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Allies disappoint Zelensky’s plea for Nato membership timetable

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VILNIUS: Nato leaders on Tuesday dashed Ukrainian leader Volodymr Zelensky´s hopes for a clear timeline to join the alliance, saying they would offer an invite to become a member only when “conditions are met”.

At a summit in Vilnius of the 31 Nato nations, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg insisted the alliance had never used “stronger language” to back Ukraine in its bitter fight to defeat the Russian invasion.

Nato leaders pledged that “Ukraine´s future is in Nato” and shortened the eventual process Kyiv would have to go through to enter the alliance. “We will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the alliance when allies agree and conditions are met,” a statement said.

But the failure to go much beyond a 2008 vow on future membership appeared a bitter blow to Zelensky, who was in Vilnius to address an admiring crowd of Lithuanian supporters in a packed city square ahead of his meetings with the Nato leaders.

“It seems there is no readiness neither to invite Ukraine to Nato nor to make it a member of the alliance,” he declared on Twitter, after getting advance notice of the cautious language in the summit statement.

“This means that a window of opportunity is being left to bargain Ukraine´s membership in Nato in negotiations with Russia. And for Russia, this means motivation to continue its terror,” he said, dubbing it “absurd” that no timeframe was set for an invitation.

“Uncertainty is weakness. And I will openly discuss this at the summit,” he said, vowing that — far from exposing Nato members to conflict with Russia — Ukraine´s membership would make the alliance stronger and safer.

As Zelensky was speaking, Moscow upped the pressure on the Nato leaders meeting in Vilnius, claiming that its forces had made 1.5 kilometres of progress (more than a mile) across a two kilometre wide section of the eastern front.

If confirmed, this would bring them closer to the rail hub of Lyman, a town in the Donbas region of the east of the country. It was captured by Russian forces last year only to be liberated by Ukraine in its October 2022 counteroffensive.

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