Ukraine and Russia have made “significant progress” on a tentative 15-point peace plan that would involve Kyiv renouncing NATO membership ambitions in return for security guarantees, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.
The plan include a ceasefire and Russian withdrawal if Kyiv declares neutrality and accepts limits on its armed forces, the FT quoted three people involved in the talks as saying.
“The proposed deal, which Ukrainian and Russian negotiators discussed in full for the first time on Monday, would involve Kyiv renouncing its ambitions to join NATO and promising not to host foreign military bases or weaponry in exchange for protection from allies such as the U.S., UK and Turkey,” the sources told the Financial Times.
Two of the sources said the putative deal also includes provisions on enshrining rights for the Russian language in Ukraine, where it is widely spoken though Ukrainian is the only official language. Russia has framed its invasion as an attempt to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine from what it claims to be a “genocide” by “neo-Nazis”.
Ukraine said Wednesday it wants its security to be guaranteed by international forces and rejected proposals pushed by Russia for it to adopt a neutral status comparable to Austria or Sweden.
“Ukraine is now in a direct state of war with Russia. As a result, the model can only be ‘Ukrainian’ and only on legally verified security guarantees,” its top negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak said in comments published by President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office.
He called for a legally binding security agreement, signed by international partners, who would “not stand aside in the event of an attack on Ukraine, as they do today.”
The Kremlin earlier Wednesday said that a neutral Ukraine along the lines of Sweden or Austria was being discussed at talks with Kyiv to end three weeks of fighting in Ukraine.
“This is an option that is being discussed now and that can be considered as a compromise,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Russia and Ukraine have held several rounds of negotiations with the latest bout ending late Tuesday and Kyiv pointing to “fundamental contradictions”.
Russia’s foreign minister said earlier Wednesday that Moscow and Kyiv were “close to agreeing” the wording of an agreement on neutrality.
Both sides had earlier raised hopes of a breakthrough, referring to documents that were close to being put to paper and signed.
Russia’s lead negotiator Vladimir Medinsky told reporters earlier Wednesday that talks were “slow and difficult” but said the Kremlin wants peace “as soon as possible.”
Other than neutrality for Ukraine, Medinsky said issues including the status of the Crimean peninsula as well as territories held for years by pro-Moscow separatists were being discussed.