As the Russia-Ukraine war entered its fifth month on Friday, Ukraine was formally accepted as a candidate for European Union membership in a morale boost for the war-torn nation as Moscow’s assaults wear down the defenders of cities in the eastern Donbas region. The Russian military controls about 95 per cent of Luhansk province and about half of neighbouring Donetsk province, the two areas that make up the Donbas, news agency AP reported. The decision from the EU comes as the Russian president Vladimir Putin has said on multiple occasions that his “special military operation” – launched in Ukraine on February 24 – was partly necessitated by Western encroachment into what Russia characterises as its rightful geographical sphere of influence.
Here are top 10 updates on Russia-Ukraine War
1. The European Union leaders granted Ukraine the status of ‘official candidate’ to join their 27-nation club. It could, however, take Ukraine more than a decade to eventually join the bloc, news agency Reuters reported. “The Ukrainian people belong to the European family. Ukraine’s future is with the EU,” the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell was quoted as saying on Thursday. “Today marks the beginning of a long journey that we will walk together.”
2. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, speaking on the sidelines of Ukraine’s candidature for the EU, said that the bloc should stop adding sanctions on Russia. “At the end of the day Europe will be on the losing side of this war because of the economic problems. Our recommendation would be that we should stop the sanction process,” a Hungarian lawmaker told Reuters. A dozen EU countries have now been affected by cuts to gas supply from Russia, the bloc’s climate policy chief said amid a deepening energy standoff with Moscow.
3. The ‘appeal’ from the Hungarian PM comes as US President Joe Biden and other world leaders are set to announce new punitive measures against Russia at a G7 summit starting Sunday in Germany, a senior US official told AFP.
4. The United States will also send another $450 million in military aid to Ukraine, including some additional medium-range rocket systems, to help push back Russian progress. The latest package includes four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, which will double the number they have now.
5. According to an AP report, the aid also includes 18 tactical vehicles that are used to tow howitzers to move around weapons in the field, as well as 18 coastal and riverine patrol boats, thousands of machine guns, grenade launchers and rounds of ammunition, and some other equipment and spare parts.
6. The new aid comes as the Russian military continues to slowly expand its control in the eastern Donbas region. Ukrainian leaders have persistently asked for the more advanced, precision rocket systems in order to better fight back against Russia.
7. The Russian forces have also been bombarding the city of Sievierodonetsk for weeks with artillery and air raids, and fought the Ukrainian army house-to-house. Lysychansk, located on a steep river bank facing Sievierodonetsk, also is under a relentless Russian artillery barrage. “At least one civilian died and three others were wounded on Wednesday due to Russian bombardment,” the Lysychansk governor was quoted as saying by AP.
8. According to British and Ukrainian military officials, the Russian military is now fighting for control of a key highway in a bid to cut supply lines and encircle frontline Ukrainian forces.
9. Meanwhile, as the threat of global food hunger looms, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain is willing to help with demining off Ukraine’s coast and may offer insurance for ships to ease grain exports. He said Russia’s “unconscionable” blockade has left the world “on the brink of a terrible food crisis”.
10. In other developments, Ukraine is seeking $80 billion in compensation from Russia over war crimes inflicted during its invasion of the country, kick-starting its legal battle at Europe’s human rights court. “Russia has caused – and is continuing to cause – loss of life, injury and trauma, population displacement and damage to property on a scale not seen in the continent of Europe since the Second World War,” the law firm said, as per a Bloomberg report.
(With inputs from news agencies)