EU leaders met Thursday to discuss Ukraine’s long-sought bid to join the bloc, even as tensions between Brussels and Moscow deepened over gas supplies and Russia closed in on key cities in the embattled Donbas region. “This is a decisive moment for the European Union… A choice must be made today that will determine the future of the union, our stability, our security and our prosperity,” EU council president Charles Michel told journalists ahead of the talks. “We are waiting for the green light, Ukraine has earned candidate status,” the head of the Ukrainian presidency Andriy Yermak said on Telegram. But joining the EU is still years away, and the potential consequences for Ukraine’s allies loomed large over the talks, and ahead of the G7 and NATO meetings in the following days. Western officials denounced Moscow’s “weaponising” of its key gas and grain exports in the conflict, with a US official warning of further retaliatory measures at the G7 summit in Germany starting Sunday. Germany ratcheted up an emergency gas plan to its second alert level, just one short of the maximum that could require rationing in Europe’s largest economy after Russia slashed its supplies. “Gas is now a scarce commodity,” Economy Minister Robert Habeck told reporters, urging households to cut back on use. France is now aiming to have its gas storage reserves at full capacity by early autumn, and will build a new floating methane terminal to get more energy supplies by sea, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said. A Kremlin spokesman reiterated its claim that the supply cuts were due to maintenance and that necessary equipment from abroad had not arrived. In Ankara meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of “weaponising hunger” by preventing grain shipments from leaving Ukraine ports, raising the spectre of shortages particularly in Africa and the Middle East. “We are very clear that this grain crisis is urgent, that it needs to be solved within the next month. Otherwise we could see devastating consequences,” Truss said after talks with her Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu. On the ground in the Donbas, the situation was becoming increasingly urgent as Russian forces tightened their grip on the strategically important cities of Severodonetsk and its twin Lysychansk across the Donets river. Taking the cities would give Moscow control of the whole of Lugansk, allowing Russia to press further into the Donbas and potentially further west. Ukraine acknowledged Thursday that it had lost control of two areas from where it was defending the cities, with Russian forces now closer to encircling the industrial hubs. Britain’s defence ministry said some Ukrainian units had probably been forced to withdraw “to avoid being encircled” as troops advanced slowly but steadily toward Lysychansk.