Ukraine steps toward EU membership, Russia advances
HISTORY: Unfurling a 30-metre flag in front of the European Parliament, lawmakers and Ukrainians took a moment to give Ukraine candidate status to the European Union on Thursday (June 23).
It's a move that will boost the country's morale as the battle with Russian troops for two eastern cities reaches a bloody climax.
The approval of the Kiev government's request by EU leaders in Brussels is just the beginning of a process that will last for years.
But it marks a huge geopolitical shift that will anger Russia as it struggles to impose itself on its neighbor.
On Wednesday (June 22), Ukrainian President Zelenskyy said he had been in contact with several European leaders to bolster support.
“Since this morning I have continued the phone marathon to make a positive decision about the candidacy for Ukraine. Today – 11 guides. Tomorrow I will continue a similar marathon - we must secure maximum support for our state.”
As of Friday, it has been four months since Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops across the border in what he calls a "special military operation."
Russia has partially justified the action by citing Western encroachment on what Russia considers its sphere of influence.
The West sees this as an unjustified war of aggression by Russia.
The war of attrition in Donbass in eastern Ukraine is most critical in the twin cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, on opposite sides of the Siverskyi Donets River in Luhansk province.
Russian news agency RIA Novosti released this footage late Wednesday, which is said to be about fighting in the Lysychansk area.
An aide to Zelenskyi said the fight there was "reaching some sort of frightening climax."
Russian forces tried to encircle Ukrainian troops defending Lysychansk, a Ukrainian defense official said Thursday.
The Luhansk governor separately said that all of Lysyhansk was within range of Russian fire, and Ukrainian troops there could retreat to new positions so as not to be trapped.
Selenskyj is scheduled to speak at the NATO summit next week.
On Thursday, the organization's Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, promised further help.
“We will make further decisions to support Ukraine and other vulnerable partners, including a comprehensive aid package for Ukraine. I welcome that President Zelenskyy will be addressing the leaders at our summit. We will improve burden sharing by investing more in defense to do more together."
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