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Ukraine gets path to EU, aid pledges from Britain

KYIV, UKRAINE (AP) – The European Union’s (EU) executive arm recommended putting Ukraine on a path to membership on Friday, a symbolic boost for a country fending off a Russian onslaught that is killing civilians, flattening cities and threatening its very survival.

In another show of Western support, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv to offer continued aid and military training.

The European allies’ latest embrace of Ukraine marked another setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who launched his war nearly four months ago, hoping to pull his ex-Soviet neighbour away from the West and back into Russia’s sphere of influence.

At Russia’s showpiece economic forum in St Petersburg on Friday, Putin said Moscow “has nothing against” Ukraine joining the EU, because it “isn’t a military organisation, a political organisation like NATO”.

He also reprised his usual defence of the war, alleging it was necessary to protect people in parts of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed rebels and to ensure Russia’s own security.

Johnson’s trip to Kyiv followed one on Thursday by the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania, who pledged to support Ukraine without asking it to make any territorial concessions to Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson. PHOTO: AP

“We are with you to give you the strategic endurance that you will need,” Johnson said on his second visit to the country since the February 24 start of the war. Although he did not detail the aid, he said Britain would lead a programme that could train up to 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers every 120 days in an unspecified location outside the country.

The training programme could “change the equation of this war”, he said. Ukraine has been taking heavy casualties in fighting in the east.

“I completely understand why you and your people can make no compromise with Putin because if Ukraine is suffering, if the Ukrainian troops are suffering, then I have to tell you that all the evidence is that Putin’s troops are under acute pressure themselves and they are taking heavy casualties,” he said. “Their expenditure of munitions, of shells and other weaponry, is colossal.”

Since his April visit, “the Ukrainian grit, determination and resilience is stronger than ever, and I know that unbreakable resolve will long outlive the vain ambitions of President Putin”, he said.

Johnson said the United Kingdom (UK) will work to intensify the sanctions on Russia. He praised the resilience of Ukrainians and how “life is coming back to the streets” of Kyiv, but noted that “only a couple of hours away, a barbaric assault continues. Towns and villages are being reduced to rubble”.

Zelenskyy gave Johnson a tour of a monastery where they lit candles and the British leader received an icon. They placed flowers at an outdoor memorial wall displaying photos of soldiers who fell in fighting in 2014, viewed an exhibit of damaged, rusting Russian weapons, and greeted cheering crowds.

“We have a common view of the movement toward Ukraine’s victory. I’m grateful for the powerful support!” Zelenskyy said on Telegram.

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