EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen was in Kyiv Thursday to work out a roadmap with the war-torn country for its long-standing aspiration of joining the European Union.

EU commission president said that war-torn Ukraine would have the backing of Brussels for as long as necessary as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nears its seventh month.

“We will never be able to match the sacrifice that the Ukrainians are making… but what we can tell you is that you’ll have your European friends by your side as long as it takes,” she told reporters during a joint press conference with Ukraine leader Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country wants to join the European single market ahead of a decision on whether to grant Kyiv full EU membership.

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“For us, a pressing issue is the question of Ukraine joining the EU single market while we’re on the way to EU membership status. I’m sure it will happen and it will be one of our country’s most important victories,” he told a news conference with visiting EU chief Ursula von der Leyen.

Ursula von der Leyen’s trip coincided with a meeting between Vladimir Putin and his increasingly close ally Chinese leader Xi Jinping in ex-Soviet Uzbekistan, where the Russian leader praised Beijing’s “balanced” stance on the war.

It also comes as Ukrainian forces consolidate gains against Russian forces in the east of the country in a dramatic offensive aided by Western weapons.

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Putin also warned the standoff between Moscow and the West was coming “unacceptably close to the point of no return” and boasted that Moscow “possesses the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons.”

Von der Leyen said Thursday’s visit was her third to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February, but this one was different.

“So much has changed. Ukraine is now an EU candidate,” she said on social media.

“I’ll discuss with (President Volodymyr) Zelensky and (Prime Minister) Denys Shmygal how to continue getting our economies and people closer while Ukraine progresses towards accession,” she said.

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Ukraine gained EU candidacy status in June at the same time as ex-Soviet Moldova, which borders Ukraine and like its neighbour has had Russian troops stationed in an eastern breakaway region.

 

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