Ukraine expects EU-wide support for bloc membership bid

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — 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 Associated Press, 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 cut the ground under “the legs of the most hesitant”.

She described the decision as vitally important for Ukraine in the fight for survival against Russia and said candidacy status would validate the country’s decades of effort to bring its institutions and markets up to standard. of the EU.

“It is very important for us to set in stone what we have done so much, and we will do so much more,” Stefanishyna told the AP. “And in times of war – when everything works – that’s very important.”

EU candidate status, which can only be granted if existing member countries agree unanimously, is the first step on the road to membership. It does not provide any security guarantee or automatic right to join the block. but does not give an automatic right to join the block, and does not imply any guarantee of security.

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.

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 said will also allow Ukraine to become a candidate for EU membership.

“This is a crucial moment for us. Because some people in my team say it’s like stepping into the light from the dark,” the Ukrainian president said. is a great motivator, a great motivator for the unity and victory of the Ukrainian people.”

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 in Ukraine as they searched for in the woods occupied by Russia a drone with a 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 burned carcass of the couple’s car and apparently found some trash. abandoned by Russian soldiers.

“Russian forces have captured three villages in the disputed eastern region of Ukraine,” a local official said. Governor Serhiy Haidai told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the villages were within a few miles of the town of Lysychansk, the last town in the region still fully under Ukrainian control. The Russians also took a strategic coal village, Toshkivka, allowing them to step up attacks, Haidai said.

—Russian officials said a drone strike caused a fire at an oil processing plant 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. The factory said in a statement that the fire was caused by a strike carried out by two drones, calling it a “terrorist” act. He did not give details, but state news agency Tass reported that two Ukrainian drones flew over the plant and one slammed into a heat exchanger, starting the fire. Ukrainian authorities have not confirmed the strike.

— The Turkish 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 the Turkish cargo ship, 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. Turkish and Russian military delegations met in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss a possible agreement for the shipment of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.

— The French armed forces have carried out a surprise military exercise in Estonia, deploying more than 100 paratroopers in the Baltic country neighboring Russia, the French Ministry of Defense announced on Wednesday. The airborne operation, baptized “Thunder Lynx”, allowed, in a short time, the dropping of a hundred French paratroopers “over an area secured by Estonian soldiers”, indicates the press release. The exercise in Estonia, a NATO ally, was executed as an act of “strategic solidarity” amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

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Sam Petrequin in Brussels, Hanna Arhirova in Kyiv and Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed.

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

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