-Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday he had no objections to Ukraine joining the European Union following the European Commission’s historic decision to back Kyiv’s bid to become a member.
“We have nothing against it. It is not a military bloc. It’s the right of any country to join economic unions,” Putin said on Friday when asked about the prospects of Ukraine joining the EU.
Russia has railed against Ukraine’s attempts to join the NATO military alliance for years, with the issue becoming a major stand-off between Moscow and the West.
Before he ordered tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in late February, Putin had sought legal guarantees from the United States that Ukraine would not be admitted to the military alliance.
Earlier on Friday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin was closely following Ukraine’s efforts to become a member of the EU, especially in the light of increased defence cooperation among the 27-member bloc.
The issue “requires our heightened attention, because we are all aware of the intensification of discussions in Europe on the subject of strengthening the defence component of the EU,” Peskov said in a call with reporters.
Speaking at Russia’s flagship annual economic forum in St. Petersburg, Putin questioned whether it was “advisable” for the EU to permit Ukraine to join, saying Kyiv would need huge economic subsidies that other EU members may not be willing to give.
The European Commission recommended on Friday that the EU designate Ukraine and Moldova as candidates for membership, with a third former Soviet republic, Georgia, being asked to meet certain conditions before being granted the same status.