- By James Landale & Oliver Slough
- BBC News, Vilnius and London
G7 members are expected to ratify a long-term security arrangement with Ukraine at a NATO summit on Wednesday.
This includes security equipment, training and intelligence sharing.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the deal would send a strong signal to Russian President Putin.
It comes after Ukraine’s President Zelensky criticized NATO’s reluctance to give Kyiv a deadline to join the alliance.
Mr Sunak said that Kevin’s allies were intensifying formal arrangements to secure Ukraine for the long term.
“We will never see what happened in Ukraine again, and this announcement reaffirms our commitment to ensure that Russia never again suffers the brutality it has inflicted on it,” he said.
He said Kiev’s “path to NATO membership” and supporting “formal, multilateral and bilateral arrangements” of NATO membership would send a clear message to the Russian president and “return peace to Europe”.
Number 10 said the UK played a key role in the deal, which included G7 partners Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US. More details are expected on Wednesday.
US President Joe Biden previously suggested a model for Ukraine similar to his country’s deal with Israel. Under that agreement, Washington pledged $3.8 billion a year in military aid over a decade.
But unlike NATO membership – it does not include a provision to come to the aid of the target nation in the event of an attack.
The G7 announcement came after Nato said Ukraine could join the military alliance “when conditions are agreed and met by the partners” – a delay Mr Zelensky said was “absurd”.
Kyiv accepts that it cannot join NATO while it is at war with Russia, but wants to join as soon as possible after the fighting.
Addressing a crowd in the Lithuanian capital on Tuesday, Mr Zelenskiy said: “NATO will provide security for Ukraine – Ukraine will strengthen the alliance.”
He also presented a battle flag from the destroyed city of Bakhmut – the site of the longest and bloodiest battle in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Zelensky had earlier tweeted that “uncertainty is weakness” and said the lack of an agreed deadline meant his country’s eventual membership could become a bargaining chip.
NATO is unlikely to say when and how Ukraine might join the alliance, but diplomats insisted it had laid out a clear path to membership, with the rigorous application process significantly reduced.
They said they recognized that Ukraine’s military is increasingly “interoperable” and “politically integrated” with NATO forces, and pledged to continue supporting reforms in Ukraine’s democracy and security sector.
Diplomats also highlighted the creation of a new NATO-Ukraine Council, which convened for the first time on Wednesday, which would give Kiev the right to convene meetings of the entire alliance.
But the decision, which gives no sense of timescale, is still seen as a setback for Ukraine.
Some member states fear that automatic membership for Ukraine would give Russia an incentive to escalate and prolong the war.
Attention now shifts to what long-term security guarantees NATO members are promising Ukraine in exchange for early membership.
In the past, Western security pledges have failed to deter two Russian invasions. NATO allies hope the third round will be strong and transparent enough to persuade the Kremlin that aggression will be too costly.
The Vilnius summit began a day after Turkey dropped its opposition to Sweden joining the military alliance.
Turkey had blocked Sweden’s application for months, accusing it of harboring Kurdish militants. The country will now become the alliance’s 32nd member after Finland, which joined Russia in April.
After Russia invaded Ukraine, both countries announced they would join NATO.
A series of military packages for Ukraine were also announced at Tuesday’s summit.
The 11-nation alliance will train Ukrainian pilots to fly the US-made F-16 fighter jets at a center to be set up in Romania in August, officials said.
In May the United States authorized its Western allies to supply Ukraine with advanced jets, including the long-awaited F-16s — a significant upgrade over the Soviet-era planes it currently uses.
Ukraine has repeatedly urged its Western allies to provide jets to help a recently launched counteroffensive aimed at recapturing territory seized by Russia.
However, experts say it will take some time to train Ukrainian pilots to fly and operate Western jets.
In addition to the G7 defense pact, the UK has announced plans to supply Ukraine with more than 70 combat and logistics vehicles, aimed at improving its counteroffensive capabilities.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s military said Tuesday night that Russia carried out kamikaze drone attacks on Kyiv and its territory for the second night in a row.
There were no immediate reports of casualties or major damage, according to initial reports.