Russia and Ukraine want to compromise in peace talks

  • About 20,000 people are fleeing Mariupol in private cars — in Ukraine
  • Hundreds of thousands are still trapped in the city
  • The United Kingdom says Russian forces are struggling to make progress
  • The President of Ukraine has said that the peace talks are very realistic.
  • US President Biden meets NATO leaders

KYIV / LVIV, Ukraine, March 16 (Reuters) – New talks on a compromise between Moscow and Kiev on Ukraine’s status outside NATO raised hopes for possible progress after three weeks of war on Wednesday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zhelensky called the talks “very realistic”, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he “hoped for a compromise.”

The Kremlin said both sides were discussing a position for Ukraine, such as Austria or Sweden, two members of the European Union outside the NATO military alliance. Ukraine’s chief negotiator said it would provide Kiev international security guarantees to prevent future attacks.

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As the war with Ukrainian civilians trapped in cities under Russian bombing continued, signs of reconciliation were relieved by global financial markets. Shares of Germany – Russia’s largest energy market – rose 3.4%.

Three weeks after the invasion, Russian troops were stationed at the gates of Kiev, suffered heavy casualties, and failed to capture any of Ukraine’s major cities in one battle, claiming that Moscow thought it would win in a few days.

Ukrainian officials this week expressed hope that the war would end sooner than expected. For the first time in more than a day, talks were to resume on Wednesday for the third day via video link.

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“Meetings continue, and I have been informed that the positions in the negotiations are already very realistic, but more time is needed to make decisions in the interests of Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said in a video conference overnight.

Later on Wednesday, he said the Ukrainians should fight to protect “our state, our lives, our Ukrainian lives,” but he stressed the need for talks on “just but fair peace and genuine security guarantees to Ukraine.”

Ukraine changes

On Tuesday, Zelenskiy said Ukraine could accept international security guarantees, halting its long-term intention to join NATO, which is seen as a major change.

A few months before the so-called “special operation” to disarm and “reduce” Ukraine, one of Russia’s key demands was to exclude Ukraine from the Western military alliance.

“Negotiations are not easy for obvious reasons,” Lavrov of Russia told RBC News. “But nonetheless, there is hope for a compromise.”

“Neutrality is now being seriously discussed, of course, with security guarantees,” Lavrov said. “In my view there are completely specific formulas that are close to the agreement.”

Both sides drew broad definitions only in the public sphere of a proposed compromise.

Russia’s chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky told state television: “Ukraine offers an Austrian or Swedish version of a neutral militarized state, but at the same time a state with its own army and navy.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on the idea: “This is a variation that is currently being discussed and can actually be seen as a compromise.”

Both Austria and Sweden have small armies to cooperate with NATO forces. They are the largest of the six EU members outside NATO, including Russia’s neighbor Finland.

Mykhailo Podolyak, Zelenskiy’s aide, Ukraine’s chief peace negotiator, described the model as “a strict agreement with a number of guaranteed countries that have clear legal obligations to prevent serious aggression.”

Hope

Kiev’s firm opposition on the battlefield and Western sanctions that have isolated Russia from the world economy have raised Kiev’s hopes that Moscow will offer concessions.

Despite Russia’s long-standing demand for Ukraine’s withdrawal from NATO, Kiev and its allies have said that Moscow’s real aim is to oust the leaders of a pro-Western, elected country.

Before the talks on Wednesday, Botoliag tweeted that the Ukrainian military offensive had “drastically changed the mood of the parties.”

Britain says Russian forces are stranded on the roads, unable to cope with Ukrainian territory and unable to gain control of the air.

“The tactics of the Ukrainian armed forces have effectively exploited Russia’s lack of maneuverability, frustrating Russian progress and inflicting heavy casualties on the invading forces,” it said.

Three million refugees

Europe’s largest invasion after World War II destroyed some Ukrainian cities and sent more than 3 million refugees abroad.

The streets of the capital, Kiev, were empty on Wednesday after authorities imposed a curfew overnight. Residents and emergency workers said several buildings in the residential area were badly damaged after a Russian missile was shot down early Wednesday morning.

There were no immediate reports of injuries as rescuers searched for signs of life in the rubble. The surrounding streets were covered with broken glass from hundreds of windows and a motorcycle from the missile appeared to be twisted on the roadside.

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However, the Ukrainian forces withstood the onslaught of a very large army. Zhelensky said Ukrainian troops had killed a fourth Russian major general in a recent battle. Reuters could not immediately confirm this.

“The invaders are not victorious today, yet they have thrown thousands of people into battle, north, east, south of our state. The enemy has lost weapons, and hundreds of soldiers are officers.”

Ukraine says about 20,000 people escaped in cars from the besieged port of Mariupol, but hundreds of thousands remain trapped in the bombings without heat, power or water.

Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vareshchuk said it was unclear whether the sidewalk for the city would open on Wednesday. He said 400 staff and patients had been taken hostage at a hospital captured by Russian forces in Mariupol on Tuesday.

Russia had to pay $ 117 million in interest on dollar-denominated sovereign bonds, but was forced to pay in rubles instead. Moscow said it had the money and would have to blame Washington if it failed to pay. read more

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Reuters bureau report; By Peter Groff, Michael Perry; Editing Lincoln Feast, Raju Gopalakrishnan, Alex Richardson and Filippa Fletcher

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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