Watchdog: Russian troops executed Ukrainian journalist

EU leaders are discussing making Ukraine a candidate for membership in hopes of showing solidarity in the war. And a global press freedom group is accusing Russia of murdering a Ukrainian journalist.

Maks Levin went missing in March. His body was later found in a forest near Kyiv.

Reporters Without Borders says it has evidence that Russian forces executed Levin in cold blood.

The group believes Levin was shot in the head at close range. It also says his friend, a Ukrainian soldier, may have been burned alive.

Russian forces are keeping up their shelling in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, collectively known as Donbas.

A senior Ukrainian official described the battle around the twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk as entering a sort of fearsome climax.

British defense officials say Russian forces in the area are achieving greater success. They say that is likely a result of reinforcements and a heavy concentration of fire.

But a military expert told NHK that Russia has replaced the overall commander of the invasion, Army General Alexander Dvornikov.

Valery Shiryaev said, "Commanders who were unable to demonstrate their skills in Russia's forces will have to be replaced."

In Brussels, EU leaders have gathered to approve Ukraine as a candidate for membership. That could boost Ukrainian morale in the fighting.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, "Since early this morning, I have continued the telephone call marathon for the sake of a positive decision on the candidacy for Ukraine."

But getting candidate status would be just the first step in a joining process that could take a decade. The EU summit will run through Friday.