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President Zelenskyy to submit ‘accelerated’ NATO application after Putin annexes occupied Ukrainian regions.

Ukraine’s president says his country is submitting an “accelerated” application to join the NATO military alliance, after Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the annexation of four partially occupied Ukrainian regions.

This week Russian proxies in the regions held referendums viewed as illegitimate by the international community.

“We are taking our decisive step by signing Ukraine’s application for accelerated accession to NATO,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday.

It was not immediately clear what an “accelerated” application would mean, as accession 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.”

During Russia’s seven-month war in the neighbouring country, Ukraine has shifted off Soviet-era weapon systems and using NATO-standard ordinance and weapons, though the process is still ongoing.

Ukraine, Western countries and the United Nations secretary-general have denounced Putin’s move to annexe the Ukrainian regions, which represents a major escalation in the war that began with Russia’s invasion on February 24.

At a ceremony on Friday, Putin said Russia has “four new regions”, calling the residents of Ukraine’s occupied Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions “our citizens forever”.

“This is the will of millions of people,” he said in the speech before hundreds of dignitaries at the St George’s Hall of the Kremlin.

More to follow.

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