Refugees flee war in Ukraine
Refugees flee war in UkraineISTOCK

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg denounced Russia’s annexation of four occupied regions in Ukraine on Friday.

Reacting to President Vladimir Putin’s Friday speech in which he stated that the territories would become part of Russia, Stoltenberg told reporters that the annexation was "the most serious escalation" so far since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

"This land grab is illegal and illegitimate," Stoltenberg said.

He urged countries not to recognize Russia’s takeover of the Ukrainian territories.

"Donetsk is Ukraine, Zaporizhzhia is Ukraine, Luhansk is Ukraine, Kherson is Ukraine, just like Crimea is Ukraine," Stoltenberg said. "NATO is not party to the conflict but we provide support to Ukraine.”

The NATO chief added that “NATO’s door remains open” to any EU nation that wants to join the alliance.

"Our focus now is on providing immediate support to Ukraine to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian brutal invasion," he said.

Stoltenberg reaffirmed that Ukraine was within its rights to retake Ukrainian regions annexed by Russia. Putin has threatened to escalate the war if Ukraine uses military force to regain regions under Russian occupation.

"The illegal annexation… doesn't change the nature of this conflict,” he said.

Following Putin’s announcement that Russia now considers Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporozhye and Kherson part of the Russian Federation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that his country had sent an “accelerated” application to NATO to become a member of the alliance.

"We are taking our decisive step by signing Ukraine's application for accelerated accession to NATO," Zelenskyy said in a video.

(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)