Ukrainians in Portugal ask for NATO membership support

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Five dozen Ukrainians gathered this morning in Lisbon to ask for support for Ukraine’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Summoned to Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) by the Association of Ukrainians in Portugal, raising flags and waving placards, the demonstrators thanked Portugal for the support it has given to Ukraine, whose territory was invaded by Russian forces on February 24 last year.

“Thank you, Portugal!” they shouted, specifically saluting the Prime Minister, António Costa.

On Saturday, the Portuguese government expressed support for Ukraine’s accession to NATO “when conditions permit.

In a joint statement, signed between Ukraine and Portugal and released after a telephone conversation between António Costa and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the government considers that “the future of Ukraine and its people lies in the European family” and agrees on the need to increase pressure on Russia through further sanctions.

In Praça do Comércio, with the Ukrainian anthem being sung in the background, Pavlo Sadokha, president of the Association of Ukrainians in Portugal, admits that Ukraine’s accession to NATO “is not possible” at this time of “full active war”, but stresses that it was important for the country to get a date at the Atlantic Alliance summit, scheduled for the 11th and 12th in Vilnius, capital of Lithuania.

“We need to know that Ukraine will become [a member of NATO], that all this effort we are making will yield results so that in the future Ukraine will join the NATO bloc and be protected there from future invasions by Russia,” he said.

In addition, he added, Ukrainian troops carry out a counteroffensive on the ground and need more military aid. “They lack ammunition, planes…,” he recalled, hoping that “such promised support” will be “faster,” to “save many lives” and “end the war.”

Underestimating the number of people present at the gathering, at a time when the conflict has lasted for 500 days, Pavlo Sadokha guarantees that “every element” of the Ukrainian community in Portugal is “doing something”, either by collecting goods, or “in some other way”.

“Since the war started, we’ve come together more, we’ve become more united, to support Ukraine,” agrees Olga Yakovets, one of the voices that stood out during Ukraine’s anthem.

“We need support. Alone, as a country, we are now, at this moment, very weak. With the world, with Europe, we will be able to do much more and achieve freedom,” he believes, thanking Portugal for its constant help, whom he asks to “continue helping.

Nestor Kondra, a 19-year-old university student, confesses that he did not expect to experience a war of this “great scale,” even though it did not begin 500 days ago, but nine years ago, with the annexation of Crimea and the occupation of Donetsk and Lugansk by Russian troops.

“It has changed my life in some ways, [but] not as much as those who are living in Ukraine,” he stresses, saying that he has family in Lviv, which has been “more or less peaceful” since the beginning of the war, even though a few days ago it was attacked with missiles.

The poster he holds speaks of “ecocide” and has a drawing of the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine, bombed and destroyed by Russia in May.

“The environmental issue is important, now more than ever,” he stresses, emphasizing that “actions” like the one that destroyed the dam “must be totally condemned, so that disasters don’t happen.”

Nestor also shares insightful words about the impact this conflict will have on new generations: “I have no Russian friends. (…) We are neighbors, yes, but we don’t have much in common. People think we have a lot in common but we don’t. Sometimes you hear that we are sister nations, but no, we are not, I don’t think we are.”

During this afternoon there will be similar demonstrations in support of Ukraine’s membership in NATO in Coimbra (17:00, Praça 8 de Maio) and Porto (18:30, Fonte dos Leões).

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