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Ukrainian ambassador backtracks, says Kyiv won’t drop NATO bid

Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.K. on Monday backpedaled on comments in which he appeared to indicate Kyiv could walk away from its bid to join NATO in order to avoid war with Russia, calling it a “misunderstanding.”

Asked on Sunday whether Ukraine would contemplate dropping its NATO bid if that would avert another Russian invasion, Vadym Prystaiko told BBC Radio 5Live: “We might, especially being threatened like that, blackmailed by that, and pushed to it.” But after his comments sparked an outcry, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said the “ambassador’s words were taken out of context” and “the prospect of joining NATO remains enshrined in the constitution.”

On Monday, Prystaiko himself took to the airwaves to “clarify” his position, telling BBC Breakfast that Ukraine was “ready for many concessions” in its negotiations with Russia, “but it has nothing to do with NATO.”

Then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in 2019 signed a constitutional amendment committing the country to becoming a member of NATO and the EU.

The Ukrainian Embassy to the U.K. said on Twitter that there was “no change for NATO membership plans.”

A spokesman for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy also said Ukraine’s NATO and EU membership aspirations remained an “unconditional priority” for Kyiv.

Prior to Prystaiko walking back his NATO comments, U.K. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey on Monday said Britain would support Ukraine’s decision to drop its NATO bid if that was Kyiv’s choice. Heappey told Sky News that “any diplomatic solution shouldn’t be something that compromises the Ukrainian government’s sovereignty,” but if it did decide to walk away from its NATO aspirations, “we support that.”

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