President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on the security alliance to send a “signal” amid growing regional tensions in Moscow.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged NATO to speed up its membership plan, saying it is the only way to end the growing conflict in the eastern Donbass region.
Ukrainian government forces have been battling Russian-backed separatists in the country’s eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions since rebels seized some territory there in April 2014.
A ceasefire was agreed last July, but in recent weeks there have been fears of renewed hostilities between the front line and the escalation of hostilities between Russia and the Russian military.
After a telephone conversation with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday, Zelensky said a signal needed to be sent to Russia as tensions between the pair escalated.
He called on NATO members, who consider Ukraine an ally, to strengthen their military presence in the Black Sea region.
Zelensky said the move would act as a “strong deterrent” to Russia, which toppled former Kremlin-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych following a March 2014 coup on Ukraine’s southern Crimean peninsula.
“Reform alone will not stop Russia,” he said. “NATO is the only way to end the Donbass war.”
Stoltenberg said that during his meeting with Zelensky, he “expressed serious concerns about Russia’s military activities in Ukraine and its environs.”
“NATO strongly supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We are committed to our close partnership, ”he tweeted.
I called the President Zelenskiuya Expressing serious concern about Russia’s military activities in Ukraine and its environs and the ongoing ceasefire violations. # NATO Firmly supported # UkraineIts sovereignty and territorial integrity. We remain committed to our close partnership.
– Jens Stoltenberg (@Jenstoltenberg) April 6, 2021
Shortly afterwards, Moscow, which denies any involvement in the conflict, warned that Ukraine’s NATO membership would “worsen the situation” in the Donbass region.
Russia has publicly opposed Ukraine’s accession to NATO and recently warned the coalition against deploying troops in Ukraine.
“We strongly doubt that this will help Ukraine solve its domestic problems,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Peskov further claimed that Ukrainians living in the eastern part of the country do not accept NATO membership.
US, UK voices ‘concern’
Also Monday, the United States and the United Kingdom said they were “concerned” about Russia’s recent military action on the Ukrainian border.
The U.S. State Department said it had received reports of military movements in the eastern border region “credible”, and asked Moscow to explain “provocative.”
The United States has been Kiev’s strongest ally since Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Foreign Office spokesman Ned Price told reporters that Washington would be concerned about any attempt by Moscow to intimidate Ukraine, whether on Russian soil or within Ukraine.
He declined to comment if the United States believed Russia was preparing to invade the former Soviet republic.
Price’s comments came after a telephone call on Friday, in which U.S. President Joe Biden assured Zelensky of his “unwavering support.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also spoke to Zelensky on Monday and expressed support for Ukraine’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity”, his spokesman said.
A spokesman for Johnson said: “They discussed the recent Russian military activity on the Ukrainian border and the UK’s significant concerns about the illegal involvement of Crimea.”
The Kremlin said last week that Russia had the freedom to withdraw troops from its territory.
On Monday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow and Washington were communicating at the highest level on the situation in Ukraine.
Ryabkov said Russia had assured the United States that there was no cause for concern.