By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Nine Central and Eastern European countries have given their backing to Ukraine’s bid to join NATO and urged the Western alliance to provide Kyiv with more weapons to defend itself against invading Russian forces.
The statement, issued on October 2, was signed by the leaders of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.
The joint statement comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced on September 30 that Ukraine had submitted an application for accession to NATO under an accelerated procedure.
That announcement came the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Russia had annexed four Ukrainian regions that are partially occupied by invading Russian forces.
“We reiterate our support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We do not recognize and will never recognize Russian attempts to annex any Ukrainian territory,” the statement by the nine leaders said.
It said the leaders “firmly stood behind the 2008 Bucharest NATO Summit decision concerning Ukraine’s future membership.”
At the 2008 summit, NATO members welcomed Ukraine and Georgia’s aspirations to join, but declined to provide a clear timeline for the two countries’ possible ascension.
Asked about Ukraine’s NATO bid, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told U.S. TV that “any decision on membership has to be taken by consensus all 30 allies have to agree to make such a decision.”
“We have seen that they have been able to take a new town, Lyman, and that demonstrates that the Ukrainians are making progress, are able to push back the Russian forces because of the courage, because of their bravery, their skills, but of course also because of the advanced weapons that the United States and other allies are providing,” Stoltenberg said in an interview with NBC’s Meet The Press.
The best way to counter Russia’s proclaimed annexation of parts of Ukraine is to continue supporting the government in Kyiv, Stoltenberg said.
German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, meanwhile, on October 2 announced the delivery of 16 wheeled armored howitzers produced in Slovakia to Ukraine next year. The weapons will be financed jointly with Denmark, Norway, and Germany.