As Kiev moves closer to joining the European Union, Ukrainian officials claim their forces have hit a Russian naval tugboat with two Western-supplied missiles in the Black Sea.
According to the Ukrainian navy, the tugboat had been transporting soldiers, weapons, and ammunition to the Russian-controlled Zmiinyi (Snake) Island in the Black Sea.
The Ukrainian military released a video of what it claimed to be two Harpoon missiles hitting the Russian vessel on Friday.
“During the full-scale war in the Black Sea, (anti-ship missiles) were used twice, first the (Ukrainian-made) Neptune, and today, June 17, the Harpoon. Both uses were successful. At the same time, the air defense of Russian ships proved to be entirely ineffective,” the Armed Forces Strategic Communications Directorate said.
Harpoon missiles are among the equipment the West has provided to the Ukrainian government in recent months to be used in military conflicts against Russia.
Ukraine given possible path to EU membership
In another development on Friday, the European Commission recommended that Ukraine should be granted EU candidate status, marking a first step on the long road toward full EU membership.
It came a day after the EU leaders vowed to back Kiev’s candidacy, which will be discussed by leaders of the 27-nation bloc during a summit next week in Brussels.
Launching accession talks requires unanimous approval from all EU member states. Membership in the European Union can usually take more than a decade. Croatia was the last country to join the union, and the application process took 10 years until it was formally accepted in 2013.
Ukraine attaches great importance to a full EU membership, as it is at war with Russia and needs more support from European countries. Kiev has also based its political future on closer relations with the European Union.
The decision came just a day after French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Schultz, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce their support for Kiev.
Macron: No peace for Ukraine if efforts directed to ‘crush Russia’
Meanwhile, Macron said on Friday that Ukraine would never have peace if the ultimate aim of the conflict in the country is to “crush Russia.”
Speaking in an interview with CNN affiliate BFMTV, the French president said he had heard some say that “the goal of this war is to crush Russia. And that’s where I say you’re wrong. If you do that, you'll never get a negotiated peace.”
“The role of France is to have possible links for discussion with Russia,” he said, conceding that currently, “there’s no availability on the Russian or Ukrainian side for real discussions” following the discovery of claimed war crimes in Bucha.
“We have never negotiated on the part of the Ukrainians. Never,” he added.
Lavrov: Dragging Ukraine into NATO ‘a criminal act’
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country “didn’t invade Ukraine, but declared a special military operation because we had absolutely no other way of explaining to the West that dragging Ukraine into NATO was a criminal act.”
“Russia is not squeaky clean. Russia is what it is. And we are not ashamed of showing who we are,” he said in an interview with the BBC released Thursday.
Regarding UK-Russia ties, Lavrov said he did not think “there’s even room for maneuver anymore.”
“Both (UK Prime Minister Boris) Johnson and (Foreign Secretary Liz) Truss say openly that we should defeat Russia, we should force Russia to its knees. Go on, then, do it,” he told the BBC.