Neutrality for Ukraine is on the table, says Russian Foreign Minister

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference following talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Moscow on March 16, 2022.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference following talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Moscow on March 16, 2022. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Russia said on Wednesday that peace talks with Ukraine were not easy but that there was some hope of reaching a compromise and that neutrality for Ukraine was being seriously discussed.

“The negotiations are not easy for obvious reasons,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told RBC news. “But nevertheless, there is some hope of reaching a compromise.”

"Neutral status is now being seriously discussed along, of course, with security guarantees," Mr. Lavrov said.

Ukraine has also made cautious positive statements on peace talks. It says it is willing to negotiate to the end the war, but will not surrender or accept Russian ultimatums.

Mr. Lavrov said key issues included the security of people in eastern Ukraine, the demilitarisation of Ukraine and the rights of Russian-speaking people in Ukraine.

Announcing the invasion on February 24, President Vladimir Putin blamed the United States for threatening Russia by enlarging the NATO military alliance eastwards into Russia’s backyard.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described Russia’s demands for ending the war as becoming “more realistic”.

Mr. Zelensky said Russian forces had been unable to move deeper into Ukrainian territory but had continued their heavy shelling of cities, including Mariupol, a southern seaport that has been under attack for almost all of the nearly three-week war.

Kyiv residents huddled in homes and shelters amid a citywide curfew that runs until Thursday morning, as Russia rained shells on areas in and around the city. A 12-storey apartment building in central Kyiv erupted in flames after being hit by shrapnel.

Hopes for diplomatic progress rose after Mr. Zelensky said on Tuesday that Ukraine realised it could not join NATO, his most explicit acknowledgement that the goal, enshrined in Ukraine’s Constitution, was unlikely to be met. Mr. Putin has long depicted Ukraine’s NATO aspirations as a threat to Russia, something the Western military alliance denies.

Mr. Lavrov welcomed Mr. Zelensky’s comment and said “the businesslike spirit” starting to surface in the talks “gives hope that we can agree on this issue”.

“A neutral status is being seriously discussed in connection with security guarantees,” Mr. Lavrov said. “There are concrete formulations that in my view are close to being agreed.”

Russia’s chief negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, said the sides were discussing a possible compromise idea for a future Ukraine with a smaller, non-aligned military.

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Printable version | Mar 16, 2022 11:47:39 pm |