The executive arm of the European Union has recommended Ukraine be granted candidate status to join the 27-nation bloc.
The promise of membership in a union created to safeguard peace on the continent holds deep symbolism for the nation at war, but it is only the first step in a process that could take decades.
The European Commission is welcoming Ukraine and Moldova as candidates for membership. However Georgia, another former Soviet republic, is being asked to meet certain conditions before being granted the same status.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen confirmed the position in a statement on EU membership applications by Ukraine, as well as Moldova and Georgia.
“We have one clear message – and that is, yes, Ukraine deserves European perspective, yes, Ukraine should be welcomed as a candidate country,” she said. “This is on the understanding that good work has been done, but important work remains to be done. The entire process is merit-based, so it goes by the book and progress depends entirely on Ukraine. So it is Ukraine that has it in its hands.
"We want them to live with us in the European dream.
"This is, of course, on the understanding that the country will carry out a number of further important reforms.
"In the view of the commission, Ukraine has clearly demonstrated the country’s aspiration and the country’s determination to live up to European values and standards."
Ms Von der Leyen said although it was up to Ukraine to decide if they wished to join the EU, "this is, of course, on the understanding that the country will carry out a number of further important reforms”.
On Moldova and Georgian membership, she said: "[Moldova] is on a real pro-reform, anti-corruption and European path.
"Georgia must now come together politically to design a clear path towards structural reform and the EU."
The war has increased pressure on EU governments to fast-track Ukraine’s candidate status, but the process is expected to take years, and EU members remain divided over how quickly and fully to open their arms to new members.