Kiev: The Ukrainian parliament on Tuesday renounced Ukraine`s "non-aligned" status with the aim of eventually joining NATO, angering Moscow, which views NATO`s eastward expansion as a threat to its own security.
Any accession to the Western military alliance is likely to take years, but a NATO spokesman in Brussels said: "Our door is open and Ukraine will become a member of NATO if it so requests and fulfils the standards and adheres to the necessary principles."
But Russia called the vote "an unfriendly step towards us".
"This political vector will only add to nuisances and acuteness in ties," said Andrei Kelin, Russia`s envoy to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.
Addressing deputies in Kiev before the vote, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said scrapping Ukraine`s neutral status underscored its determination to pivot towards Europe and the West.
"This will lead to integration in the European and the Euro-Atlantic space," he said.
The amendment passed easily, receiving 303 votes, 77 more than the minimum required to pass into law.
Ties between Moscow and Kiev are at an all-time low since Russia`s annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March and a pro-Russian separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine.
The pro-Western authorities in Kiev accuse Russia of orchestrating and arming the uprising in the east after the overthrow of a Ukrainian president sympathetic to Moscow. The Kremlin denies that it is behind the revolt.