Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (center) welcomed the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, to kyiv on Friday.
The United States promised on Friday to deliver longer-range rockets to Ukraine, whose desire to join the European Union has been bolstered by the trip to kyiv of senior European officials.
The Ukrainian army will defend as long as it can Bakhmout, a key eastern city that Russian soldiers have been seeking for months to seize. No one will abandon this fortress, President Volodymyr Zelensky insisted on this occasion.
Almost a year after the start of the invasion of the x27;Ukraine by Russia, this city has become the epicenter of the fighting and Moscow's forces have made small territorial gains in the region in recent weeks at the cost of heavy losses.
“If [Western arms deliveries to Kyiv] pick up speed, especially long range, not only are we not going to retreat from Bakhmut, [but] we are going to start ending the occupation of Donbass.
—Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine
The new US military aid to Ukraine, in the amount of $2.2 billion, announced the same day by the United States, includes in this regard rockets which could almost double the range of the Ukrainian strike force, the Pentagon said.
These are in particular ground-fired missiles that can reach a target 150 km away and therefore threaten Russian positions behind the front lines.
“The longer the range of our weapons and the more mobile our troops, the sooner Russia's brutal aggression will end. »
— Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine
At the same time, Paris announced that France and Italy would provide a spring MAMBA medium-range surface-to-air defense system to help Ukraine defend against Russian drone, missile and aircraft attacks.
Fighting continues daily on the front line. (File photos)
AFP journalists noted on Friday the violence of the clashes which reduced certain neighborhoods on the outskirts of Bakhmout to ruins, with the incessant dull percussions of the artillery and the exchange of heavy gunfire. ;light weapon.
Smoke billowed from the city center as Ukrainian military helicopters hovered low over frozen plains to avoid being spotted and shot.
According to the authorities, this town has a population of around 6,500 today, compared to around 70,000 before the war.
On Thursday, one person was killed and seven others were injured in an attack on a vehicle carrying volunteer rescue workers.
Oleksandre Tkatchenko, 65, said he rushed with other neighbors to extricate a woman from the wreckage of the vehicle. It was clearly not a military target, because the car was red, he denounced.
Beginning of the widget. Skip widget? End of widget . Back to top of widget?
Shelling also continued in Kherson, a major southern city captured and then abandoned by the Russians, where one person was killed and another injured on Friday, authorities said.
In kyiv, where anti-aircraft sirens sounded twice during the day, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and d' other senior EU representatives met with Mr. Zelensky.
The latter affirmed that his country would not lose a single day in moving towards entry into the European Union and considered it possible to initiate discussions on this subject as early as this year.
European leaders in a statement hailed Ukraine's considerable efforts despite the war, highlighting progress in creating independent and effective institutions to fight corruption that is eating away at this country.
We reiterated that the implementation of deep and coherent judicial reforms […] remained essential in order to allow the integration process to move forward, they nevertheless noted, without mentioning a precise timetable.
“Ukraine is EU, EU is Ukraine.
— Charles Michel, President of the European Council
This country has been an official candidate for membership of the European Union since June 2022, an arduous process, requiring many reforms, which could last for years.
Ursula von der Leyen said he was working on new sanctions against Russia by February 24, the first anniversary of the invasion, saying he should pay for the destruction it caused.
She said the punitive measures taken over the past year had already set back the Russian economy by a generation, noting that capping the price of Russian oil exports at US$60 a barrel was costing Moscow US$160 million. #x27;euros (over C$230 million) per day.
Overlapping this will be a cap on the price of refined petroleum products, which EU member state ambassadors #x27;EU approved on Friday, before final adoption by the European Council.
A European embargo on these same petroleum products sent abroad by sea must x27; already come into force on Sunday, the Kremlin having meanwhile lambasted a negative measure on Friday that will further unbalance the markets.
In their joint statement after the summit, the leaders Europeans have also said they want to step up their efforts to use frozen Russian assets to to support the reconstruction of Ukraine and for reparation purposes, in accordance with European and international law.