Russian breakthrough in the Donbass, EU candidacy… The situation after 17 weeks of war in Ukraine

While the 27 must soon decide on Ukraine’s candidacy to join the European Union, Moscow is placing its pawns and asserting its domination over the eastern part of the country.

It has been almost four months since the war returned to Europe. Russian forces continue to occupy part of Ukrainian territory with the aim of encircling several large towns in the east of the country. On the international scene, kyiv is pressing its neighbors to validate its status as a candidate for European membership, while several officials fear that the conflict will last for several more months.

• Donbass still besieged by forces from Moscow

Its conquest is now the main objective of the Russian offensive. The Donbass, the terrain of a conflict which has pitted the Ukrainian army against the pro-Russian separatists for eight years, is being invaded by the Russian army which does not hesitate to bomb the last pockets of Ukrainian resistance.

Those in Lysytchansk and Severodonetsk were on the verge of being surrounded on Wednesday after weeks of fighting. Other localities around these two cities are also besieged and taken under the fire of Russian artillery and which have been devastated according to the Ukrainian authorities.

Severodonestk, Lyssytchansk, Donetsk and even Kharkiv in the northeast of the country have been hit in recent days by Russian strikes, which have brought with them new victims, including civilians.

Acknowledging the heavy losses within the Ukrainian army, President Volodymyr Zelensky called for more deliveries of heavy weapons to his Western allies. But the one who has stood up to Putin since the end of February also intends to respond diplomatically to the master of the Kremlin.

• Multiple support for the country’s candidacy for the EU

Volodymyr Zelensky is indeed working to ensure that the 27 countries of the European Union will grant Ukraine the official status of candidate for membership of the European Union. Last diplomatic highlight: the arrival of Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz and Mario Draghi in kyiv last week. The three European leaders have multiplied the pledges of support for their Ukrainian counterpart, positioning themselves with Romania for an “immediate” candidate status.

“We assumed this movement towards Europe”, assured Emmanuel Macron to BFMTV after his departure from kyiv, adding: “We prepared it […] with Chancellor Scholz and Mario Draghi”, he explained, developing: “this European consensus was expected from the Ukrainians.”

The European Commission, through its President Ursula Von der Leyen, has also said it is in favor of this request from kyiv. Still, it is during a European summit of the 27 that the decision to validate Ukraine’s candidacy will be decided. An agreement which must however be taken unanimously.

• The food crisis continues to worsen

Without reaching an agreement so far, the UN has been negotiating for several weeks with Moscow, kyiv and Ankara, military guarantors of the use of the Black Sea for civilian ships, an agreement that would allow cereals to leave Ukraine safe and the fertilizers produced by Russia to return to the international market.

If an agreement were reached, it would bring down food prices and alleviate the world food crisis, which is worsening due to the Russian invasion. However, kyiv fears a Russian attack on its Black Sea coast, while the Russian army already occupies a large part of southern Ukraine, including the entire shores of the Sea of ​​Azov.

Consequence: the Ukrainian authorities again affirmed on Wednesday that no concrete progress had been made in this file, all the same evoking consultations still in progress with the other countries. A Turkish merchant ship, however, was able to leave the Ukrainian port of Mariupol on Wednesday after talks between Turkish and Russian delegations in Moscow, the “first foreign ship to leave the Ukrainian port of Mariupol”.

A quadripartite meeting with representatives of the United Nations, Russia and Ukraine will be held in the “coming weeks” in Turkey in order to organize the transport of cereals to the Black Sea, Ankara said.

• NATO fears a conflict that could last “for years”

The war in Ukraine could last “for years”, warned Sunday the Secretary General of NATO, urging Western countries to register their support for kyiv in the long term.

“We must not falter in supporting Ukraine, even if the costs are high, not only in terms of military support but also because of rising energy and food prices,” he said. added Jens Stoltenberg.

• Despite his victory, no Eurovision in Ukraine in 2023

The European Broadcasting Union, organizer of Eurovision, has announced that it is examining the possibility that Great Britain, second in the ranking, replaces Ukraine to host the next Eurovision.

“Under the current circumstances, the security and operational guarantees necessary to host, organize and produce Eurovision (…) cannot be fulfilled” by Ukraine, the EBU said in a statement.

Ukraine, through its Minister of Culture Oleksandre Tkatchenko, immediately denounced this decision, demanding “additional negotiations” on the hosting of the competition for its 2023 edition. Oleh Psiuk, leader of the group Kalush Orchestra, who won the Eurovision for Ukraine last May also declared on BFMTV that he wanted Eurovision to reconsider its decision to withdraw the organization of the next competition from Ukraine.

Hugues Garnier with AFP BFMTV journalist

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