Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday said Kyiv had “accelerated” its application to join the NATO military alliance as Russia moved to annex four Ukrainian regions.
It was not immediately clear how Kyiv has pushed its application along but Zelenskyy, who has vowed to keep fighting Russia despite its illegal annexation, said Ukraine has already proven a “compatible” partner to NATO
“De facto, we have already proven compatibility with alliance standards. They are real for Ukraine – real on the battlefield and in all aspects of our interaction,” he said. “We trust each other, we help each other, and we protect each other. This is the alliance.”
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Zelenskyy’s comments followed a speech and signing ceremony led by Russian President Vladimir Putin in which he claimed Moscow had received overwhelming support for its illegal seizure.
Putin laid claim to the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions in a hostile speech that threatened to use “all available means” to guard the territory and the “forever” Russian citizens now residing there.
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Putin said the West in supporting Ukraine has acted “as a parasite” by using its financial and technological strength “to rob the entire world.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has not publicly commented on Putin’s speech.
The European Union responded to Putin’s hostile address by condemning “the illegal annexation” as a “further violation of Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Putin called on Ukraine to rejoin peace talks but said handing back the occupied regions was off the table.
Zelenskyy has already said he will not engage with Russia in peace talks if they attempt to unilaterally seize Ukrainian territory.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.