EU backs Ukraine's membership bid

STORY: Ukraine applied to join the EU just four days after Russian troops poured across its border in February.

"Ukraine has clearly demonstrated the country's aspiration and the country's determination to live up to European values and standards," the EU's executive Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said in Brussels. She made the announcement wearing Ukrainian colours, a yellow blazer over a blue shirt.

President Voloymyr Zelenskiy thanked von der Leyen and EU member states on Twitter for a decision he called "the first step on the EU membership path that'll certainly bring our victory closer".

The decision by the Commission, the EU executive, will pave the way for EU government leaders to sign off on it at a summit next Thursday and Friday in Brussels in what will be a morale boost for Ukraine as it fights Russia's invasion.

The Kremlin says what it calls its "special military operation" was partly necessitated by Western encroachment into what it characterizes as its rightful sphere of influence.

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