Ukrainian Finance Minister Natalia Jaresko presents a draft of the state budget for 2015 during a parliament session in Kiev on December 23, 2014. AFP PHOTO/GENYA SAVILOV
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The vote by Ukraine's parliament to drop its nonaligned status, which could pave the way for a bid to join NATO, challenges the Kremlin's ardent desire to keep NATO from taking a giant step toward the Russian heartland.Russia routinely characterizes the Ukrainian crisis as an internal matter and rejects claims from Ukraine and the West that it has sent troops and equipment to rebels in eastern Ukraine and shelled government positions from Russian border areas.The vote does not mean that Ukraine will apply to join NATO.However, Ukraine's prospects for NATO membership in the near term appear dim. Negotiators from Ukraine, Russia, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the eastern rebels are to meet Wednesday in the Belarusian capital Minsk for another round of talks on resolving the Ukraine crisis.
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