The Ukrainian President’s statement came ahead of a decision by the European Union on whether to grant his country full membership of the bloc.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy leave a joint news conference, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine September 15, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY(REUTERS)

Kyiv: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday his war-scarred country wants to join the European single market ahead of a decision on whether to grant Kyiv full EU membership.

“For us, a pressing issue is the question of Ukraine joining the EU single market while we’re on the way to EU membership status. I’m sure it will happen and it will be one of our country’s most important victories,” he told a news conference with visiting EU chief Ursula von der Leyen.

Ukraine applied for EU membership just five days after Russia’s February 24 invasion.

The EU formally accepted Ukraine’s candidacy to join the 27-nation bloc on June 23, in a strong signal of support.

Zelensky thanked von der Leyen, who was visiting Kyiv for the third time since the beginning of the invasion, for her “personal presence in the life of our country and your personal support of Ukraine”.

The two spoke about Ukrainian energy facilities repeatedly hit by Russian forces and a European energy crisis as Moscow halts of disrupts vital supplies. “We should help each other” on energy, the Ukrainian president said.

“We’re thankful for having joined European power grids,” Zelensky said.

“It’s in everyone’s interest: European countries can get cheap electricity from Ukraine” and “we’ll be able to get money for salaries and social payments in such difficult times”.

IAEA board asks Russia to leave Zaporizhzhia

The UN nuclear watchdog’s 35-nation Board of Governors on Thursday passed a resolution demanding that Russia end its occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, diplomats at the closed-door meeting said.

The text, which says the board calls on Russia to “immediately cease all actions against, and at, the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant and any other nuclear facility in Ukraine”, was passed with 26 votes in favour, two against and seven abstentions, diplomats said, adding that Russia and China were the countries that voted against.

Nato: Finland, Sweden get Spain’s parl nod

Spain’s parliament ratified the entry of Finland and Sweden to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) on Thursday, bringing the two Nordic countries one step closer to joining the alliance in its most significant expansion since the 1990s as it responds to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sweden and Finland applied for membership in the 30-nation alliance in response to Russia’s February 24 invasion. Russia has repeatedly warned both countries against joining the alliance and calls its actions in Ukraine “a special military operation”.

Nato allies signed the accession protocol for the two countries in July. It must be ratified by the parliaments of all its members before Finland and Sweden can be protected by the defence clause. Following Spain’s ratification, five countries remain on the list and ratification could take up to a year.

The lower house approved the accession with 290 votes in favour, 11 votes against and 47 abstentions.

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