In nod to Russia, Ukraine says no longer insisting on NATO membership

WASHINGTON: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he is no longer pressing for NATO membership for Ukraine, a delicate issue that was one of Russia’s stated reasons for invading its pro-Western neighbour.

In another apparent nod aimed at placating Moscow, Zelenskyy said he is open to “compromise” on the status of two breakaway pro-Russian territories that President Vladimir Putin recognised as independent just before unleashing the invasion on FebĀ 24.

“I have cooled down regarding this question a long time ago after we understood that … NATO is not prepared to accept Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in an interview aired Monday night on ABC News.

“The alliance is afraid of controversial things, and confrontation with Russia,” the president added.

Referring to NATO membership, Zelenskyy said through an interpreter that he does not want to be president of a “country which is begging something on its knees”.

Russia has said it does not want neighbouring Ukraine to join NATO, the transatlantic alliance created at the start of the Cold War to protect Europe from the Soviet Union.

In more recent years the alliance has expanded further and further east to take in former Soviet bloc countries, infuriating the Kremlin.

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