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BRUSSELS: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the EU on Tuesday via video link to an emergency session of the European Parliament to “prove that you are with us” in Ukraine’s war with Russia, a day after Kyiv officially asked to join the bloc.

European Union lawmakers, many wearing #standwithUkraine T-shirts bearing the Ukrainian flag, others with blue-and-yellow scarves or ribbons, gave Zelenskiy a standing ovation.

“We are fighting to be equal members of Europe,” Zelenskiy said in Ukrainian in a speech translated into English by an interpreter who spoke through tears.

“Do prove that you are with us. Do prove that you will not let us go. Do prove that you are indeed Europeans, and then life will win over death and light will win over darkness,” he said. “The EU will be much stronger with us.”

Zelenskiy has remained in Kyiv to rally his people against the invasion. As he spoke on Tuesday, a Russian armoured column was bearing down on Ukraine’s capital.

The presidents of eight central and eastern European nations on Monday published an open letter calling for Ukraine to be granted immediate EU candidate status and for the start of formal membership talks.

HARD TO JOIN EU

But Ukraine is well aware that any membership process will be long and difficult, even if it manages after the war to avoid falling back under Moscow’s domination.

Charles Michel, the chairman of EU leaders, told the EU Parliament after Zelenskiy’s speech that the bloc would have to seriously look at Ukraine’s “legitimate” request to join.

But he added: “It is going to be difficult, we know there are different views in Europe (about further enlargement).”

According to a draft text they will vote on later on Tuesday, EU lawmakers are expected to brand Russia a “rogue state” and urge member states to agree even tougher sanctions.

The EU has taken unprecedented steps, including financing weapons deliveries to Ukraine, after President Vladimir Putin launched war on Russia’s neighbour last week.

According to the draft resolution and amendments backed by the assembly’s main parties, lawmakers will call for the scope of sanctions to be broadened and “aimed at strategically weakening the Russian economy and industrial base, in particular the military-industrial complex”.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “effectively makes Russia a rogue state,” the lawmakers are set to say.

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