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Ukraine Ready to Discuss Adopting Neutral Status in Russia Peace Deal, Zelensky Says

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses the participants of the Doha Forum via videolink, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 26, 2022. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses the participants of the Doha Forum via videolink, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 26, 2022. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

LVIV, Ukraine, March 27 (Reuters) – Ukraine is prepared to discuss adopting a neutral status as part of a peace deal with Russia but such a pact would have to be guaranteed by third parties and put to a referendum, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in remarks aired on Sunday.

Zelenskiy was speaking to Russian journalists in a 90 minute video call, an interview that Moscow authorities had pre-emptively warned Russian media to refrain from reporting. Zelenskiy spoke in Russian throughout, as he has done in previous speeches when targeting a Russian audience.

Zelenskiy said Russia’s invasion had caused the destruction of Russian-speaking cities in Ukraine, with damage worse than the Russian wars in Chechnya.

“Security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state. We are ready to go for it. This is the most important point,” Zelenskiy said.

Zelenskiy said Ukraine refused to discuss certain other Russian demands, such as the demilitarisation of the country.

Speaking more than a month after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Zelenskiy said no peace deal would be possible without a ceasefire and troop withdrawals.

He ruled out trying to recapture all Russian-held territory by force, saying it would lead to a third world war, and said he wanted to reach a “compromise” over the eastern Donbas region, held by Russian-backed forces since 2014.

Russia says it is conducting a “special military operation” in Ukraine with the aim of demilitarising its neighbour. Ukraine and its Western allies call this a pretext for an unprovoked invasion.

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