Russia promises to scale down operations; Ukraine proposes neutrality

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ISTANBUL – Russia promised at peace talks on Tuesday to drastically scale down its military operations around Kyiv and the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, while Ukraine proposed neutral status with international guarantees to protect it from attack.

Ukrainian negotiators said they had proposed a status under which their country would not join alliances or host bases of foreign troops, but would have its security guaranteed in terms similar to “Article 5”, the collective defence clause of NATO.

They identified Israel and NATO members Canada, Poland and Turkey as countries that could help provide such guarantees.

The proposals would include a 15-year consultation period on the status of Russian-annexed Crimea, and could come into force only in the event of a complete ceasefire, the Ukrainian negotiators told reporters in Istanbul.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses Russian and Ukrainian negotiators before their face-to-face talks in Istanbul, Turkey, March 29, 2022.
Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
Members of the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps fire with a howitzer, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, at a position in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine March 28, 2022.
Members of the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps fire with a howitzer, March 28, 2022.
REUTERS/Stanislav Yurchenko
Children and adults stay inside a subway station used as a bomb shelter
Children and adults stay inside a subway station used as a bomb shelter.
EPA/ROMAN PILIPEY

Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin said Russia had decided to scale down fighting near Kyiv and Chernihiv to create the conditions for dialogue.

Top Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said he would examine the Ukrainian proposals and report on them to President Vladimir Putin.

The talks held in Istanbul on Tuesday were the first face-to-face meeting between the sides since March 10. Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, and has failed to capture any major Ukrainian cities after meeting fierce resistance.

destroyed government building after being hit by Russian rockets in Mykolaiv.
A destroyed government building after being hit by Russian rockets in Mykolaiv.
BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images
Ukrainian soldiers look over the bodies of dead Russian soldiers after recent fights in the town of Trostsyanets
Ukrainian soldiers look over the bodies of dead Russian soldiers after recent fights in the town of Trostsyanets, March 28, 2022.
AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
Firefighters carry a dead body from the rubble of a government building hit by Russian rockets in Mykolaiv on March 29, 2022.
Firefighters carry a dead body from the rubble of a government building hit by Russian rockets in Mykolaiv on March 29, 2022.
BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images

Ukraine’s proposals were the most detailed and concrete that Kyiv has aired publicly.

“If we manage to consolidate these key provisions, and for us this is the most fundamental, then Ukraine will be in a position to actually fix its current status as a non-bloc and non-nuclear state in the form of permanent neutrality,” said Ukrainian negotiator Oleksander Chaly.

“We will not host foreign military bases on our territory, as well as deploy military contingents on our territory, and we will not enter into military-political alliances,” he said. Military exercises would take place with the consent of the guarantor countries.

Deputy heads of Ukraine's Presidential Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko and Ukraine's presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak wait for the beginning of talks with the Russian delegation
Deputy heads of Ukraine’s Presidential Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko and Ukraine’s presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak wait for the beginning of talks with the Russian delegation, March 29, 2022.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) greeting Russian chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky (L), MP Leonid Slutsky (C), chairman of the Russian State Duma's International Affairs Committee the Russian and members of Ukrainian delegation during their meeting for talks in Istanbul.
The delegates from Russia and Ukraine met Tuesday at an Istanbul palace.
MURAT CETIN MUHURDAR/TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVI/AFP via Getty Images
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich listens as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses Russian and Ukrainian negotiators.
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich listens as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses Russian and Ukrainian negotiators.
via REUTERS

The Ukrainian negotiators said there was enough material in their proposals to warrant a meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukrainian servicemen ride atop tanks in the town of Trostsyanets, Ukraine, Monday, March 28, 2022
Ukrainian servicemen ride atop tanks in the town of Trostsyanets, Ukraine, Monday, March 28, 2022.
AP Photo/Felipe Dana
Russian invasion of Ukraine as of March 24, 2022.
Russian invasion of Ukraine as of March 24, 2022.
A resident stands next to parts of a destroyed Russian tank in the town of Trostsyanets, Ukraine, Monday, March 28, 2022
A resident stands next to parts of a destroyed Russian tank in the town of Trostsyanets, Ukraine, Monday, March 28, 2022
AP Photo/Felipe Dana
Destroyed vehicles and buildings are seen in the town of Trostsyanets, Ukraine, Monday, March 28, 2022.
Destroyed vehicles and buildings are seen in the town of Trostsyanets, Ukraine, Monday, March 28, 2022.
AP Photo/Felipe Dana
The body of a Russian soldier lays in the woods in Trostsyanets, Ukraine, Monday, March 28, 2022.
Trostsyanets was recently retaken by Ukrainian forces after being held by Russians since the early days of the war.
AP Photo/Felipe Dana
Local residents pass at a damaged Russian tank in the town of Trostsyanets
Local residents pass at a damaged Russian tank in the town of Trostsyanets, March 28, 2022.
AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
A man removes belongings from a residential house that was destroyed during shelling in a settlement outside Kharkiv
A man removes belongings from a residential house that was destroyed during shelling in a settlement outside Kharkiv.
REUTERS/Thomas Peter

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