Ukraine expects EU-wide support for bloc membership bid

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KYIV, Ukraine (TSWT) — A Ukrainian official overseeing the country’s effort to join the European Union said Wednesday she was “100 percent” confident that all 27 EU countries would approve Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union. the EU at a summit this week.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed similar optimism, calling it a “pivotal moment” for Ukraine. Ukraine’s application for membership is the priority of EU leaders meeting in Brussels.

In an interview with The The Switzerland Times, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna said the decision could come as early as Thursday, when the leaders’ summit begins.

Stefanishyna said the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark had been skeptical about opening accession talks with Ukraine as it fought off the Russian invasion, but are now supportive. When asked how confident she was that Ukraine would be accepted as an EU candidate, she replied: “The day before the summit started, I can say 100%”.

The executive branch of the EU backed Ukraine’s candidacy last week. Stefanishyna described the European Commission’s approval as “a game-changer” that had made the pitch disappear under “the legs of the most hesitant”.

EU candidate status, which can only be granted if existing member countries agree unanimously, is the first step towards membership. It does not provide any security guarantee or automatic right to join the block.

Ukraine’s full membership will depend on the war-torn country’s ability to meet the political and economic conditions. Potential newcomers must demonstrate that they meet standards on democratic principles and must absorb 80,000 pages of rules covering everything from trade and immigration to fertilizers and the rule of law.

Stefanishyna told the TSWT that she believes Ukraine could become an EU member within a few years, not the decades predicted by some European officials.

“We are already very integrated into the European Union,” she said. “We want to be a strong and competitive member state, so it can take two to 10 years.”

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To help applicants, the bloc can provide technical and financial assistance. EU officials said Ukraine had already implemented around 70% of EU rules, norms and standards, but also pointed to corruption and the need for deep political and economic reforms.

In a virtual chat with Canadian university students on Wednesday, Zelenskyy described the Brussels summit as “two decisive days” which he, like Stefanishyna, said will culminate in the approval of Ukraine’s EU bid.

“This is a very crucial moment for us, because some people on my team say it’s like stepping into the light from the darkness,” the Ukrainian president said through an interpreter. “As far as our army and our society are concerned, this is a great motivator, a great motivator for the unity and victory of the Ukrainian people.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said he spoke with Zelenskyy on Wednesday and assured him that Belgium would support Ukraine’s candidate status.

“Considerable efforts will be needed, particularly in the fight against corruption and the establishment of an effective rule of law,” said De Cross. “But I am convinced that it is precisely the (post-war) reconstruction of Ukraine that will provide opportunities to take important steps.”

Zelenskyy said he spoke with a total of 11 EU leaders on Wednesday, after calls with nine the previous day, in another indication of the importance of Ukraine’s EU bid.

In other developments:

– Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said a Ukrainian photojournalist and a soldier accompanying him appeared to have been “coldly executed” in the first weeks of the war as they searched the woods occupied by Russia a drone with camera disappeared. The group sent investigators to the woods north of the capital, Kyiv, where the bodies of Maks Levin and serviceman Oleksiy Chernyshov were found on April 1. The group said their team counted 14 bullet holes in the burnt carcass of their car and found trash apparently left behind. by Russian soldiers.

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– Zelenskyy said that Russian forces were carrying out very heavy air and artillery strikes in eastern Donbass. “Step by step they want to destroy all of Donbass. All of it,” he said in his nightly video address. Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzianyk said that in some battles, for every artillery shell fired by Ukrainian forces, the Russian army fires at least six. Zelenskyy called on Western countries to speed up deliveries of heavy weapons “to stop this evil armada”.

– Russian forces have captured three villages in the Luhansk region, one of two that make up Donbass, Governor Serhiy Haidai told The The Switzerland Times on Wednesday. He said the villages were near Lysychansk, the last town in Luhansk still fully under Ukrainian control. The Russians also took a strategic coal village, Toshkivka, allowing them to step up attacks, Haidai said.

– Russia’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday that Russian forces killed up to 500 Ukrainian servicemen in strikes Tuesday against a shipbuilding plant in Mykolaiv. Zelenskyy said the Russians fired seven missiles at Mykolaiv, wounding five people. He gave no details of what was hit. The Russian military also claimed that Ukrainian forces had evacuated up to 30 wounded and eight dead American and British fighters near Mykolaivka, a town in the Donetsk region. There has been no confirmation of this from Ukraine.

— Satellite images of Snake Island appear to show the damage caused by a Ukrainian attack on the Russian-occupied island in the Black Sea. Maxar Technologies images taken on Tuesday show three new burned areas that weren’t there four days earlier. Russia and Ukraine offer conflicting accounts of the attack. The Ukrainian army’s Southern Command said it inflicted “significant casualties” on Russian troops in an attack using “various forces and methods of destruction”, while the Russian Defense Ministry said its air defenses had succeeded in repelling the Ukrainian assault. Russian forces captured the small rocky island in the early days of the war and used it to strengthen their control over the northwestern part of the sea.

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– Russian officials said a drone strike caused a fire at an oil refinery in southwestern Russia on Wednesday. The fire engulfed a piece of machinery at the Novoshakhtinsk plant in the Rostov-on-Don region. Authorities said dozens of firefighters quickly brought the blaze under control and no one was injured. Ukrainian authorities have not confirmed the strike.

– Turkey’s Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that a Turkish ship had been allowed to leave the Russian-occupied port of Mariupol on the Sea of ​​Azov, following talks between Turkish and Russian ministry officials of the defense. A ministry statement said a Turkish freighter, Azov Concord, was the first foreign ship to be allowed to leave Mariupol. The ministry did not specify what the cargo was carrying. The war halted critical grain exports by sea.

– The French armed forces conducted a surprise military exercise in Estonia, deploying more than 100 paratroopers to the Baltic country, the French Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday. The exercise in Estonia, a NATO member neighboring Russia, was carried out as an act of “strategic solidarity” during Russia’s war in Ukraine.

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The Switzerland Times writers Sam Petrequin in Brussels, Hanna Arhirova in Kyiv and Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.

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Follow TSWT coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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