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EU Commission Recommends EU Candidate Status for Ukraine

BRUSSELS — The European Commission recommended Friday that Ukraine should be granted EU candidate status, a first step on the long road toward membership for the war-torn country.

The recommendation from the EU’s executive arm will now be discussed by leaders of the 27-nation bloc during a summit next week in Brussels. Launching accession talks requires unanimous approval from all member countries.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The Ukrainian navy claimed Friday that it struck a Russian boat carrying air defense systems to a strategic island in the Black Sea.

In a statement on social media, the navy said that the Vasily Bekh was used to transport ammunition, weapons and personnel to Snake Island, which is vital for protecting sea lanes out of the key port of Odesa. It did not say how much damage it inflicted with the strike.

Snake Island, located some 35 kilometers (20 miles) off the coast, figured memorably early in the war when Ukrainian border guards stationed there defied Russian orders to surrender, using colorful language that later became a rallying cry.

The flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, used in the seizure of Snake Island, was sunk in April by Ukraine — a major coup for the outmanned and outgunned Ukrainian forces, which made effective use of technology and intelligence from the United States to target the ship.

The Ukrainian Navy said Friday that that after the sinking of the flagship Moskva, the Russians began to install an anti-aircraft missile system called TOR on the decks of their ships. It said that was not enough to prevent Ukraine’s naval forces from “demilitarizing the Russian occupiers.”

There was no immediate reaction from Russian authorities about the Ukrainian claim.

Despite the apparent success, Ukraine has urged its allies to rush more and better weapons to the country, saying it can’t hold off Russia’s more powerful forces without more support. Western weapons have been critical to the embattled nation’s surprising success so far.

Kyiv has also pushed for increased political support, including a fast track to membership in the European Union.

On a visit to Ukraine on Thursday, four European Union leaders vowed to back Kyiv’s candidacy to eventually join the bloc. The EU Commission, the union’s executive arm, is set to meet Friday to make its official recommendation.

The war has increased pressure on EU governments to move more quickly on Ukraine’s candidate status, and Thursday’s pledge to support candidacy status for Ukraine and neighboring Moldova pushes the whole 27-nation union closer to doing so. But the process still is expected to take years, and EU members remain divided over how quickly and fully to open their arms to new members.

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