RUSSIA,UKRAINE,FRANCE: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that he had “cooled down” about Ukraine’s bid to join NATO amid Russia’s war with the Eastern European country.
“Regarding NATO, I have cooled down regarding this question long ago after we understood that NATO is not prepared to accept Ukraine,” Zelensky told ABC News in an exclusive interview that aired Monday night.
Zelensky added: “The alliance is afraid of controversial things and confrontation with Russia. I never wanted to be a country which is begging something on its knees. We are not going to be that country, and I don’t want to be that President.”
Ukraine’s pursuit of NATO membership has been cited by Russian President Vladimir Putin as a justification for his decision to invade Ukraine.
In 2008, Ukraine applied to begin a NATO Membership Action Plan, and the alliance welcomed Ukraine’s bid, pledging that the country would eventually become a member, while declining to offer a timeline.
In addition to his NATO comments, Zelensky said on Tuesday that he was open to discussions about the control of Russian-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, which could be an opening for peace talks with Russia.
“It is important to me how people who want to be part of Ukraine will live there. I am interested in the opinion of those who see themselves as citizens of the Russian Federation. However, we must discuss this issue,” Zelensky said.
Before Putin launched Russia’s war on Ukraine, he signed a decree recognizing the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas, an eastern province in Ukraine, as independent states. Putin demanded guarantees that Ukraine would not join NATO in the run-up to his invasion, a demand that the alliance’s leaders repeatedly rejected.
But Russia’s military is still expected to subdue the Ukrainian resistance if hostilities continue — at 900,000 active duty troops and two million reservists, the Russian military is eight times the size of Ukraine’s, according to a report from the Washington Post.
Meanwhile, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the military alliance of several western nations, said there were credible reports Russian forces were targetting civilians in Ukraine and urged the Kremlin to ensure the war would not spread beyond.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was causing horrific suffering and that the humanitarian impact was devastating.
“We have a responsibility to ensure the conflict does not escalate and spread beyond Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said, adding, “We will protect and defend every inch of all allied territory.”
Meanwhile, Attacks on hospitals, ambulances and other health care facilities in Ukraine have increased rapidly in recent days and the country is running short of vital medical supplies, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.
The U.N. agency confirmed on Monday that at least nine people had died in 16 attacks on health care facilities since the start of a Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. It did not say who was responsible.
The WHO’s Senior Emergency Officer for Europe Catherine Smallwood told a news briefing that the tally included incidents where ambulances had been commandeered for purposes other than emergency healthcare. – THE HINDU, THE HINDUSTAN TIMES