A handout photo made available by Ukraine's Presidential Press Service shows NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) and President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy (R) during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, 20 April 2023. EFE/EPA/UKRAINE PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE / HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

‘Ukraine’s future is in Nato,’ Stoltenberg says on surprise Kyiv trip

Kyiv, Apr 20 (EFE).- Ukraine’s “rightful place” is within the Euro-Atlantic community and Nato, secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said during a surprise visit to Kyiv Thursday, his first to the Ukrainian capital since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion last February.

“Ukraine’s rightful place is in the Euro-Atlantic family. Ukraine’s rightful place is in Nato,” Stoltenberg said during a press conference alongside Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“And over time, our support will help you make this possible,” he added.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky (R) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) shake hands during a joint press conference following their meeting in Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine, 20 April 2023. EFE/EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

While the Nato chief warned that the conflict was likely to drag on, he said the alliance would support Ukraine in its fight against Russia for “as long as it takes.”

“We do not know when this war will end, but we know that Russian aggression follows a toxic pattern that must be stopped,” he said.

The Norwegian politician pointed out that Nato had already delivered over 150 billion euros of support, including 65 billion euros of military assistance.

“Allies are now delivering more jets, tanks, and armored vehicles,” he said.

Stoltenberg noted that during his meeting with Zelenskyy, the pair had discussed “a multi-year support initiative” that would help the country “transition from Soviet-era equipment and doctrines to Nato standards,” a plan that stands as “a testament to Nato’s long-term commitment to Ukraine.”

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky addresses a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (not pictured) following their meeting in Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine, 20 April 2023. EFE/EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

Looking ahead to the upcoming July summit in Vilnius, Stoltenberg said the issue of Ukraine joining Nato and security guarantees from alliance members would be high on the agenda. 

While he said that “all allies agree” that Ukraine’s future lies with Nato, Stoltenberg said the “main focus (…) is to ensure that Ukraine prevails” and that it remains a “sovereign, independent democratic nation in Europe.

“Because that is the only way to also have a meaningful discussion about Ukraine’s future membership,” he said.

Zelenskyy said he hoped that at the summit in Vilnius, which he said would be “historic”, “specific and concrete” steps would be announced on his country’s future in Nato, saying there is “no single objective barrier” blocking Ukraine’s accession.

“Now, when most people in Nato countries and the majority of Ukrainians support Nato accession, is the time for the corresponding decisions,” Zelenskyy said, adding that “we need something better than the current format of relations.”

Ukraine formally requested to join the alliance in September. EFE