Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now


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President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine’s formal candidature to join the European Union was a big step towards strengthening Europe at a time when Russia was testing its freedom and unity.

Friday marks four months since Russian President Vladimir Putin sent forces across the border into Ukraine, sparking the biggest conflict in Europe since World War Two.

FIGHTING

* Authorities in the town of Derhachi, to the northwest of Kharkiv, said heavy Russian shelling had knocked out most of the electrical and natural gas supply.

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* Ukrainian troops may need to retreat from the eastern frontline city of Lysychansk to avoid encirclement, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Thursday.

* Ukraine said its troops were still holding out in Sievieorodonetsk, across the river.

* In Ukraine’s south, three cruise missiles hit the port city of Mykolaiv, while two more were shot down near Odesa, the Ukrainian armed forces said.

* Russia said it had struck Ukrainian army fuel tanks and military equipment near Mykolaiv with high-precision weapons, Interfax reported.

* Reuters was unable to independently verify the situation on the ground.

MILITARY AID

* Ukraine said it had received U.S. supplies of powerful HIMARS long-range weapon systems.

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* The United States will provide an additional $450 million in security assistance to Ukraine, including more long-range rocket systems, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

ECONOMY AND DIPLOMACY

* EU leaders formally accepted Ukraine as a candidate to join the bloc on Thursday.

* The EU should stop adding sanctions on Russia and instead push for a ceasefire and the start of negotiations, a senior aide to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Thursday.

* Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain was willing to help with demining off Ukraine’s coast and may offer insurance for ships to ease grain exports.

* The G7 rich democracies will seek to show long-term support for Ukraine at a summit starting on Sunday.

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* Turkey said it was investigating claims that Ukrainian grain was stolen by Russia and shipped to countries including Turkey, although no stolen shipments had been found so far. Russia has previously denied theft allegations.

* Analyst APK-Inform said Ukraine could harvest over 52 million tonnes of grain in 2022.

* A dozen EU countries have now been affected by cuts to gas supply from Russia, the bloc’s climate policy chief said amid a deepening energy standoff with Moscow.

TRIALS

* Ukraine held on Thursday a preliminary hearing in its first trial of a Russian soldier charged with raping a Ukrainian woman during Russia’s invasion, the first of what prosecutors say could be dozens of such cases.

QUOTES

* “Ukraine’s future is in the EU,” Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter.

* “Ukraine will prevail. Europe will prevail. Today marks the beginning of a long journey that we will walk together,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said. (Compiled by Himani Sarkar)

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