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With the EU summit this week, Ukraine's president expects Russia's attacks to intensify

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English -  Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy , predicted that Russia would intensify its attacks this we...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English - Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, predicted that Russia would intensify its attacks this week as European Union officials debate whether to support his country's application to join the bloc, and Russia continues its drive to retake control of eastern Ukraine.

"Clearly, we should expect an acceleration of Russia's unfriendly efforts this week," Zelenskiy said in a Sunday night video message. "We're getting ready. We're all set."

In February, four days after Russian forces rushed across the border, Ukraine sought to join the EU. The European Commission, the EU's executive branch, recommended that Ukraine be granted candidate status on Friday.

Leaders of the 27-nation union will meet on Thursday and Friday to discuss the issue, and are anticipated to support Ukraine's candidacy despite reservations from certain members. It's possible that the process will take a long time to complete.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his soldiers into Ukraine, one of his stated goals was to keep Moscow's southern neighbour out of the West's sphere of influence.

Putin said on Friday that Moscow had "nothing against" Ukraine joining the EU, but a Kremlin spokesman said the country was keeping a careful eye on Kyiv's bid, especially in light of greater defence cooperation among EU countries.

On the battlefield, Russian forces are attempting to retake total control of the eastern Donbas region, which was already under the authority of Russian-backed rebels before to the February 24 assault.

The industrial city of Sievierodonetsk is a key target of Moscow's eastern offensive. On Sunday, Russia announced that it had taken control of Metyolkine, a village on the outskirts of the city, and that numerous Ukrainian fighters had surrendered there, according to Russian state news agency TASS. Russia achieved "limited success" in the area, according to Ukraine's military.

A Russian strike on Toshkivka, 35 kilometres (20 miles) south of Sievierodonetsk, also "had a degree of success," according to Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai.

Gaidai stated Russia held "the main part" but not the entire town of Sievierodonetsk, which had a population of 100,000 before the war. The combat accounts could not be independently verified by Reuters.

Both Russia and Ukraine have continued to attack Sievierodonetsk "with little change to the front line," according to the British Ministry of Defence.

Residential structures and private dwellings in Sievierodonetsk's twin city of Lysychansk had been devastated by Russian bombardment, according to Gaidai. "People are dying in bomb shelters and on the streets," he claimed.

'WAR COULD LAST YEARS,' says one expert.

"Russian forces will certainly be able to conquer Sievierodonetsk in the coming weeks," analysts at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, wrote in a note, "but at the cost of concentrating most of their available forces in this tiny area."

According to Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the Ukraine war might persist for years and encouraged Western governments to keep delivering state-of-the-art equipment to Ukrainian troops.

"We must plan for the possibility that it will take years. We must not abandon our support for Ukraine "According to a comment from Stoltenberg.

Russia has announced the commencement of a "special military operation" to disarm and safeguard Russian speakers throughout the country from dangerous nationalists.

That is dismissed by Ukraine and its supporters as a spurious justification for a war of aggression.

Russia's defence ministry said its Iskander missiles had destroyed equipment recently supplied by Western countries near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, northwest of Luhansk.

According to a Ukrainian interior ministry official, Russian soldiers were attempting to approach Kharkiv, which had been heavily shelled earlier in the war, and transform it into a "front-line city."

The mayor of Melitopol said in a video released on Telegram from outside the city that Western armament had helped Ukrainian forces move 10 kilometres (6 miles) towards Russian-occupied Melitopol.

On Monday, Australia's defence minister said that the first four of 14 pledged armoured personnel carriers had been dispatched to Ukraine as part of a $200 million aid offer.

In a statement, Defence Minister Richard Marles said, "Australia stands with Ukraine and once again calls on Russia to end its unjustified, unfair, and unlawful invasion of Ukraine."

An EU decision in favour of Kyiv's eventual membership would put Ukraine on pace to achieve a goal that would have been unattainable for the former Soviet republic before Russia's invasion.

"Whole generations struggled for a chance to break free from the Soviet Union's captivity and, like a free bird, fly to European civilisation," Ruslan Stefanchuk, the speaker of Ukraine's parliament, said in a statement.

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