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MEPs vote overwhelmingly to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine

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By Orlando Crowcroft
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Lyarah Vojnovic, the Brazilian wife of soccer player Maycon, a Brazilian who plays for Ukrainian soccer club Shakhtar Donetsk, embraces her father Marcelo Vojnovic upon arriva
Lyarah Vojnovic, the Brazilian wife of soccer player Maycon, a Brazilian who plays for Ukrainian soccer club Shakhtar Donetsk, embraces her father Marcelo Vojnovic upon arriva   -   Copyright  Andre Penner/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

MEPs have voted overwhelmingly in favour of an EU resolution that supports working with Ukraine on its bid for EU membership and condemns Russia's violence in Ukraine.

The resolution called "for the EU institutions to work towards granting EU candidate status to Ukraine" and to continue working towards integrating the country into the single market.

Earlier, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave an emotional speech to MEPs calling for his country to join the European Union.

Appearing over video link as the Russian army continues its assault, Zelenskyy called on Europe to prove that it supported his country by allowing it to join the EU.

"We are fighting for our rights, for our freedoms and now we’re fighting for survival. We are also fighting to be equal members of Europe," Zelenskyy said.

"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. Glory be to Ukraine."

Zelenskyy was speaking just days after European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen told Euronews that Ukraine "is one of us and we want them in the European Union".

It came as Brussels announced that it was sending weapons to the country, banning Russian-backed media and blocking Russian planes from European air space.

But although Zelenskyy has called for immediate recognition, the process of accession could take some time. In the case of other nations, including Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and North Macedonia, it has taken years.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said there were "different opinions and sensitivities" among EU members on Kyiv's accession.

"Membership is a long-standing request from Ukraine," said Michel. "But there are different opinions and sensitivities within the EU on enlargement.

"Ukraine will submit an official request, the European Commission will have to express an official opinion and the Council will decide."

Speaking to Euronews, French MEP Bernard Guetta said, right now, EU membership for Ukraine is not an option.

"This will only be the beginning of a long process because any accession to the European Union is a very long process and Ukraine, unfortunately with this war, with the restrictions, and the situation in the Donbas and Crimea [membership is unlikely]," Guetta said.

"But we have to deliver this political and symbolic signal to the Ukrainian people because symbolism is very, very important in politics."