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Ukraine willing to be neutral, says Russia wants to split nation

Published 03/26/2022, 11:10 PM
Updated 03/27/2022, 06:21 PM
© Reuters. People watch as smoke rises after an airstrike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Lviv, Ukraine March 26, 2022. REUTERS/Pavlo Palamarchuk

By Pavel Polityuk and Oleksandr Kozhukhar

LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) - Ukraine is willing to become neutral and compromise over the status of the eastern Donbass region as part of a peace deal, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday, even as another top Ukrainian official accused Russia of aiming to carve the country in two.

Zelenskiy took his message directly to Russian journalists in a video call that the Kremlin pre-emptively warned Russian media not to report, saying any agreement must be guaranteed by third parties and put to a referendum.

"Security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state. We are ready to go for it," he said, speaking in Russian.

But even as Turkey is set to host talks this week, Ukraine's head of military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, said Russian President Vladimir Putin was aiming to seize the eastern part of Ukraine.

"In fact, it is an attempt to create North and South Korea in Ukraine," he said, referring to the division of Korea after World War Two. Zelenskiy has urged the West to give Ukraine tanks, planes and missiles to help fend off Russian forces.

In a call with Putin on Sunday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan agreed to hold talks this week in Istanbul and called for a ceasefire and better humanitarian conditions, his office said. Ukrainian and Russian negotiators confirmed that in-person talks would take place.

Top American officials sought on Sunday to clarify that the United States does not have a policy of regime change in Russia, after President Joe Biden said at the end of a speech in Poland on Saturday that Putin "cannot remain in power".

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Biden had simply meant Putin could not be "empowered to wage war" against Ukraine or anywhere else.

After more than four weeks of conflict, Russia has failed to seize any major Ukrainian city and signalled on Friday it was scaling back its ambitions to focus on securing the Donbass region, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting the Ukrainian army for the past eight years.

A local leader in the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic said on Sunday the region could soon hold a referendum on joining Russia, just as happened in Crimea after Russia seized the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014.

Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to break with Ukraine and join Russia -- a vote that much of the world refused to recognise.

Budanov predicted Ukraine's army would repel Russian forces by launching a guerrilla warfare offensive.

"Then there will be one relevant scenario left for the Russians, how to survive," he said.

Ukraine's foreign ministry spokesperson also dismissed talk of any referendum in eastern Ukraine.

"All fake referendums in the temporarily occupied territories are null and void and will have no legal validity," Oleg Nikolenko told Reuters.

'CRUEL AND SENSELESS'

Moscow says the goals for what Putin calls a "special military operation" include demilitarising and "denazifying" its neighbour. Ukraine and its Western allies call this a pretext for unprovoked invasion.

Ukraine has described previous negotiations, some of which have taken place in Russian ally Belarus, as "very difficult".

The invasion has devastated several Ukrainian cities, caused a major humanitarian crisis and displaced an estimated 10 million people, nearly a quarter of Ukraine's population.

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Tatyana Manyek, who crossed the Danube by ferry into Romania on Sunday with other refugees, said people in her home city of Odesa were "very afraid" but she would have stayed were it not for her daughter.

"It would be very difficult to provide the child with basic living conditions. That's why we decided to leave," she said, clutching a pet dog in her arms.

In his Sunday blessing, Pope Francis called for an end to the "cruel and senseless" conflict.

CALL FOR WEAPONS

Zelenskiy demanded in a late-night television address on Saturday that Western nations hand over military hardware that was "gathering dust" in stockpiles, saying his nation needed just 1% of NATO's aircraft and 1% of its tanks.

Western nations have given Ukraine anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles as well as small arms and protective equipment, without offering heavy armour or planes.

Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko said Russia had started destroying Ukrainian fuel and food storage centres. Appearing to confirm that, Russia said its missiles had wrecked a fuel deposit on Saturday as well as a military repair plant near the western city of Lviv.

Ukraine was mounting small counter-offensive actions as Russian forces try to encircle its forces in eastern Ukraine, a Ukrainian presidential advisor said.

The United Nations has confirmed 1,119 civilian deaths and 1,790 injuries across Ukraine but says the real toll is likely to be higher. Ukraine said on Sunday 139 children had been killed and more than 205 wounded so far in the conflict.

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Ukraine and Russia agreed two "humanitarian corridors" to evacuate civilians from frontline areas on Sunday, including allowing people to leave by car from the southern city of Mariupol, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

The encircled port, located between Crimea and eastern areas held by Russian-backed separatists, has been devastated by weeks of heavy bombardment. Thousands of residents are sheltering in basements with scarce water, food, medicine or power.

