MOSCOW, February 27. /TASS/. Ukraine needs to maintain its non-bloc status for the country to remain united, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday.
"In the interests of preventing Ukraine’s split and supporting the atmosphere of trust and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region, it is necessary that Kiev should preserve the non-bloc status," Lavrov said at the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy.
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko signed into law the bill cancelling Ukraine's non-bloc status in late December. Poroshenko said Ukraine will hold a referendum on accession to NATO in the next 5-6 years.
Russian officials have repeatedly emphasized the importance of Ukraine's non-bloc status for the country's unity.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in late January wrote an article for Serbia’s Horizons magazine focusing on the current situation in Ukraine. "For the prevention of the further split of Ukraine the preservation of its non-aligned status is of principal importance," the article reads.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also commented on possible accession of Ukraine to NATO calling the existing Ukrainian army “a NATO legion” that has the geopolitical goal to contain Russia.
As for NATO members, French President Francois Hollande told a press conference in Paris in early February that Ukraine’s NATO membership would be "undesirable" for France. "We must state it clearly, we should tell other countries the truth, including about what we are not ready to accept. This is the position of France," he said.