The European Parliament, European Union’s legislative branch, has signaled its readiness to grant EU candidate status to war-torn Ukraine.
On Tuesday, members of the European Parliament adopted a resolution demanding EU candidacy for Ukraine and calling for tougher sanctions in response to the Russian-Ukrainian war. The resolution came as a reaction to an emergency appeal from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“The European Parliament calls for the EU institutions to work towards granting EU candidate status to Ukraine, in line with Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union and on the basis of merit,” reads the document published on the European Parliament's official website.
Out of 676 voting MEPs, a total of 637 lawmakers backed the bill, while 13 voted against it and 26 abstained.
In the resolution entitled “Russian aggression against Ukraine,” the European Parliament also condemns Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and demands that the Kremlin ends all military activities in the country. In addition, it denounces the role of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in the ongoing war.
Tuesday’s vote in Strasbourg came a day after Zelensky formally applied for Ukraine to join the EU, asking for expedited approval due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“We are fighting to be equal members of Europe,” Zelensky said during an emergency session of the European Parliament via video link on Monday.
“Do prove that you are with us. Do prove that you will not let us go. Do prove that you are indeed Europeans and then life will win over death and light will win over darkness,” he said.
Ukraine has long aspired to be a member of the EU, but its ambition to join Western institutions as a member country is far from reach as the admission process of being admitted is long and difficult as countries are generally required to go through a number of steps in order to obtain membership.
On February 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the so-called Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as independent entities. He signed friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance agreements with the two separatist territories. On February 24, Russia launched an all-out offensive in Ukraine, claiming that the assault was aimed to protect the people of two self-proclaimed separatist-controlled regions of Ukraine allegedly being attacked by the Ukrainian military. The Kremlin explained that the decision was made after separatist leaders of the so-called republics had asked Moscow for military support against Kyiv.
Although Putin claimed that Russia had no intention to occupy Ukraine, media reported intensified shelling in Ukraine’s largest cities, including Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson.
Russia had fired hundreds of missiles at Ukrainian targets, including homes and civilian infrastructure, according to a US Department of Defense official.
Following clashes, Russian forces have seized control of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear plant and surrounding exclusion zone in northernmost Ukraine, close to the Belarusian border and just 132 kilometers from Kyiv. Russian troops also captured Berdyansk and Kherson.
Since the invasion began last Thursday, more than 2,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said Wednesday.
On Wednesday, the Russian defense ministry reported that 498 Russian troops had been killed and another 1,597 had been wounded so far in the ongoing hostilities. According to Ukrainian official, over 7,000 Russian troops had been killed in the ongoing war. Kyiv does not regularly report how many Ukrainian soldiers died during the Russian invasion.
Ukraine and Russia, the two post-Soviet countries, have been at odds since the 2014 crisis in Ukraine’s southern and eastern regions. Ukraine accuses Russia of annexing the Crimean Peninsula – a territory that extends into the Black Sea – and backing anti-government separatist regimes in the country’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. The crisis has destabilized the Donetsk and Lugansk regions – collectively known as Donbas. Kyiv and the West accused Russia of supporting the separatist regimes in Donetsk and Lugansk with weapons and troops.