Negotiations to agree a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine appear to be making significant progress after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said talks were starting to become “more realistic”.
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“Ukrainian and Russian negotiators fully discussed the proposed deal for the first time on Monday,” the two people involved in the talks told. Financial Times (FT). Others involved in the negotiations said the prospect of a “Russian ceasefire and withdrawal” was on the table if Kyiv “declared neutrality and accepted the limits of its armed forces”.
According to the article, the agreement is currently in the form of a “15-point draft”. “However, the nature of Western guarantees to Ukraine’s security – and their acceptability for Moscow – could be a major obstacle to any agreement.”
An awkward truce
Hope is mounted this week of a breakthrough in ongoing peace negotiations after Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said an “Austrian-like” compromise could bring peace between Russia and Ukraine before a full-scale attack on Kyiv is launched.
“This is a variant that is currently being discussed and can really be seen as a compromise,” Peskov was quoted by state news agency RIA as saying.
Five people briefed on the negotiations told the FT the deal would “involve Kyiv give up ambition to join Nato and promised not to acquire military bases or foreign assets in exchange for protection from allies such as the US, UK and Turkey.
However, obstacles include “the status of the country’s territories seized by Russia and its proxy forces in 2014,” the FT said. “A 1994 agreement underpinning Ukraine’s security failed to prevent the Kremlin’s aggression against the neighboring country.”
The deal, which is being brokered by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, will likely “allow Ukraine to maintain a standing army”, walkie talkie reported. Peskov’s comparison to Austria reflects a “similar 1955 commitment” to “persuading the Soviet Union to end the decade-long occupation of Austria after World War II”.
Vienna “declared permanent neutrality that year, which resulted in the Soviet Union agreeing to end its occupation,” the newspaper added. But it also “promises not to join any military alliance, such as NATO, and never to place foreign military bases on its soil.”
Officials in Kyiv are also “sceptical” that Putin is “fully committed to peace” amid concerns that Moscow “could buy time to regroup and continue the offensive,” the FT reported.
An official told the newspaper: “There is a possibility that this is a hoax and delusion. They lie about everything. Crimea, the military build-up on the border and the ‘hysteria’ before the invasion. We need to put pressure on them until they have no choice but to agree to a peace deal.”
The Telegraph reports that compromise on Ukraine’s neutrality is “likely to fulfill one of Vladimir Putin’s main demands”, namely that “Ukraine never joins NATO”. But “other Russian demands will cause major problems for Kyiv”.
This includes “Russia’s request that Ukraine recognized the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and independence of two seceded states in the eastern border region of Donbas”, the FT reported. Two people involved in the talks said Moscow was also asking for “terms of custody of the Russian language in Ukraine”.
Immediately after the FT announced the terms of the negotiations, Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to President Zelenskyy, tweeted: “The FT has published a draft, which expresses the position requested by the Russian side. Just barely making it. The Ukrainian side has its own position.
“The only thing we confirm at this stage is the ceasefire, the withdrawal of Russian troops and security guarantees from some countries.”
Newsweek described the terms set forth by the FT as “just a list of Russian demands”, while Sky News added that the apparent breakthrough in the peace talks came as “Moscow continued its attacks on Kyiv and other major cities”.
Ukraine last night “accused Russian forces of bombing a theater where civilians were sheltering in the besieged southern city of Mariupol“, the BBC speak. Deputy mayor Sergei Orlov told the broadcaster that 1,000 to 1,200 people had sought refuge in the building.
President Zelenskyy yesterday seemed to hint that Ukraine will never join NATO as a concessionary party in peace talks. Speaking to members of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force via video link, he said the possibility his country would not become a member of the military alliance was a “fact” that “must be recognised”.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also raised hopes of a deal, telling RBC News: “Negotiations are not easy for obvious reasons. But nevertheless, there is some hope of reaching a compromise.
He added: “Neutrality is now being seriously discussed in earnest along with security guarantees. “This is what is currently being discussed at the negotiations. There are words that are completely specific and in my view the parties are close to agreeing on them.”
https://www.theweek.co.uk/news/world-news/russia/956117/what-might-russian-ukraine-peace-plan-look-like What might the Russia-Ukraine peace plan look like?