Russia cannot block Ukraine's NATO aspirations: US Secretary of Defense

“No third country has a veto on Ukraine's aspirations to join NATO,” Lloyd Austin, the U.S. Defense Secretary, said during a briefing on a visit to Kyiv on Tuesday, when asked about Russian objections to Ukraine's entry into the military alliance.

“No third country has a veto over NATO's membership decisions. Ukraine, as you heard me say earlier, has a right to decide its own future foreign policy and we expect that they will be able to do that without any outside interference,” he stressed.

Mr Austin also said that Russia started the conflict in eastern Ukraine and was an obstacle to its peaceful resolution, calling the country to stop its aggressive actions.

“We condemn the annexation of Crimea. We call on Russia to end the war in eastern Ukraine, end destabilising operations in the Black Sea and along the borders with Ukraine, and stop cyberattacks on the US and our partners,” he said at a joint press conference with Andriy Taran, Ukrainian Defense Minister.