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Leaders pitch last-ditch diplomacy as Ukraine-Russia tensions on ‘edge of a precipice’

World·Updated

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday confirmed Ukraine's desire to join NATO amid Russian demands for guarantees the alliance would not allow its neighbour to become a member.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gestures during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Kyiv on Monday.(Efrem Lukatsky/The Associated Press)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday confirmed Ukraine's desire to join NATO amid Russian demands for guarantees the alliance would not allow its neighbour to become a member.

"We would like NATO membership. It would ensure our security, our territorial sovereignty. It's fixed in the Ukrainian constitution," Zelensky said at a news briefing with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The U.S. has issued warnings of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine amid ongoing attempts to de-escalate soaring tensions.

Moscow wants guarantees from the West that NATO won't allow Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to join as members, and that the alliance will halt weapons deployments to Ukraine and roll back its forces from Eastern Europe, demands flatly rejected by the West.

"Many leaders hint slightly that Ukraine shouldn't risk and talk constantly about its membership in the alliance. Because these risks are connected to Russia's reaction. I think that no one hides it anymore. I think we should be sincere. It's our decision to take anyway," Zelensky told reporters after talks with Scholz.

Russian troops drive tanks during military exercises in the Leningrad Region, Russia, in this handout picture released on Monday.(Russian Defence Ministry/Reuters)

Scholz's first visit to Kyiv since taking office in December comes before his first visit to Moscow on Tuesday.

It's part of a flurry of in-person and remote diplomacy by Western leaders.

Scholz was taking a message of solidarity to Zelensky after criticism of Germany for its refusal to join some allies in sending weapons to the country.

Russia's top diplomat advised President Vladimir Putin on Monday to keep talking with the West on Moscow's security demands.

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