2014-12-23 18:02:00

Ukraine renounces neutrality opening door to NATO

(Vatican Radio) - In a historic move, Ukraine's parliament voted Tuesday to renounce the nation's neutral status, which it adopted under Russian pressure in 2010. The vote came after pro-Western President Petro Poroshenko made clear he wants the country to join the NATO military alliance due to what he views as Russian-led aggression against Ukraine, and religious minorities.    

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos

With 303 votes, 77 more than the minimum required to pass into law, legislators effectively moved closer towards the West and further away from Russia.

They dropped the ex-Soviet state's "non-aligned nation" status, which prevented it from joining other military alliances. 

The move officially opened the door for talks on NATO membership. 


President Poroshenko has reportedly called a decision in 2010 not to join the military alliance the “biggest mistake of the former Ukrainian leadership.”

The Ukrainian leader pledged to apply for NATO membership due to what he views as the danger posed by neighboring Russia.  

He is furious that Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March. And he has accused Moscow of backing pro-Russian separatists with weapons and troops to fight against government forces in eastern Ukraine.

Poroshenko says among the 4,700 people killed in that conflict are also non-Russian Orthodox Christians. 


"The most shocking is the terror on religious minorities on the occupied territory by the terrorists," he said in a speech last week. 

"Let me give you a couple of examples. In early June a group of terrorists was waiting in front of a prayer house in occupied Slovensk. They detained four of them, took them to jail severely tortured and killed them These four young men were buried din a collective grave," he explained. 

Poroshenko also recalled that a Greek Catholic church leader was detained on July 4. "He spent two months in captivity. His tormentors tried to convert him to Moscow Orthodoxy, but to no avail."      


Russia denies supporting the separatists, but says it wants to defend the interests of Russian speakers and strongly opposes NATO expansion towards its borders.  

Poroshenko counters that NATO membership could prevent more attacks against his nation. 

But he says it will take at least six years before Ukraine will meet the requirements to join the alliance and the European Union. 

And only then he says, it should be up to Ukrainians to decide whether to join NATO in a referendum. 


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