As the Russian invasion enters its seventh month, Ukraine is seeking an accelerated membership in NATO and has ruled out talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who announced the annexation of four Ukrainian provinces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed the NATO application papers in an online video posted to the Telegram app in an apparent response to the Kremlin after Putin held a ceremony in Moscow to proclaim its rule over 15% of Ukraine, or the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, Reuters reported Friday.
It is a “decisive step” to protect “the entire community” of Ukrainians, Zelensky said in the video, according to The Guardian.
“De facto, we have already made our way 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. De facto. Today, Ukraine is applying to make it de jure.”
Zelensky added that Kyiv is still committed to co-existing with Russia but “on equal, honest, dignified and fair conditions.”
“Clearly, with this Russian president (that) is impossible. He does not know what dignity and honesty are. Therefore, we are ready for a dialogue with Russia, but with another president of Russia,” he said, according to the newswire.
Putin claimed that residents in the annexed Ukrainian regions voted in a referendum earlier this week to join his nation.
Ukrainian officials called the voting coerced by Russian soldiers.
“The Kremlin’s sham referenda are a futile effort to mask what amounts to a further attempt at a land grab in Ukraine,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “To be clear: the results were orchestrated in Moscow and do not reflect the will of the people of Ukraine.”
However, Brussels appeared to be cautious with Ukraine’s application to join the intergovernmental military alliance, which would have to actively defend Ukraine as a fellow member in the midst of the war.
Both the alliance and the United States are instead pledging only unwavering support for Kyiv at this time.
The U.S. has sent more than $9.8 billion in civilian and military assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began in February.
USAID Administrator Samantha Power commented earlier this year that as the “assault on Ukraine’s public services continues, the United States is rushing in with financial support to help the government keep the lights on, provide essential services to innocent citizens and pay the health care workers who are providing lifesaving support on the frontlines.”
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden on Friday signed a bill funding the federal government through Dec. 16 to avoid a partial government shutdown, and it includes an additional $12.3 billion for Ukraine’s war effort against Russia.
Apart from Ukraine aid and funding for government agencies, the bill authorizes Biden to direct the drawdown of up to $3.7 billion for the transfer of excess weapons to Ukraine from U.S. stocks, the newswire added.
According to the United Nations Office for High Commissioner for Human Rights, as of Sept. 26, at least 5,996 civilians have been killed and 8,848 injured since the invasion started on Feb. 24.