Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Saturday that his country’s potential membership in the European Union (EU) would strengthen the entirety of Europe as well as Ukraine, noting that officials should soon receive an answer on its candidacy.
In a translated address, Zelensky said Ukraine is in the “final phase of the big diplomatic marathon,” which he says will end in a week and a half.
“What else needs to happen in Europe to make it clear to skeptics that the very fact of keeping Ukraine outside the European Union works against Europe?” the Ukrainian president asked. “For example, everything is already obvious to the Russian occupiers. They say so when they torment our people that it is allegedly for the fact that Ukraine has gone to Europe. And why does Europe have skeptics then?”
He added that he finished talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Kyiv on Saturday, noting that the European Commission will prepare a conclusion regarding Ukraine’s application to the EU.
Zelensky assured Ukrainians that officials provided “all the necessary answers in a very short time, and it was done well.”
Some officials, however, say a EU full membership could take years.
Zelensky in his remarks also addressed concerns over Russian troops gradually seizing territory in Sievierodonetsk.
“Fierce street battles continue in Sievierodonetsk,” he said. “I am proud of all our defenders who managed to stop the advance of these hostile people, these occupiers for many weeks already and keep our defense strong.”
Zelensky said he believes in the Ukrainians’ strength, noting that the defense of the Donbas region has held, despite Russia’s plans to capture the area by May.
“No one can say now how long this burning of souls by Russia will last. But we must do everything to make the occupiers regret that they have done all this, and to hold them accountable for every murder and every strike at our beautiful state,” The Ukrainian president said.
Zelensky’s statements come after he and other officials rebuffed President Biden’s claim that the Ukrainian leader “didn’t want to hear” warnings from the U.S. about a Russian invasion.