PODGORICA, Montenegro — Montenegro’s prime minister says he has spoken on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and expressed readiness to visit Kyiv.

Dritan Abazovic also told Zelenskyy on Thursday that he will suggest to other leaders of countries in the Western Balkans that they should all travel to Ukraine together to show support.

Small Montenegro in 2017 defied Russia’s strong opposition to join NATO, and is viewed as the next in line for EU membership.

The country, along with North Macedonia and Bulgaria, prevented the visit of Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to neighboring Serbia earlier this week by refusing to grant permit for his plane to fly through their airspace.

Abazovic hopes that Ukraine, too, will soon become a formal EU candidate, said a statement from his office. Abazovic offered Montenegro’s help on Ukraine’s accession path.

The statement also says that Zelenskyy invited Abazovic to visit Kyiv as soon as possible.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

— War rap: In Ukraine, an angry voice for a furious generation

— Smashed buildings in Mariupol produce ‘caravan of death’

— Russia, Turkey back plan to export grains; Ukraine doubtful

— UN report: Ukraine war is increasing suffering of millions

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s top military official says the situation on the frontline is “very difficult” and calls for “very quick” weapon supplies.

Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a Facebook post Thursday that every day up to 100 Ukrainian troops are killed and up to 500 end up wounded.

He said Kyiv needs heavy weapons, as well as aircraft and air defense systems quickly.

“We proved that we don’t fear the Kremlin, unlike many others. But we as a country can’t afford to bleed, losing our best sons and daughters,” Reznikov wrote.

He said that Russia “continues to press by sheer mass,” suffering “huge casualties” as well.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said earlier that every day 60-100 Ukrainian servicemen die on the frontline and some 500 sustain wounds.

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BRUSSELS — Senior members of the European Union’s parliament are urging EU leaders to make Ukraine and neighboring Moldova official candidates for joining the 27-nation bloc.

Political group leaders in the European Parliament said Thursday that the EU “must be a reliable partner and a credible geopolitical actor that lives up to its principles and values by showing solidarity with those who stand up for the same ideals.”

The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, is drafting an opinion on the membership requests of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. In recent years, the commission repeatedly expressed concern about corruption in Ukraine and the need for deep political and economic reforms.

The official opinion will be weighed by EU leaders at a June 23-24 summit in Brussels. Several leaders are wary of opening the door to Ukraine, although acquiring full membership would take the country many years.

The parliamentary group leaders say that giving Ukraine and Moldova EU candidate status would mark “the start to a merit-based process” for joining. They also urged EU leaders “to work towards granting the same status to Georgia.”

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MOSCOW — Russia’s defense ministry says it used air-launched missiles to destroy a Ukrainian military base where foreign fighters allegedly were being trained.

Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Thursday that the training center was in the Zhytomyr region of central Ukraine, about 125 kilometers (75 miles) west of Kyiv.

There was no immediate comment from Ukraine to the Russian claims. Russia refers to foreign fighters who joined Ukrainian troops in the war as ‘mercenaries.’

Konashenkov said Russian missiles also destroyed an ammunition depot and an anti-aircraft system elsewhere in Ukraine.

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KYIV, Ukraine — The governor of eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province says Russian forces are employing “scorched-earth tactics” against the city of Sievierodonetsk, hitting it with rockets, artillery and mortars.

Serhiy Haidai also told The Associated Press on Thursday that neighboring Lysychansk is enduring “day and night shelling.” Russians are trying to storm the key road connecting Lysychansk and the city of Bakhmut but have failed to gain control of it, he said.

Haidai says Ukraine still “remains able to deliver humanitarian supplies to the region by a relatively safe route.”

Ukraine’s east has been the main focus of Russia’s attacks for more than two months.

Haidai said there were two attacks on a chemical plant and “fierce battles” continue in Sievierodonetsk.

“Street battles are taking place with varied success in city blocks,” the governor said. “The army of Ukraine is fighting for every street and house.”

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PARIS — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russia’s invasion of his country is a threat to the environment and could lead to dangerous pollution in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

Zelenskyy made the comments at a ministerial meeting of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. He used the platform to impress on ministers the need to wean states off Russian natural gas in favor of green energy.

The Black Sea and the Sea of Azov border both Ukraine and Russia. The Black Sea also borders Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania and Turkey.

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BERLIN — Poland’s president has sharply criticized phone calls the leaders of France and Germany had with Vladimir Putin, saying the conversations serve only to legitimize the Russian leader.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have spoken to Putin several times since Russia invaded Ukraine, both separately and together, in attempts to nudge him toward ending the war.

Polish President Andrzej Duda was quoted Thursday as telling Germany’s Bild newspaper that he’s “astonished” by the calls.

Duda argued they achieve nothing and “only bring about a legitimization of a person who is responsible for the crimes the Russian army is committing in Ukraine.”

Bild quoted Duda as adding: “Did anyone talk like this with Adolf Hitler during World War II? Did anyone say that Adolf Hitler must save face? … I have not heard such voices.”