Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said after hosting a summit with the EU that it was "possible" to start official accession talks already this year.

Mr Zelensky spoke after hosting European Union chief Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for a summit in Kyiv earlier today.

"What exactly did we agree upon today?" Mr Zelensky said in his traditional evening address to the nation.

"There is an understanding that it is possible to start negotiations on Ukraine's membership in the European Union this year."

While the top EU officials stressed their backing for the war-torn country's integration with Brussels, Ms von der Leyen cautioned that there could be "no rigid timelines" for Ukrainian membership or talks.

The EU-Ukraine summit also focused on aid to help the country fight the Russian invasion

Mr Zelensky has pressed for a speedy accession to the EU as Ukraine fends off Russia's nearly year-long invasion.

"Tonight we can say that Ukraine is moving towards its goal," he said.

"We spoke and are already speaking as members of the European community."

The summit also focused on more sanctions against Russia and economic support for Ukraine.

Air raid sirens sounded in Kyiv as the EU delegation were due to depart for the venue, the Marinksyi Park presidential palace.

They arrived at the venue amid tight security around 10.30am Irish time.

Ukraine applied to join the EU days after Russia invaded last year. The EU has embraced the application, but rebuffed Ukraine's calls for a fast track to membership while the country is at war.

EU officials have listed multiple membership requirements, from political and economic stability to adopting various EU laws. The process is likely to take years.

The EU has demanded Kyiv tackle what is perceived as endemic state graft. Mr Zelensky has announced dismissals and investigations of an array of officials in the past two weeks.

A Ukrainian serviceman patrols on an infantry combat vehicle BMP-2 In Bakhmut

Asked at the news conference with Mr Zelensky about Kyiv's membership bid, Ms von der Leyen said: "There are no rigid timelines, but there are goals that you have to reach."

Earlier, Mr Zelensky said Ukrainians will fight "for as long as we can" to hold the eastern city of Bakhmut.

The United States has said it would send more than $2.175 billion worth of military aid to Ukraine, including a new rocket that will double Kyiv's strike range to reach most Ukrainian territory now held by the Russians.

Mr Zelensky, flanked by the EU leaders at a news conference, said European sanctions should aim to ensure Russia cannot rebuild its military capability. And he had a defiant message on Bakhmut, the focal point of Ukrainian resistance to Russia's invasion and of Moscow's drive to regain battlefield momentum.

"Nobody will give away Bakhmut. We will fight for as long as we can. We consider Bakhmut our fortress," he said.

Moscow says Russian forces are encircling the city that had a pre-war population of around 75,000 from several directions and battling to take control of a road which is also an important supply route for Ukrainian forces.

"If weapon (supplies) are accelerated, specifically long-range weapons, not only will we not abandon Bakhmut but we will also begin to remove the occupiers from the Donbas, occupied since 2014," Mr Zelensky said.

Black smoke rises after shelling in Bakhmut

The US military aid announced included rockets known as Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDB), whose 151km range would put all of Russia's supply lines in eastern Ukraine within reach, as well as part of the Crimea peninsula, also seized by Moscow in 2014.

Ms von der Leyen said a 10th sanctions package would hit "trade and technology that supports Russia's war machine".

The package, which the EU is preparing for the anniversary of the invasion, is set to fall short of some of Ukraine's demands, and Kyiv's ambition to join the EU may take longer than it would like.

EU countries also agreed today on a Commission proposal to set price caps on Russian oil products from Sunday to limit Moscow's ability to fund the war. They include a $100 cap on premium oil products such as diesel and a $45 limit per barrel on discounted products such as fuel oil, diplomats said.

A similar price cap on crude oil took effect in December.

The Kremlin said the plan would unbalance global energy markets but Moscow was acting to mitigate its impact. Russia will almost treble its daily sales of foreign currency to 8.9billion roubles ($130 million) a day over the next month to compensate for lower oil and gas revenue.

Russia's monthly budget revenues from oil and gas fell in January to their lowest level since August 2020 under the impact of Western sanctions, Finance Ministry data showed.

The German government said it had approved the delivery of Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine from its stocks. The tanks could be delivered sooner than advanced Leopard 2s that Germany and other countries pledged last week.

Rescuers remove the rubble at a residential building hit by a Russian missile in Kramatorsk

Ukraine's defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said the new tanks being supplied by NATO nations would serve as an "iron fist" in a counteroffensive to smash through Russian lines.

Russia has been intensifying pressure on Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine, where Kyiv says Moscow is sending thousands of soldiers and mercenaries to their deaths for small gains.

"They bring in men from their draft and try systematically to find places to break through," Serhiy Cherevatiy, a spokesman for the Ukrainian armed forces eastern front, told Ukrainian radio NV.

Moscow says a major objective in Ukraine is securing the rest of Donetsk province, one of four it claimed to have unilaterally annexed last year. Its forces have claimed incremental gains over the past week around Bakhmut.

A Belarusian volunteer fighting for Ukraine inside the city said there was no sign yet Ukrainian forces were planning to pull out. "For the moment it's the opposite, the positions are being reinforced where the Russians are trying to cut us off...We're holding for now."

Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield accounts.