European Union leaders agreed on Thursday to grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, with President Volodymyr Zelensky hailing the move as “a unique and historic moment”.
This decision allows the two countries to begin a one-year journey towards EU membership with several steps to take before becoming a member of the European alliance.
Also read: Ukraine is hard to chew, just like Finland, says armed forces chief
Ukraine had applied to become an EU candidate just days after President Vladimir Putin launched his “special military operation” against Ukraine on February 24 as Russian forces invaded the neighboring country.
“A historic moment. Today marks a crucial step on your path to the EU,” EU chief Charles Michel said, adding that “our future is together.”
Watch| Ukrainian War: Intense fighting underway in the Lugansk region
The development comes even as Russian forces continue to shell key towns in eastern Ukraine as the war entered its fourth month this week.
Zelensky said it was “a unique and historic moment in Ukraine-EU relations, adding that “the future of Ukraine is within the EU”.
Heavy fighting has been reported in Sloviansk and Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine, even as civilian evacuations continue in the region.
Meanwhile, Russia cut gas supplies to Germany as the country raised the alert level under a contingency plan bringing Berlin closer to gas rationing amid deteriorating relations with Russia.
The Kremlin said there was “no double meaning” behind cutting off Germany’s gas supply. Russian energy giant Gazprom previously cut gas supplies to Poland, Bulgaria, Finland and the Netherlands.
(With agency contributions)
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