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EU leaders arrive in Ukraine

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell arrived in Kiev by train on Friday, pledging support for Ukraine’s “EU path.” Their visit comes after Russia pulled back troops from the vicinity of the capital.

The trip is a signal that “Ukraine is in control of its territory,” Borrell told reporters.

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“Ukraine is not a country invaded, dominated. There is still a government (which) receives people from outside and you can travel to Kiev,” he added.

Von der Leyen told the media she was bringing the message that there “will be the EU path” for Ukraine to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Usually, it takes years before the EU council accepts application for membership but Ukraine did that in a week or two and I ask to move forward as soon as possible,” she said, adding that her goal is to present Ukraine’s application to the council “this summer.”

Von der Leyen also pledged support for Ukraine to “emerge from the war as a democratic country,” with EU financial help. Borrell told reporters he hoped the EU would offer another 500 million euros in aid to Kiev in the near future.

Zelensky has demanded of the US and its EU allies to do more against Russia, including a total ban on oil and gas purchases and accepting Ukraine as a full member. He argues that Russia threatens not just his country, but European security as a whole.

Oil sanctions are “a big elephant in the room,” as they would seriously impact EU economies, but a decision on exports will be raised on Monday, Borrell said.

The two officials were later taken to Bucha, a town northwest of Kiev, to see the bodies of what the Ukrainian government says are civilians massacred by the Russian troops during their withdrawal. Moscow has denied the allegation and claimed Kiev manipulated evidence for a “provocation.”

Moscow sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, following a seven-year standoff over Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements and end the conflict with the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. Russia ended up recognizing the two as independent states, at which point they asked for military aid.

Russia demands that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two Donbass republics by force.

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