Zelensky says Ukraine prepared to discuss neutrality in peace talks
Ukraine's president has said his
government is prepared to discuss adopting a neutral status as part of a peace
deal with Russia.
In an interview with independent Russian
journalists, Volodymyr Zelensky said any such deal would have to be put to a
referendum in Ukraine.
He has made similar comments before, but
rarely so forcefully.
The news comes as the negotiations between
the two countries are set to resume this week in Turkey.
"Security guarantees and neutrality,
non-nuclear status of our state. We are ready to go for it. This is the most
important point," Mr Zelensky said in the 90-minute video call.
Neutrality means a country does not ally
itself militarily with others.
Mr Zelensky said that any potential
agreement would require a face-to-face meeting with President Putin and that
effective security guarantees that Ukraine would not come under attack were
The Ukrainian leader - speaking in
Russian throughout - added that Russia's invasion has caused the destruction of
Russian-speaking cities in Ukraine.
Later, in an overnight video address
to his nation, Mr Zelensky said Ukraine sought peace "without delay".
Russia's President Vladimir Putin
has long demanded a neutral Ukraine, and guarantees that it would not join the
Nato military alliance. After the country achieved independence in 1991, as the
Soviet Union collapsed, it has gradually veered towards the West - to both the EU and Nato.
But Russia's leader aims to reverse
that, seeing the fall of the Soviet Union as the "disintegration of
historical Russia". He has claimed Russians and Ukrainians are one people
and denied Ukraine its long history.
On Sunday, the Russian state media
regulator Roskomnadzor instructed the press not to publish the interview with
Ukraine's leader, and said "an investigation has been started in order to
identify the level of responsibility and what response will be taken" in
relation to those who carried out the interview.
Roskomnadzor notes some of the media
outlets that conducted the interview are designated "foreign agents"
in Russia. The country recently passed new laws restricting the way in which
Russian media can report on the war in Ukraine.
The interview was published by
outlets now based outside Russia.