The leaders of Europe’s three largest economies – French President Macron, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi have each voiced support to Ukraine joining the European Union during a joint visit to Kyiv
The leaders agree the war-torn nation should get “immediate” candidate status, but in reality, this is just the start of a lengthy membership process.
Ukraine’s candidacy will need to be agreed on by all 27 of the EU’s member states, and this could happen during an EU summit on June 23.
A negotiation stage would follow, in which the nation could be asked to implement reforms, such as stamping out corruption.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister says while warm scenes during the visit represent an “historic breakthrough” – she also warns Western countries have shown a “gap between promises and actions” in the past.
Kyiv hopes their visit brings concrete action
All three leaders are seeking to overcome Ukraine’s criticism of their response to its fight against Russia’s invasion.
Irpin was one of the main hotspots of fighting with Russian troops in the north before they pulled back to intensify their offensive in the east.
Ukraine says Russia committed large-scale atrocities here, which Russia denies.
Macron called the town “heroic” and said there were signs war crimes were committed.
The French president has been criticized at home and abroad for not going to Ukraine earlier. He has repeatedly said he would only go if and when the visit could be “useful” and not just symbolic.
The trio arrived together by train in a show of unified solidarity, but it remains to be seen what concrete steps they bring.
“A message of unity we’re sending to the Ukrainians, yes, of support, to speak about today but also the future because we know the weeks to come will be very difficult.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wants his visitors to deliver more arms to help his hard-pressed army withstand the Russian invaders.
“Every day of delay or delayed decisions is an opportunity for the Russian military to kill Ukrainians or destroy our cities. There is a direct correlation: the more powerful weapons we get, the faster we can liberate our people, our land. Ukrainian people are waiting for liberation of our territory, of Ukraine’s territory.”
Kyiv has accused France, Germany and, to a lesser extent, Italy, of foot-dragging: being slow to deliver weapons and putting their own prosperity ahead of Ukraine’s freedom and security.
Ukraine has been particularly critical of Germany’s military aid and wants Scholz to hand over heavy weapons that have been promised but not yet delivered.
Scholz has dismissed allegations he has held back, saying Germany was one of the biggest military and financial backers of Ukraine.
Kyiv officials have also expressed fears of pressure to accept a peace deal favorable to Russia, which calls its invasion a “special military operation”.
The Kremlin said the leaders’ visit shouldn’t only focus on supplying weapons. It’s “absolutely useless,” spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, and will prolong suffering and cause further damage.
The European Union’s executive is expected to propose on Friday (June 17) that Ukraine become a formal candidate for membership, diplomats and officials say.
That would be a significant political gesture to Ukraine, but it’s also something EU leaders are divided on.
Zelensky’s hometown in Russian crosshairs
Ukraine said on Wednesday that Russia might be building a strike force to target Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy’s hometown
Ukraine has warned that Moscow could be preparing new offensive operations in southern Ukraine.
Russia occupies broad stretches of Ukrainian territory in the south of the country,
Much of which Russia captured early on in the war after it launched its February 24 invasion.
Ukraine has also said that Russia has begun to assemble a military strike force – and may be aiming for Kryvyi Rih – the hometown of the Ukrainian president.
“It’s also quite likely that the enemy is preparing a hostile counter-offensive with the subsequent plan of getting to the administrative boundary of Kherson region”Ukraine southern military command
However, Ukraine has also said it was to mount a counter-offensive to regions of Ukraine that Russia currently holds.
Kryvyi Rih is a steel-producing town around 50km (30 miles) from the southern frontline of the war.
Grain vessel allowed to leave Ukraine waters
A cargo vessel carrying grain for export has been permitted to leave Ukrainian waters via the Black Sea in a rare Russia-Ukraine agreement
The vessel, named “Razoni” under a Sierra-Leone registration left the port of Odesa bound for Lebanon, carrying 26,000 tonnes of grain on board.
It’s the first cargo vessel that’s been permitted to carry cargo on the Black Sea following an export agreement between Ukraine and Russia that was brokered by Turkey and the United Nations.
Russia and Ukraine account for a third of the world’s global wheat supply between them.
But Russian blockades of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast as well as the ongoing war have meant exports have plummeted – leading many nations to worry over interrupted food supplies.
Crew aboard the vessel spoke of their concerns about sea mines.
Abdullah jendi, junior engineer aboard razoni
“To be honest, I am scared from the fact that there are naval mines. This is the only thing that I fear during this trip, as for the other things, we are used to them as sailors.”
But they also spoke of their joy at being allowed to sail through.
Junior engineer Abdullah Jendi said it was a great feeling.
“Everyone on the ship was very happy,” he said. “I can say that it was the best feeling we have had in 2022.”
Russia cuts down European gas supply
Russia cuts gas capacity to Europe to a fifth of normal supplies, sending prices soaring and EU nations agreeing to voluntary rationing
Russia has cut down supplies of gas via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany to a fifth of its usual capacity.
Gazprom, Russia’s state run energy and gas firm, has blamed the current reduction on a turbine that was undergoing repairs in Canada.
But the German government has said there’s no technical reason for the current supplies to be limited.
It comes as the European Union member states agreed to voluntary rationing of gas supplies – aiming for a 15 per cent reduction in gas usage between August and March next year.
But the agreements have been messy, with many exemptions being granted for several EU nations where a 15 per cent reduction is not feasible.
Moscow says that the recent spike in gas prices is down to Western sanctions, and that it’s not responsible for the price hike – insisting it is a reliable business partner when it comes to gas.
But critics of Moscow say that it’s using blackmail, holding supplies of gas hostage as a weapon of war.
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