Ukraine signals willingness to accept Russia’s core demands: Negotiator

Russia’s chief negotiator to talks with Ukraine, where a Russian special military operation has been going on since last month, says Kiev has signaled a willingness to meet Moscow’s core demands.

Speaking on Russian television on Wednesday, Vladimir Medinsky said Ukraine had said in writing it was willing to give up its ambition of joining the Western military alliance of NATO, adopt ‘non-bloc’ status, renounce nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and commit not to host foreign troops or military bases on its soil.

“Ukraine has declared its readiness to fulfill those fundamental requirements that Russia has been insisting on over the past years. If these obligations are met, then the threat of creating a NATO bridgehead on Ukrainian territory will be eliminated,” he said.

“This is the essence, meaning, and importance of the document preliminarily agreed upon at a … high level by Ukraine. However, work continues, negotiations continue,” the official noted.

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” aimed at “demilitarization” of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine. In 2014, the two regions declared themselves new republics, refusing to recognize Ukraine’s Western-backed government.

Announcing the operation, Putin said the mission was aimed at “defending people who for eight years are suffering persecution and genocide by the Kiev regime.”

The official, meanwhile, made it clear that Russia would not give up its insistence that Ukraine should recognize the loss of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that voted in 2014 in favor of joining the Russian federation.

Kiev, he added, also had to acknowledge the independence of Donetsk and Lugansk, which together make up the Donbas region.

“I want to emphasize separately that our country’s position on principle regarding Crimea and Donbas remains unchanged,” Medinsky said.

Medinsky’s remarks came a day after talks between the two sides in Istanbul where Russia said it would significantly reduce military operations near the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and the northern city of Chernihiv to promote trust.

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