File Photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin shows him attending a session of the VTB Capital Investment Forum "Russia Calling!" via a video conference call in Moscow, Russia November 30, 2021 Photograph:( Reuters )
European leaders who met in Brussels in EU summit pushed for a return to 'Normandy format'. It is a four-way dialogue between Paris Berlin, Kiev and Moscow aimed at ending the conflict
Western countries on Thursday rejected Russian efforts to put obstacles in Ukraine's path towards becoming NATO member. The countries urged Russia to return to peace talks mediated by France and Germany.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg branded Russia the "aggressor" thus repeating accusation that Moscow had masses powerful military forces near its border with Ukraine.
The NATO chief also met Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, and gave a joint news conference to insist that any decision on membership was a matter for Kiev and the alliance's 30 member states.
"We will not compromise on the right of Ukraine to choose its own path. We will not compromise on the right for NATO to protect and defend all NATO allies," Stoltenberg said.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin is pushing for direct dialogue with his US counterpart Joe Biden's administration to resolve the stand-off on the frontier.
European leaders who met in Brussels in EU summit pushed for a return to 'Normandy format'. It is a four-way dialogue between Paris Berlin, Kiev and Moscow aimed at ending the conflict.
On Wednesday, Russia handed a list of security demands to US Assistant Secretary of State Karen Donfried, who then came to NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday to discuss them with Stoltenberg.
He said there would also be no compromising on NATO's partnership with Ukraine, describing it as important for both sides and "not in any way a threat to Russia".
On Wednesday, Zelensky attended a summit with EU leaders -- most of whose countries are also NATO members -- and said that most of them understood and supported Ukraine's position in the conflict.
But he is frustrated that European powers in particular have refused to take preventive action against Russia, preferring to threaten a response in the event of Russian action.
"Since 2014, since the start of the war, I believe that basically Russia pushed Ukraine into NATO," he said.
"Basically I believe that today Russia itself is paving the difficult path of Ukraine to NATO."