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

World Mar 27, 2022 06:21PM ET
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6/6 © 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 2/6

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".

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.

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.

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.

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

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Comments (42)
Dave Jones
Dave Jones Mar 28, 2022 6:24AM ET
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War
Murali Krishna
Murali Krishna Mar 27, 2022 9:09PM ET
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Biden gets best dialogue writer Oscar medal 🏅 for "For god's sake, this man cannot be in power."
Maximus Maximus
Maximus Maximus Mar 27, 2022 9:09PM ET
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Biden just said out loud what everybody is thinking right now
Murali Krishna
Murali Krishna Mar 27, 2022 8:39PM ET
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Biden gets Bravery 🥇 medal for getting back safely from Poland
Maximus Maximus
Maximus Maximus Mar 27, 2022 8:39PM ET
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The Ukrainian people are the only brave ones. The west are just trying to help them, while avoiding ww3
Stacy Starner
Stacy Starner Mar 27, 2022 8:39PM ET
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Biden garbage. Wheres trump we need him
Maximus Maximus
Maximus Maximus Mar 27, 2022 8:39PM ET
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stacy Little cuck trump is hiding in his gimp-cave, waiting until his master putler has time to use him again
Anuj Singh
Anuj Singh Mar 27, 2022 8:38PM ET
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anij
Options Trader
Options Trader Mar 27, 2022 8:17PM ET
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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.
Maximus Maximus
Maximus Maximus Mar 27, 2022 8:17PM ET
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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
Tyrone Jackson
Tyrone Jackson Mar 27, 2022 8:09PM ET
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This is Biden’s America- too sad
Maximus Maximus
Maximus Maximus Mar 27, 2022 8:09PM ET
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You seem confused. This is Ukraine, getting invaded by trumps bff, putler
Jason Patcher
Jason Patcher Mar 27, 2022 8:06PM ET
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crimean peninsula is important because it provides Russia with a warm water port. everything else would be negotiable - Donbas is the pawn.
Vince Brooks
Caspian Mar 27, 2022 7:18PM ET
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Maybe an East/West Ukraine would work? But not like East/West Germany. Allow citizens to choose which side to live on.
Maximus Maximus
Maximus Maximus Mar 27, 2022 7:18PM ET
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Yeah, and why not give Alaska and the westcoast to russia too? Then people can decide which side to live on
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Mar 27, 2022 6:30PM ET
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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.
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Mar 27, 2022 6:00PM ET
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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".
 
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