The price of disengagement laid out by Russia include a demand that Kyiv publicly abandon its desire to join NATO, bringing Russia and Ukraine closer to drawing a 15 points neutrality plan to end the war.
According to three individuals familiar with the discussions, Ukraine and Russia have made substantial headway on a provisional 15-point peace plan that includes a ceasefire and Russian disengagement provided Kyiv pledges neutrality and adopts limits on its armed services, reports the Financial Times.
The proposed agreement, which Ukrainian and Russian negotiators discussed in detail for the first time on Tuesday, would see Kyiv abandoning its plans to join Nato and pledging not to host foreign military bases or weaponry in return for protection from allies such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Turkey, according to the people.
On Wednesday, Ukraine and Russia claimed to have made substantial breakthrough in settlement discussions, with Moscow expressing “hope for reaching a compromise.”
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, stated that “absolutely specific wordings” in discussions with Ukraine were “close to being agreed,” including security guarantees for Moscow and neutrality for Kyiv. Possibilities for Ukraine modeled after Austria and Sweden are being discussed, according to the Kremlin.
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Lavrov’s appraisal is the most hopeful yet from a senior Russian official, and it comes after Ukrainian President Zelensky said discussions with Moscow to resolve the war “sound more realistic.”
During another night of severe Russian shelling, Zelensky provided no specifics on how the negotiating stances of Kyiv and Moscow had narrowed, just saying that continued talks with Moscow were “difficult.”
However, Zelensky and his associates have been downplaying Ukraine’s prospects of joining NATO, which Russia regards as a provocation. Instead, Kyiv has hinted that alternate “security guarantees” would be a better choice.
“All wars end in agreements . . . As I am told, the positions in the negotiations sound more realistic,” Zelensky said in a video address. “However, time is still needed for the decisions to be in Ukraine’s interests.”
In response to Ukraine’s desire to join Nato, Zelensky said on Tuesday that he “acknowledged” that membership was not possible. “It’s understood that Ukraine is not a member of Nato. We understand this,” he said. “For years we have been hearing about so-called open doors. But we have also now heard that we cannot go there.”
Lavrov praised Zelensky’s “realistic assessment” of the negotiations, adding that Russian negotiators were cautiously hopeful as well. “The negotiations are difficult for obvious reasons,” Lavrov remarked in a broadcast with the RBC news channel. “But nonetheless there is a certain hope for reaching a compromise.”
Moscow has demanded that Kyiv publicly abandon its constitutionally mandated desire to join Nato, as well as recognize the independence of two pro-Russian separatist statelets in Ukraine’s east and Russian sovereignty over Crimea, which it acquired in 2014.
On Wednesday, the Kremlin suggested Austria and Sweden as possible precedents for Ukrainian neutrality. Such strategies would enable Ukraine to keep its armed forces while limiting its capacity to enter military alliances like NATO or host foreign military bases on its soil.
“This option is really being discussed now, and is one that can be considered neutral,” said Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.