| 30 May 2024, Thursday |

Ukraine rejects Russian neutrality proposals, says peace deal must offer security

On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that peace talks must result in a fair deal for Ukraine that includes strong security guarantees to defend the country from future threats.

“We can and must fight right now, right now.” We have the ability and responsibility to defend our state, our lives, and our Ukrainian lives. In a video message, he added, “We can and must negotiate a just but fair peace for Ukraine, real security guarantees that will work.”

Ukraine’s senior negotiator, Mikhailo Podolyak, said the country wants international forces to ensure its security and rejected Russian plans for it to take a neutral status similar to Austria or Sweden.

“Ukraine is currently engaged in a direct conflict with Russia. As a result, the model can only be ‘Ukrainian,’ and it can only be based on legally validated security guarantees,” Podolyak said in remarks released by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office.

He demanded a legally enforceable security arrangement signed by foreign partners who would “not stand by in the event of an assault on Ukraine, as they do now.”

In discussions with Kyiv to end three weeks of conflict in Ukraine, the Kremlin stated earlier on Wednesday that a neutral Ukraine along the lines of Sweden or Austria was being explored.

“This is an alternative that is now being studied and that might be termed a compromise,” Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, told reporters.

Following Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s statement that neutrality was taking center stage at the discussions, he made his remarks. Russia’s chief negotiator had previously presented the idea that Ukraine had rejected.

Sweden is officially non-aligned militarily in peacetime and neutral militarily in times of conflict, having discontinued its neutrality stance in 1992 with the end of the Cold War.

Although it is not a member of NATO, it has been a partner for nearly 30 years.

Sweden cut its military spending at the end of the Cold War, but after Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, it began reinvesting in its defense.

Russia and Ukraine have undertaken multiple rounds of talks, the most recent of which ended late Tuesday with Kyiv citing “fundamental issues.”

Moscow and Kyiv were “near to agreeing” on the terms of a neutrality pact, Russia’s foreign minister said earlier Wednesday.

Both sides had previously expressed optimism about a breakthrough, referring to documents that were nearly ready to be printed and signed.

Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s chief negotiator, told reporters earlier Wednesday that discussions are “slow and arduous,” but that the Kremlin wants peace “as quickly as possible.”

Apart from Ukraine’s neutrality, Medinsky stated that the status of the Crimean peninsula and territory held by pro-Moscow separatists for years were being considered.

  • Reuters