MOSCOW — Russia said Wednesday that Ukrainian neutrality was at the heart of ongoing talks between Moscow and Kyiv aimed at finding a diplomatic solution to the nearly three weeks of fighting.
Moreover, the Moscow negotiator said his delegation urged Ukraine to adopt a status comparable to Sweden or Austria, two neutral countries in Western Europe.
The two sides held several rounds of talks to find common ground and end the hostilities that Russian leader Vladimir Putin began in late February.
However, the latest fight ended on Tuesday night, with Kyiv pointing to “fundamental contradictions” in Russia and Ukraine’s stances.
“Ukraine’s neutrality status is, of course, currently being seriously discussed alongside security guarantees,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with the RBK economic intelligence service.
“It is now being discussed in the talks. There are absolutely concrete formulations and, in my opinion, the parties are close to agreeing on this,” he added.
Both sides had previously expressed hope for a breakthrough, pointing to agreements that were close to being drafted and signed.
Russia’s chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky told reporters on Wednesday the talks were “slow and difficult” but said the Kremlin wanted peace “as soon as possible”.
He reiterated that the central theme of the talks was a “neutral” Ukraine, citing the status of Austria and Sweden as possible examples to follow.
Medinsky added that other issues would be discussed, including the status of the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, and areas held for years by pro-Moscow separatists.