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EU Leaders Meet In Ukraine To Discuss Fresh Sanctions Package

Leaders of the European Union and Ukraine are holding a landmark meeting in Kyiv amid air-raid alerts in the capital and across Ukraine.

The alerts on February 3 were lifted after less than two hours, and there were no immediate reports of any air strikes by Russia.

In recent months, Russian missile strikes have caused extensive damage to Ukraine's electricity grid in the depths of winter and claimed victims among civilians.

The top-level meeting in Kyiv between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and the EU leadership is expected to discuss the European Union's support for Kyiv in the face of Russia's invasion and Ukraine's bid for membership in the 27-member bloc.

Charles Michel, the president of the European Council that groups the leaders of the 27 EU members, reassured Ukraine of the bloc's unwavering support both against Russia's aggression and on its path to eventual integration in the bloc.

"There will be no let up in our resolve. We will also support you every step of the way on your journey to the EU," Michel, who arrived in Kyiv on February 3, said on Twitter, where he posted a photo of himself in the Ukrainian capital.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who arrived in Kyiv on February 2 with a team of 15 commissioners, announced at a joint news conference with Zelenskiy that the EU will issue a fresh package sanctions against Russia -- the 10th since the start of its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine almost one year ago.

Von der Leyen and Michel went into a fresh round of talks with Zelenskiy on February 3.

A joint EU-Ukraine statement seen by Reuters was also expected to reaffirm the bloc's support for Ukraine against Russia's invasion "for as long as it takes," the news agency reported.

Zelenskiy said later on February 2 that Ukraine deserves to start EU accession talks this year. He said further integration with the bloc would inspire Ukrainians and give them "motivation" to fight against Russian troops.

Ukraine was granted candidate status in June.

However, Brussels has been firm in its position that while it backs Ukraine's bid, the country will need to implement a wide array of democratic and economic reforms and root out endemic corruption before it can be admitted, and that the admission process could take many years.

Zelenskiy has pledged to root out entrenched corruption that has weakened the effectiveness of state institutions even as the country faced an increasingly aggressive Russia since 2014, culminating with Moscow's unprovoked invasion.

Several high-ranking officials' homes were raided by anti-corruption agents on February 1 in a second sweep in a week.

Von der Leyen commended the Ukrainian government for taking swift action against corruption.

"Your determination to join the European Union is impressive," she said.

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"I'm comforted to see that your anti-corruption bodies are on alert and effective in detecting corruption cases.... I also commend you on reacting so rapidly at the political level to make sure that the fight against corruption is delivering tangible results and is further stepped up," von der Leyen concluded.

Responding to a remark by Zelenskiy, who said Kyiv hopes the bloc's sanctions campaign will gain momentum again after appearing to have "slightly slowed down" recently, von der Leyen said:

"We will introduce with our G7 partners an additional price cap on Russian petroleum products, and by February 24 -- exactly one year since the invasion started -- we aim to have the 10th package of sanctions in place."

The summit comes after the EU commissioners met their counterparts in the Ukrainian government for the first-ever joint meeting on February 2.

By RFE/RL

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