Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Monday that a decision on whether Ukraine should request to join NATO will be made by a popular referendum which will not be held before the country meets all the Alliance's entry requirements.
"The decision on accession to NATO lies solely in the competence of the people of Ukraine," said the Ukrainian leader at a joint press conference with his Lithuanian counterpart, Dalia Grybauskaite, in Kiev.
He added that Ukrainian authorities have at least six years of hard work ahead of them to meet the criteria for joining the European Union and NATO.
The Ukrainian president underlined the importance of implementing a resolution that was adopted at a NATO summit held in 2008 in Bucharest following armed clashes between Russia and Georgia over the disputed South Ossetia region.
That resolution stipulated that Ukraine would become a member of the Alliance one day.
The Lithuanian president, meanwhile, expressed her support for the Kiev government's aspirations to join NATO and sent a message to Russia, which has been outspoken against Ukraine's entry into NATO.
"Nobody can prevent Ukraine from seeking to join NATO. No one can dictate a direction that Ukraine must take," said Grybauskaite, who last week characterized Russia as a terrorist state for its role in the Ukrainian crisis.
Although NATO decided in 2008 to open the door to Ukraine, the thenpresident Viktor Yanukovych included an article in the 2010 constitution stressing nonalignment of his country to any military bloc, whether western or eastern.
Last August, however, Ukraine announced its intention to abandon its policy of neutrality in defiance of Russia.