EU accepts Ukraine as candidate for membership

European Union leaders are moving ahead with efforts to allow Ukraine to join their group. They have granted the country candidate status.

The European Council met in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the bid, and another from neighboring Moldova. They accepted both.

Council President Charles Michel said the decision marks a "crucial step" on the path to joining the bloc.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy applauded the move, saying his country's future is within the EU. However, the process toward becoming a member can take years.

Still, the announcement has raised morale among Ukrainians desperate for hope. People living in the east have seen Russian forces take control of wide areas.

Ukrainian leaders say the battle for the cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk is reaching what they've called a "fearsome climax." They are hoping weapons from the West might help them recapture lost territory.

Ukraine has received rocket systems from the US that will allow them to hit targets up to 80 kilometers away.
Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said "summer will be hot for Russian occupiers."