With the war in Ukraine’s east raging on, Kyiv received a major boost when the European Union recommended that it become a candidate to join the bloc, in what would be a dramatic geopolitical shift following Russia’s invasion.
EU leaders are expected to endorse the EU executive’s recommendations for Ukraine and neighbouring Moldova, announced on Friday, at a summit next week.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted that the bravery of Ukrainians had created the opportunity for Europe to “create a new history of freedom, and finally remove the grey zone in Eastern Europe between the EU and Russia.”
In his nightly address on national television, Zelenskiy said the decision of the EU member states remained to be seen, but added: “You can only imagine truly powerful European strength, European independence and European development with Ukraine.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the executive’s decision while dressed in Ukrainian colours – a yellow blazer over a blue blouse.
“Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective,” she said. “We want them to live with us the European dream.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin railed at the West, the United States in particular, in a grievance-filled speech in St Petersburg on Friday, but sought to play down the EU issue.
“We have nothing against it,” he said. “It is not a military bloc. It’s the right of any country to join economic union.”
However, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia was closely following Ukraine’s EU bid, especially in the light of increased defence cooperation among the 27-member bloc.