EU offers Ukraine support but no quick accession

STORY: Air raid sirens sounded across Ukraine on Friday (February 3) as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hosted European Union leaders to discuss more sanctions on Russia.

And Ukraine's prospects of joining the bloc.

With thick snow falling, commission president Ursula von der Leyen visited an EU-backed energy-efficient light bulb scheme to reduce demand on a power grid damaged by Russian attacks.

And foreign policy chief Josep Borrell toured a demining site.

It was a show of support as the first anniversary of Russia's invasion approaches on February 24.

But the EU is not expected to fast-track Ukraine's membership while it is at war, as Kyiv wants. It applied to join the bloc days after the invasion.

Instead, the process is likely to take years - EU officials have listed multiple membership requirements, from political and economic stability to adopting various EU laws.

"If there was needed a living proof that Russia is suffering a massive strategic failure, but Ukraine is withstanding, and is building its path towards the European Union, well, the fact that we are here, for the 24th summit, Ukraine-European Union, amidst the war, but we are building, discussing and developing the future of Ukraine in the European Union -- that is speaking more than a thousand words."

Zelenskiy wants more punitive measures against Russia by the European Union, but the next set of sanctions the bloc is preparing for the anniversary are expected to fall short of his demands.

He also stressed the need to tighten sanctions.

“We are very interested in making sure that Russia does not have a chance to restore its military capacity. Sanctions have slowed down this process. We have a clear understanding of what number of missiles were produced before the full-fledged invasion and what is happening now thanks to the EU, U.S., British sanctions and sanctions by other partners. That is why it is very important for us to make sure they cannot find ways to bypass sanctions, something they do thanks to other countries.”

As well as the next round of sanctions, they discussed more arms, money and energy support, better access for Ukrainian products in the EU market, and efforts to prosecute Russian war crimes.