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European leaders are in Ukraine, dangling the prospect of EU membership in their hands

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English - On Thursday, the leaders of Germany, France, and Italy, all of whom had been chastised by Kyiv in the pas...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English - On Thursday, the leaders of Germany, France, and Italy, all of whom had been chastised by Kyiv in the past for overly cautious backing, paid a visit to Ukraine and dangled the prospect of EU membership to a country desperate for weaponry to fend off Russia's invasion.

Air raid sirens blared in Kyiv as French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Italian Deputy Prime Minister Mario Draghi began their visit, which included a tour of a neighbouring town that had been destroyed early in the war.

Following conversations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the leaders suggested that Ukraine be granted candidate status by the European Union, a symbolic gesture that would bring Kyiv closer to the economic union.

Scholz stated that Germany had taken in 800,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing the crisis and that Germany will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it required.

"Ukraine is a member of the European family," he explained.

On the battlefield, Ukrainian officials reported their troops in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk were still holding out against intense Russian bombing, and described new success in a counteroffensive in the south.

However, they stated that fighting on both main fronts would require more assistance from the West, particularly artillery, to counter Russia's significant firepower superiority.

"We appreciate the help that partners have already provided, and we expect new supplies, especially heavy weaponry, contemporary rocket artillery, and anti-missile defence systems," Zelenskiy said following his meeting with European counterparts.

"There is a direct correlation: the more powerful weaponry we acquire, the faster we will be able to liberate our people and our territory," he explained.

Macron announced that France will increase its arms delivery to Kyiv, while NATO defence ministers gathering in Brussels committed more weaponry for Ukraine and discussed measures to strengthen the US-led military alliance's eastern flank.

In a statement, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, "This will imply more NATO forward deployed combat formations... More air, sea, and cyber defences, as well as pre-positioned equipment and weapon stockpiles."

'MAKE EUROPE, NOT WAR,' says the slogan.

The three most prominent EU leaders' travel to Ukraine took weeks to plan, as they fought back criticism for attitudes that were seen as unduly submissive to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The leaders toured Irpin, which had been destroyed since the invasion began on February 24. They were joined by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

Taking note of graffiti on a wall that reads ""It's really emotional to see that. Make Europe, not conflict," Macron stated. This is the correct message to send."

Scholz, Macron, and Draghi have all stated that they are staunch supporters of Ukraine, and that they have taken concrete steps to lessen Europe's reliance on Russian energy and locate weaponry to aid Kyiv.

Ukraine, on the other hand, has long chastised Scholz for what it sees as Germany's delayed delivery of weaponry and unwillingness to cut connections with Moscow, and was outraged this month when Macron said in an interview that Russia must not be "humiliated."

Italy has also presented a peace proposal, which Ukrainians worry may put them under pressure to relinquish up territory. Following the meetings in Kyiv, Macron stated that some type of communication channel with Putin was still required.

While European leaders tried to express sympathy with Ukraine, the continent's reliance on Russia for much of its energy supply was exposed, with gas deliveries through a major pipeline dropping in recent days.

Meanwhile, a scarcity of grain imports from Ukraine has triggered a global food crisis.

Russia blames sanctions for both, while Italy's Draghi claims Moscow is exploiting the crisis for political gain.

Viktoria Abramchenko, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister, stated in an interview with Reuters that Moscow was assisting the shipment of grain and oilseeds through Russian-controlled transit ports on the Azov Sea, but she did not say who was providing the supplies for export.

'GHOST VILLAGES' is a short story about a group of people who live in a

Hundreds of people are dying every day in Ukraine as the battle in the east has devolved into a horrible attritional phase.

In recent weeks, the major battleground has been the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, where Ukrainian military have taken up residence in a chemical factory alongside hundreds of residents.

On Thursday, Sievierodonetsk mayor Oleksandr Stryuk remarked, "Every day it becomes more difficult because the Russians are bringing more and more weapons into the city."

According to regional governor Serhiy Gaidai, an airstrike damaged a building sheltering residents in Lysychansk across the river on Thursday, killing at least four people and injuring seven others.

Ukraine claims its soldiers have made breakthroughs into Kherson region in the south, which Russia took early in its invasion. There has been very little independent reporting in the area to confirm battlefield locations.

Andriy Yermak, Zelenskiy's chief of staff, tweeted that he had visited an area 3 to 4 kilometres (about 2 miles) from Russian positions where dozens of "ghost towns" had been depopulated by the fighting.

"On the ground, our guys are in a bad attitude. Despite our limited resources, we are forcing the enemy back. Long-range weapons are one item that isn't present. We'll expel them from the south in any case "he penned

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