NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has made an unannounced visit to Kyiv, his first since the launch of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking on Thursday afternoon, he said alliance's priority was to ensure Ukraine "prevails" in the war against Russia and that a membership plan for Kyiv will be discussed at a summit in July.
"Ukraine's future is in the Euro-Atlantic family, Ukraine's future is in NATO, all allies agree on that," Stoltenberg said at a press conference in in the Ukrainian capital.
More footage of #NATO Secretary General Jens #Stoltenberg in #Kyiv.— KyivPost (@KyivPost) April 20, 2023
Meanwhile, #Kremlin spokesman #Peskov declared that “preventing Ukraine from joining NATO is still one of the goals of the special military operation,” Russian state media reported. pic.twitter.com/WQBcwHJb8S
He said "the issue of membership" will be "high on the agenda" at a NATO summit in Vilnius this summer.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked Stoltenberg to help Kyiv "overcome the reluctance" of some member states on providing long-range weapons to Kyiv to counter Russia's invasion.
"I addressed the Secretary General with a request to help us overcome the reluctance of our partners regarding the delivery of certain weapons, namely long-range, modern aviation, artillery, armoured vehicles," Zelensky said at a press conference with Stoltenberg in Kyiv.
The visit comes at a critical time as Ukraine prepares for an upcoming counter-offensive and Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) face escalating combat in the Eastern part of the country.
NATO has pledged to stand by Ukraine as it fights Russia but Stoltenberg also said that it was important that arms already sent to Ukraine "work as they should", including having sufficient ammunition and repairs.
Stoltenberg's visit to Ukraine was not announced ahead of time – in line with the policy followed by many Western officials for security reasons.
Russia says NATO's deliveries of military aid to Kyiv are proof that the alliance and the United States are waging a war by proxy in Ukraine.
The Kremlin said on Thursday that preventing Ukraine joining the Western military alliance remains one of the main aims of its invasion.
"Otherwise, it will pose a serious danger to our country, to its security," the Kremlin said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed he had no choice but to send troops into Ukraine to stop it moving into the NATO fold.
But Western diplomats say membership for Ukraine remains a distant prospect. NATO members are bound by the principle of collective defence in which an attack on one is considered an attack on all.
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