Ukraine Latest: Von der Leyen meets Zelenskiy in kyiv on EU bid

(Bloomberg) — European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen paid an unannounced visit to Kyiv, where she spoke with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy about the country’s application to join the European Union and its reconstruction after the war.

Meanwhile, Ukraine said its partners had ignored its call for pre-emptive sanctions that could have persuaded Russia to withdraw its troops by February 24. The comment from Zelenskiy’s office was a response to US President Joe Biden saying the Ukrainian leader brushed off his warnings of an imminent invasion.

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Key developments

  • Von der Leyen visits Kyiv ahead of key week for Ukraine’s EU bid
  • Biden says Zelenskiy brushed off Russian invasion warnings
  • Iran has lessons from Russia’s grim survival under sanctions
  • Ukraine seeks new IMF deal to shore up war-torn finances
  • Russia cuts rates to pre-war level as it keeps an eye on the ruble and the economy
  • Chef José Andrés warns that US food aid to Ukraine will go to waste

(every hour CET)

Von der Leyen visits Kyiv as part of Ukraine’s EU bid (2:03 p.m.)

The EU chief executive made her second visit to Kyiv since the start of the war and met with Zelenskiy. She said officials were working day and night on Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union.

The European Commission is expected to recommend on June 17 that Ukraine be granted candidate status to join the bloc, beginning a process that could last more than a decade in which the country must adopt EU rules and standards.

“We will take stock of the joint work needed for reconstruction and the progress Ukraine has made as it continues its European path,” von der Leyen said ahead of the visit. “This will feed into our assessment, which we will present soon.”

Ukraine Intensifies Diplomatic Relations (12:32 p.m.)

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that he had a call with his Polish counterpart Zbigniew Rau to discuss upcoming heavy weapons deliveries and the EU’s seventh sanctions package against Russia. Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov met with British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and had a “productive and frank discussion”. Meanwhile, Ukrainian lawmaker Fedir Venislavskyi said the country was taking all necessary steps to save the two Britons and a Moroccan man captured by Russia and sentenced to death, according to the Guardian, citing Reuters.

Ukraine open to prisoner swap for Brits, Telegraph says (9:19 a.m.)

Ukraine is open to a prisoner swap to secure the release of two British men who have been sentenced to death, The Telegraph reported, citing Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK. The two men, who have lived in Ukraine for several years, were serving Ukrainian military personnel. The UK is keen to avoid treating their capture as a bilateral issue, the Telegraph said.

US and Ukraine engage in war of words over invasion warning (9:17 a.m.)

Biden said Zelenskiy ignored warnings that Russia would invade Ukraine ahead of the February attack.

“I know a lot of people thought maybe I was exaggerating, but I knew, and we had data to back it up, that he was coming in through the border. There was no doubt. And Zelenskiy didn’t want to hear it, and neither did a lot of people,” Biden said on Friday. The president acknowledged that the possibility of Russian President Vladimir Putin launching a full-scale invasion might seem far-fetched at the time.

Zelenskiy’s spokesman, Serhiy Nikiforov, said the Ukrainian president had several calls with Biden before the invasion where the two leaders shared their assessments of the situation. In addition, Zelenskiy had called on the country’s partners to prepare preventive sanctions to push Russia to de-escalate, but “our partners did not want to hear us”.

More children die in Mariupol (9:09)

The Prosecutor General of Ukraine has learned of the deaths of 24 other children in Mariupol, reports the Guardian. This means that at least 287 children have died so far in the war, while 492 have been injured, the newspaper said, citing a statement from the attorney general’s office.

“These figures are not final, as work is underway to establish them in places of active hostilities, in temporarily occupied and liberated territories,” the statement said.

BASF CEO Fights for Tech Sanctions (9:00 a.m.)

The CEO of BASF SE, which is expected to close its main site in Ludwigshafen if Russian gas supplies are cut off, said he was instead in favor of sanctions against the tech industry. Restrictions on aircraft spare parts, semiconductors or software updates would have a much bigger impact on Russia than a possible gas embargo, Martin Brudermueller said in an interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Japan Says Sino-Russian Ties Could Deepen (4:20 a.m.)

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said ties between Moscow and Beijing could deepen further as Russia comes under intense international sanctions. Joint military activities by the two countries are also of concern, he said at the IISS Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore.

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