Ukrainian sends request to join EU as talks with Russia end with no breakthrough

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Monday signed an official request for Ukraine to join the bloc as talks with Russia over a ceasefire collapse.

The bloc’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said the immediate priority was to provide practical support to Ukraine to counter the Russia invasion, rather than discussing long-term issues which could take years.

“We have to provide an answer for the coming hours, not for the coming years,” he told reporters on Monday when asked about Ukraine‘s membership of the EU.

Ukraine has clearly a European perspective, but now we have to fight against an aggression.”

Ukraine has an association agreement with the 27-nation bloc but wants to become a full member – something that Russia is opposed to. Ukraine‘s membership has so far not been discussed so as not to antagonise Moscow, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed things, the official said.

European Union leaders may discuss the possibility of Ukrainian membership at an informal summit in March, a senior EU official said on Monday, adding the issue was important for Ukraine in discussions with Russia on ending the conflict.

Meanwhile, Russian artillery bombarded residential districts of Ukraine’s second largest city Kharkiv on Monday, killing possibly dozens of people, Ukrainian officials said, as Moscow’s invading forces met stiff resistance from Ukrainians on a fifth day of conflict.

The attacks took place while Russian and Ukrainian officials met on the Belarusian border to discuss a ceasefire. The talks ended with no breakthrough but they however agreed to continue talking in the coming days.

Russia also faced deepening isolation and economic turmoil as Western nations, united in condemnation of its assault, hit it with an array of sanctions that created ripple effects around the world. Global shares slid and oil prices jumped.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin showed no sign he was reconsidering the invasion he unleashed on Russia’s western neighbour last Thursday. He dismissed the West as an “empire of lies” and replied to the new sanctions with moves to shore up Russia’s crumbling rouble currency.

The Russian invasion – the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two – has failed to make the decisive early gains that Putin would have hoped for. But Kharkiv in Ukraine’s northeast has become a major battleground.

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