Europe

Zelensky: Ukraine wants ‘clear’ time frame for NATO membership

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday asked NATO and the European Union (EU) for a firm and “honest” answer on his country’s prospects for entry into the alliance at the Munich Security Conference.

During remarks on Saturday afternoon, the Ukrainian president questioned why the EU avoids questions about his country’s membership status, asking, “Doesn’t Ukraine deserve direct, honest answers?” 

“This also applies to NATO. We are told the door is open. But for now, no outsiders are allowed in,” he said while addressing world leaders in Munich, Kyiv-based news agency Interfax-Ukraine reported

He added that if some or all members of the NATO alliance don’t want to include Ukraine, “they should be honest with the country.”

Russia has demanded that NATO guarantee it will not expand any further eastward, claiming the organization’s proximity to its borders threatens its national security. It has also requested assurances that Ukraine will never be permitted to join the alliance.

“An open door is good, but we need open answers, not questions that have not been closed for years. Isn’t the right to the truth included in our enhanced opportunities?” Zelensky added.

“Eight years ago, Ukrainians made their choice, many gave their lives for it. Is it really possible that eight years after that, Ukraine should constantly call for recognition of the European prospect? Since 2014, the Russian Federation has been convinced that we have chosen the wrong path, and that no one is waiting for us in Europe,” he said on Saturday. 

Zelensky was referring to the 2014 Euromaidan protests that brought down the government of then-President Viktor Yanukovych, which was partly prompted by the government’s perceived closeness to Russia. Yanukovych’s government also suspended the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. 

Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region rebelled against the new government in Kyiv shortly after, sparking the country’s ongoing conflict. 

The news comes amid Western fears of an impending Russian invasion into the country. For its part, the Russian military has incrementally amassed hundreds of thousands of troops at its border with the former Soviet state. 

Russia has previously denied that it plans to invade Ukraine, but on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin oversaw nuclear exercises in what experts say is a show of military strength. 

The situation has also been compounded by an increasingly volatile situation in eastern Ukraine, where leaders of separatist territories called on able-bodied men to fight.   

Zelensky during his speech cited the U.S.’s continued warnings of imminent Russian aggression, including those from President Biden. He said in order to “really help Ukraine, Western countries do not need to constantly talk only about the dates of a possible invasion.”

“We will defend our land on Feb. 16, March 1, and Dec. 31. We need other dates much more. And everyone understands perfectly well which ones,” he emphasized.

Zelensky addressed the gathering soon after he concluded his scheduled meeting with Vice President Harris on the sidelines of the conference.

Harris and Zelensky, along with their aides, sat across from each other and engaged in a brief dialogue in front of press, where he told Harris, via an interpreter, that “the only thing we want is to have peace.” 

Last month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused NATO of attempting to “pull” Ukraine into the military alliance and questioned the organization’s stated mission.
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