Ukraine will not compromise when it comes to its “territorial integrity,” but is determined to continue negotiations with Russia to bring an end to the war, President Volodymyr Zelensky has said.
Asked by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Sunday to comment on Moscow’s demands, which include the recognition of Crimea as a part of Russia and the Donbass republics as independent states, Zelensky said these were compromises for which Ukraine “cannot be ready as an independent state.”
“Any compromises related to our territorial integrity and our sovereignty” could not be made, he said, adding that “you cannot just make a president of another country recognize anything by the use of force.”
Zelensky stressed that, without negotiations, it would be impossible to resolve the conflict, however, and that failure to reach an agreement could lead to a third world war. He reiterated his willingness to hold direct talks with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
“I have been ready for the past two years,” Zelensky said.
While, in a significant concession, he acknowledged last week that Ukraine would not join NATO, he suggested on Sunday that if the bloc did want to admit his nation, it should happen “immediately.”
“If we were a NATO member, a war wouldn’t have started. I’d like to receive security guarantees for my country, for my people,” he said.
Addressing Putin’s allegations that there are neo-Nazis in Ukraine’s government, Zelensky described them as “laughable.” Such accusations raised “many questions” about the Russian president’s goals and “what else he is capable of doing for the sake of his ambitions,” he said.
On Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov defined Russia’s demands as “absolutely minimal” and suggested the Ukrainian delegation “was being held by the hand, most likely by the Americans,” who he said were not allowing Kiev to agree to Moscow’s requests.
On Sunday, following talks during the week in the capitals of both Russia and Ukraine, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the two sides were closer to an agreement on “critical” issues.
Ukrainian presidential aide Mikhail Podolyak earlier estimated that negotiations on a peace treaty might take “from a few days to one and half weeks.”
Moscow launched an offensive in Ukraine in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.
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