Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said changing the country's constitution to state Kyiv’s aim of joining NATO and the European Union as strategic state goals will send a strong "message" to Moscow that "we are parting completely and irrevocably."
Addressing lawmakers in the Ukrainian parliament on November 22, Poroshenko said Russia, "being an aggressor state," will not have a "veto" on whether Ukraine joins the two Western organizations.
Relations between Moscow and Kyiv have deteriorated after Russia seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and shortly thereafter began supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has left more than 10,300 people dead since April 2014.
Poroshenko was speaking before lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill in its first reading to alter Ukraine's constitution to include as the country’s strategic goal membership in the EU and NATO.
"By fixing in the constitution the obligatory course toward joining NATO and the European Union, we are sending a message to Moscow: we are parting completely and irrevocably," Poroshenko said, according to the UNIAN news agency.
"Russia, being an aggressor state, does not have and will not have a veto on our accession to either NATO or the European Union."
Poroshenko stressed that this is the sovereign right of Ukraine as a country, "which confidently walks its own path."
The first vote on the bill comes days after Ukraine marked the fifth anniversary of the start of the Euromaidan protests, which began a series of events that tilted Ukraine's geopolitical orientation toward the West.
Poroshenko took part in a ceremony on Kyiv's Independence Square on November 21 to commemorate the activists killed during the three months of peaceful protests on the square in 2013-14 that forced Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych to flee to Russia.
In the weeks following Yanukovych's February 21, 2014, ouster, Russia illegally occupied Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula before annexing it, and also supported separatist forces as they fought for control of parts of Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
November 21 is officially known as Prosperity and Freedom Day in Ukraine to mark the start of the 2004 Orange Revolution and the 2013-14 Euromaidan uprising.
The day was known as Freedom Day from 2005 to 2011 but canceled while Yanukovych was president. Poroshenko reinstated it after becoming president in 2014.