Latest comments

War
Biden gets best dialogue writer Oscar medal 🏅 for "For god's sake, this man cannot be in power."
Biden just said out loud what everybody is thinking right now
Biden gets Bravery 🥇 medal for getting back safely from Poland
The Ukrainian people are the only brave ones. The west are just trying to help them, while avoiding ww3
Biden garbage. Wheres trump we need him
stacy Little cuck trump is hiding in his gimp-cave, waiting until his master putler has time to use him again
anij
Zelenskyy had this option from the beginning. He chose to put his people through this. The corruption in Ukraine is so deep and expands to all US leadership, republicans and democrats. Ukrainians are the one who suffer.
drivel.. putler started this war 8 years ago by invading Crimea and annexing Donbas by proxy. It has always been his mad dictator fantasy to take Ukraine for himself
This is Biden’s America- too sad
You seem confused. This is Ukraine, getting invaded by trumps bff, putler
crimean peninsula is important because it provides Russia with a warm water port. everything else would be negotiable - Donbas is the pawn.
Maybe an East/West Ukraine would work? But not like East/West Germany. Allow citizens to choose which side to live on.
Yeah, and why not give Alaska and the westcoast to russia too? Then people can decide which side to live on
dimdim your impartial post was parroted from official Russian Propaganda organs inside Russia . your support for the blocodthirsty Russian dictatorship and little man putin is odvious.
if Ukraine deals now with Russia before it destroys the Russian onslaught Putin will be back to finish the Ukraine after Putin "licks his wounds".
Dave I see you support the the brutality of the Russian dictator Putin . biden just destroyed the Russian economy and the bumbling and stupidity of the Russian invasion and it's iblood thirsty ncompetent dictator Putin.
 Russian economy is actually doing pretty good. Better than before. Sux but true.
how is the vote counting going?
what a *******waste of lives and time! Russia should be embarrassed about its military performance. Why not take the time to completely back the Russians off the land or why the Russians don't continue until the whole country and its resources are subdue!? So both sides just wasted human lives for nothing.
This looks like the end is near and a treaty will take place this week.  Be very cautious if you are long Oil and Gold!
Bad time to get into oil.
Oppress and destroy and displace, pillage, and then expect a country in a depressed state not to agree to neutrality? Really? Sick
we need Ukrainian potatoes!
Sell Crimea and Donbas to Russia for $500B each. Russia owes Ukraine additional 1T$ for damages, and additional 10B$ blood money to families of killed citizens and soldiers. Crimea and Donbas must demilitarize. Sanctions on Russia remain in place for next 20 years. Putin and Defense Minister face war crime tribunals and resign (they can't remain in power if in prison). Let's start here for negotiations.
Dream of a pie in the sky
Willing to be neutral? This sounds like progress.
Yes, completely destroy a people's country, a sovereign nation, including their nuclear facilities,, then expect them to agree to neutrality? Yay
Zelinsky is offering it, and it is a compromise that will prevent a much wider and more destructive war. Alternatively, he can double down, demand that the US shoot down Russian fighter jets over his airspace, and if we do, there will probably be missile strikes all over Western European cities in reply, if not something even worse. I'm sorry if it sounds like a bad bargain to you, but it sounds like the best hope for an early end to a real nightmare.
The Russians Are Losing .Their Orthodox Patriarch Is 😈.
I believe the threatz Moscow have made will be having public at-large so upset that just standing back with idle hands now upon Putin's atrocious, horrific act will be impossible #WW3
I disagree, Zelensky offering neutrality is a positive sign.
no worries, ukraine wins and ukrainian tractors have killed hundreds of russian tanks, no worries
Keep watching RT.
LikevI said, world won't stand for this kind of attitude. Biden inferred, too, that we're about to attack. I really don't think he was naively talking to Russian people to overthrow dictator when it's an autocracy. Like that's even possible, Putin is in complete control of his country, very thinly veiled too. Leaders sit in chairs and Putin speaks and leaders do, kind of like E.F. Hutton commercial of 80s, "When EF Hutton talks, people listen." Eberytning everyone doing just stops. Only way to remove him from power is to go to war #WW3
Expect markets to vault higher...
Bumbling biden is going to start ww3. Hopefully Putler sees him for what he is...a senile old man who should be in a rest home. Greatest fraud perpetrated in American history is how this sock puppet became president.
Republicans "Biden is too weak on Russia". Today "Biden is too strong on Russia". Make up your hypocritical minds already
   "Biden is too sleepy!"  "Biden is too woke!"
Fact is, Biden has done a great job so far. Not letting russia get away with it like trump would have, at the same time avoiding starting ww3
if usa and nato not going to help why not just give up and see how nato and usa are truely are?
Judging by what happened to Georgia, they probably should have reconsidered picking a fight with their neighbor to the East that has thousands of thermonuclear ICBMs at the ready. Just saying.
I think, Russ just wanted to iso Kyiv from Port area so it's locked up with no real port authority or infrastructure so badly damaged it's people leave or morale so low that Russians then take over Mariopol region much like Crimea and Donbas regionsAwful hard to operate as more than a Third World country when no port & reduced cities infrastructure as looks to me Karkhiv & Cheryviv north of Kyiv are both in ruins. This is what Putin wanted, he didn't ever really want Kyiv...
at least this guy knows the truth I've been saying that for many many decades Russia wants a buffer.
Russia wants to back to USSR as much as possible
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