Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky appears to have accepted that his country will not become a member of NATO, one of the demands made by Russia before it invaded.
According to a translation of his comments made via video link to at a meeting of the leaders of the U.K. Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) in London on Tuesday morning, Zelensky acknowledged that Ukraine’s accession to NATO would not happen.
“For years we’ve heard the opposite, open doors, However, it is not,” he said according to Ukrainian news outlet, Trukha. “Our people understand this, and we are beginning to count on our own strength,” he added.
Media outlet Nexta quoted Zelensky as saying: “We realized that Ukraine will not become a member of NATO. We understand this, we are adequate people.”
“Kyiv needs new formats of interaction with the West and separate security guarantees.”
The admission that Kyiv will not join NATO could change the stakes for diplomacy, which has so far failed to end the hostilities nearly three weeks on from the start of the invasion on February 24. Newsweek has contacted Ukraine’s foreign ministry for comment.
Russia has demanded a guarantee that Kyiv not join the alliance and Zelensky’s admission could be presented as a concession to Moscow that might pave the way to the end of the war.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s other demands include the so-called “denazification” and “demilitarization” of Ukraine.
Zelensky has repeatedly called for NATO to set up a no-fly zone above Ukraine to prevent the barrage of attacks coming from Russian forces.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has rejected the move, saying that it would put the whole alliance into direct conflict with Russia, a nuclear power.
However, Russia’s military actions are already on NATO’s doorstep after a missile attack on a base northwest of Lviv, in western Ukraine, killed at least 35 people just 10 miles from the border of alliance member Poland.
Under Article 5 of NATO’s treaty, an attack on one member is an attack on all, and would bring into force the collective might of the 30-strong alliance.
On Tuesday, Stoltenberg warned that Russia was laying the groundwork for further escalation in Ukraine by claiming the country is developing chemical weapons in biological labs.
“This is just another lie,” he said. “We are concerned that Moscow could stage a ‘false flag’ operation.”