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Ukraine denies NATO U-turn plan

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK was “taken out of context” when he suggested that Kiev may officially end its goal to join NATO as a means of averting war with Russia, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has said.

In a statement on Monday, ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko attempted to cover for Ambassador Vadim Prystaiko, whose comments were reported on Sunday night as a significant revelation. Ukraine’s goal to join NATO is enshrined in the country’s constitution, and the ambassador’s comments could therefore be seen as unconstitutional.

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Asked by BBC Radio 5 Live presenter Stephen Nolan in an interview on Sunday if Ukraine might “contemplate not joining NATO” to avoid a war, Prystaiko responded: “We might, you know, especially [having] been threatened like that, blackmailed by that, and pushed to it.”

In the hours since, Prystaiko’s comments have come under significant scrutiny, and Kiev has scrambled to control the damage.

“Ukraine is not yet a member of NATO or any other security alliance. Therefore, the key issue for our country is the issue of security guarantees,” Nikolenko said.

“Undoubtedly, the best such guarantee would be immediate acceptance of Ukraine into the alliance,” he continued, lamenting the US-led bloc’s refusal to commit to militarily protect Kiev. According to Nikolenko, the best way to maintain peace and preserve citizens’ lives is immediate admission into NATO.

The response from the presidential administration was considerably less cordial. President Volodymyr Zelensky’s spokesperson Sergey Nikiforov called on the ambassador to explain his words.

“Ukraine’s aspirations for NATO and the EU are enshrined in the country’s constitution,” Nikiforov insisted, according to Ukrainian outlet Strana.

Prystaiko has since backtracked on his remarks. According to the ambassador, suggestions that Kiev will turn its back on NATO are the result of a misunderstanding.

Speaking to Reuters on Monday, he clarified that Ukraine would not reconsider its policy of striving to join the military bloc, answering “no” when asked again if Ukraine was ending its bid to become a NATO member.

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