NATO boss: Ukraine closer to alliance ‘than ever’ as Russia reduced to Iran, North Korea deals

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Sept. 28 (UPI) -- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a visit to Kyiv on Thursday called Ukraine closer to the alliance than ever before while Russia is reduced to arms deals with Iran and North Korea.

"When I was last here in April, we discussed our preparations for NATO's Vilnius Summit. And your preparations for the counteroffensive," Stoltenberg said in a news conference.

"Today, your forces are moving forward. They face fierce fighting. But they are gradually gaining ground."

Stoltenberg said that Ukraine has the backing of the 31 allies in NATO and many partners as its soldiers fight to protect their families and freedom.

"Russia is diminished on the world stage, cut off from international markets, staying home from international summits and reduced to seeking arms from regimes like Iran and North Korea," Stoltenberg said.

He also reiterated that NATO has made Ukraine's path to membership in the alliance easier by removing a requirement for a Membership Action Plan and creating a NATO-Ukraine Council to facilitate political discussions.

Stoltenberg said he welcomed a recent Zelensky announcement that Ukraine and the United States plan to jointly produce weapons systems and air defenses.