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Russia says any Putin-Zelenskiyy meeting should be to seal deal

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Ukraine rejects Russian neutrality proposals
Anti-tank obstacles line a deserted street in the center of Odesa, Ukraine.

UKRAINE: Russia said on Wednesday there were no obstacles to a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiyy, but that such a meeting would only take place to seal a specific agreement.

“There are no obstacles to the organisation of such a meeting with the understanding that it would not be just for its own sake; it would have to seal concrete agreements which are currently being worked out by the two delegations,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters.

Meanwhile, Ukraine said it wants its security to be guaranteed by international forces and rejected proposals pushed by Russia for it to adopt a neutral status comparable to Austria or Sweden.

“Ukraine is now in a direct state of war with Russia. As a result, the model can only be ‘Ukrainian’ and only on legally verified security guarantees,”  its top negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak said in comments published by President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office.

He called for a legally binding security agreement, signed by international partners, who would “not stand aside in the event of an attack on Ukraine, as they do today.”

The Kremlin earlier said that a neutral Ukraine along the lines of Sweden or Austria was being discussed at talks with Kyiv to end three weeks of fighting in Ukraine.

“This is an option that is being discussed now and that can be considered as a compromise,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

His comments came after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said neutrality was taking centre stage at the talks. Russia’s lead negotiator had earlier introduced the proposal shot down by Ukraine.

Sweden officially is militarily non-aligned in peacetime and neutral in times of war, having ended its policy of neutrality in 1992 at the end of the Cold War.

Russia and Ukraine have held several rounds of negotiations with the latest bout ending late Tuesday and Kyiv pointing to “fundamental contradictions”.

Russia’s lead negotiator Vladimir Medinsky told reporters earlier Wednesday that talks were “slow and difficult” but said the Kremlin wants peace “as soon as possible.”

Other than neutrality for Ukraine, Medinsky said issues including the status of the Crimean peninsula as well as territories held for years by pro-Moscow separatists were being discussed. — AFP



Friday, March 18, 2022 – 01:00

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