Lithuania has offered to help Ukraine in its bid to join the European Union and NATO, starting by establishing a commission to plot out a strategy for membership of the military alliance, the British Broadcasting Corp.'s Ukrainian language service reported on its Web site Thursday.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis said an upcoming NATO foreign ministers summit in his country would include a discussion on steps Ukraine must take in order to join.
"We are ready to help Ukraine join the European Union and NATO," he was quoted as saying. "A commission will hammer out a concrete plan about Ukraine's membership in the alliance."
Officials in Ukraine were not immediately available for comment.
Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko has repeatedly said he wants this nation of 48 million to join NATO. The country is a member of the alliance's Partnership for Peace program, which is considered a preliminary step toward full membership.
Yushchenko was the only non-NATO leader invited to an alliance summit in Brussels, Belgium, in February _ a clear sign of support for a leader who swept to power promising to build democratic institutions aligned with the West.
More than 3,500 people were detained during unprecedented mass protests that swept across all of Russia in support of Alexey Navalny on January 23