European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged Thursday during a visit to Kiev that the European Union (EU) would support Ukraine “for as long” as necessary against Russia, as Ukrainian troops gain success.
Mme von der Leyen spoke with Ukrainian head of state Volodymyr Zelensky, saying she was impressed by the “bravery” of Ukrainian forces on the front. “You will have your European friends by your side as long as it takes. We are friends forever,” she said alongside the Ukrainian president. Ukraine’s “priority” is to be part of the European Union’s common market, where goods, services and capital can move freely between countries, said Zelensky, whose country wants to increase electricity supplies to the EU.
This was the third visit to Ukraine by Mr. Zelensky.me von der Leyen, but its first since the country became a candidate for EU membership.
In June, the Europeans endorsed Ukraine’s application to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This prospect is perceived as an existential threat by Moscow, which launched its invasion on February 24 under this pretext, among others.
In response, the West imposed a series of sanctions against Russia while providing arms to Kiev, a crucial support that has enabled it to retake thousands of square kilometers of territory from Russian forces in recent weeks.
But Ukraine is also pleading for financial support, as its economy has collapsed and currently needs $5 billion a month to cover its budget deficit.
A mass grave in Izum?
In the evening, the Ukrainian president assured that a “mass grave” had been discovered in Izum, a town taken over from the Russians a few days ago as part of the Ukrainian counter-offensive deployed in the Kharkiv region, and which he visited the day before.
“We want the world to know what the Russian occupation has caused,” he said in his daily video address, without giving details of how many people were buried or what caused their deaths.
He also stressed that “almost the entire Kharkiv region” was now “liberated,” with the recapture of “400 localities.”
An official of the regional police, Sergei Botvinov, meanwhile, told Sky News that a site with about 440 graves was discovered in the city. Some of the dead were shot, others died in bombings, he added.
For his part, Zelensky compared Izum to the cities of Butcha and Mariupol, which have become symbols of the atrocities of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Russia leaves death behind everywhere. And it must answer for it. The world must really hold Russia accountable for this war. We are going to do everything for it,” he said.
Zelensky’s hometown attacked
On Wednesday evening, Russian forces struck water infrastructure with seven missiles, causing a flash flood of the Inhoulets, a river flowing through Kryvyi Rih, the hometown of Mr. Zelensky, who denounced an attempt to flood it.
Bombing raids targeted the city again on Thursday, hitting water infrastructure at least once, without causing any casualties, said the head of the local military administration, Oleksandr Vilkoul.
The Russians “probably targeted the Karachun dam” on the Inhoulets River “to damage Ukrainian floating bridges further downstream” in an effort to hinder Kiev’s counteroffensive in the Kherson region, the U.S. analysis center Institute for the Study of War said.
In the whole of Ukraine, more than 20 localities” were hit by Russian strikes on Thursday, the Ukrainian army said in its evening report.