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Zelensky expects Russia to intensify fighting ahead of EU membership decision

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a media conference after a meeting of the College of Commissioners at EU headquarters in Brussels, Friday, June 17, 2022. Ukraine’s request to join the European Union may advance Friday with a recommendation from the EU’s executive arm that the war-torn country deserves to become a candidate for membership in the 27-nation bloc. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday said he expects Russia to intensify its attacks ahead of the European Union’s decision to potentially accept Ukraine as a new member of the 27-nation economic bloc.

Zelensky added that other countries could also be threatened by Russian aggression.

“We should expect greater hostile activity from Russia. Purposely, demonstratively. This week exactly,” Zelensky said in an address. “And not only against Ukraine, but also against other European countries.”

On Friday, the European Commission recommended Ukraine and Moldova be accepted as members of the EU, a big step forward in an otherwise long process to join the economic and trade alliance.

Ukraine applied to become a member of the EU shortly after Russia invaded the country in late February.

The war was provoked in part by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s resistance to Ukraine’s ties with Western nations and its increasing chance of joining the Western security alliance NATO.

Zelensky on Sunday said as his country awaits acceptance into the EU, “there have been few such fateful decisions for Ukraine” since 1991, when Ukraine broke off from the Soviet Union and became independent.

“And I am convinced that only a positive decision meets the interests of the whole of Europe,” Zelensky said. “I will take every opportunity to defend the European perspective for Ukraine, for each of us, and to gather new supporters for us.”

Ukraine’s commitment to joining the EU has a long history. In 1994, three years after becoming independent from the fallen Soviet Union, the nation entered into a partnership agreement with the EU.

In 2013, following years of a public opinion shift away from pro-Russian allegiances and toward a more pro-Western position, Ukraine pushed then-president Viktor Yanukovych to sign an Association Agreement with the EU. When Yanukovych refused, protesters converged in the “Euromaidan” Revolution, which forced the pro-Russian president to flee the country.

The new president, Peter Poroshenko, signed the new Association Agreement after coming to power in 2014, but Russia quickly annexed the Crimean Peninsula and fomented a rebellion in Ukraine’s eastern region, which ultimately led to the Feb. 24 invasion this year.

Putin has shrugged off the Ukrainian EU bid, saying it did not bother him because it was not a defensive or military cooperation agreement.

“We have nothing against it. It is not a military bloc. It’s the right of any country to join economic unions,” the Russian president said on Friday, according to Reuters.

The war in Ukraine has dragged on for nearly four months with neither side winning a decisive victory.

Zelensky has promised to recapture control of his entire country and drive Russia out. On Sunday, he praised Ukrainian defenders fighting for their country.

“The Ukrainian courage that inspires the world so much, the Ukrainian freedom that strengthens the whole of Europe are possible only because Ukrainian parents have raised such children. Children with an understanding of values, able to be true heroes,” the president said.

Tags EU membership European Union Russia Russian invasion of Ukraine Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych Vladimir Putin Volodymyr Zelensky Volodymyr Zelensky war in ukraine
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