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Stoltenberg meets Zelensky on first visit to Kyiv since full-scale invasion
President Volodymyr Zelensky and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg held a joint press conference in Kyiv on April 20, with Zelensky saying there was "no objective barrier" to prevent Ukraine from joining the military alliance.
At the meeting, the NATO chief reaffirmed his personal support for Ukraine's future NATO membership.
"I will speak clearly," Stoltenberg said at the briefing, "Ukraine's rightful place is in the Euro-Atlantic family, Ukraine's rightful place is in NATO."
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.
"Right now, when the majority of people in NATO member countries, as well as the majority of Ukrainians support our country's entry into the Alliance, it is time for appropriate decisions," Zelensky said.
Responding to the Kyiv Independent at a press conference in Brussels on April 3, Stoltenberg said that "NATO's position remains unchanged and that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance."
"The first step toward any membership of Ukraine to NATO is to ensure that Ukraine prevails, and that is why the U.S. and its partners have provided unprecedented support for Ukraine," he added.
In recent months, NATO member states have continued to make new commitments to support Ukraine with heavy equipment and military training at the meeting of the alliance's defense ministers.
Without giving any details, Stoltenberg said that he expected that Ukraine's partners would make "new announcements of concrete military support" to Ukraine at the next meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at the Ramstein Air Base on April 21.
"Our allies are now providing more aircraft, tanks and armored vehicles, and NATO is providing Ukraine with emergency support, including medical equipment, mobile satellite systems and pontoon bridges," Stoltenberg said. "All this changes the battlefield every day."
However, during the press conference on April 20, Zelensky said that Ukraine needed "something more than the format of our relations which exist today" and even though Ukraine was thankful for the defense aid provided by NATO members, the country needed a clearer indication of when it was joining NATO.
Zelensky also stressed the importance of security guarantees for Ukraine going forward, adding that it "no way replace or delay Ukraine's membership in NATO."
According to Zelensky, Russia was emboldened to invade Ukraine due to what it viewed as a lack of security guarantees.
NATO membership and security guarantees for Ukraine would therefore be "a reliable protection against the repetition of any new aggression against the people of Ukraine or any other free people," Zelensky said.
Stoltenberg 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 Feb. 24, 2022.
The upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius in July, which Stoltenberg said on March 1 he had invited Zelensky to, was also a topic of discussion during the press conference on April 20.
According to Zelensky, 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.