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Stoltenberg: NATO membership for Ukraine to be 'high on the agenda' at Vilnius summit

by The Kyiv Independent news desk April 20, 2023 6:13 PM 4 min read
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg talks to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky during his unannounced visit to Kyiv on April 20, 2023. (NATO press service)
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NATO member states are preparing to discuss Ukraine's membership and security guarantees at the next alliance's summit in the Lithuanian capital, according to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

The topic will be "high on the agenda" at the Vilnius meeting scheduled for mid-July, Stoltenberg said at a joint press conference with President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.

"Ukraine's future is in NATO. All allies agree on that," Stoltenberg told reporters, adding that the main alliance's focus now is "to ensure that Ukraine prevails" and "continues to exist as a sovereign democratic state in Europe."

Stoltenberg previously invited the Ukrainian president to attend the Vilnius summit, to which Zelensky responded that he was "grateful" for the invitation, but it was important that Ukraine also "received a corresponding invitation."

"There is no objective barrier that would prevent the adoption of political decisions on inviting Ukraine to the Alliance," Zelensky said at the April 20 news conference.

NATO chief arrived in the Ukrainian capital on April 20, on a visit unannounced in advance. The visit is Stoltenberg's first since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

As Russia's war against Ukraine continues with no foreseeable end in sight, Kyiv is continuing to push for a clear path to NATO membership.

Except for meeting with Zelensky, Stoltenberg paid tribute to fallen Ukrainian soldiers on St Michael's Square in central Kyiv and visited Bucha, a town now synonymous with Russian war crimes against civilians.

After the visit, Stoltenberg said, as cited by CNN, that he was "deeply moved" by what he had seen in Bucha. "Russian atrocities continue against the Ukrainian people today, and those responsible must be held to account," he added.

Bucha, a small city near Kyiv, was occupied by Russian troops shortly after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022. After it was liberated, mass graves were discovered, and thousands of war crimes were documented.

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Brussels – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg vowed on April 3 that the alliance would continue supporting Ukraine despite Russia’s “dangerous and reckless nuclear rhetoric.” He added that Kyiv can win the war and become a full-fledged NATO member one day. Responding to the Kyiv Independent a…
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