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President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a public speech in Vilnius amid the ongoing NATO summit, saying he believes in the alliance that "doesn't hesitate, waste time, or look back at any aggressor."
"And I would like this faith to become confidence - confidence in the decisions that we deserve and that every (Ukrainian) soldier, citizen, mother, and child expects. Is this really a big wish?" Zelensky said, addressing the crowd.
Zelensky arrived in Vilnius for the summit on July 11, although he has not so far participated in the main event with all leaders. The president is scheduled to join the inaugural meeting of the new NATO-Ukraine Council as well as hold bilateral meetings with the NATO chief, leaders of the U.S., Canada, Japan, and several European countries.
Even before Zelensky's participation in the summit, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that Ukraine would be invited to join NATO only when "the allies agree, and conditions are met," without providing any further details. Kyiv has repeatedly called for a "clear signal" on the membership from the allies at the Vilnius summit.
Standing on a stage at the Lukishkes Square, Zelensky and his Lithuanian counterpart Gitanas Nauseda were handed the Ukrainian flag that belonged to soldiers defending Bakhmut.
"This battle flag from Bakhmut means that Lithuanians will never again have to fight against Russian soldiers either under the Vilnius TV tower or in any other place of your capital, your country!" said Zelensky.
"There will never again be deportations from the Baltic countries to Siberia, divisions of Poland, and humiliation of Hungary by invaders. Never again will there be tanks in Prague and 'winter wars' against the freedom of Finland, no more occupations in Europe"
After Zelensky's speech, Vilnius Mayor Valdas Benkunskas raised the flag on Lukishkes Square.
"Ukrainian flags on the streets of Lithuania unequivocally prove: we are already allies, and Ukraine will protect both its freedom and yours!" Zelensky told locals.