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Zelenskyy says Ukraine ‘ready’ for Russian escalation ahead of EU decision

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, June 11, 2022. (Screenshot).

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has predicted a worsening of Russian attacks to gain territory in eastern Ukraine ahead of a meeting this week of EU leaders to decide whether to back Kyiv’s accelerated bid to join the bloc.

Speaking in his nightly video address nearly four months into the full-scale Russian invasion late on June 19, the Ukrainian leader said that “obviously, this week we should expect from Russia an intensification of its hostile activities.”

“We are preparing,” Zelenskiy said of Ukraine’s defense forces, “We are ready.”

Ukraine applied for EU membership days after the Russian invasion began on February 24 and was followed by bids from nearby Moldova and Georgia in the face of the regional threat posed by Russia’s unprovoked attack.

Leaders of all 27 EU states will consider those three countries’ applications at a summit on June 23-24.

The European Commission last week recommended candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova, but said Georgia still had targets to meet before it should become a candidate.

Any accession process would still probably take many years to complete.

Early on June 20, the Ukrainian General Staff said Russian forces were using rockets and artillery to shell a handful of towns near Syevyerodonetsk and Su-25 aircraft carried out strikes in several directions around Lyman and against the towns of Shevchenko and Vugledar.

It also said the Russian side had deployed an S-300V4 anti-aircraft missile division in its western region of Bryansk, near the Ukrainian border.

Fighting continues to establish full control over Syevyerodonetsk, the Ukrainian military said.

It said Russian troops were trying to prevent a regrouping of Ukrainian units in several locations including Lyman, Avdiyiv, and Zaporizhzhya.

Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine with one of his aims to keep its fellow post-Soviet neighbor outside of Western integration and influence, but progress has come much more slowly than the Kremlin planned.

On June 17, Putin said he had “nothing against” EU membership for Ukraine, although a Kremlin spokesperson said Moscow was closely following the bid in part because of recent cooperation in the area of defense among EU members.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said over the weekend that the Ukraine war could continue “for years” and that the alliance should support Kyiv militarily and otherwise “even if the costs are high.”