Ukrainian Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko says his country wants to gain NATO membership as soon as possible, while maintaining good ties with Russia.
Ohryzko told foreign ambassadors in Kiev Ukraine understands that its movement toward NATO entry will be a gradual process. But he reaffirmed his country's determination to pursue European integration. He also stressed that the European Union should not consider Ukraine simply as a neighbor, but as an integral part of Europe.
The Ukrainian official said his country seeks pragmatic, equal and predictable relations with Russia. He said his country must be ready to move on a decision on the future of Russia's Black Sea Fleet ahead of talks with Russia on the issue next month.
Current bilateral agreements allow the Russian Navy the use of bases on Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, including the port of Sevastopol, until 2017.
Russia pays $93 million a year in rent for Crimean bases.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP.