Ukrainian president links intensified Russian attacks to holding European Union summit
Reuters – Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has predicted Russia will step up its attacks this week as European Union leaders consider whether they support their country’s bid to join the bloc.
“Obviously, this week we should expect Russia to step up its hostile activities,” Zelensky said in a video speech on Sunday evening. “We’re getting ready. We’re ready.”
Ukraine applied for EU membership four days after Russian troops crossed its border in February. The EU’s executive, the European Commission, on Friday recommended that Ukraine be granted candidate status.
Leaders of the 27-nation bloc will consider the issue at a summit on Thursday and Friday and are expected to endorse Ukraine’s request, despite doubts from some member countries. The process can take many years to complete.
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Ukraine’s EU membership would interfere with one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated goals when he ordered his troops into Ukraine: to keep the neighbor out of the West’s sphere of influence.
Putin said on Friday that Russia has “nothing against” Ukraine’s EU membership, but a Kremlin spokesman said Russia is closely monitoring Kiev’s offer, especially in light of increased cooperation in defense among EU members.
On the battlefield, Russian forces are trying to take full control of the Donbass region, parts of which were already under the control of Russian-backed separatists before the February 24 Russian military operation.
One of the main targets of Russia’s eastern attack is the industrial city of Severodonetsk. Russia said on Sunday it had captured Metyolkine, a village on the outskirts, and Russian state news agency TASS reported that many Ukrainian fighters had surrendered there. Ukraine’s military said Russia had “partial success” in the area.
Lughansk governor Serhiy Gaidai told Ukrainian television that a Russian attack on Toshkivka, 35 kilometers south of Severodonetsk, was also “somewhat successful”. TASS, quoting an adviser to the Interior Minister of the Lughansk People’s Republic, reported that Toshkivka had been “released”.
In Severodonetsk itself, a pre-war city of 100,000, Mayor Olekander Struk said Russian forces controlled about two-thirds of the city, including most residential areas, and were continuing to launch forces against Ukrainians in an attempt to subdue it. completely.
Both Russia and Ukraine continued heavy bombing around Severodonetsk “with little change on the front line”, the UK Defense Ministry said on Sunday.
In Severodonetsk’s twin city of Lysychansk, residential and administrative buildings were destroyed by Russian bombing, Gaidai said.
Reuters could not independently confirm the battlefield reports.
“War can last for years”
Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, wrote in a note that “Russian forces will likely be able to take Severodonetsk in the coming weeks, but at the cost of concentrating most of their available forces in this small area”.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the war in Ukraine could last for years and urged Western governments to continue sending state-of-the-art weaponry to Ukrainian troops, the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported.
“We must prepare for the fact that it may take years. We must not give up on supporting Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
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