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Ukraine accelerates NATO bid as Russia annexes 4 regions

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Kyiv, Sep 30: Ukraine's president says his country is submitting an “accelerated” application to join the NATO military alliance. The comment Friday by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy came just after Russia said it would annex four region of Ukraine it seized amid its war and held gunpoint referendums viewed as illegitimate by the international community.

Ukraine accelerates NATO bid

Zelenskyy said: "We are taking our decisive step by signing Ukraine's application for accelerated accession to NATO." It wasn't immediately clear what an "accelerated" application would mean, as ascension to NATO requires the unanimous support of the alliance's members.

"De facto, we have already proven compatibility with alliance standards. They are real for Ukraine -- real on the battlefield and in all aspects of our interaction," Zelenskyy said. "We trust each other, we help each other, and we protect each other. This is the alliance." Zelenskyy also repeated his pledge to reunite all of the Ukrainian territory now held by Russia.

Russia annexes occupied Ukraine areas; Putin calls them 'four new regions'Russia annexes occupied Ukraine areas; Putin calls them 'four new regions'

"The entire territory of our country will be liberated from this enemy - the enemy not only of Ukraine, but also of life itself, humanity, law and truth," he said. "Russia already knows this. It feels our power. It sees that it is here, in Ukraine, that we prove the strength of our values." Responding to Putin's call for negotiations, Zelenskyy added: "We are ready for a dialogue with Russia, but ... with another president of Russia."

The war has rapidly accelerated Ukraine's shift toward the West. During Russia's seven-month war, the country has shifted off Soviet-era weapon systems and used NATO-standard ordinance and weapons, though the process is still ongoing.

In June, the European Union agreed to put Ukraine on the path toward EU membership. That swiftness of that move -- nearly unthinkable only months earlier -- required unanimous approval among the bloc's often fractious members.

While there is considerable overlap among the members of the EU and NATO, securing agreement to allow Ukraine into the security alliance and its guarantee of mutual defense could be considerably more difficult. One immediate impediment to Ukraine joining is that it is already engaged in an active military conflict on its soil.

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