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Zelenskiy promises Ukraine will prevail, Boris Johnson pledges lasting support

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KYIV With a blessing for its European ambitions and a pledge of unwavering support from Britain, Ukraine vowed on Saturday to prevail against Moscow as its troops fought off a Russian onslaught near a central city in east and that communities were being pounded by heavier bombardments.

EU leaders are expected at a summit next week to grant Ukraine candidate status following Friday’s recommendation from the bloc’s executive, putting Kyiv on track to achieve a considered aspiration as out of reach before the invasion, although actual membership could take years.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who made a surprise visit to Kyiv on Friday and offered training to Ukrainian forces, stressed on Saturday the need to continue supporting the country and avoid Ukraine fatigue after nearly four months of war.

On the battlefields, the industrial city of Sievierodonetsk, prime target of Moscow’s offensive to take full control of the eastern Luhansk region, came under heavy artillery and rocket fire as Russian forces were attacking areas outside the city, the Ukrainian military said on Saturday.

The attack on towns just south of Sievierodonetsk was repelled by Ukrainian forces, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said on the Telegram messaging app.

Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskiy, whose challenge inspired Ukrainians and won him global respect, said on Saturday he visited soldiers on the southern frontline in the Mykolaiv region, offering a new message of hope on his return.

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Our brave men and women. Each of them is working hard, he said on his official Telegram account. We will definitely hold! We will definitely win!

A video posted to his account showed Zelenskiy in his trademark khaki t-shirt handing out medals and posing for selfies with the military. Zelenskiy did not specify when the trip took place.

Ukrainian authorities reported overnight shelling of several locations in the eastern regions of Lugansk and Kharkiv and further west in Poltava and Dnipropetrovsk. Early Saturday, Russian rockets rained down on a suburb of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, hitting a municipal building and starting a fire in an apartment building, but causing no casualties, a regional governor said.

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Reuters could not independently confirm the battlefield accounts.

Moscow denies targeting civilians in what it calls a special military operation to disarm Ukraine and protect Russian speakers there from dangerous nationalists. Kyiv and its allies dismiss this as a baseless pretext for war.

STRATEGIC RESILIENCE

The Russians are moving forward bit by bit and it is vital for us to show what we know to be true, which is that Ukraine can and will win, Johnson told reporters on his return to Britain from Kyiv.

When Ukraine fatigue sets in, it is very important to show that we are with them for the long haul and that we are giving them the strategic resilience they need, he said.

One of President Vladimir Putin’s objectives when he ordered thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24 was to halt the eastward expansion of the NATO military alliance and to maintain its southern neighbor outside the Western sphere of influence.

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But the war, which has killed thousands, turned cities to rubble and forced millions to flee, has had the opposite effect.

He convinced Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership and paved the way for Ukraine’s application for EU membership.

Ukrainians are ready to die for the European prospect, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday, while announcing her decision to recommend Ukraine and its neighbor Moldova as candidates for EU membership. EU.

We want them to live the European dream with us, she says, dressed in a yellow blazer over a blue blouse, with Ukrainian colors.

(Reporting from Reuters offices Written by Tomasz Janowski, Editing by Frances Kerry)

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