The presidents of nine NATO countries in central and eastern Europe declared on Sunday that they would never recognize Russia’s annexation of several Ukrainian regions. Hungary and Bulgaria were conspicuous by their absence among the signatories.
in a joint declarationthe leaders also supported a path to NATO membership for Ukraine.
The nine leaders demanded that “Russia immediately withdraw from all occupied territories” and encouraged “all allies to substantially increase their military aid to Ukraine,” according to the statement.
“We reiterate our support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” they wrote.
The statement comes two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared he was annexing four Ukrainian regions, a move the West described as an illegal land grab. It was signed by the presidents of Poland, Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro and North Macedonia.
The signatories also wrote that they “strongly support” a NATO decision in 2008 on Ukraine’s future membership in the alliance. At the time, NATO allies promised that Ukraine would eventually become a member. But as that process stalled over the years, it seemed increasingly unlikely that Ukraine’s offer would come to fruition.
In the wake of the annexations, Ukraine formally requested accelerated NATO membership, hoping to boost its membership bid.
On Sunday, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted that 10 NATO countries supported Ukraine’s membership in the alliance, including many countries that used to belong to the former Soviet bloc.
However, NATO countries have been hesitant to include a new member that is at war, and by treaty they would be forced to defend. In recent months, NATO has also welcomed the request of two new countries in Europe: Finland and Sweden, prompted by security concerns following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.