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Live: ‘No shortcuts’ for Ukraine’s EU membership, says Germany’s Scholz

Live: ‘No shortcuts’ for Ukraine’s EU membership, says Germany’s Scholz

Ukraine’s bid to join the EU cannot be sped up despite the country’s invasion by Russia, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Thursday. “There are no shortcuts on the way to the EU,” Scholz said, adding that an exception for Ukraine would be unfair to the Western Balkan countries also seeking membership. Follow FRANCE 24’s liveblog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2). 

1:56pm: Russian soldier on trial for war crimes asks for forgiveness

The first Russian soldier on trial for war crimes in Ukraine asked for “forgiveness” in a Kyiv court Thursday as he gave a detailed account on how he killed a civilian early during Moscow’s invasion.

“I know that you will not be able to forgive me, but nevertheless I ask you for forgiveness,” 21-year-old Russian sergeant Vadim Shishimarin said in court, addressing the wife of a 62-year-old civilian whom he admitted killing in the first days of the invasion.

FRANCE 24’S Gulliver Cragg reports on the case from Kyiv.

12:19am: Russia says review of sanctions needed in order to open Ukraine ports

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that if it were to heed a United Nations appeal to open access to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, the removal of sanctions against Russia would also have to be considered, the Interfax news agency reported.

Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest grain producers, used to export most of its goods through its seaports, but since Russia sent troops into Ukraine, it has been forced to export by train or via its small Danube River ports.

UN food chief David Beasley appealed on Wednesday to Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying: “If you have any heart at all, please open these ports.” Beasley’s World Food Programme feeds some 125 million people and buys 50% of its grain from Ukraine.

10:45am: Switzerland to reopen embassy in Kyiv

Switzerland is reopening its embassy in Kyiv, with five staff members, including the ambassador, set to return to the Ukrainian capital over the next few days, said the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).

The decision to reopen the embassy after it was temporarily closed two and a half months ago was based on an in-depth analysis of the security situation, added the FDFA.

10:40am: Kyiv complains of ‘second class treatment’ from some EU capitals

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba criticised the “second-class treatment” of Kyiv by some EU countries on Thursday, after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the war-torn country’s bid to join the bloc cannot be sped up.  

“Strategic ambiguity on Ukraine’s European perspective practised by some EU capitals in the past years has failed and must end,” Kuleba said on Twitter, saying this had “only emboldened” Russian President Vladimir Putin. He slammed the “second-class treatment” of Ukraine that he said “hurt feelings of Ukrainians”.

10:37am: Poland says it will help Sweden and Finland if they are attacked before joining NATO

Poland will assist Sweden and Finland, should they be attacked before obtaining NATO membership, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Thursday.

“I consider the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO as an important signal of strengthening security in Europe,” he said during a conference.

“I want to make it clear that in the event of an attack on Sweden or Finland during their accession [process], Poland will come to their aid.”

Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the NATO alliance on Wednesday, a decision spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and setting in motion an accession process that is expected to take only a few weeks.

10:35am: Ukraine welcomes announcement of new US ambassador

Ukraine welcomes the US Senate’s confirmation of Bridget Brink as Washington’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff said on Thursday.

“We greet the US Senate unanimous decision to approve Bridget Brink [as] the US Ambassador to Ukraine,” Andriy Yermak wrote on Twitter. There has been no US ambassador in Kyiv since 2019.

10:20am: Kyiv and west Ukraine try to regain ‘sense of normality’ as fighting continues in east

As clashes between Ukrainian and Russian forces continue in eastern Ukraine, in the capital Kyiv, residents are returning to work and queueing for petrol.

“This is the whole contradiction of the war in Ukraine,” says FRANCE 24’s Cyril Payen, reporting from Kyiv. “The west of the country and the capital city are trying to revive… a few hundred kilometres away war is raging.”

“Life is not back to normal, but everybody here [in Kyiv] is trying to work and get back to a sense of normality,” he said.

