Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on Wednesday rejected Russian pressure to prevent his country from joining NATO, according to AFP."It is essential to turn down blackmailing and threatening vocabulary," he told the UN General Assembly here.
"Ukraine rejects pressure of any kind regarding ways to ensure its own security and to determine membership in collective security structures," he added. "Such attempts of infringement are short-sighted and counter-productive."
Without ever naming Russia, Yushchenko also condemned "all acts of aggression and the use of force that occurred in the region."
He was apparently referring to both Georgia`s recent offensive against separatists in its breakaway enclave of South Ossetia and the ensuing Russian military intervention there to dislodge Georgian troops.
"Ukraine vigorously denounces the violation of the territorial integrity and inviolability of the Georgian borders and armed annexation of its territory," the Ukrainian leader said.
"Ukraine does not recognize the independence of the self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia (and) condemns the endeavor of the illegitimate and separatist affirmation of the statehood of any territories," he added.
Russia has opposed NATO entry for Georgia and Ukraine, saying that NATO expansion and its support of a planned US anti-missile system in the Czech Republic and Poland is a "strategic error."
Analysts have said Ukraine could be next in Moscow`s sights should it decide to flex more than diplomatic muscles in its former Soviet sphere of influence, amid fears over the maintenance of stable gas supplies to the European Union.
In Kiev, authorities said Wednesday that Yushchenko would meet US political leaders next week to discuss international security issues in the wake of the Georgia-Russia conflict.
Monday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reiterated her support for Ukraine`s membership in the NATO military alliance, but did not set any timeline.
At its summit in Bucharest in April, NATO refused to grant Ukraine and Georgia status after French and German opposition, though leaders agreed on a statement saying "that these countries will become members of NATO."
NATO foreign ministers are to review the issue during a meeting in December.
Friday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said that Ukraine`s domestic political crisis has "considerably weakened" the former Soviet republic`s chances for joining NATO and slowed key gas talks with Russia.