Wed, 22 Mar 2023

The EU on Friday pledged to support Ukraine "every step of the way" in its quest for bloc membership as top officials gathered in Kyiv for a summit to discuss the extension of military and humanitarian assistance, as well as an eventual post-war reconstruction programme.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, host of the Kyiv summit, is pressing the EU for speedy membership, as Ukraine battles to defeat the Russian invasion.

The bloc granted candidate status to Ukraine last June, but the path to full membership is normally long and arduous.

EU chief Charles Michel announced his arrival in the Ukrainian capital as air raid sirens sounded, vowing that there will be "no let up in our resolve.

"We will also support you every step of the way on your journey to the EU," Michel tweeted.

The trading bloc's chief Ursula von der Leyen and the EU's most senior diplomat, Josep Borrell, are also in Kyiv for the summit.

Zelensky said following talks with von der Leyen on Thursday that Ukraine "deserves to start negotiations on EU membership this year.

"Only together can a strong Ukraine and a strong European Union protect the life we value."

Von der Leyen said the EU intended to finalise new sanctions against Russia by 24 February, the first anniversary of the invasion.

Russia shrugs off sanctions

Russian leader Vladimir Putin insists Russia is weathering the storm of sanctions imposed by Ukraine's Western allies. He said his forces will continue to fight regardless of the penalties.

But von der Leyen said that sanctions were already "eroding" Russia's economy.

She estimated that an oil price cap introduced in December was costing Moscow around 160 million euros every day.

EU, Ukraine leaders meet to discuss weapons, corruption, EU accession France to send armoured vehicles to war-torn Ukraine

An EU ban on Russian oil products like diesel, gasoline and jet fuel, is set to come into effect on Sunday alongside a G7 price cap on these products.

But the Kremlin warned Friday that the measures will destabilise global markets.

"This will lead to a further imbalance of international energy markets, but we are taking measures to protect our interests against the risks associated," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Notable steps being taken against graft

Corruption is a key European concern. Ukraine has recently widened efforts to tackle graft with officials warning of an ongoing fight against an "internal enemy".

The latest measures have seen highly publicised raids by the security services targeting residences of an oligarch with deep political connections and a former interior minister.

Von der Leyen tweeted that Ukraine was "taking notable steps forward to meet our recommendations, while at the same time fighting an invasion.

"We have never been closer," she said, noting that the EU was "working on extending tariff-free access to our market".

Kyiv has secured promises from the West for deliveries of modern battle tanks to fight Russian forces and is now asking for long-range missiles and fighter jets.

A German government spokesman said Friday that Berlin has authorised Leopard 1 tanks to be sent to Ukraine.

Despite a steady flow of arms and ammunition, Russian forces are pressing Ukrainian troops in the eastern Donetsk region, now the epicentre of fighting.

Originally published on RFI

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