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Zelensky Vows to Hold Bakhmut as Russia Closes In: Live Updates

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Credit score…Emile Ducke for The New York Occasions

BRUSSELS — European Union leaders visiting Kyiv on Friday provided monetary assist and lasting help to Ukraine because it tries to defeat Russia’s invading military, however they stopped far wanting granting Kyiv its key objective of accelerated membership within the bloc.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine met with the European Fee president, Ursula von der Leyen, and the European Council president, Charles Michel, with an purpose of extracting commitments to let Ukraine quickly be a part of the bloc’s 27 member nations, which symbolize about 450 million folks.

Mr. Zelensky has mentioned he anticipated E.U. nations to acknowledge Ukraine’s progress towards membership and touted overhauls designed to cement help. “Our objective is completely clear: to begin negotiations on Ukraine’s membership within the European Union this yr,” Mr. Zelensky informed the information media in Kyiv.

However the path to membership is often a protracted one and the bloc is way from prepared to simply accept Ukraine — a rustic that may want billions in extra assist to rebuild after the conflict — into its ranks.

For officers in Brussels that presents a dilemma: how one can encourage Ukraine to proceed making modifications to fulfill the E.U.’s excessive requirements for governments with out making guarantees they don’t seem to be ready to maintain.

The European leaders walked a cautious line on Friday, validating Ukraine’s aspirations however gently making use of the brakes on speak of fast-track accession.

“The accession course of is a merit-based course of,” Ms. von der Leyen, a staunch supporter of Ukraine’s E.U. bid, mentioned. “In different phrases, there aren’t any inflexible timelines. However there are targets that you must attain reforms.”

“I have to say I’m deeply impressed,” she mentioned, addressing Mr. Zelensky. “I wish to commend you for the preciseness, the standard and the pace at which you ship. That is phenomenal.”

Mr. Michel famous to Mr. Zelensky that to proceed with accession talks all E.U. members need to agree unanimously. It was only one reminder that the bloc is just not ready to chop corners.

A joint E.U.-Ukraine statement launched after the conferences in Kyiv mentioned that Ukraine had made efforts towards its bid to affix the bloc, and that the European Fee would supply an replace within the spring.

Prior to now few days, the Ukrainian authorities have performed raids and fired officers in a ramped-up effort for example a dedication to combating corruption — an space of concern for Western allies pouring weapons and monetary assist into the nation. Ukraine stands to obtain a whole bunch of billions of {dollars} from the European Union and different allies, together with the US, for reconstruction, and needs to point out that the funds won’t be misplaced to corruption.

Underneath stress from public opinion and the US for example the bloc’s long-term dedication to Ukraine, E.U. leaders agreed to grant the nation, in addition to Moldova, candidate standing in June. However Ms. von der Leyen and Mr. Michel haven’t any authorization from the 27 E.U. members to make guarantees to Mr. Zelensky or to suggest that they are going to bend the bloc’s stringent guidelines to let Ukraine in sooner or with looser calls for.

E.U. membership would give Ukraine entry to the world’s richest group of nations and largest free-trade space. It will additionally completely tie the nation to its European neighbors, extending a nonmilitary however essential protect towards Russia’s aggression.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia considers Ukraine’s E.U. aspirations a provocation, casting them as aggression towards Russia.

The E.U. accession course of usually takes a decade or longer and requires deep modifications aimed toward aligning with the remainder of the bloc. Points for a lot of nations embrace financial overhauls, safeguarding judicial independence and a free press, guaranteeing a aggressive democratic political system, and combating corruption.

With a inhabitants of greater than 40 million, Ukraine would doubtless develop into the bloc’s fourth-largest member upon entry, after Germany, France and Italy. That might shift the bloc’s middle of gravity additional east and recast its decision-making processes. It will absorb enormous quantities of shared funding, turning even a number of the bloc’s poorer members into donors to Ukraine.

Andrew E. Kramer contributed reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine.

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