Zelenskiy pushes for NATO membership at summit in neighboring Moldova

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy pushed for his country’s entry into the NATO military alliance as he joined European leaders on Thursday for a summit in Moldova, close to the Ukrainian border, ahead of an expected counter-offensive in the face of the Russian invasion. .

Addressing leaders at the start of the meeting, Zelenskiy urged NATO members to make a clear decision on Ukraine’s admission and also reiterated calls for Western fighter jets to protect Ukrainian skies after another deadly attack over Kiev.

He spoke as divisions among NATO members became evident over the speed of Ukraine’s accession, with some fearing that a rash move could bring the alliance closer to a direct confrontation with Russia.

The summit of the European Union’s 27 member states and 20 other European states is being held in a castle in Moldova’s wine region, just 20 kilometers from Ukrainian mainland and close to the country’s Russia-backed breakaway Transnistria region.

Leaders use the occasion as a symbolic show of support for Ukraine and Moldova, while also addressing other issues, including rising ethnic tensions in Kosovo and efforts for a lasting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Held under the watchful eye of NATO surveillance planes, the summit was a security and organizational challenge for Moldova, a former Soviet republic of 2.5 million people seeking a path to EU membership while who is wary of Russia. Moldova has closed its airspace, except for official delegation planes.

“This year is for decisions,” Zelenskiy said, speaking in English, adding that Ukraine’s hopes in NATO were based on “unity across the alliance, and we work on that.”

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