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European Commission President Visits Ukraine

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is in Kyiv. Her Saturday visit takes place days before the European Union is set to announce Ukraine’s progress in fulfilling necessary steps to begin membership negotiations with the bloc.

Ukraine applied to become a member of the EU days after Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

The membership process usually takes years, but Ukraine considers membership vital as it battles Russia’s invasion and wants to join as soon as possible.

The EU is set to announce Wednesday whether Ukraine can begin accession talks with the group, which would begin in December.

Grateful for U.S. sanctions

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his daily address Thursday he is grateful to the United States for “the new and very powerful sanctions” on more than 220 Russian “entities that work on aggression.”

The U.S. imposed sanctions Thursday on more than 100 people and firms from China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates who aid Russia in obtaining tools and equipment that are vital for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Zelenskyy said every sanction “must work in full, so that there is no chance for Russia to circumvent sanctions.”

“The power of sanctions is the power of the world,” he said.

Two civilians killed in Russian shelling

Russian shelling killed two more civilians Thursday — an 81-year-old woman in her yard and a 60-year-old man — in southern Ukraine’s Kherson region, according to local authorities, marking the latest deaths in Russia’s assault on the region.

Russian artillery that targeted Kherson-area villages killed the two civilians, Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said. Four others were injured in the strikes, which also damaged buildings.

These two deaths come after one person died Wednesday in Russian shelling in the region’s capital, which is also called Kherson. Prokudin called it “an apocalyptic scene,” referring to damage caused by the assault.

Ukraine recaptured the city of Kherson last November after nearly nine months of Russian occupation. The Kherson region is a strategic area in the war given its proximity to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014 and is now where significant Russian war logistic operations are based.

Nuclear power plant

Meanwhile, Russia said Thursday Ukraine is “playing with fire” after Ukraine launched a drone attack near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear station. The plant has been under Russian control since March 2022.

Russian forces shot down nine Ukrainian drones, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry.

“Kyiv is continuing to ‘play with fire’ and is carrying out criminal and irresponsible provocations,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has regularly warned about the risk of a nuclear accident at the plant.

Progress of the war

As Ukraine’s four-month counteroffensive slowly continues, Ukrainian commander in chief General Valery Zaluzhny said the two sides had reached a stalemate.

“Just like in the First World War, we have reached the level of technology that puts us into a stalemate,” he told The Economist, adding, “There will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough.”

Moscow rejected that characterization of the war, with Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov saying, “Russia is steadily carrying out the special military operation. All the goals that were set should be fulfilled.”

On the contrary, Ukraine claimed Friday that Russia’s latest assault in the Donbas town of Avdiivka was unsuccessful, saying of the fighting there that Russia’s “large-scale military assault has floundered on strong Ukrainian defenses.”

Source : VOA News