EU chief says 'Ukraine is candidate country' for membership as Russia continues bombardment of Odessa region

EU chief says 'Ukraine is candidate country' for membership as Russia continues bombardment of Odessa region
2 min read
Ukraine is on a path towards joining the EU, something that 'seemed almost unimaginable just five months ago,' said the bloc's chief Ursula von der Leyen.
'There is a long road ahead for Ukraine but Europe will be at your side every step of the way,' said Ursula von der Leyen [source: Getty]

Ukraine now has a "very clear European perspective" following the European Union's decision to grant the country candidate status to join the bloc, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a speech to the Ukrainian parliament.

"Ukraine now has a very clear European perspective. And Ukraine is a candidate country to join the European Union something that seemed almost unimaginable just five months ago," von der Leyen said in a speech by video-link to the assembly on Friday.

"So today is first and foremost. A moment to celebrate this historic milestone, a victory of determination and resolve and a victory for the whole movement that started eight years ago on the Maidan," she added.

Also, on Friday, at least 17 people were killed and dozens in missile strikes on Ukraine's Odessa region, a day after Russian troops abandoned positions on a strategic island in a major setback to the Kremlin's invasion.

The news came after NATO leaders wrapped up a summit in Madrid, with US President Joe Biden announcing $800 million in new weapons for Ukraine.

"We are going to stick with Ukraine, and all of the alliance are going to stick with Ukraine, as long as it takes to make sure they are not defeated by Russia," he said.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov compared surging diplomatic tensions to the Cold War, telling reporters: "As far as an Iron Curtain is concerned, essentially it is already descending... The process has begun."

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 and has since launched a campaign of relentless bombardment on several major Ukrainian towns and cities, forcing millions to flee their homeland.