Zelensky
© Fenya Savilov/Getty Images
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainians should have gone to the polls and cast their votes to decide whether Kiev should pursue NATO membership before the previous government wrote the aspiration into the country's constitution, President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed.

In comments to reporters published on Thursday, the leader of the Eastern European nation set out his view on Kiev's long-stated goal to join the US-led military bloc. Moscow has repeatedly warned that the former Soviet republic's admission to the bloc would be a "red line."

"I generally believe that such issues [on NATO membership] should be decided by a referendum," Zelensky said. "Such issues should only be decided by the people, and only then written into the constitution."

According to him, "France and Germany need to do more to bring Ukraine closer to joining NATO. They themselves must be interested in this issue and be sure of it."

Zelensky's remarks come amid an increasingly tense standoff between Kiev and Moscow, as Russia seeks to obtain security guarantees that will rule out the military organization's expansion closer to its borders and block Ukraine from membership.

On Sunday, Kiev's ambassador to London, Vadym Prystaiko, hinted that Ukraine could consider dropping its bid for admittance if it meant avoiding a conflict with its neighbor. "We might, you know, especially [having] been threatened like that, blackmailed by that, and pushed to it," he explained, adding that the nation is "trying to find the best way out," even if that means making "serious concessions."

However, Prystaiko later backtracked on his remarks and said suggestions that the former Soviet republic could abandon its pursuit of joining NATO were a misunderstanding. In 2019, an amendment was adopted into Ukraine's constitution enshrining membership in the military bloc as one of the country's strategic goals, with the move backed by the national parliament and former President Petro Poroshenko.

Kiev's Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko also spoke out following the ambassador's comments, insisting that the best way to ensure his country's safety would be the "immediate acceptance of Ukraine into the alliance."