KIEV, Ukraine, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a law Monday that abolishes the country's neutral, non-aligned status, and commented on the possibility of future NATO membership.
"I think it was a strategic and fundamental mistake in 2010, when Ukraine acquired the non-aligned status," Poroshenko said at the signing. The status, adopted under pressure from Russia, kept the country from entering military alliances. "Having done that, Ukraine has destroyed its Armed Forces," the president noted.
Ukraine's Parliament voted Dec. 23 overwhelmingly in support of abolishing the non-aligned status. Prior to the vote, Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said the change "will lead to integration in the European and the Euro-Atlantic space" and away from Russian influence.
When asked when Ukraine planned to hold a referendum on NATO membership, Poroshenko said that Ukraine must first comply with NATO and European Union criteria.
"When Ukraine will meet these criteria," which the president estimated would be in the next five to six years, he said "the people of Ukraine will decide on NATO membership."
Ukraine's latest move away from Russian influence comes as the Russian economy shows further signs of a pending recession.