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Kyiv granted E.U. membership candidacy in symbolic win amid war

European leaders are expected to formally accept Ukraine and Moldova as candidates to join the E.U. on June 23. (Video: Reuters)
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BRUSSELS — European Union leaders meeting on Thursday approved Ukraine’s to become a formal candidate for E.U. membership status, giving the war-torn country and its leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, a much-needed morale boost. The European Parliament also backed the move in a Thursday vote.

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Candidate status is just a first step in a bid for full membership, which could take years or decades. But the decision is a major step for Europe, and sends a signal to Russia.

On the ground, Russian forces have made further gains south of the eastern city of Lysychansk, Ukrainian authorities said Thursday, with defending forces reportedly repositioning to avoid being encircled. The fall of the settlements of Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka came on top of Russia’s seizure of the strategic village of Toshkivka earlier in the week. Much of Lysychansk’s battered twin city of Severodonetsk is already under Russian control as Moscow seeks to occupy the whole of Luhansk province.

The E.U. has backed candidate status for Ukraine. Here’s what that means.

Here’s what else to know

  • The United States will send an additional $450 million in weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, including additional multiple-launch rocket systems and patrol boats to defend its shores.
  • Ukraine has received a batch of M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, commonly known as HIMARS, from the United States, Ukraine’s defense minister said Thursday.
  • The sports apparel giant Nike plans to fully withdraw from Russia in the latest corporate move to isolate Moscow from the global economy.
  • Amid the invasion of Ukraine, the international view of Russia has taken a hit; the images of the United States and NATO have not, according to polling by Pew.
6:13 p.m.
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In his nightly address, President Volodymyr Zelensky said the European Union’s move to grant Ukraine membership candidacy was “one of the most important decisions for Ukraine in all 30 years of independence of our state.” He also expressed thanks to each of the member states.
4:28 a.m.
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On the eve of this week’s European Council summit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky projected confidence that the 27 E.U. member states will award his country candidate status, the first step down a long road to joining the bloc. The move will not automatically grant Ukraine membership, but it will signal broad European support and probably boost the country’s morale during a brutal war.Zelensky has advertised this decision as “truly historic” for Ukraine, and he has spent the days leading up to the summit lobbying leaders at a furious pace. On Wednesday, he spoke with at least 10 E.U. premiers. Zelensky said he expects a decision on Thursday evening. A top Ukrainian official told the Associated Press that she is “100 percent” confident that Ukraine will become an E.U. candidate.
2:00 a.m.
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During a Q&A with Canadian students on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was asked about his historical and fictional role models, the inquirer noting that he has drawn comparisons to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and hero of the wizarding world Harry Potter. Zelensky, former comedian and television star, seized on the mention of the Boy Who Lived without missing a beat: “Thank you for these kind of comparisons,” he told the crowd, smiling. “Harry Potter is better than Voldemort, and we know who is Voldemort in this war, and who is Harry Potter, so we know how the war will end.”This was also not the first time the arch-villain of J.K. Rowling’s book series has been invoked to describe Russian President Vladimir Putin. In March, Ukraine’s official Instagram page promoted murals depicting Zelensky and Putin cosplaying Potter and Voldemort.