Russia should “step up” the fighting, Zelensky warns as it approaches the EU’s decision

Kyiv: Ukrainian President Vladimir Green warn Russia will probably intensify its “hostile activity” this week, as Kyiv expects a historic decision from European Union concerning his application for candidate status.
Nearly three months after Russia launched a bloody invasion of his country, Zelensky said there had been “few such fateful decisions to Ukraine“Like the one he expects from the EU this week.
“Only a positive decision is in the interest of the whole of Europe,” he said in his evening address on Sunday.
“Obviously we expect Russia to step up its hostilities this week … We are preparing. We are ready, “he continued.
Moscow’s forces have been attacking eastern Ukraine for weeks as they try to take over the Donbass region after being repulsed from other parts of the country after their February invasion.
On Friday, Brussels backed Kyiv’s bid for EU candidate status after leaders of the bloc’s largest members – France, Germany and Italy – visited the Ukrainian capital.
Ukraine could join the list of countries vying for membership as early as this week, when member states’ leaders meet at a summit in Brussels.
But officials and leaders in the bloc warn that even with candidate status, membership could take years.
Meanwhile, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned that the war could continue “for years” and called on Western countries to be ready to offer long-term military, political and economic assistance.
“We must not weaken our support for Ukraine, even if the costs are high – not only in terms of military support, but also because of rising energy and food prices,” Stoltenberg told the German daily Bild.
Ukraine has repeatedly called on Western countries to increase arms supplies, despite warnings from Russia, which is armed with nuclear weapons, that this could provoke wider conflict.
– Energy crisis – Zelensky made a rare trip outside Kyiv on Saturday to the detained Black Sea city of Nikolaev, where he visited troops nearby and in the neighboring Odessa region for the first time since the invasion.
“We will not give the south to anyone, we will return everything we have and the sea will be Ukrainian and safe,” he said in a video posted on Telegram while returning to Kyiv.
Russia’s defense ministry said on Sunday it had fired missiles in the past 24 hours, with an attack on a Ukrainian military summit near the Dnieper city killing “more than 50 generals and officers”.
It says it is also aimed at a building that houses weapons provided by the West in Nikolaev, destroying Ukrainian artillery and armored vehicles.
There was no independent verification of the allegations.
Nikolaev is a key target for Russia, as it is on the way to the strategic port of Odessa.
As Russia maintains a blockade of Odessa that has blocked grain supplies and threatens a global food crisis, residents have turned their attention to joining forces on the domestic front.
“Every day, including weekends, I come to make camouflage nets for the army,” said Natalia Pinchenkova, 49, who stood at the Union’s grand flag in gratitude to Britain for its support for Ukraine.
The war in Ukraine is fueling not only a global food crisis but also an energy crisis.
Overwhelmed by the sanctions, Moscow has stepped up pressure on European economies by cutting gas supplies sharply, which in turn has led to rising energy prices.
Germany announced emergency measures Sunday, including increased use of coal to ensure it meets its energy needs following a drop in Russian gas supplies.
Austria has announced it will reopen a canned coal-fired power plant to fight shortages, and Italy’s Eni has joined a huge Qatari project to expand production from the world’s largest natural gas field.
– The attack was repulsed – The heaviest fighting is in the industrial region of Donbass, with battles raging in villages outside the city of Severodonetsk, under relentless Russian fire for weeks.
District Governor Sergei Gaidai said the Russians had attacked the town of Toshkivka, south of Severodonetsk.
“But our artillery is working and we can say that the attempt to break through was not successful, although they tried very hard to break through our defenses,” he wrote in the Telegram.
Lisichansk, on the other side of the Severodonetsk River, has also come under heavy bombardment, with some residents sheltering in basements in harsh conditions with limited food and water supplies.
Natalia Khalaimova, 54, called on Russia and Ukraine to negotiate an end to the war.
“Every war in every country is over, but the sooner the better,” she told AFP. “So many civilians were killed. Most of them did not take part in the war at all.”

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