President Volodymyr Zelensky will travel to Belgium on Thursday to sign security agreements with EU nations, French President Emmanuel Macron's office said. 

A draft seen by AFP said the EU would look to continue financing weapons deliveries for Ukraine, keep training Kyiv's troops, and step up efforts to bolster the country's defense industry. European officials have said that the agreements have already been approved by individual member countries.

“President Zelensky will be there at the opening of the European Council for the discussion on Ukraine and in particular on the subject of security commitments,” a statement from the Elysée said.

It should be noted that the EU already has similar agreements in place with Ukraine, and many individual nations within the 27-member bloc have their bilateral accords with Kyiv. It is yet unclear how Thursday’s agreements will differ, but AFP reported that there were no concrete commitments of new aid from the EU contained within.

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Zelensky has often pointed to these agreements as a “bridge” to NATO membership, but the Alliance’s general secretary, Jens Stoltenberg, and top officials in the US have been clear that Ukraine will not be able to join NATO until the Russian invasion is over.

Indeed, Thursday’s accords are seen as mostly a token of good faith by the West in the interim.

On the other hand, accession negotiations between the EU and Ukraine began this week, which Zelensky called an “historic” step.

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Ukraine's Heavily-Shelled Kharkiv Builds Underground Schools

The Mayor said the city, which launched its first underground school earlier this year, was allocating its funds for the new schools to make headway as soon as possible.

“Ukraine has officially begun accession negotiations with the European Union,” he posted to social media. We’ve worked hard to reach this point. Today we held the first intergovernmental conference, and we are committed to fulfilling every requirement to navigate through all chapters of our relations with the EU, culminating in an accession treaty for Ukraine.”

On a lighter note:

Teens and firefighters injured in Kherson attacks

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In separate incidents on Wednesday, Russian aerial attacks injured five civilians, including two teens, and two firefighters as Moscow’s forces continued to try to reclaim that region’s capital.

A Russian drone dropped an explosive device on a civilian car in the city of Kherson on Wednesday at about 7 p.m. Five people, including two children, were injured as a result. The two girls, ages 12 and 15, were wounded, as were three others, the regional prosecutor’s office said.

All people injured have been hospitalized and are being treated,” the prosecutor’s office said.

Earlier in Kherson, Russian forces struck a civilian parking garage, prompting a firefighting crew to come out and extinguish the flames. As per the Kremlin’s “double-tap” playbook, the same location was attacked after emergency crews had arrived, injuring two firefighters.

They received shrapnel wounds and were reported in “moderate” condition, the State Emergency Services reported.

Also on Wednesday, Russian forces blew up energy infrastructure around the western city of Lviv, injuring two.

US contractors will be allowed to set up in Ukraine to speed up repairs, CNN reports

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Marking another shift in Ukraine policy out of Washington, President Joe Biden is preparing to allow US companies to set up operations in Ukraine to facilitate the repair and replacement of American-made military hardware there, CNN quoted anonymous US officials as saying.

The reported change in policy has not yet been made public.

“We have not made any decisions and any discussion of this is premature,” one administration official told CNN. “The president is absolutely firm that he will not be sending US troops to Ukraine.”

The sources said, however, that the change would likely be made this year, “allowing the Pentagon to provide contracts to American companies for work inside Ukraine for the first time since Russia invaded in 2022.”

To date, US policy has been for US troops and Pentagon contractors to stay away from the front lines against Russia, and the State Department lists Ukraine as a no-go country for American travelers. As a result, entities such as travel insurance companies would be reluctant to cover any injuries or other mishaps, and as part of the policy change any Pentagon contractor operating in Ukraine would be required by law to have robust contingency plans for the health and safety of their employees there.

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CNN noted that thus far, most of the repair work to US-made hardware in Ukraine had to be completed in Poland, Romania, or other NATO countries, and US troops who helped the Ukrainians with maintenance and logistics had to do so by video conference.

Now, “allowing experienced, US government-funded American contractors to maintain a presence in Ukraine means they will be able to help fix damaged, high-value equipment much faster, officials said,” according to CNN.

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