Ukrainian defence minister says, as Western countries, once concerned that military assistance could be seen as an escalation by Russia, change their “thinking approach”.
In an interview with BBC, Oleksii Reznikov said he was sure that, Ukraine would receive long-sought weapons, including tanks and fighter jets, as both Ukraine and Russia seemed to be preparing for new offensives in the spring.
“This concern about the next level of escalation, for me, is some kind of protocol,” Mr Reznikov said.
“Ukraine as a country, and the armed forces of Ukraine, became [a] member of Nato. De facto, not de jure (by law). Because, we have weaponry and the understanding of how to use it.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has framed his invasion of Ukraine as an existential battle against Western countries that want to weaken Russia.
Russian figures have argued they are fighting Nato in Ukraine, as the West has supplied the country with weapons in what they call a war of aggression.
Ukraine, for years, has sought to join the military alliance between the US, Canada and 28 European countries, something President Vladimir Putin has described as a security threat for Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pushed for fast-track accession, but it is unclear whether full membership is something the alliance members will seriously consider even after the war is over, despite pledges of support.
Article 5 of the Nato Treaty says an armed attack against any member should be considered an attack against all.
Mr Reznikov, however, denied that his comments would be seen as controversial, not only by Russia but, perhaps, by Nato itself, as the alliance has taken steps not to be seen as a party to the conflict.
“Why [would it be] controversial? It’s true. It’s a fact,” Mr Reznikov said. “I’m sure that in the near future, we’ll become member of Nato, de jure.”
The defence minister spoke in the capital, Kyiv, as Ukrainian and Russian forces continued to fight for the small town of Soledar, in the eastern Donetsk region, in some of the most intense battles in the nearly 11-month-old war.
The Russian offensive is led by the mercenary Wagner Group, whose founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, a long-time Putin ally, has become a vocal critic of the Russian army’s performance in Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Mr Prigozhin claimed that his fighters had seized control of the town, an allegation that was dismissed by Ukraine and, remarkably, by the Kremlin, in what was considered a rebuff to Mr Prigozhin.
The situation in Soledar was “very difficult”, Mr Reznikov said, but “under control”. He said Wagner fighters were being used in “wave after wave after wave” of attacks, leading to a high number of deaths, and that Mr Prigozhin was interested in the possible economic benefits of seizing the town, home to Europe’s largest salt mines.
“They’ll earn money from blood,” he said.
Soledar is about 10km (six miles) from Bakhmut, a strategic city where Ukrainian and Russian forces have been engaged in a months-long war of attrition that has caused widespread destruction and heavy losses on both sides. There, Wagner mercenaries have also been deployed in large numbers, and Mr Prigozhin is believed to have made the capture of Bakhmut a personal goal.
The group, Mr Reznikov said, “need to deliver some kind of proof to declare they’re better than the regular armed forces of the Russian Federation”. If seized, Bakhmut could pave the way for a Russian push towards Kramatorsk and Slovyansk, two Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk, a region that has been a key target for President Putin.
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