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16th Aug 2022

EU heavyweights pledge Ukraine 'immediate' candidate status

  • Romanian president Klaus Iohannis (l), French president Emmanuel macron, German chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian premier Mario Draghi on their visit to Kyiv (Photo: Image bank of the war in Ukraine)
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Four EU leaders visited Ukraine on Thursday (16 June) in a show of support ahead of key decision next week to grant EU candidate status to the country which has been under brutal attack by Russia for months.

The leaders of Germany, France, Italy, the three largest EU economies, and Romania, travelled to the war-torn European country amid growing criticism that Europe's resolve to help Ukraine is waning and that some EU leaders are still engaged with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

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French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian premier Mario Draghi, and Romanian president Klaus Iohannis said in Kyiv that they all support fast-tracking Ukraine becoming an official candidate to join the bloc.

"We all four support the immediate EU candidate status", said Macron in Kyiv.

The EU Commission is expected to recommend making Ukraine a candidate country on Friday (17 June) with conditions. EU leaders are expected to discuss the issue at their summit next week in Brussels.

Granting candidate status would be largely a gesture, but some member states argue it is raising expectations and Ukraine is not ready to merit the candidate status legally yet.

Other member states, the Netherlands being most vocal among them, have been reluctant to back the move.

On their highly symbolic visit, the EU heavyweights also promised more weapons for Ukraine, which has been requesting long-range artillery to counter Russia's firepower.

Ukrainian troops were still holding out against massive Russian bombardment in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk.

Macron said France will deliver "six additional Caesar" long-range self-propelled howitzers.

Germany announced on Wednesday that it will provide three multiple launch rocket systems, but the slow delivery of previously promised heavy weapons have raised questions about Berlin's balancing act.

Macron praised the "heroism" of Ukrainians in the face of Russian invasion on a visit to Irpin, a devastated suburb of the capital, the closest the Russian army got to Kyiv.

Air raid sirens blared in Kyiv as the EU leaders' visit got under way.

The French president said that war crimes have been committed in Irpin, according to Reuters.

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked the EU leaders for their "solidarity". The Ukrainian president has said before that he struggles to get the weapons necessary to fight Russia.

Ukraine has long criticised Scholz over what it regards as Germany's slow delivery of weapons and reluctance to cut economic ties with Moscow.

Ukrainian officials had also been furious earlier this month at Macron for saying in an interview that Russia must not be "humiliated".

Officials have also been worried that war fatigue can set in among Europeans, despite early enthusiasm in supporting Ukraine, as increasing energy prices and steep inflation dominate people's minds.

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