Zelensky warns Russia will escalate attacks as EU chief calls grain blockade ‘war crime’

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Zelensky warns Russia will escalate attacks as EU chief calls grain blockade ‘war crime’
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Volodymyr Zelensky has warned Russia will step up attacks in the coming days, amid Ukraine’s EU membership bid.

The European Union will decide whether to give the country ”candidate status” later this week.

The move would kickstart the lengthy process of Ukraine’s accession to the bloc, which could take years and is not guaranteed.

Ahead of the decision, Mr Zelensky anticipated Russia will escalate its violence in the country.

On Sunday evening, during his nightly address from Kyiv, the Ukrainian president said: “Obviously, this week we should expect from Russia an intensification of its hostile activities.

“And not only against Ukraine, but also against other European countries.”

He added: “We are preparing. We are ready.”

It comes as an EU chief called Russia’s grain blockade a “war crime” amid fears it could drive a global food crisis

The EU is calling on Russia to “deblockade” Ukrainian ports as millions of tonnes of grain are being blocked from leaving the country.

Josep Borrell said on Monday: “We call on Russia to deblockade the (Ukrainian) ports...

“It is inconceivable, one cannot imagine that millions of tonnes of wheat remain blocked in Ukraine while in the rest of the world people are suffering hunger,” he said as he arrived at a meeting for EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

“This is a real war crime, so I cannot imagine that this will last much longer,” he added.

It comes ahead of a summit this week in Brussels which will decide Ukraine’s fate as a EU member.

Its membership bid was given the green light by the European Commission last week.

Now the European Council, made up of the leaders of the 27 member states, will cast its judgement on Thursday and Friday.

Mr Zelensky added: “I think it is obvious to everyone that since 1991 there have been few such fateful decisions for Ukraine as we expect now.

“And I am convinced that only a positive decision meets the interests of the whole of Europe.”

Ukraine applied for EU membership four days after Vladimir Putin announced he was launching a “special militiary operation” in the country on February 24.

On Friday, Russian president Vladimir Putin insisted he had “nothing against” Ukraine’s plan to join the EU.

His spokesman Dmitry Peskov said any move towards accession would mean “increased attention” from Moscow.

He said: “We all know about the intensification of discussions in Europe on the strengthening of the defence component of the EU,.

“The military, defence and security components are being discussed, and all kinds of transformations are happening there, and we are, of course, observing it all thoroughly.”

Eastern Ukraine has been under constant bombardment by Russian forces in recent weeks, amid an ongoing assault in an attempt to capture the Donbas region.

Parts of the Donbas were already held by pro-Russian separatists before the invasion in February.

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