- Ukraine EU candidacy signals major shift in European geopolitics
- Putin seeks to play down EU issue
- Battle for Sievierodonetsk grinds on
- Russian media say two Americans caught fighting for Ukraine
BRUSSELS/KYIV, June 18 (Reuters) – As war rages in Ukraine’s east, Kyiv received a major boost on Friday when the European Union recommended that it become a candidate to join the bloc, foreshadowing a dramatic geopolitical shift in the wake of Russia’s invasion.
At a summit next week, EU leaders are expected to endorse the recommendations by the bloc’s executive for Ukraine and neighbouring Moldova. read more
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Twitter the bravery of Ukrainians had brought an opportunity for Europe to “create a new history of freedom, and finally remove the grey zone in Eastern Europe between the EU and Russia”.
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As diplomacy advanced with Brussels, intense fighting continued in the eastern region of Donbas, where Russia seeks to solidify and extend recent gains, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to the capital, Kyiv.
Zelenskiy said in a nightly televised address that the decision of EU member states remains to be seen, but added: “You can only imagine truly powerful European strength, European independence and European development with Ukraine.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the decision while wearing the Ukrainian colours, represented by a yellow blazer over a blue blouse.
“Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective,” she said. “We want them to live with us the European dream.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin railed at the West, the United States in particular, in a grievance-filled speech in St Petersburg, but sought to play down the EU issue.
“We have nothing against it,” he said. “It is not a military bloc. It’s the right of any country to join economic union.”
However, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia was closely following Ukraine’s EU bid, especially in the light of increased defence cooperation among the 27-member bloc.
Ukraine applied to join the EU four days after Russian troops poured across its border late in February. Within days it was joined by Moldova and Georgia, smaller former Soviet states also contending with separatist regions backed by Russia.
Although only the start of a process that may run for years and require extensive reforms, the move by the European Commission puts Kyiv on course to realise an aspiration seen as out of reach just months ago.
One of Putin’s stated objectives in launching what Moscow calls a “special military operation” that has killed thousands of people, destroyed cities and sent millions fleeing was to halt the West’s eastward expansion via the NATO military alliance.
But Friday’s announcement underlined how the war has had the opposite effect: convincing Finland and Sweden to join NATO, and now the EU to embark on potentially its most ambitious expansion since welcoming Eastern European states after the Cold War.
Heightening the global showdown, Russian media broadcast images of what they said were two Americans captured while fighting…