(NewsNation) — Ukraine could declare neutrality and offer security guarantees to Russia to secure peace “without delay,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said ahead of another round of talks set for Tuesday.
Zelenskyy told Russian media outlets that Ukraine’s priority is ensuring its sovereignty and its “territorial integrity,” preventing Russia from carving up the country, something Ukraine and the West say could now be Moscow’s goal.
“Security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state — we are ready to go for it,” Zelenskyy said.
Zelenskyy has also long stressed that Ukraine needs security guarantees of its own as part of any deal.
Russia has long demanded that Ukraine drop any hope of joining the western NATO alliance, which Moscow sees as a threat. Zelenskyy said that the question of neutrality, which would keep Ukraine out of NATO or other military alliances, should be put to Ukrainian voters in a referendum after Russian troops withdraw.
The Ukrainian leader has suggested only a face-to-face meeting with Russia’s leader could end the war.
“We must come to an agreement with the president of the Russian Federation, and in order to reach an agreement, he needs to get out of there on his own feet and come to meet me,” he also said in an interview that Russia barred its media from publishing.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that the two presidents could meet, but only after the key elements of a potential deal are negotiated.
In an overnight video address to his nation, Zelenskyy said Ukraine sought peace “without delay” in talks due to get underway in Istanbul. That location was agreed after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, the Turkish leader’s office said. Negotiators are expected to arrive Monday.
Earlier talks, both by video and in person, have failed to make progress on ending a more than month-old war that has killed thousands and driven more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes, including almost 4 million from their country.
With Russia’s offensive stalled in many areas, its troops have resorted to pummeling Ukrainian towns and cities with rockets and artillery in a grinding war. Fierce fighting has raged on the outskirts of Kyiv, but Russian troops remain held up miles from the city center, their aim of quickly encircling the capital faltering.
Zelenskyy has made increasingly exasperated pleas for Western countries to do more, including sending fighter jets, accusing political leaders on Sunday of lacking courage. Countries from the NATO alliance have been hesitant to give Zelenskyy some of the more powerful equipment he’s begged for, for fear of triggering a much wider war.