Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that he is prepared to discuss the adoption of a status of neutrality as part of a peace deal with Russia.
As the next round of face-to-face negotiations between Ukraine and Russia take place this week in Turkey Zelensky told independent Russian journalists that “security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state. We are ready to go for it.”
But he added that the proposal would have to go to a referendum and be guaranteed by third parties.
Ukraine rules out demilitarization
Zelensky said Ukraine refused to discuss certain other Russian demands, such as the demilitarization of the country.
Speaking more than a month after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Zelensky said no peace deal would be possible without a ceasefire and troop withdrawals.
He ruled out trying to recapture all Russian-held territory by force, saying it would lead to a third world war and said he wanted to reach a “compromise” over the eastern Donbas region, held by Russian-backed forces since 2014.
Zelensky: Mariupol turned “into dust”
About 170,000 civilians remain trapped in Mariupol without adequate food, water or medicine, as the southern port city is being turned “into dust” by Russian shelling, according to Ukraine’s foreign ministry.
Zelensky claimed that 2,000 children from Mariupol have been taken by Russia, according to a press release published by the president’s office late on Sunday.
“According to our data, more than 2,000 children were deported. Which means they were abducted. Because we do not know the exact locations of all these children. There were children with and without parents. It’s a catastrophe, it’s horrible.”
Zelensky said the city remained blocked by the Russian military, describing the situation as a humanitarian catastrophe. “Food, medicine, and water can’t be delivered. The Russian troops are shelling humanitarian convoys and killing drivers.”
France, Greece and Turkey are hoping to launch a “humanitarian operation” to evacuate civilians within days, according to Macron, who has sought approval from Putin.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday he hoped to convince Russia to allow the evacuation during talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin within the next 48-72 hours.
Greek government sources said that Macron discussed the initiative with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the margins of the EU Summit. Greece has a special interest in Mariupol as tens of thousands of ethnic Greeks live in the area.