Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed suggestions that Kyiv might surrender certain territories to Russia for future NATO membership joking that Ukraine would instead be willing to give up control of Russian border region Belgorod. “We are ready to exchange Belgorod for our membership in NATO,” the Ukrainian president in Denmark as he was on a visit to inspect Danish F-16 fighter jets.
The response came when Volodymyr Zelensky was asked during a press conference in Denmark about recent comments by Stian Jenssen, the director of NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg’s private office who had last week acknowledged the possibility of Ukraine ceding territory to Russia in exchange for accession to NATO.
Ukrainian leaders have repeatedly rejected suggestions that Kyiv might surrender occupied land in exchange for a peace deal with Russia. Zelensky and his top officials have said they intend to liberate all Ukrainian land per the country’s 1991 borders.
“Trading territory for a NATO umbrella? It is ridiculous,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky’s office, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s foreign ministry, said it was completely unacceptable to suggest such a deal.
This comes as Zelensky secured commitments from the Netherlands and Denmark to supply long-desired F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv. Zelensky said the Netherlands had agreed to send “42 great combat aircraft” to Ukraine with Denmark providing an additional 19.
Andriy Yermak, the head of Zelensky’s office, said, “It was not always public, and not everything can be told now. It was a truly multi-level process with our partners, the result of which is a significant number of F-16s for Ukraine.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote in a letter sent last week, “I am writing to express the United States’ full support for both the transfer of F-16 fighter aircraft to Ukraine and for the training of Ukrainian pilots by qualified F-16 instructors. It remains critical that Ukraine is able to defend itself against ongoing Russian aggression and violation of its sovereignty.”