UKRAINE is to enter NATO striking a blow against arch-enemy Vladimir Putin.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said he welcomed his nation eventually joining the military alliance in a landmark move for Kiev.
Ukraine will hope their membership means they can call on the backing of giants like the US and UK to see off bully-boy tactics from Putin’s Russia.
But Joe Biden warned Kiev needed to root out corruption before it can be taken into the fold officially.
Speaking after Monday’s NATO summit, the US President said: “The fact is that they still need to fight corruption.
“In the meantime, we will do all we can to put Ukraine in a position to be able to resist Russian aggression… to maintain their physical security.”
Biden added that Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s role in eastern part of the country did not mean Kiev would never be let in.
In the meantime, we will do all we can to put Ukraine in a position to be able to resist Russian aggression… to maintain their physical security.
But during an interview with Russian state television, Putin suggested it would be “unacceptable” to Russia if Ukraine joined NATO.
He claimed the country’s entrance into the military alliance would give NATO access to missiles which can reach Moscow in just seven minutes.
He said during the interview: “At least 50 percent of Ukrainian residents don’t want entry into NATO and these are smart people.
“They understand, they don’t want to wind up on the firing line, they don’t want to be bargaining chips or cannon fodder.”
Earlier on Monday, he told reporter’s that he wanted a clear “yes” or “no” from Biden on giving Ukraine such a plan.
Earlier this month, the US President reaffirmed his support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and invited Zelensky to the White House in July.
But Zelensky said: “It would be better to have this meeting before the summit.”
The Ukrainian president added he did not expect Putin and Biden to come up with a solution to Ukraine’s conflict at the summit.
“It is not possible to decide for Ukraine,” he said. “So there won’t be a concrete result.”
Zelensky was seeking Washington’s support for Ukraine’s seven-year war with Russian-backed separatists.
On Friday, the Pentagon announced a new $150 million (£106 million) package of military assistance for Kiev.
Fighting escalated at the start of 2021 and in April Russia amassed 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border and in Crimea, prompting warnings from NATO.
Russia later announced a pullback, but both Washington and Kiev say that the withdrawal has been limited.
Zelensky estimated that more than 90,000 Russian troops remained along Ukraine’s borders and said tensions could still escalate.
“Any escalation could lead to a conflict,” he said. “If the number of troops near our borders has increased this could result in a massive war.”
The conflict in eastern Ukraine, including the escalation of tensions over the past few months, is expected to be discussed in Geneva.
Zelensky said his country was ready to join NATO, explaining: “We are fighting a war. This is proof we are ready to join.
“We are proving every day that we are ready to be in the alliance more than most of the EU countries.”
In April, Zelensky invited Putin to meet in eastern Ukraine but Putin appeared to rejected that offer, saying the Ukrainian leader was welcome in Moscow “any time”.
Putin also stressed that Zelensky should discuss the conflict in eastern Ukraine with separatists directly.
Kiev has been battling pro-Russia separatists in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions since 2014, following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula. The war has claimed more than 13,000 lives.
Kiev and its Western allies accuse Russia of sending troops and arms to support the separatists, which Moscow has denied.