of Kyiv, where residential buildings and civilian infrastructure remain damaged following Russian troops’ attempts early in the invasion to capture the capital.
The trio met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, offering their ongoing support as the rest of the West continues to rally behind the war-torn nation.
The decision came as brutal conflict raged across the nation, with over 10,000 people trapped in the embattled eastern city of Severodonetsk.
Ukraine said Friday that only a “complete ceasefire” would make it possible for hundreds of civilians to be evacuated from the city’s Azot chemical plant.
“It is now impossible and physically dangerous to get out of the plant due to constant shelling and fighting. There are 568 people in the shelter, including 38 children,” Lugansk governor Sergiy Gaiday said on social media.
“Exit from the plant is possible only with a complete ceasefire.” Severodonetsk is the largest city in the Lugansk region that is still in Ukrainian hands and it has been under heavy Russian shelling for weeks.
It is at the centre of fighting between Ukraine and Russian troops which have focused their military efforts on the industrial Donbas region that includes Lugansk after withdrawing from the areas around the capital and the north.
Russia on Friday said that close to 2,000 foreign mercenaries have been killed in Ukraine since the start of Moscow’s military intervention in the pro-Western country.
Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement that 6,956 “mercenaries and weapons specialists” from 64 countries had arrived in Ukraine since the start of the conflict and that “1,956 have already been destroyed”.
Another 1,779 have left Ukraine, the statement said.
It said that Poland was the “absolute leader” among European countries for the number of fighters that were sent to Ukraine, followed by Romania and Britain.
It also singled out “mercenaries” from Canada, the United States and the Caucasus nation of Georgia.
The ministry said the number of foreign fighters is decreasing and many are leaving Ukraine “against the backdrop of the growing number of military failures of the Kyiv regime and massive daily losses in manpower and equipment”.
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