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Russia has claimed that parts of a peace deal with Ukraine are close to being agreed with ‘neutral’ status for Kyiv under ‘serious’ consideration. 

It comes a day after Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelensky said his country must accept it will not become a member of NATO – a statement which was expected to pave the way for some kind of peace deal with Russia.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said told RBC news on Wednesday: ‘Neutral status is now being seriously discussed along, of course, with security guarantees. 

‘Now this very thing is being discussed in negotiations – there are absolutely specific formulations which in my view are close to agreement.’ 

He said that President Vladimir Putin had spoken about neutrality, along with security guarantees for Ukraine without NATO enlargement, as one possible variant in February. 

Separately, Moscow’s lead negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said his delegation was pushing for Ukraine to assume a status comparable Sweden or Austria, two neutral countries in western Europe. 

Medinsky said: ‘We need a peaceful, free, independent Ukraine, neutral – not a member of military blocs, not a member of NATO.’ 

The two sides have held several rounds of negotiations aimed at finding common ground and bringing the hostilities launched by Russian leader Vladimir Putin in late February to a halt.  

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that some parts of a possible peace deal with Ukraine were close to being agreed after Kyiv agreed to discuss neutrality

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that some parts of a possible peace deal with Ukraine were close to being agreed after Kyiv agreed to discuss neutrality

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that some parts of a possible peace deal with Ukraine were close to being agreed after Kyiv agreed to discuss neutrality

Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday that his country must accept it will not become a member of NATO - a statement which was expected to pave the way for some kind of peace deal with Russia

Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday that his country must accept it will not become a member of NATO - a statement which was expected to pave the way for some kind of peace deal with Russia

Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday that his country must accept it will not become a member of NATO – a statement which was expected to pave the way for some kind of peace deal with Russia

Lavrov has cautioned that the negotiations were not easy but that there was ‘some hope of reaching a compromise’.

He listed among Moscow’s priorities the security of people in eastern Ukraine, the demilitarisation of Ukraine and the rights of Russian-speaking people in Ukraine.  

Both sides had earlier raised hopes of a breakthrough, referring to agreements that were close to being put to paper and signed.

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

He reiterated that the core issue at the talks is a ‘neutral’ Ukraine, citing the status of Austria and Sweden as possible examples to follow.

Medinsky added that other issues were being discussed, including the status of the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, as well as territories held for years by pro-Moscow separatists.  

Kyiv was rocked overnight by new explosions which wounded at least two people and damaged two residential buildings (pictured, a woman with a child evacuates from an apartment block which was hit by Russian shelling early Wednesday)

Kyiv was rocked overnight by new explosions which wounded at least two people and damaged two residential buildings (pictured, a woman with a child evacuates from an apartment block which was hit by Russian shelling early Wednesday)

Kyiv was rocked overnight by new explosions which wounded at least two people and damaged two residential buildings (pictured, a woman with a child evacuates from an apartment block which was hit by Russian shelling early Wednesday)

Kyiv was rocked overnight by new explosions which wounded at least two people and damaged two residential buildings hours after the city was placed under curfew amid warnings to brace for a 36-hour bombardment at the hands of Russian forces

Kyiv was rocked overnight by new explosions which wounded at least two people and damaged two residential buildings hours after the city was placed under curfew amid warnings to brace for a 36-hour bombardment at the hands of Russian forces

Kyiv was rocked overnight by new explosions which wounded at least two people and damaged two residential buildings hours after the city was placed under curfew amid warnings to brace for a 36-hour bombardment at the hands of Russian forces

Aftermath of Russian shelling of a 12-storey residential building in Svyatoshyn district of Kyiv early on Wednesday, hours after the Ukrainian capital was placed under a 36-hour curfew

Aftermath of Russian shelling of a 12-storey residential building in Svyatoshyn district of Kyiv early on Wednesday, hours after the Ukrainian capital was placed under a 36-hour curfew

Aftermath of Russian shelling of a 12-storey residential building in Svyatoshyn district of Kyiv early on Wednesday, hours after the Ukrainian capital was placed under a 36-hour curfew

Ahead of the invasion, Putin had been demanding guarantees that Ukraine would never be admitted to NATO along with the removal of all the alliance’s troops and weapons from ex-Soviet countries. 

After being rebuffed by Kyiv, Washington and NATO Putin said there was no option but to launch the military operation because Russian-speaking people in Ukraine had been subjected to genocide by ‘nationalists and neo-Nazis’ since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. 

Russian negotiators have softened their stance a little since then, saying they want Ukraine to declare neutrality, disarm, recognise Crimea as part of Russia and recognise the whole of the Donbass as independent.

Ukraine has been demanding a ceasefire and the immediate withdrawal of all Russian forces.  

Zelensky said on Wednesday that peace talks with Russia were sounding ‘more realistic’ but more time was needed for any deal to be in the interests of Ukraine.  

Zelensky made the early morning statement after his team said a peace deal that will end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be struck with Vladimir Putin within one or two weeks because Russian forces will run out of fresh troops and supplies by then.

‘The meetings continue, and, I am informed, the positions during the negotiations already sound more realistic. 

‘But time is still needed for the decisions to be in the interests of Ukraine,’ Zelensky said in a video address on Wednesday, ahead of the next round of talks. 

Zelensky on Tuesday appeared to confirm that Ukraine would not join NATO, saying that ‘we have heard for years that the doors were open, but we also heard that we could not join. It’s a truth and it must be recognised.’

His statement, while making no firm commitments, was seen as further opening the door to some kind of peace deal between Ukraine and Russia. 

Source: Daily Mail

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