Ukraine and Russia take ‘significant’ steps towards agreement for ceasefire and withdrawal

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Ukraine and Russia are making ‘significant’ progress in agreeing a ceasefire and withdrawal of troops with a draft 15-point peace deal.

In the document, Kiev would agree to neutrality and accept restrictions on its military to stop the barbaric attacks on its citizens by Putin’s forces.

It would also see Volodymyr Zelensky renounce his NATO ambitions and pledge not to house Western military bases or weapons in exchange for protection.

Sources informed about the talks told the Financial times that another provision includes the entrenching of Russian language rights in Ukraine.

But the biggest sticking point remains Russia’s insistence that Ukraine recognize the annexation of Crimea and the independence of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Putin is insisting that all of Donbass split off from Ukraine, not just the parts occupied by pro-Moscow rebels before the fighting broke out.

Ukraine and Russia make 'significant' progress in agreeing ceasefire and troop withdrawals with draft 15-point peace deal

Ukraine and Russia make ‘significant’ progress in agreeing ceasefire and troop withdrawals with draft 15-point peace deal

On Monday, the proposals were discussed in full for the first time, and both sides said progress had been made.

But Ukrainian officials are skeptical that Putin will abide by the terms of the agreement, and the Kremlin can buy time to regroup for another offensive.

A Ukrainian source aware of the talks said: “There is a chance that this is deception and illusion. They lie about everything – Crimea, the build-up of troops on the border and the “hysteria” about the invasion.

“We have to pressure them until they have no other choice,” she added.

But a Russian source said the proposed settlement could provide a way for both sides to declare victory in the brutal war.

Zelensky adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said any deal includes the removal of Russian troops from Ukraine who have been captured since the invasion began.

Despite the positive signals, Ukraine today rejected a Russian plan to become ‘neutral’, such as Sweden or Austria.

Kiev said any deal must include security guarantees endorsed by “international partners” who agree to defend Ukraine in the event that it is attacked again.

Podolyak said the international community cannot be allowed to “stand aside in the event of an attack on Ukraine, as they are doing today” if the fighting started again.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed today that neutrality is key as Moscow and Kiev are “close to agreement” on the formulation of an agreement.

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

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

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

Ukraine (pictured, President Vlodymyr Zelensky) on Wednesday demanded guarantees that international forces will “prevent attacks” in the future and rejected Russia’s proposal to allow Kiev to become “neutral” like Austria or Sweden

What is the ‘Austrian model’ of neutrality?

In 1955, Austria signed the Moscow Memorandum – a deal with the Soviet Union that guaranteed it to remain neutral after re-establishing itself as a sovereign nation in the aftermath of World War II.

As part of the deal, Vienna wrote in its new constitution that it would not join military alliances or receive foreign troops on its territory, and that it would not declare or participate in any wars or invasions.

The agreement has since been amended, allowing Austria to join the UN and deploy troops on “peacekeeping missions” mandated by the Security Council — such as in the 1990-91 Iraq-Kuwait conflict.

In 1995, Austria became part of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program – allowing it to contribute to NATO’s peacekeeping forces – although it only joined after Russia joined.

Austria has also joined the EU, whose treaties do include a common defense policy, although it is not active and would require a unanimous vote from the European Council to activate it.

Neutrality for Austria was a Soviet precondition for granting sovereignty to the country, which had been occupied by Allied forces since the end of World War II.

It was based on the Swiss model of neutrality dating back to the Peace of Westphalia of 1640 – closely following a similar historic agreement in effect in Sweden.

Finland, which borders directly on Russia and fought against the Soviets in the run-up to World War II, is another European country committed to neutrality in a pact with the USSR signed in 1948 – the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and mutual assistance.

As with the Austrian model, Finland’s neutrality agreement prohibits it from joining military alliances considered hostile to Russia, housing foreign troops on its territory, or permitting an attack on Russia through its territory.

Summarizing peace talks on the Russian side, a senior official told Reuters that there are “a slim chance of a peaceful solution,” adding, “Something will be decided in three days to a week.”

Another leading Russian source said Putin is ready to consider peace on the terms of Russia and that there is a chance for some sort of deal.

But the officials spoke amid warnings from British and American intelligence that the Kremlin is also seeking reinforcements to the front lines to free up military forces for new attacks.

It means that Putin, who came on state television before the invasion to say that Ukraine has no right to exist as a country, could also try to continue the war with the aim of uniting Ukraine and Russia under one flag.

News of a closer deal came a day after Zelensky said his country will have to accept not to join NATO – a key Russian demand used to back the Kremlin’s decision to attack. justify.

The two sides have held several rounds of negotiations to reach an agreement and halt hostilities launched by Russian leader Vladimir Putin in late February.

The latest battle ended late Tuesday with Kiev pointing out “fundamental contradictions” in delegations’ positions.

Both sides had previously raised hopes for a breakthrough, citing agreements that were about to be put on paper and signed.

Lavrov warned on Wednesday that the negotiations were not easy, but that there was “some hope of reaching a compromise”.

Russian negotiator Medinsky repeated the line to reporters on Wednesday that the talks were “slow and difficult” but said the Kremlin wants peace “as soon as possible”.

He reiterated that the core of the talks is a “neutral” Ukraine, citing the status of Austria and Sweden as possible examples.

It would mean Ukraine can keep its armed forces, but Kiev should not have foreign bases, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“A whole host of issues related to the size of the Ukrainian army are being discussed,” Medinsky said, having previously said the parties are discussing an idea for a future Ukraine with a smaller, non-aligned army.

Sweden is officially militarily unattached in peacetime and neutral in times of war, as it ended its neutrality policy in 1992 at the end of the Cold War. It is not a member of NATO, but it has been an alliance partner for almost 30 years.

At the end of the Cold War, Sweden cut its military spending, but started investing again in its defense after Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014.

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

Lavrov said on Wednesday that the list of priorities has been included the security of people in eastern Ukraine, the demilitarization of Ukraine and the rights of Russian-speaking people in Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials have also made cautiously positive statements about the status of peace talks. Zelensky described the negotiations on Wednesday as “more realistic” but warned that more time was needed before a deal would be in Ukraine’s best interest.

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

Moscow Chief Negotiator Vladimir Medinsky

Moscow Chief Negotiator Vladimir Medinsky

Ukrainian chief negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak

Ukrainian chief negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak

Moscow’s chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky (left) said his delegation was pushing for Ukraine to adopt a status similar to that of Sweden or Austria. But Ukraine’s chief negotiator, Mikhailo Podolyak (right) has said he wants the country’s security to be guaranteed by international forces.

The apparent breakthrough came a day after Zelensky appeared to confirm that Ukraine will not join NATO.

On Tuesday he said that ‘we have been hearing for years that the doors were open, but also that we couldn’t come along. It is a truth and it must be acknowledged.’

Prior to the invasion, Putin had demanded guarantees that Ukraine would never be admitted to NATO, along with the removal of all alliance forces and weapons from ex-Soviet countries.

After being rejected by Kiev, Washington and NATO said Putin had no choice but to launch the military operation as Russian-speaking people in Ukraine had been victims of genocide by “nationalists and neo-Nazis” since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

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

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