Ukraine drops pitch for NATO

March 09, 2022 12:00 am | Updated 05:40 am IST - Washington/London

Zelensky says open to compromise on breakaway regions

Rescue mission:Ukrainian soldiers evacuating civilians in the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on Tuesday.AFP

Rescue mission:Ukrainian soldiers evacuating civilians in the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on Tuesday.AFP

President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was no longer pressing for NATO membership for Ukraine, a delicate issue that was one of Russia’s stated reasons for invading its pro-Western neighbour.

In another apparent nod aimed at placating Moscow, Mr. Zelensky said he was open to “compromise” on the status of two breakaway pro-Russian territories that President Vladimir Putin recognised as independent just before unleashing the invasion on February 24.

“I have cooled down regarding this question a long time ago after we understood that ... NATO is not prepared to accept Ukraine,” Mr. Zelensky said in an interview aired on Monday night on ABC News.

“The alliance is afraid of controversial things, and confrontation with Russia,” the President added. Referring to NATO membership, Mr. Zelensky said through an interpreter that he did not want to be President of a “country which is begging something on its knees”. Russia has said it does not want neighbouring Ukraine to join NATO, the transatlantic alliance created at the start of the Cold War to protect Europe from the Soviet Union.

However, in a virtual speech to lawmakers in the U.K. on Tuesday, Mr. Zelensky vowed to “fight to the end”. “We will not give up and we will not lose,” he said, giving a day-by-day account of Russia’s invasion.

“We will fight to the end, at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost.

“We will fight in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets,” he said invoking the wartime defiance of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Russia sees NATO enlargement as a threat, as it does the military posture of these new Western allies on its doorstep.

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