Ukraine has signed an application to join the European Union after Russia’s invasion of the eastern European country entered its fifth day.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the country’s president, shared an image of himself flanked by Denys Shmyhal, his prime minister, and Ruslan Stefanchuk, chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, as he signed the document.
Mr Zelenskyy wrote on Facebook: “Today I signed an application for Ukraine’s membership in the European Union. Pretty sure this is real.”
He has asked the EU to allow Ukraine to gain membership immediately under a special procedure as it defends itself from invasion by Russian forces.
The application to the EU was largely symbolic and the process could take years, with Ukraine having been weakened by endemic corruption for many years, making the benchmarks of approval extremely hard to reach.
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However, the move is still unlikely to sit well with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who does not want Ukraine to have a strong relationship with the West.
The EU application comes after the first-round of talks between Ukraine and Russia, aimed at ending the fighting, concluded with no immediate agreements.
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Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser to Ukraine’s president, said that both delegations had returned home for consultations in their capitals.
Mr Podolyak gave few details except to say that the talks, held near the Ukraine-Belarus border, were focused on a possible ceasefire and that a second round could take place “in the near future.”
Kyiv was hit by more large explosions as the first round of talks concluded.
Sky’s security and defence editor Deborah Haynes said “the windows rattled with those explosions we heard” in the Ukrainian capital.
“The warning has always been that if they couldn’t have their success in their initial wave then they would up the tempo in terms of the level of violence which seems to be what we are seeing and hearing.”
Analysis: Joining the EU won’t stop Russian troops, joining NATO might
It’s a big, bold call from Ukraine to flag up the idea of accelerating their accession to the European Union.
It’s a prospect that will infuriate Russia, which will inevitably say that closer links to the West has been Ukraine’s plan all along.
Annoying Russia is, of course, not a problem for Ukraine right now. But the idea of gaining instant membership of the EU is vanishingly unlikely.
The process is designed to take years – it involves analysis of a country’s economy, government, judicial system, human rights record and a hundred other things.
And while there is huge sympathy for Ukraine’s plight, and a willingness to take unprecedented steps in terms of sanctions and military supplies, fast-tracking membership would be extraordinary.
As one senior diplomat said to me in a message: “EU accession is a solution for a problem that they don’t have at the moment. Above all, it’s a process that takes years. Becoming an EU member doesn’t stop Russian troops. Becoming a NATO member might.”
Earlier, the Ukrainian interior ministry said dozens of people had been killed in mass shelling in Kharkiv, as fierce fighting continues into the fifth day of the conflict.
“Kharkiv has just been massively fired upon by grads [rockets]. Dozens of dead and hundreds of wounded,” Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said in a post on Facebook.
Meanwhile, Mr Putin placed his nuclear deterrence forces on high alert, with the Kremlin saying it was a response to statements from UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.