Report: Ukraine Considers Referendum on NATO Membership

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko / AP

Ukrainian President Petro Poroschenko plans to hold a referendum on the country's potential membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, according to a report in German media.

Politico, citing quotes from German outlet Funke Mediengruppe, reported that Poroschenko said in an interview that he would hold a referendum on NATO membership given its increasing favorability among the Ukrainian people.

"Four years ago, only 16 percent [of the Ukrainian people] favored Ukraine's entry into NATO. Now it's 54 percent," Poroshenko reportedly stated. "As president, I am guided by the views of my people, and I will hold a referendum on the issue of NATO membership."

The Ukrainian president later said that he would do everything he could to gain membership in NATO if the country voted in favor of it.

Fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine has spiked in recent days, leading the United Nations Security Council and the U.S. State Department to issue notices of concern and urge both sides to abide by a ceasefire.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday demanded Russia use its "considerable influence" with separatists in Ukraine's east to stop the fighting, which he described as "the most serious spike in violations" of a largely unsuccessful ceasefire deal in some time.

Ukraine's military reported Thursday that two additional troops had been killed and 10 wounded overnight, bringing the death toll of service members and civilians to at least 10 since Monday. The increased fighting broke out when rebels attacked government positions in the town of Avdiivka on Sunday, Kiev has said.

"The United States is deeply concerned with the recent spike in violence in eastern Ukraine around Avdiivka-Yasynuvata. Since January 28, the OSCE's Special Monitoring Mission has reported a dramatic increase in fighting, including with heavy artillery and other weapons proscribed by the Minsk agreements," the State Department said on Tuesday.

"The fighting has caused dozens of Ukrainian military casualties and 10 civilian casualties. It has also left 17,000 civilians, including 2,500 children, without water, heat, or electricity."

NATO has bolstered its forces in the Baltic states and Poland, which are fearful of Russian aggression following Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014. The deployments have been met with resistance from Russia, which has taken steps to boost its own forces to counter NATO's moves.