Ukraine's Zelensky plays down chances of NATO membership - Bild

With Russia intent on stopping its membership, Ukraine's long-term ambition to join the military alliance has caused a deep crisis in East-West relations.

 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen during a televised address to the nation, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 14, 2022. (photo credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen during a televised address to the nation, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 14, 2022.
(photo credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky played down the chances of his country joining NATO in an interview with Germany's Bild newspaper on Thursday.

With Russia intent on stopping its membership, Ukraine's long-term ambition to join the military alliance has caused a deep crisis in East-West relations and frantic diplomatic efforts are underway to prevent military conflict. 

Zelenskiy told Bild that although Ukraine had for years wanted to join NATO, the process was not advancing.

"Not only Russia is against (our) membership. Some individual NATO members support Moscow's position. That is an open secret," he said.

He did not name those countries, saying he still hoped for their support.

 Soldiers are seen during German Minister of Defence Ursula von der Leyen's visit to German troops deployed as part of NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battle group in Rukla military base, Lithuania February 4, 2019.  (credit: REUTERS/INTS KALNINS) Soldiers are seen during German Minister of Defence Ursula von der Leyen's visit to German troops deployed as part of NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battle group in Rukla military base, Lithuania February 4, 2019. (credit: REUTERS/INTS KALNINS)

"We do not have it easy with these neighbors and don't want risks or diplomatic disputes," he said, adding that Ukrainians themselves should decide on possible membership but that there was no point in holding a referendum yet.

"The road to NATO and the EU is a very long one," he told Bild, urging alliance members to support Ukraine.