(CNSNews.com) – Looking ahead to a week in which the European Union could grant “candidate status” to his country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday night that Russia would likely ratchet up “hostile activity” in response.
“Tomorrow a truly historic week begins, a week when we will hear the answer from the European Union on the candidate status for Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in his daily video message to the nation.
He noted that the E.U.’s executive Commission on Friday had given its approval to placing Ukraine on a path to membership, ahead of a decision by the bloc’s 27 leaders at a summit later this week.
“I think it is obvious to everyone that since 1991 there have been few such fateful decisions for Ukraine as we expect now,” he said, referring to the year Ukraine won back its sovereignty after the fall of the Soviet Union.
“And I am convinced that only a positive decision meets the interests of the whole of Europe.”
Zelenskyy said he would use the days in the leadup to the E.U. summit to shore up support for a decision in Ukraine’s favor.
He predicted that as the E.U. consider Kyiv’s application to join the bloc, “obviously, we should expect greater hostile activity from Russia – purposefully, demonstratively, this week exactly.”
“And not only against Ukraine,” he continued, “but also against other European countries. We are preparing. We are ready. We warn [our] partners.”
Ukraine applied to join the E.U. on February 28, four days after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the beginning of a “special military operation” against the neighboring country.
Just days earlier Putin had recognized two breakaway regions in the eastern Donbass region as “independent,” and it was to that region that the Russian military campaign was diverted after failing to seize Kyiv, and where fighting remains focused almost three months later.
The invasion triggered a strong collective response from the West, with the E.U. and United States imposing multilayered sanctions against Moscow and providing billions of dollars in military assistance to Kyiv.
Friday’s positive E.U. Commission recommendation came after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi endorsed the move during a visit to Kyiv.
(The three also voiced support for Moldova’s request for candidate status, which came several days after Ukraine applied, and was similarly prompted by the Russian invasion.)
Specifically, the leaders of the E.U.’s three most powerful economies signaled their approval for Ukraine to be given candidate status – not for the fast tracked accession Zelenskyy has been calling for.
It has taken a decade or more for other formerly communist countries in eastern Europe to be admitted into the E.U., and Macron and Scholz in particular have sought to tamp down expectations of an accelerated process for Ukraine.
By contrast, the leaders of eight of those countries that joined the E.U. after the collapse of the Soviet Union – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia – threw their early support behind Kyiv’s call for swift accession.
Although Hungary, which has been at odds with some of its partners over the bloc’s approach to the war, did not join the eight it subsequently confirmed its support for the initiative.
For Ukraine to receive candidate status, all 27 leaders must agree.
Despite Zelenskyy’s warning Sunday about a likely Russia reaction to the E.U. issue, Putin has played down the significance of Ukraine’s application, drawing a contrast to its desire to join the E.U. and its desire to join NATO.
“The E.U. is not a miliary organization or a military-political bloc, in contrast to NATO,” Putin said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday, in response to a question.
“We have always said, and I have always said, that our stance is very consistent and clear in his respect: we have nothing against.”
At the same time, Putin said Ukraine was mistaken if it thought joining the E.U. would revive its industrial base, especially its once thriving shipbuilding or aircraft building sectors. That would be unlikely, he said, as the leading E.U. countries would not want to “create competitors for themselves.”
The Kremlin bitterly opposes Ukraine – or Georgia – joining NATO, and the alliance has deferred the question of putting the two former Soviet states on a path to membership for the past 14 years.