16th March, 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has abandoned his country’s long-term goal of joining NATO, and instead wants security guarantees from the West.
His new position is regarded as a boost for Ukraine’s peace talks with Russia. The talks continue today.
He first made the comments via video link at a meeting of the leaders of the U.K. Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) in London on Tuesday morning.
Zelenskiy acknowledged that Ukraine’s accession to NATO would not happen.
“For years we’ve heard the opposite, open doors, However, it is not,” he said according to Ukrainian news outlet, Trukha.
“Our people understand this, and we are beginning to count on our own strength,” he added.
Media outlet Nexta quoted Zelenskiy as saying: “We realized that Ukraine will not become a member of NATO. We understand this, we are adequate people.”
“Kyiv needs new formats of interaction with the West and separate security guarantees.”
The admission that Kyiv will not join NATO could change the stakes for diplomacy, which has so far failed to end the hostilities nearly three weeks on from the start of the invasion on February 24.
Moscow sees any future Ukraine membership of the Western alliance as a threat and has demanded guarantees it will never join.
Zelenskiy on Wednesday said peace talks were sounding more realistic but more time was needed, as Russian air strikes killed five people in the capital Kyiv and the refugee tally from Moscow’s invasion reached 3 million.
Moscow has not captured any of Ukraine’s 10 biggest cities following its incursion that began on Feb. 24, the largest assault on a European state since 1945.
Ukrainian officials have raised hopes the war could end sooner than expected, possibly by May, saying Moscow may be coming to terms with its failure to impose a new government by force and running out of fresh troops.
“The meetings continue, and, I am informed, the positions during the negotiations already sound more realistic. But time is still needed for the decisions to be in the interests of Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said in a video address on Wednesday, ahead of the next round of talks.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said it was too early to predict progress in the talks. “The work is difficult, and in the current situation the very fact that (the talks) are continuing is probably positive.”
Russia calls its actions a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine.
Ukraine and Western allies call this a baseless pretext for a war of choice that has raised fears of wider conflict in Europe.