Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced on Thursday that his country will hold a referendum on NATO membership.
The announcement came amid a round of renewed tensions with Russia in eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian Army have been fighting since 2014.
“As the president, I act in accordance with the views of my people, and I will hold a referendum on the question of NATO membership,” said Poroshenko said in an interview with German daily Berliner Morgenpost.
“And if the Ukrainians would vote for it, I will do everything in my power to achieve membership in the transatlantic alliance,” he added.
On Wednesday, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense claimed that one if its Antonov An-26 transport planes took fire from Russian anti-aircraft guns on the Black Sea, with Russia denying that its troops fired on the plane.
Russia had long opposed Ukraine’s NATO membership bid and viewed continued eastward expansion of the alliance as a potential military threat.
Poroshenko did not give a date for a referendum, but underlined that support for NATO membership among the Ukrainian citizens had grown in recent years.
“Four years ago, almost 16 percent supported Ukraine’s NATO membership. Now it is 54 percent,” he said.
NATO has recently intensified military cooperation with Ukraine, but refrained from offering a full membership perspective, largely due to reservations by key members, Germany and France.