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Von der Leyen praises Ukraine's progress toward EU accession in surprise Kyiv trip

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meet Saturday in Kyiv to discuss Ukraine's future in the EU. Photo courtesy European Union Press Service/X
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meet Saturday in Kyiv to discuss Ukraine's future in the EU. Photo courtesy European Union Press Service/X

Nov. 4 (UPI) -- European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen praised Ukraine's progress toward European Union accession during a surprise visit to Kyiv on Saturday, just days before she is to present a key report on the subject.

Von der Leyen's report, which is expected to be released Wednesday, will play a significant role in the EU's decision to formerly launch EU accession negotiations with Kyiv.

In an appearance with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, she said Ukraine has made strong progress on modernizing its economy. Her visit to Ukraine Saturday was her sixth in about 20 months since Russia launched its full-scale invasion on the country.

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"I must say you have made excellent progress. This is impressive to see," von der Leyen said told Zelensky during a press briefing. "You are fighting an existential war, and at the same time, you're deeply reforming your country. You have reached many milestones reforming your justice system, curbing the oligarchs' grip, tackling money laundering, and much more."

Zelensky, who has made EU membership one of his administration's most important goals, said Ukraine's progress shows it is "capable of great things when we work together, with confidence, and in the interests of our independence and all Ukrainians."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met Saturday in Kyiv to discuss Ukraine's future in the EU. Photo courtesy Zelenskyy/X
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met Saturday in Kyiv to discuss Ukraine's future in the EU. Photo courtesy Zelenskyy/X

"Ukraine has come a long way -- from the point when no one believed Ukraine could get closer to the EU during a full-scale war -- to achieving EU candidate status in record time and fulfilling recommendations required to open EU accession talks," Zelensky said on X.

Von der Leyen's visit comes as U.S. lawmakers continue to debate over providing additional financial backing to Ukraine in its battle with Russia.

Zelensky, meanwhile, also denied reports the United States and EU officials are pushing him to enter into peace talks with Russia.

"Nobody is putting pressure on me today," he said. "No leader of the U.S. or EU puts pressure on us to sit down at the negotiation table."