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Ukraine drops non-aligned status

The Ukrainian president has signed a bill dropping his country's non-aligned status but signalled that he will hold a referendum before seeking Nato membership.

Petro Poroshenko told a news conference he is working to reform the Ukrainian economy and its military forces to meet European Union and Nato standards, but he will leave it up to Ukrainian citizens to decide whether to join the military alliance.

Ukraine's parliament last week abandoned the non-aligned position, and Mr Poroshenko signed that bill into the law at the news conference today.

Although Ukraine's prospects for membership in the near term appear dim, Russia has reacted angrily to the move, calling it a threat to its own and Europe's security.

Mr Poroshenko said: "When we are able to conform to these criteria, the people of Ukraine will make up their mind about the (Nato) membership," and added this will probably happen in the next five to six years.

With a war against pro-Russian separatists in the east and its economy in shambles, Ukraine has much to overcome to achieve the stability the alliance seeks in its members.

The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France will get together in Kazakhstan on January 15 to discuss a peace settlement, Mr Poroshenko said - the first such high-profile summit on the conflict since June.

Mr Poroshenko added that he still believes there is "no military solution" to the conflict in the east.

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