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Air raid sirens sound across Ukraine as EU summit begins

Air raid alerts sounded in Kyiv and across Ukraine on Friday as a summit of European Union and Ukrainian leaders was due to begin in the country’s capital.

There were no immediate reports of fresh missile strikes following the air raid warning.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is hosting top European Union officials, who visit Kyiv with promises to support Ukraine “as long as it takes” but denying the country at war with Russia a quick path to joining the Western bloc.

EU chairman Charles Michel and the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen traveled to Kyiv to demonstrate support for Ukraine as the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of its neighbor approaches.

“There will be no let up in our resolve. We will also support you every step of the way on your journey to the EU,” Michel wrote on Twitter on Friday morning under a picture of himself on a central Kyiv square.

Zelenskyy is calling for more punitive measures against Russia by the European Union, but new sanctions the bloc is preparing for the anniversary are set to fall short of his government’s demands.

Kyiv applied to join the bloc days after Russia invaded last year. The EU has embraced the application, although it has rebuffed Ukraine’s calls for a fast track to membership while the country is at war.

“The EU will support Ukraine and the Ukrainian people against Russia’s ongoing war of aggression for as long as it takes,” the three leaders are expected to say in a joint statement, a draft of which was seen by Reuters in advance.

EU officials have listed multiple entry requirements, from political and economic stability to adopting various EU laws. The process is likely to take years.

“Some may want to speculate about the endgame but the simple truth is that we are not there yet,” an EU official said.

Russian offensive

The EU-Ukraine summit coincides with an intensification of Russian pressure on Ukrainian forces in eastern battlegrounds and also in the northeast and south. Ukraine says Moscow is sending thousands of soldiers and mercenaries to their deaths in human wave attacks for small gains, to appease political masters.

“They bring in men from their draft and try systematically to find places to break through our defenses. The aim is to fulfill the goal of the leadership to take control of all of the Donetsk region. But this plan has been disrupted now for several months running,” Serhiy Cherevatiy, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the eastern front, said.

Moscow says one of its main objectives in Ukraine is securing the rest of Donetsk province, one of four it unilaterally annexed in September. Its main focus has been on the Donetsk city of Bakhmut, where its forces have claimed incremental gains over the past week.

Russian forces made two strikes on the town of Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region, damaging buildings and causing some civilian casualties, the Ukrainian military said late on Thursday. A Russian missile hit an apartment block in the town on Wednesday, killing three people.

Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian forces of war crimes and targeting civilians, charges Russia rejects.

EU-Ukraine summit

During the EU-Ukrainian summit, European officials will discuss more arms, money, and energy support for Ukraine, as well as better access to its products in the EU market. They will also talk about tightening sanctions on Moscow, and efforts to prosecute Russian war crimes.

The EU has demanded more anti-corruption measures from Ukraine, which is perceived as having endemic state graft, saying it must build a credible track record. To that end, Zelenskyy has announced dismissals and investigations of some officials in the past two weeks.

Authorities were investigating senior military officials in two cases of suspected corruption. Separately, a criminal group suspected of embezzling state funds by selling overpriced eggs and other foodstuffs to defense officials had been arrested, the State Bureau of Investigation said.

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