Here are the latest developments in the war in Ukraine:
– ‘Historic’ day for Ukraine EU candidacy –
EU chief Charles Michel says he expects the bloc’s leaders to take the “historic” decision to accept war-torn Ukraine and its neighbour Moldova as candidates for EU membership.
EU leaders are meeting in Brussels to discuss the move, which would send a strong message of support for Ukraine, four months into the war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tells the nation to get ready for a “historic decision”.
Securing candidate status is the first step on the road to EU membership, a process that can take years.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama warned Ukraine to have “no illusions” about the process, noting that his country’s application had been languishing for eight years.
– ‘Hell’ in the east –
A Ukrainian official describes the situation in the battleground eastern city of Severodonetsk, where Ukrainian forces are making a last stand at a chemical plant after being driven out of the centre, as “hell”.
“It’s just hell out there,” Lugansk governor Sergiy Gaiday says, while assuring: “Our boys are holding their positions and will continue to hold on as long as necessary.”
In the neighbouring city of Lysychansk, which remains in Ukrainian hands, Russian shelling is “destroying everything”, he says.
Taking the two cities would give Moscow control of the whole of Lugansk, one of two regions with neighbouring Donetsk that make up Ukraine’s industrial heartland of Donbas.
Britain’s defence ministry says in an intelligence note that while the Russian army is “putting the Lysychansk-Sieverodonetsk pocket under increasing pressure… its efforts to achieve a deeper encirclement to take western Donetsk Oblast remain stalled.”
– Gas grows scarce in Germany –
Germany takes a step closer to rationing its gas supplies following a sharp reduction in deliveries from Russia.
“Gas is now a scarce commodity in Germany,” Economy Minister Robert Habeck says, announcing plans to raise the alert level under the country’s emergency gas plan to the second-highest level.
Russian energy giant Gazprom last week cut its supplies via the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany by 60 percent, in what Berlin called a political move but Gazprom said was due to repairs.
Several EU members have already had their Russian gas supplies cut off for refusing to pay in rubles.
– 152 heritage sites destroyed –
The UN’s cultural agency UNESCO says 152 cultural and heritage sites in Ukraine have been partially or completely destroyed since Russia invaded.
They include museums and monuments, churches and other religious buildings, and libraries and other exceptional buildings but so far do not include any of Ukraine’s seven World Heritage Sites.
UNESCO is helping Ukraine mark landmarks with its distinctive blue shield, designed to protect them from attack.
– No deal yet on grain talks: Kyiv –
Ukraine plays down the chances of reaching a UN-brokered agreement with Russia on unblocking millions of tonnes of grain blocked by the war in its silos and ports.
“Consultations are ongoing. Yet no concrete agreements on holding talks with Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and UN have been reached so far,” Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko says.
On Wednesday, Turkey, which is mediating in the dispute, said a Turkish cargo ship had been able to leave a Russian-occupied Ukrainian port for the first time since the war began.
– G7 to step up pressure on Russia –
US President Joe Biden and other world leaders will announce new punitive measures against Russia at a G7 summit starting Sunday in Germany, a senior US official says.
“We will roll out a concrete set of proposals to increase pressure on Russia,” the official said.
Biden will meet with the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan at the summit in Bavaria before travelling to Madrid for a NATO summit.
Zelensky will address both summits by video link.