EU officials hold Kyiv talks in show of support for Ukraine
Top European Union (EU) officials are due to meet in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a show of support for the country as it battles to counter Russia’s invasion.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel, as well as 15 European commissioners, have travelled to the Ukrainian capital for what they describe as a summit meeting.
The last such summit was held in Kyiv in October 2021 — a few months before the war started.
The highly symbolic visit is also the first EU political mission of its kind to a country at war.
“There will be no let-up in our resolve,” Mr Michel said in a tweet on his apparent arrival in Kyiv.
“We will also support (Ukraine) every step of the way on your journey to the EU.”
The high-level visit came as Ukrainian authorities said at least six civilians were killed and 20 others were injured over the previous 24 hours.
Among the dead were two brothers, aged 49 and 42, who were killed when Russian shelling destroyed an apartment block in the north-east Kharkiv region, Ukraine’s presidential office said.
Their 70-year-old father was taken to hospital with unspecified injuries.
Also, 18 apartment buildings, two hospitals and a school were damaged in a Russian attack in the eastern city of Kramatorsk on Thursday, injuring six, governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told Ukrainian TV.
Three people died when a Russian missile hit an apartment building in that city on Wednesday.
EU assistance for Ukraine has reached almost 50 billion euros (£44.7 billion) since the fighting started, according to EU officials.
The EU is providing Ukraine with financial and humanitarian aid, among other things.
It also plans to adopt a 10th package of sanctions against Russia in the coming weeks.
Ukraine wants to join the 27-nation bloc, though that could take years and require the adoption of far-reaching reforms.
In the meantime, Ms von der Leyen said on Thursday the European Commission is willing to let Kyiv join what she called some “key European programmes” that will bring benefits similar to membership.
Those programmes are due to be discussed in Friday’s meeting, which will also address one of the main obstacles to Ukraine’s EU membership: endemic corruption.
Ms Von der Leyen, on her fourth visit to Kyiv since Russia’s invasion, said on Thursday she is “comforted” by Ukraine’s anti-corruption drive.
The previous day, Mr Zelensky took aim at corrupt officials for the second time in the space of a week.
Several high-ranking officials were dismissed.
Mr Zelensky was elected in 2019 on an anti-establishment and anti-corruption platform in a country long gripped by graft.
The latest corruption allegations came as western allies channel billions to help Kyiv fight Moscow’s forces.
Ukraine’s government is keen to get more western military aid, on top of the tanks pledged last week, as the warring sides are expected to launch new offensives once winter ends.
Kyiv is now asking for fighter jets.
The US is on Friday expected to announce it will send longer-range bombs to Ukraine as part of a new 2.17 billion dollar (£1.78 billion) aid package.
Ukraine’s forces are bracing for an expected new onslaught by the Kremlin’s forces in the coming weeks.
Officials in the eastern Luhansk region said Russian forces have disabled mobile internet connections, stepped up shelling and deployed more troops in preparation for a full-scale offensive there.