Home International News Ukraine prepares for intensified Russian attacks as EU weighs membership offer

Ukraine prepares for intensified Russian attacks as EU weighs membership offer

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned on Sunday that Russia would likely intensify its “hostile activity” this week as Kiev awaits a landmark European Union decision on its membership application. Follow FRANCE 24’s live blog for the latest developments. All times Paris time (GMT+2).

6:24 AM: EU wants to release Ukrainian grain trapped as a result of Russian naval blockade

European Union foreign ministers will meet in Luxembourg on Monday to discuss how to release millions of tons of grain trapped in Ukraine as a result of the blockade of Russia’s Black Sea port.

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest suppliers of wheat, but grain shipments have ground to a halt and more than 20 million tons have been trapped in silos since Russia invaded the country and blocked its ports.

Moscow denies responsibility for the food crisis and blames Western sanctions for the shortage that led to a jump in global food prices and United Nations warnings of hunger in poorer countries that rely heavily on imported grain.

The EU supports the United Nations’ efforts to reach an agreement to resume Ukrainian maritime exports in exchange for facilitating Russian food and fertilizer exports, but that requires a green light from Moscow.

Turkey has good relations with both Kiev and Moscow, and has said it is ready to take on a role within an “observation mechanism” in Istanbul if a deal comes through.

5:45 am: Ukraine prepares for intensified Russian attacks as EU weighs membership offer

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned on Sunday that Russia would likely intensify its “hostile activity” this week as Kiev awaits a landmark European Union decision on its membership application.

Nearly three months after Russia launched a bloody invasion of his country, Zelensky said there were “few decisions as fateful for Ukraine” as the one it expects from the EU this week, adding in his evening speech that “only a positive decision in the interests of all of Europe”.

Ukraine applied to join the EU four days after Russian troops crossed the border in February. The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, recommended on Friday that Ukraine be given candidate status.

Leaders of the 27-nation federation will discuss the issue at a summit on Thursday and Friday and are expected to support Ukraine’s application, despite some member states’ doubts. The process can take many years.

The EU’s embrace of Ukraine would get in the way of one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goals when he ordered his troops into Ukraine: to keep Moscow’s southern neighbor out of the West’s sphere of influence.

“Of course we expect that Russia will intensify hostile activities this week… We are preparing. We are ready,” Zelensky said.

5:19 a.m.: Russia claims deadly attacks on military rally, weapons depot

Ukraine said on Sunday it had repulsed fresh attacks by Russian troops on the eastern front, rocked by weeks of fierce fighting as Moscow attempts to capture the industrial Donbas region.

Russia’s defense ministry said on Sunday it has been conducting missile strikes in the past 24 hours, with one attack by Kalibr missiles at a top-level Ukrainian military rally near the town of Dnipro that saw “more than 50 generals and officers” killed.

It said it also targeted a building containing Western-supplied weapons in the sprawling Black Sea city of Mykolaiv, where “ten 155mm howitzers and about 20 armored vehicles supplied by the West to the Kiev regime in the past ten days” were destroyed.

There was no independent verification of the claims.

Ukraine has repeatedly urged Western countries to increase their arms supplies since the February 24 invasion, despite warnings from nuclear-armed Russia that it could spark a bigger conflict.

Ukrainian President Zelensky spoke on Sunday after making a rare trip outside Kiev the day before to Mykolaiv, where he visited troops near and in the neighboring region of Odessa for the first time since the invasion.

“We will not give the south away to anyone, we will give back everything that is ours and the sea will be Ukrainian and safe,” he said in a video posted to Telegram as he made his way to Kiev.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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