Brussels sees Ukraine candidate for the EU, Russia cuts off gas to Europe

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Brussels sees Ukraine as EU candidate, Russia cuts off gas to EU Europe

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The European Commission recommended on Friday, following Paris, Berlin and Rome, to grant to Ukraine the status of candidate for the European Union, a promise qualified as a “false message” by Moscow which this week largely cut off the gas to Europe.

This acceleration, with the approach of the European summit of June 23-24 which will have to decide unanimously and overcome the reluctance of certain member countries, comes at a time when the Ukrainian army is struggling against Russian firepower. in the eastern region of Donbass.

“We all know that Ukrainians are ready to die for their European aspirations. We want them to live with us, for the European dream”, declared in Brussels the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, dressed in blue and yellow, the colors of Ukraine.

“The Commission recommends to the Council, firstly, to give Ukraine a European perspective and, secondly, to grant it candidate status”, she added, the day after the visit to Kyiv by the leaders of the Germany, France and Italy, the first three European powers to deliver the same message.

In his now traditional evening video intervention, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reacted by declaring that it was a “historical achievement”.

“We still have to wait for the decision of the European Council next week. Ukraine deserves this positive news”, he added.

Friday it was the turn of the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson – whose country is no longer a member of the EU – to return to Kyiv, where he announced a training program for Ukrainian forces.

He walked around the Place Saint-Michel with President Zelensky then visited an exhibition of military equipment seized from the Russian army. Meeting Ukrainian soldiers, he shouted “Glory to Ukraine”, in their language, then: “I am Boris Johnson, from London and I want you to know that we have your back”.

Reply from Moscow

Speaking at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Russia had “nothing against” Ukraine's EU membership, but said that “Ukraine will turn into a semi-colony” of Western countries.

Spokeswoman for Russian diplomacy Maria Zakharova was more blunt: “For years, the Western community has been manipulating this story of Ukraine's involvement in their integration structures, and since then Ukraine is increasingly going wrong,” she told Russian agencies.

The express review of kyiv's candidacy, submitted in February, is unprecedentedly fast, justified by the war launched on February 24 by Vladimir Putin.

Austria, for its part, called on its EU partners to also send “clear signals to the Western Balkan countries at the summit, in particular to North Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina “, emphasizing “the great potential for destabilization of Russia not only in eastern Europe, but also in the south-east”, through the voice of its Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.

During this decisive week in its struggle for influence with the West, Moscow put its money where its mouth is, gradually but massively cutting off its gas deliveries to Western Europe, which is very dependent on it.

The operator of the French gas network, GRTgaz, announced Friday that it will no longer receive Russian gas by pipeline since June 15, with “the interruption of the physical flow between France and Germany”.

The Russian giant Gazprom has considerably reduced its deliveries in recent days, particularly to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, causing an explosion in prices.

In Italy, Gazprom will deliver only 50% of the gas requested by Eni on Friday, the Italian group announced.

The head of the Italian government Mario Draghi denounced Thursday in kyiv a “political use of gas”.

“We should have no illusions, we are in a showdown with Putin”, said Robert Habeck, the German Minister of Economy and Climate. “That's how dictators and despots act.”

US President Joe Biden, whose country is a possible supplier of LNG liquefied gas to Europe, accused Russia on Friday of fueling a “global energy crisis” with its war against Ukraine.

“Our actions to liberate the Donbass have nothing to do with that,” retorted Russian President Vladimir Putin at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum. “It is the result of the systemic errors of the American administration and the European bureaucracy”.

Humanitarian drama

On the fighting front, Ukrainian forces remain in difficulty in the Donbass, this region in the east of the country partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014, and which Moscow has set itself the objective of conquering.

< p>The UN stressed on Friday that “the humanitarian situation throughout Ukraine, in particular in eastern Donbass, is extremely alarming and continues to deteriorate rapidly”.

Fighting is concentrated for several weeks on Severodonetsk and Lyssytchansk, two key cities for the control of Donbass, subjected to constant bombardments.

The large Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk, where around 500 civilians have taken refuge alongside Ukrainian soldiers, is impossible to evacuate without a “complete ceasefire” due to “constant shelling and fighting”, the governor of the city said. Lugansk region, Sergiï Gaïdaï.

In Lysytchansk, a missile strike on the “House of Culture”, where residents of the city were refugees, left three dead and seven wounded, the press service of the Ukrainian president said on Friday.

A Russian strike on Friday morning in Mykolaiv, in southern Ukraine, also left at least two dead and twenty injured, according to a report communicated by the governor of the region.

The army Russian also claimed that just under 7,000 “foreign mercenaries”, from 64 countries, had arrived in Ukraine since the start of the conflict and that nearly 2,000 of them were killed.

In addition, the Ukrainian navy claimed on Friday to have destroyed a Russian tug, the “Vasiliy Bekh”, which was transporting weapons and ammunition in the Black Sea.

Russia has “already lost strategically” its war in Ukraine and “will never take control” of the country, British Chief of Defense Staff Admiral Tony Radakin said on Friday. According to him, “President Putin has used 25% of the power of his army to reap tiny territorial gains”.

In addition Ukraine, which won this year's Eurovision Song Contest, on Friday denounced the decision to withdraw its hosting of the next edition for security reasons.

“Ukraine does not agree with the nature of the decision taken by the Union European Broadcasting Corporation” (EBU), said Culture Minister Oleksandre Tkatchenko. “We demand further negotiations on hosting Eurovision-2023 in Ukraine”.

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06/17/2022 21:47: 18 – Brussels (AFP) – © 2022 AFP