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Russia says parts of a Ukraine compromise deal are close

Russia says parts of a Ukraine compromise deal are close

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint news conference with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Moscow, Russia Mar 14, 2022. (Photo: Reuters/Evgenia Novozhenina)

Russia said on Wednesday (Mar 16) that some parts of a possible peace deal with Ukraine were close to being agreed upon after Kyiv agreed to discuss neutrality, raising hopes of an end to the biggest war in Europe since World War II.

"Neutral status is now being seriously discussed along, of course, with security guarantees," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told RBC news.

"Now this very thing is being discussed in negotiations - there are absolutely specific formulations which in my view are close to an agreement," Lavrov said.

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.

The euro extended gains after Lavrov's comments and was up 0.4 per cent to US$1.10.

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

Ukraine has also made cautious positive statements on peace talks. It says it is willing to negotiate to end the war, but will not surrender or accept Russian ultimatums.

Lavrov said key issues included the security of people in eastern Ukraine, the demilitarisation of Ukraine and the rights of Russian-speaking people in Ukraine.

Ukraine's leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy struck a cautiously optimistic note over ongoing peace talks with Russia in a Wednesday video address.

"It is difficult, but important, as any war ends with an agreement. The meetings continue, and, I am informed, the positions during the negotiations already sound more realistic," he said.

On Tuesday, prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia arrived in Kyiv – the first visit from foreign leaders since the crisis began.

"We're also here to tell you that you're not alone, your fight is our fight and together we will prevail. 'Slava Ukraini' (Glory to Ukraine)," said Slovenia’s Prime Minister Janez Jansa.

The leaders arrived in the city hours after local authorities reported a deadly Russian air strike. They reported bombardments that hit the capital before dawn and killed at least five people.

Moscow has not captured any of Ukraine's 10 biggest cities since it invaded last month, seeding hope among Ukrainian officials who say the war could end sooner than expected.

A possible point of compromise may be NATO. 

Zelenskyy said earlier Ukraine was prepared to accept security guarantees from the West that stop short of its long-term goal of joining NATO.

Announcing the invasion on Feb 24, Putin blamed the United States for threatening Russia by enlarging the NATO military alliance eastwards into Russia's backyard.

Russia sees any possibility of Ukraine joining NATO as a threat and has demanded guarantees it will never be a member.

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.

It called its actions a "special military operation" to demilitarise and "denazify" Ukraine. Ukraine and the West have said that claims of genocide are baseless pretexts for a war of choice. 

The United Nations has also warned that nine out of 10 Ukrainians could be plunged into poverty if the war drags on. 

Many residents are still sheltering from repeated Russian bombing on several cities including Mariupol, the location of the worst humanitarian crisis where people are desperate for food and water.

Ukraine’s vice president confirmed that a convoy with supplies for the city had been hit at a nearby port.

The UN has said more than 3 million people have now fled Ukraine. And according to a Mar 14 estimate, more than 600 civilians have been killed.

Source: Reuters/yb

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