(Kyiv) NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is in Kyiv on Thursday for his first visit since the start of the Russian invasion more than a year ago, an Atlantic Alliance official said that Ukraine aims to join.

NATO thus confirmed the information on this surprise visit reported earlier by a Ukrainian media which published photos of Mr. Stoltenberg in the center of the Ukrainian capital.

In these images from the Kyiv Independent, Mr. Stoltenberg can be seen meditating in St. Michael’s Square in Kyiv, in front of a memorial in honor of the Ukrainian soldiers killed during the Russian invasion.

This is Mr. Stoltenberg’s first visit to Ukraine since the start of the war, which began more than a year ago. His last trip to the country dates back to October 2019.

NATO has shown its support for Ukraine in the face of Russia and its member states are supplying Kyiv with military equipment and weapons to fight Moscow’s troops. These supplies are essential to the war effort of Ukraine, which for months has been preparing a counter-offensive.

Russia sees this support as proof that the Alliance and the United States are waging a proxy war in Ukraine and constantly denounce NATO enlargement on its borders.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday that one of Moscow’s goals in Ukraine remained to prevent that country from joining NATO.

“Otherwise, it would pose a serious threat to our country and its security,” he said.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden, which until then had held to a policy of neutrality, asked to join NATO. This has been done for Helsinki since the beginning of April, while Stockholm is still waiting for lack of a green light from Hungary and Turkey, other member countries.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky insists on “accelerated NATO membership” for his country, while Mr. Stoltenberg implied that Kyiv must first win the war against Moscow.

Westerners have provided more than $150 billion in aid to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion, including $65 billion in military aid, he said.