Ukraine needs to become a full candidate to join the European Union, rather than signing up to the kind of broader "European political community" proposed by France, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday.
"We don't need any alternatives to the application of Ukraine to join the European Union, we don't need such compromises," Zelenskyy told reporters in Kyiv during a joint press conference with visiting Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa.
French President Emmanuel Macron raised hackles in Ukraine on May 9 by suggesting that the country could take "decades" to become a full EU member and should aspire instead to join a "European political community," a sort of antechamber for the European Union.
Ukraine would notably have to meet rigorous standards in governance, fight corruption and apply the rule of law before it could be admitted as an EU member.
Russia invaded Ukraine in February, in part to thwart Kyiv's tilt towards integration with the EU and NATO.
But Zelenskyy was adamant on Saturday that his country should be allowed to start the process towards full EU membership.
"Because, believe me, it will not be compromise with Ukraine in Europe, it will be another compromise between Europe and Russia. I am absolutely sure of that," he said.
"This is the influence and political and diplomatic pressure of Russian officials and lobbyists on the decision of a European country to support Ukraine or not," he continued.
Macron's "European political community" initiative will be debated at an EU summit in late June. The French leader has suggested that Britain, which left the EU after a referendum, could also join such a grouping.
But some European leaders have already criticized the idea.
"My impression is that this is an attempt to cover up the obvious lack of political will to take decisive decisions on granting candidate status," Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said last week.
On Friday, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also poured cold water on Macron's idea.
"My preference is to build on the structures we already have that work successfully, whether it is the G-7 or NATO," she said.