10:05am: ‘No shortcuts’ for Ukraine EU membership says Scholz

Ukraine’s bid to join the EU cannot be sped up despite the country’s invasion by Russia, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday, adding that the bloc must find a ‘fast and pragmatic’ way to help Kyiv. 

“There are no shortcuts on the way to the EU,” Scholz said, adding that an exception for Ukraine would be unfair to the Western Balkan countries also seeking membership. “The accession process is not a matter of a few months or years,” he said.

10:02am: Ukraine’s Azovstal steel plant fighters held by Russian-backed separatists

Ukrainian soldiers evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol are being held in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists and may be tried for war crimes, Russia has said. 

Russia’s defence ministry said Thursday that 1,730 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered at the besieged steel plant since May 16.

Video footage released by Russia shows evacuated soldiers being treated in a hospital. “I’m being treated well,” one said. “No one is mistreating me, physically or psychologically.” It has not been possible to establish if the soldiers were speaking freely.

09:20am: EU must create solidarity fund to rebuild Ukraine, says German chancellor

The European Union must make preparations for rebuilding Ukraine after the war by setting up a solidarity fund to help cover the billions of euros reconstruction will cost, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said.

Addressing parliament ahead of a meeting of EU leaders, Scholz said French President Emmanuel Macron was right that EU accession was not a matter of a few months or years, meaning it was all the more important to focus on pragmatic, immediate support.

“Rebuilding destroyed infrastructure and revitalising the Ukrainian economy will cost billions,” he said. “We as the EU must start laying the ground for a solidarity fund financed by contributions from the EU and its partners.”

07:35am: Ukrainian attack on Russian border town kills civilian, Russian govenor says

One person died and others were injured in southwestern Russia after an attack in a village on the border with Ukraine, the governor of Kursk region said on Thursday. 

“Another enemy attack on Tyotkino, which took place at dawn unfortunately ended in tragedy. At the moment, we know of at least one civilian death,” governor Roman Starovoyt said on Telegram, implying that the attack came from Ukraine. 

He said that according to preliminary information, the victim was a truck driver who was making a delivery to a local distillery, which was struck “several times”. 

Starovoyt added that others were wounded and work was underway to put out fires in the village of around 4,000 people on border with Ukraine, where Russia sent troops on February 24.

“Several houses were damaged. There are also reports of unexploded shells,” Starovoyt said. 

On Telegram, he posted photos showing charred buildings, blown out windows and dents in the ground from where the shells allegedly landed. 

Authorities in Russian regions bordering Ukraine have repeatedly accused Ukrainian forces of launching attacks.

07:24am: Mariupol deserted after weeks of Russian attacks

Ukrainian fighters are reportedly receiving medical care after leaving Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant. In recent days, nearly 1,000 soldiers who spent weeks holed up in the steel plant have surrendered to Russian forces, with some taken into territories controlled by Russian backed separatists.

Mariupol was home to around 500,000 inhabitants at the start of the war, but weeks of Russian attacks have left the city deserted and largely destroyed.

5:15am: Japan doubles its aid to Ukraine

Japan will double fiscal aid for Ukraine to $600 million in a coordinated move with the World Bank to back the country’s near-term fiscal necessities damaged by Russia’s invasion, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on Thursday.

Japan, a member of the Group of Seven industrialised nations, had previously announced $300 million in loans to Ukraine in April.

04:31am: G7 Finance ministers meeting to discuss Ukraine budget, impact of war on global economy

Finance ministers from the Group of Seven industrialised nations are holding talks in Koenigswinter in western Germany to coordinate their response.

“The bilateral and multilateral support announced so far will not be sufficient to address Ukraine’s needs, even in the short term,” United States Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a speech in Brussels on Tuesday. 

Yellen, who is attending the meeting in Koenigswinter, called on US partners to “join us in increasing their financial support” for war-scarred Ukraine.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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