Ukraine says ready for talks with Russia on neutral status

Published February 25, 2022
Servicemen of the Ukrainian National Guard take positions in central Kyiv, Ukraine. — Reuters
Servicemen of the Ukrainian National Guard take positions in central Kyiv, Ukraine. — Reuters

Ukraine wants peace and is ready for talks with Russia, including on neutral status regarding the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters on Friday.

"If talks are possible, they should be held. If in Moscow they say they want to hold talks, including on neutral status, we are not afraid of this," he said via a text message. "We can talk about that as well."

"Our readiness for dialogue is part of our persistent pursuit of peace."

Ukraine currently is not part of Nato or the European Union, though it wants to join both, anathema to its former overlord Moscow.

The statement from Podolyak comes after the Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to send a delegation to Minsk for negotiations with the representatives of Ukraine.

The development followed a phone call between Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who conveyed China's support to Moscow in its efforts to resolve the Ukraine crisis via dialogue.

According to a statement on the Chinese foreign ministry's website, Xi called for all sides to abandon a Cold War mentality, respect the legitimate security concerns of all countries, and form a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism through negotiation.

Xi said China respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said Xi respected Russia's actions and was ready for close coordination and mutual support at the United Nations, where both are veto-holding permanent members of the Security Council.

According to the Kremlin, Putin told Xi that Russia's military operation in Ukraine was necessary to protect people against “genocide”, an accusation that the West calls baseless propaganda.

Putin also communicated to Xi that the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation had long ignored Russia's legitimate security concerns, repeatedly reneged on their commitments, and continued to expand military deployment eastward, challenging Russia's strategic bottom line, according to the statement on Chinese foreign ministry's website.

Russia is willing to conduct high-level negotiations with Ukraine, the statement quoted Putin as saying.

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the talks conditional to Ukraine's military laying down its arms.

He said that Moscow did not want "neo-Nazis" to govern Ukraine.

Russia launched its operation on land, air and sea on Thursday following a declaration of war by President Vladimir Putin.

China has refused to call Russia's action in Ukraine an "invasion" or criticise Moscow.

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