The quest for EU membership talks
On the question of joining the European Union, Ukrainian officials are pushing for membership talks within months. Scholz agreed with Kyiv’s concerns in Paris on Wednesday when he said, “I am giving a clear message to Brussels: Ukraine belongs to the European family.”
A Ukrainian official said that Ukraine was “absolutely sure that a decision to start accession talks can be made this year.”
While some EU member states want Ukraine to get the morale boost that will come with membership talks, others are more cautious. They have stressed that a number of criteria need to be met to become a member – such as cracking down on corruption – before they can begin talks.
New sanctions against Russia are also likely to be discussed in Brussels. Scholz said in Berlin on Wednesday that the European Union would tighten sanctions against Moscow again as the war’s anniversary nears. Diplomatic sources told Reuters last month that EU countries are working on a 10th package of sanctions that should be ready around February 24.
intense fighting in the east
On the ground in Ukraine, the country’s military said the Russian offensive continued to intensify on Wednesday in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The General Staff said on Facebook that Moscow’s forces focused on the areas of Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut and Avivka.
Airstrikes and shelling also targeted the Sumy, Kharkiv and Zaporizhia regions in northern, northeastern and central Ukraine. Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
Following major Ukrainian gains on the ground in the second half of 2022, Russia has picked up the pace, sending tens of thousands of freshly mobilized troops to the front. They escalated in successive winter battles, described by both sides as the bloodiest battles of the war.
Kyiv says it expects Moscow to scale up the offensive as the February 24 anniversary of the attack approaches.
Russia launched its “special military operation” last year to counter what it describes as a security threat from Ukraine’s ties to the West, and claims to have annexed four Ukrainian provinces. Ukraine and the West say Russia’s invasion is an unprovoked land grab.