President Zelensky says Ukraine ready to discuss adopting neutral statustext_fields
Kyiv: President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday his government is "carefully" considering to adopt a neutral stance as part of a peace deal with Russia, according to Reuters.
In an interview with several independent Russian news organisations, Zelensky said, "This point of the negotiations is understandable to me and it is being discussed, it is being carefully studied."
A neutral stance would have to be guaranteed by third parties and put to a referendum, Zelensky said in remarks aired on Sunday.
"Security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state. We are ready to go for it. This is the most important point," Zelensky said.
Zelensky said he denied other Russian demands, like the demilitarization of Ukraine.
The new talks -- starting in Turkey on either Monday or Tuesday, according to conflicting reports -- come after the Russian army said it would begin focusing on eastern Ukraine in a move some analysts saw as a scaling back of Moscow's ambitions.
A key demand from Putin, even before his troops rolled into Ukraine on February 24, was that it renounce its stated intention of eventually joining NATO.
The Kremlin earlier this month said Sweden and Austria offered models of neutrality that Ukraine could adopt.
Kyiv rejected the proposal, and in his interview with Russian journalists, Zelensky accused Putin of dragging out negotiations and prolonging the conflict.
The UN estimates that at least 1,100 civilians have died and more than 10 million have been displaced in a devastating war that has gone on far longer than Moscow leaders expected.
But as the Russians face serious tactical and logistical problems, Ukraine's intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said Putin might be seeking to divide the country in Korea-like fashion -- to "impose a separation line between the occupied and unoccupied regions".
"After a failure to capture Kyiv and remove Ukraine's government, Putin is changing his main operational directions. These are south and east," he wrote on Facebook. "It will be an attempt to set up South and North Koreas in Ukraine."
Russia may try to establish a quasi-state of occupied zones with its own currency, he said, while adding that Ukrainian forces could foil those plans.