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Major Update: Ukraine Formally Begins Fast-Tracking NATO Application After Russia Announces Annexation

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As Russia made a show over formalizing the annexation of part of his country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced he was seeking fast-tracked admittance into NATO on Friday.

It’s the latest move in Ukraine’s protracted conflict with Russia, Politico reported.

In a statement on his website, Zelenskyy characterized the bid for NATO membership as a move that will benefit citizens far beyond his own country’s borders.

“Russia would not have stopped at our borders if we had not stopped it,” he said. “Other states would have been under attack. The Baltic countries, Poland, Moldova and Georgia, Kazakhstan …”

“We are taking a decisive step for the security of the entire community of free nations,” Zelenskyy’s statement proclaimed.

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The president said the move would just formalize a relationship that already exists between Ukraine and its neighbors.

“We are de facto allies,” he said in the statement. “De facto, we have already completed our path to NATO. De facto, we have already proven interoperability with the Alliance’s standards …

“We trust each other, we help each other and we protect each other. This is what the Alliance is. De facto.”

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Now, Zelenskyy said, it’s time to formalize the relationship.

“We know it’s possible,” he said. “We have seen Finland and Sweden start accession to the Alliance this year without a Membership Action Plan.”

All 30 NATO member countries would have to approve the plan for Ukraine to join the alliance, Politico reported.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin pushed forward with the annexation of about 15 percent of Ukraine’s territory in spite of opposition from Western countries and even some of his own country’s close allies, Reuters reported.

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Putin staged a grand ceremony at the Kremlin, gathering the country’s political elites to watch him sign documents annexing four Ukrainian regions, according to the report.

Delivering what Reuters labeled “one of the toughest anti-American speeches he has delivered in more than two decades in power,” Putin vowed to continue battling for a “greater historical Russia” using “whatever tools he had at his disposal,” and making a pointed reference to the “precedent” the U.S. set when it dropped two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945.

“Truth is on our side. Russia is with us!” Putin declared, according to the report.

Politico reported that in his speech, Putin called on Kyiv to cease fighting and claimed Moscow would be open to negotiations.

In his own remarks, which followed shortly after Putin’s ceremony, Zelenskyy said his country, too, is open to negotiations; however, he added, “it was ‘impossible’ to do so with Putin, and would have to be with another Russian president,” according to the outlet.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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