File photos of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photograph:( AFP )
In a tweet to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after the two spoke by phone, Zelensky said Kiev was committed to defence reforms requested by the alliance to agree a Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday urged NATO to speed up his country's membership plan, saying a signal needed to be sent to Russia as tensions rise between the neighbours.
In a tweet to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after the two spoke by phone, Zelensky said Kiev was committed to defence reforms requested by the alliance to agree a Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Ukraine.
"But reforms alone will not stop Russia," Zelensky said. "NATO is the only way to end the war in Donbas. Ukraine's MAP will be a real signal for Russia."
Ukraine's president said he had received assurances from US President Joe Biden in a phone call on Friday that Washington would not abandon Ukraine in the face of Russian "aggression."
"We discussed the situation in Donbass in detail. President Biden assured me that Ukraine will never be left alone against Russia's aggression," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a televised statement after he and Biden spoke.
NATO said on Thursday it was concerned about a Russian military buildup near Ukraine's borders, as NATO ambassadors met to discuss the recent spike in violence in Ukraine's eastern Donbass region. Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, drawing Western condemnation and tit-for-tat sanctions.
Biden emphasised his administration's commitment to a strategic partnership with Ukraine and support for Zelenskiy's anti-corruption plans and reform agenda.
Ukraine and Britain will conduct joint military drills this summer involving NATO member troops, Ukrainian defence officials said on Saturday, a step that could irritate Moscow.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a statement that the drills would involve more than 1,000 military personnel from at least five states in the transatlantic NATO military alliance.
Meanwhile, Kremlin said on that Ukraine's NATO membership would only 'worsen' situation and may force Moscow to take extra measures to ensure its own security.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday that the situation at the contact line in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatist forces was quite frightening and that multiple "provocations" were taking place there.
(With inputs from agencies)