(Reuters) -Ukraine on Thursday said it had secured the backing of NATO member Bulgaria for its membership of the military alliance “as soon as conditions allow” as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy held talks in Sofia on a tour to rally support from allies.
Zelenskiy, who wants to receive an invitation to begin the process of joining NATO at the July 11-12 summit in Vilnius, landed later on Thursday in the Czech Republic, another NATO member.
After talks with Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov, Zelenskiy said he had invited the country to participate in the reconstruction effort in Ukraine and urged it to maintain its military support 16 months after Russia’s full-scale invasion.
“We discussed the military aid which Bulgaria gives to our country. We count on the continuation of the cooperation which has already saved many lives,” Zelenskiy told a news conference with Denkov.
Zelenskiy’s diplomacy adviser, Ihor Zhovkva, said the countries had signed a declaration on Ukraine’s integration into Western organisations, particularly NATO and the EU. He said Bulgaria had become the 22nd country to support Kyiv’s NATO bid.
“The document clearly shows that Bulgaria supports Ukraine’s membership in NATO as soon as conditions allow,” Zhovkva wrote in a Facebook post.
Zhovkva said Bulgaria had recognised that Ukraine’s membership in the alliance was “the only way to ensure a sufficient level of security for both Ukraine and the entire Euro-Atlantic family”.
‘OUTLINE OF VICTORY’
Zelenskiy, in a discussion with Bulgarian politicians, said he wanted to dispel the notion that supplies of Western weapons to his country had expanded the scale of the war with Russia.
Kyiv’s allies are divided over how fast Ukraine should join NATO and some Western governments are wary of any move that might take the alliance closer to war with Russia.
“The reality speaks for itself: the more weapons we get, the more modern these weapons are, the clearer the outline of our victory is, that is, the more the scale of the war on our land is reduced because we are pushing the occupiers out,” Zelenskiy said in an account on his Telegram channel.
The two countries also signed a memorandum on energy cooperation.
(Reporting by Max Hunder in Kyiv; Additional reporting by Anna Pruchnicka in Gdansk; Editing by Timothy Heritage, David Holmes, Ron Popeski and Conor Humphries)
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