The chief of NATO has condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of the “self-proclaimed” Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic in the Donbass region of Ukraine.
“This further undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, erodes efforts towards a resolution of the conflict, and violates the Minsk Agreements, to which Russia is a party,” NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote in a Monday statement following Putin’s announcement. He added that Donetsk and Lugansk are “part of Ukraine.”
Stoltenberg further claimed Putin’s announcement is an attempt to “stage a pretext to invade Ukraine once again.”
In his announcement, Putin said Ukraine is “amassing troops in the Donbass” in violation of the 2015 Minsk agreements. The Russian president also accused Ukraine’s leadership of supporting “Russophobia” and “extreme nationalism.”
“Let me stress once again that Ukraine is not just a neighboring country for us. It is an integral part of our own history, culture, and spiritual world,” he declared.
Ukraine’s ambitions to join NATO, Putin said, would equate to an “immediate threat of an attack against our country.”
Putin said proposals from Moscow sent to NATO and Washington were “rejected,” including the assurance that Ukraine would never join NATO. The president also revealed for the first time in public that he had even discussed the possibility of Russia itself joining in 2000 with then-US President Bill Clinton, but the West has since distanced itself from Moscow significantly. Other requests included a stop to the US-led military bloc’s expansion, as well as for current bloc members to renounce military activity in Ukraine.
“Some NATO member states are concerned about Ukraine joining, and we have gotten signals from European capitals saying, ‘What are you worried about, it won’t join NATO tomorrow’ – but what about the day after tomorrow? And the day after that?” he said.
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