Air raid sirens blare across Ukraine as EU leaders meet Volydymyr Zelensky in Kyiv

A firefighter tackles a blaze at a shopping centre in Kherson following a Russian missile strike  (AP)
A firefighter tackles a blaze at a shopping centre in Kherson following a Russian missile strike (AP)

Air raid alerts sounded in Kyiv and across Ukraine on Friday as European Union leaders promised to support the country “as long as it takes” to defeat Vladimir Putin’s forces.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was hosting EU chairman Charles Michel and the bloc’s chief executive, Ursula von der Leyen, for talks in the capital.

“There will be no let up in our resolve. We will also support you every step of the way on your journey to the EU,” Mr Michel wrote on Twitter this morning under a picture of himself on a central Kyiv square.

There were no immediate reports of fresh missile strikes following the air raid warning.

However Russian strikes were reported across the country overnight as the war continues to rage.

Ukrainian state media reported that a shopping centre in the eastern city of Kherson had been shelled, sparking a major fire. No injuries were reported.

Vladimir Putin’s forces also attacked the town of Barvinkove in the eastern Kharkiv region, according to reports. Two men were said to have died in the attack, which destroyed a house.

The EU’s show of support comes three weeks before the one-year anniversary of Moscow’s invasion that has devastated cities, killed tens of thousands of people, forced millions from their homes and shaken global food and energy supplies.

“The EU will support Ukraine and the Ukrainian people against Russia’s ongoing war of aggression for as long as it takes,” the three leaders were set to declare in a joint statement.

The last such summit was held in Kyiv in October 2021 - a few months before the war started.

EU assistance for Ukraine has reached almost 50 billion euros (£44.7 billion) since the fighting started, according to EU officials.

The EU is providing Ukraine with financial and humanitarian aid. It also plans to adopt a 10th package of sanctions against Russia in the coming weeks.

Ukraine wants to join the 27-nation bloc, though that could take years and require the adoption of far-reaching reforms.

Meanhile Ukraine’s allies are reportedly pushing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to finalise plans for a multibillion-dollar lending programme.

IMF representatives are planning to meet Ukrainian officials later this month to discuss a loan of up to $16 billion (£13bn), the Financial Times reported.