EU Officials Hold Kyiv Talks 02/03 06:13

EU Officials Hold Kyiv Talks           02/03 06:13

   Top European Union officials were due to meet Friday in Kyiv with Ukrainian 
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a show of support for the country as it 
battles to counter Russia's invasion and strives to join the EU as well as NATO.

   KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Top European Union officials were due to meet Friday 
in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a show of support for 
the country as it battles to counter Russia's invasion and strives to join the 
EU as well as NATO.

   European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council 
President Charles Michel, as well as 15 European commissioners, traveled to the 
Ukrainian capital for what they described as a summit meeting.

   The last such summit was held in Kyiv in October 2021 -- a few months before 
the war started. The highly symbolic visit is also the first EU political 
mission of its kind to a country at war.

   "There will be no let-up in our resolve," Michel said in a tweet on his 
apparent arrival in Kyiv. "We will also support (Ukraine) every step of the way 
on your journey to the EU."

   The high-level visit came as Ukrainian authorities reported that at least 
six civilians were killed and 20 others were injured over the previous 24 hours.

   Among the dead were two brothers, ages 49 and 42, killed when Russian 
shelling destroyed an apartment block in the northeastern Kharkiv region, 
Ukraine's presidential office said. Their 70-year-old father was hospitalized 
with unspecified injuries.

   Also, 18 apartment buildings, two hospitals and a school were damaged in a 
Russian attack in the eastern city of Kramatorsk on Thursday, injuring six, 
Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko told Ukrainian TV. Three people died when a Russian 
missile hit an apartment building in that city on Wednesday.

   EU assistance for Ukraine has reached almost 50 billion euros ($55 billion) 
since the fighting started, according to EU officials.

   The EU is providing Ukraine with financial and humanitarian aid, among other 
things. It also plans to adopt a 10th package of sanctions again Russia in the 
coming weeks.

   The EU has also announced it's ramping up its military training mission for 
Ukraine, from an initial target of pushing 15,000 troops through the schooling 
to up to 30,000 troops. One focus is to train the crews of tanks that Western 
countries have offered Ukraine.

   Ukraine wants to join the 27-nation bloc, and formally submitted its 
application last June, though that could take years and require the adoption of 
far-reaching reforms. In the meantime, von der Leyen said Thursday that the 
European Commission is willing to let Kyiv join what she called some "key 
European programs" that will bring benefits similar to membership.

   Those programs were due to be discussed in Friday's meeting, which will also 
address one of the main obstacles to Ukraine's EU membership: endemic 
corruption.

   Von der Leyen, on her fourth visit to Kyiv since Russia's invasion, said 
Thursday she was "comforted" by Ukraine's anti-corruption drive.

   The previous day, Zelenskyy had taken aim at corrupt officials for the 
second time in the space of a week. Several high-ranking officials were 
dismissed.

   Zelenskyy was elected in 2019 on an anti-establishment and anti-corruption 
platform in a country long gripped by graft.

   The latest corruption allegations came as Western allies channel billions of 
dollars to help Kyiv fight Moscow's forces.

   Ukraine's government is keen to get more Western military aid, on top of the 
tanks pledged last week, as the warring sides are expected to launch new 
offensives once winter ends. Kyiv is now asking for fighter jets.

   The U.S is expected to announce Friday it will send longer-range bombs to 
Ukraine as part of a new $2.17 billion aid package.

   Ukraine's forces are bracing for an expected new onslaught by the Kremlin's 
forces in coming weeks.

   Officials in the eastern Luhansk region said Russian forces have disabled 
mobile internet connections, stepped up shelling and deployed more troops in 
preparation for a full-scale offensive there.

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