‘Very difficult’ for Ukraine to give up ambitions to join Nato

Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko said the wish to join was written into her country’s constitution.

17 March 2022

A Ukrainian MP has said it would be very difficult for her country to give up on ambitions to join Nato after Boris Johnson said there was “no way Ukraine is going to join” the defensive alliance “any time soon”.

Lesia Vasylenko said joining the alliance was “a course that we have decided to take and proscribed it specifically in our constitution”.

But her comments come amid reports that negotiators from Kyiv and Moscow had discussed proposals to drop its wish to join the organisation as part of a peace deal.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
People cross the border point from Ukraine into Medyka, Poland (Victoria Jones/PA)

Ms Vasylenko, a member of Ukraine’s Holos party, told ITV’s Peston programme: “Joining Nato for Ukraine, it’s a course that we have decided to take and proscribed it specifically in our constitution.

“So it would be very difficult to give that course up, that would mean changes to the constitution.

“Today, as the escalation of Russia’s aggression grows against Ukraine, the support for Nato grows with it.”

However earlier, Mr Johnson – who will on Thursday return from a trip to Saudi Arabia to try and drum up extra oil production in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – said: “We’ve made it clear to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin that there is no way Ukraine is going to join Nato any time soon.”

Addressing Mr Johnson and representatives from Baltic and northern European countries gathered on Tuesday in London, President Volodymr Zelensky expressed his frustration that Ukraine had not been allowed to join Nato, but said: “This is the truth and we have simply to accept it as it is.”

But asked about the comments as well as the prospect of dropping the demand in order to agree a ceasefire, Ms Vasylenko said: “I actually think that was taken out of context by many of the Western media.

“What President Zelensky actually said today during his speech in Congress and during the many meetings that he was having is that Ukraine calls for a coalition of responsible leaders of the free world, and that coalition, he called it the ‘U24’ – basically the Ukraine 24, of the countries who would be prepared to stand up to Putin and free the world, and Ukraine, from Putin’s aggression in 24 hours.”

She said she did not trust the Russian negotiators to keep their side of the deal in any agreement.

The Financial Times reported that a draft proposal for a peace plan included promises for Ukraine not to seek to join Nato or to host foreign military bases.

Mr Zelensky, since addressing the London summit, has suggested peace talks between the Ukrainian and Russian delegations had started to produce hope of a ceasefire.

In his nightly video address to the nation early on Wednesday, the president said Russia’s demands were becoming “more realistic”.

Mr Johnson said decisions about the future of the country had to “be for the Ukrainian people” and their “elected leader” to make, as he vowed Britain would continue to “back” Mr Zelensky.

Boris Johnson visit to the UAE and Saudi Arabia
Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives for a media interview at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi during his visit to the United Arab Emirates (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

It comes as former British prime minister David Cameron called on Mr Johnson to do more to support Ukraine with humanitarian aid.

Mr Cameron called on the Government to “get back” to dedicating 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to overseas aid, after it was cut to 0.5% last year.

He said the Cabinet should have a dedicated aid minister, who would be “100% dedicated” to the role.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has promised to return the UK’s aid contributions to 0.7% by the end of this Parliament.

But Mr Cameron said: “Let’s do more on humanitarian aid. We achieved 0.7% of GDP in our aid payments. I’m sad we’ve got away from that. I hope we can get back there.

“Let’s – with the EU – lead the donor conference, lead the aid effort.

Government phones
David Cameron called for more spending on aid (Victoria Jones/PA)

“Let’s have a dedicated aid minister in the Cabinet doing development. The Foreign Office ministers do a great job but it’d be good to have someone who’s 100% dedicated to humanitarian aid and development.”

He also said permanent Nato bases should be created in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

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