Ukraine’s Zelenskyy Meets with European Leaders

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is meeting with European leaders in Kyiv on Friday. He is hoping to extract a fast-track promise for his country’s entry into the European Union and gain the imposition of more sanctions on Russia at the summit.

Analysts, however, say that his hopes of an expedited path into the EU will likely be dashed, despite his country’s dire need for the alliance’s support during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While the EU has been supportive of Ukraine, it has not shown any indication that it is willing to speed up the membership process.

Ahead of Friday’s summit, Zelenskyy met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. In his daily address Thursday, Zelenskyy thanked von der Leyen, “her colleagues and our friends in the EU for their tangible support on the path of integration and in protecting our country and people.”

Meanwhile, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Friday that the Wagner Group’s recruitment of convicts has dropped “significantly.”  The ministry said the Russian Federal Penal Service experienced a decrease of just 6,000 inmates since November.  In comparison, the penal service had reported a drop of 23,000 inmates from September to November 2022. “Wagner recruitment was likely a major contributing factor to this drop,” the British ministry said.

Russia launched new airstrikes on residential areas in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk on Thursday, even as top European Union officials gathered in Kyiv in a new show of support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s nearly yearlong invasion.

An attack on Kramatorsk late Wednesday killed at least three people and injured another 21, authorities said, with a search under way for at least one more victim thought to be under the debris caused by a missile strike.

“Kramatorsk again shattered by explosions — the Russians made two more rocket strikes,” regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote in a Telegram post.

He said at least five civilians were wounded in the latest strikes that hit residential buildings as well as a children’s clinic and a school in the heart of the city, a major hub for the Ukrainian military in the east. Russia has frequently struck apartment buildings in the war that it launched Feb. 24, while denying it is targeting residential structures.

The Ukrainian presidential office said overall in the last day, Russian shelling in Ukraine had killed at least eight civilians and wounded 29 others.

US sanctions

The United States on Wednesday blacklisted more business officials linked to Russia’s war on Ukraine, targeting an arms dealer, his son and a group of proxy companies across Asia, Europe and the Middle East for trying to help Moscow obtain more weapons for its nearly yearlong fight.

The U.S. Treasury Department unveiled sanctions against Russian arms dealer Igor Zimenkov, his son Jonatan and companies connected to “the Zimenkov network” in Singapore, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Israel, among other countries.

“Russia’s desperate attempts to utilize proxies to circumvent U.S. sanctions demonstrate that sanctions have made it much harder and costlier for Russia’s military-industrial complex to resupply [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war machine,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said.

Treasury named 22 people and organizations it said were linked to the sanctions-evasion network supporting Russia’s military-industrial complex. Over the last year, the department said it had sanctioned more than 100 people and entities engaging in activities to circumvent international sanctions and export controls imposed on Russia.

The blacklisting blocks any U.S. accounts they may own and prohibits them from doing business in the United States and with Americans.

“Targeting proxies is one of many steps that Treasury and our coalition of partners have taken, and continue to take, to tighten sanctions enforcement against Russia’s defense sector, its benefactors and its supporters,” Adeyemo said.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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