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‘Ukraine and EU have never been closer’: EU commission chief

Ursula von der Leyen says EU will keep supporting Ukraine and welcome Ukrainian refugees as 'they are part of European family'

BRUSSELS

Ukraine and the EU have never been closer, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday.

Addressing the 8th Cohesion Forum in a video message, von der Leyen reassured the Ukrainian people that the EU will keep supporting the country and welcome refugees as “they are part of the European family.”

Ukraine and the European Union have never been closer,” she said, stressing that images of Europeans welcoming Ukrainian refugees “show hope” next to the “devastating” scenes of war.

She explained that the European Commission presented last week a package that allows EU member states to use cohesion funds to “welcome Ukrainian refugees quickly and humanely,” by setting up reception centers, mobile hospitals, and providing education, language training, and employment support.

The European Union hosts the majority of the 3.2 million Ukrainians who fled the country since Russia launched a war on Ukraine on Feb. 24.

According to the UN, over 1.97 million Ukrainians fled to Poland, 509,000 to Romania, 291,000 to Hungary, and 235,000 to Slovakia.

The EU decided to send €500 million ($550 million) humanitarian aid to Ukraine and adopted four sanctions packages since the beginning of the crisis.

The measures include, among others, banning the export of luxury goods to Russia, targeting President Russian Vladimir Putin, top diplomat Sergey Lavrov, oligarchs, and military officers, as well as excluding Russian and Belarusian banks from the SWIFT international banking system and banning broadcasting activities of Sputnik and RT media outlets.

Last week, EU leaders discussed Ukraine’s EU membership application that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy requested three weeks ago.

The question significantly divides EU countries. While eastern EU members are in favor of accelerating the membership process, western member countries insist on sticking to the official procedure.

At least 780 civilians have been killed so far in Ukraine, and 1,252 injured, according to UN estimates. It has warned, however, that the true toll is likely much higher as it has not been able to gain access to areas of increased hostilities.

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