Ukraine is formally applying for NATO membership through an "accelerated procedure," announced President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on his Telegram channel on Friday, just hours after Russia's illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions.
Zelenskyy's video announcement on social media, which was confirmed by Ukraine's Defence Ministry on Twitter, is a countermove after Putin signed documents to officially annex the four occupied Ukrainian territories of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia.
"De facto, we have already found our way into NATO. De facto, we have already proved that we are compatible with the alliance's norms. We are already helping and protecting each other in practice," Zelenskyy said. "Today, Ukraine is making an application to formalise that as well. We are taking the decisive step by signing Ukraine's application for accelerated accession to NATO."
The move is especially symbolic as one of the arguments for the start of what Russia is still calling its "special military operation" in Ukraine in February was NATO's "expansionism" towards Ukraine, which posed a threat to Russian security, according to Russian authorities.
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On Friday, Zelenskyy said that Ukraine will liberate its entire territory, including the Crimea peninsula, which was also annexed by Russia in 2014 under a similar strategy of military occupation followed by a forced and illegal referendum.
Zelenskyy added that he no longer wants to negotiate with Putin. "We have always taken a leading role in negotiations. However, it is clear that that is no longer possible with the current president; he does not know what dignity and honesty is. We are open to dialogue with Russia, but with a different president."