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Ukraine awaits decision on EU membership as Zelensky warns Putin will increase ‘hostile activity’ 

Ukraine nervously awaits a landmark EU decision on its bid to become a member state, with Volodymyr Zelesnky fearing it could lead to an increase in Russian “hostile activity” this week.

The president said there are “few such fateful decisions for Ukraine” as the one it expects from the EU this week.

“Only a positive decision is in the interest of all of Europe,” he said in his evening speech on Sunday.

Volodymyr Zelesnky (pictured in Mykolaiv on Saturday) said there had been

Volodymyr Zelesnky (pictured in Mykolaiv on Saturday) said there had been “few such fateful decisions for Ukraine” as the one it expects from the EU this week

Firefighters work at the site of fire this weekend after Russian shelling in Ukraine's Mykolaiv after the latest bombing

Firefighters work at the site of fire this weekend after Russian shelling in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv after the latest bombing

“Of course we expect Russia to intensify hostile activities this week… We are preparing. We are ready,” he continued.

Moscow’s forces have been pounding eastern Ukraine for weeks as they attempt to capture the Donbas region, having been driven from other parts of the country following their invasion in February.

On Friday, Brussels backed Kiev’s bid for EU candidate status after the heads of the bloc’s largest members – France, Germany and Italy – paid a visit to the Ukrainian capital.

Ukraine could be added to the list of countries vying for membership as early as this week when member states’ leaders meet at a summit in Brussels.

But officials and leaders in the bloc warn that membership, even with candidacy status, could take years.

Children stand in front of a building destroyed by Chernihiv attacks yesterday, feared of an increase in attacks

Children stand in front of a building destroyed by Chernihiv attacks yesterday, feared of an increase in attacks

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, meanwhile, warned that the war could last “for years” and urged Western countries to be ready to provide long-term military, political and economic aid.

“We must not weaken our support for Ukraine, even if the costs are high – not only in terms of military support, but also because of rising energy and food prices,” Stoltenberg told the German daily Bild.

Ukraine has repeatedly urged Western countries to increase their arms deliveries, despite warnings from nuclear-armed Russia that this could spark a bigger conflict.

Zelensky made a rare trip outside Kiev on Saturday to Mykolaiv, a Black Sea town, where he visited troops near and in the neighboring region of Odessa for the first time since the invasion.

“We will not give the south away to anyone, we will give back everything that is ours and the sea will be Ukrainian and safe,” he said in a video posted to Telegram as he made his way to Kiev.

Russia’s defense ministry said on Sunday it has carried out rocket attacks in the past 24 hours, with one attack on a top-level Ukrainian military rally near the city of Dnipro killing “more than 50 generals and officers.”

Moscow has increased pressure on European economies by sharply cutting gas supplies

Moscow has increased pressure on European economies by sharply cutting gas supplies

It said it also targeted a building containing Western-supplied weapons in Mykolaiv, destroying Ukrainian artillery and armored vehicles.

There was no independent verification of the claims.

Mykolaiv is a prime target for Russia as it is on the route to the strategic port of Odessa.

With Russia maintaining a blockade of Odessa that has locked up grain supplies and threatens a global food crisis, residents have turned their attention to rallying efforts from the home front.

“Every day, including weekends, I come to make camouflage nets for the army,” Natalia Pinchenkova, 49, said before a large Union flag as a thank you to Britain for its support of Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine is fueling not only a global food crisis, but also an energy crisis.

Struck by punitive sanctions, Moscow has stepped up pressure on European economies by sharply cutting gas supplies, which in turn pushed energy prices up.

Germany announced emergency measures on Sunday, including increased use of coal to ensure it can meet its energy needs after a decline in Russian gas supplies.

Austria announced it will reopen a mothballed coal-fired power station to fight shortages, and Italian company Eni joined a massive Qatari project to expand production of the world’s largest natural gas field.

The worst of the fighting is taking place in the industrial Donbas region, with fighting raging for weeks in villages outside the city of Severodonetsk, under relentless Russian fire.

Regional Governor Sergiy Gaiday said Russians had attacked the Toshkivka settlement south of Severodonetsk.

“But our artillery worked, and we can say that the attempt to break through was unsuccessful, even though they tried very vigorously to break through our defences,” he wrote on Telegram.

Lysychansk, across a river from Severodonetsk, is also heavily bombed, with some residents sheltering in appalling conditions in basements, with limited food and water supplies.

Natalia Khalaimova, 54, urged Russia and Ukraine to negotiate an end to the war.

“Every war in any country ends, but the sooner the better,” she told AFP. “So many civilians are being killed. Most were not involved in the war at all.’

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