Feb. 25—Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spent a portion of today sending out feelers for negotiation with Russia for a cessation of hostilities, then apparently pulled back. He said this morning, “I want to again address the President of the Russian Federation. The fighting continues all over Ukraine. Let’s sit at the negotiation table to stop human fatalities,” reported RT. And a key advisor, Mikhail Podolyak, added his voice: “If negotiations are possible, they must be held.” If Moscow demands it, Zelenskyy and his government are willing to discuss “neutrality status.” Kiev “has always left and [still] leaves space for negotiations” despite a “full-scale invasion” by Russian troops.
Various Western media quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying this morning, that inherent to a neutral Ukraine, was both demilitarization and de-nazification. With that understanding, the Russian government is ready to send a delegation to negotiate—since Zelenskyy had said he is “ready to discuss the neutral status of Ukraine.” Peskov continued that, Putin had “said from the start that the goal of the military operation was helping [the breakaway regions] L.P.R. and D.P.R., including by demilitarizing and de-nazifying Ukraine. Those are essential parts of a neutral status.” The Russian delegation would include military and civilian officials representing various branches of the government. Belarus, a military ally of Russia, agreed to host the peace talks in Minsk, the site of the original 2015, and much-abused, Minsk Accords
Kiev responded by counterposing that the talks should be in Poland. Peskov: “The Ukrainian side said it had reconsidered the idea of holding talks in Minsk, chose Warsaw instead, and then disappeared.” He then pointed to Kiev’s new actions at that point—per foreign advisors—they had begun placing artillery in the center of Kiev and Kharkov. Peskov identified this as the known modus operandi of terrorists.
These remarks today were preceded by comments yesterday evening. Peskov had stated that Moscow is willing to negotiate terms of surrender with Kiev. He referred to President Putin’s preparedness to engage in discussions with the Ukrainian President, with a focus on obtaining a guarantee of both a status of neutrality for Ukraine, and the promise of no weapons on its territory. Such terms would address Russia’s announced goal, the demilitarization and de-nazification of Ukraine, eliminating the most immediate threat to the security of Russia and its people. Peskov: “The President formulated his vision of what we would expect from Ukraine in order for the so-called ‘red-line’ problems to be resolved…. The operation has its goals—they must be achieved. The President said that all decisions have been made, and the goals will be achieved,” reported RT.
Late last night Zelenskyy responded by way of posting a video on Telegram: “We heard from Moscow today that they want to talk about the neutral status of Ukraine. We are not afraid of Russia, we are not afraid of engaging in talks with Russia, we are not afraid of discussing anything, such as security guarantees for our state, we are not afraid of talking about neutral status.” Zelenskyy’s list of things Ukraine is not afraid of can be read as the only permissible way that Ukraine’s President might open the door for a discussion of neutrality. Zelenskyy also stated that Ukraine would need security guarantees from the West for such a neutrality agreement—something the West has not encouraged up to now.
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