Ukraine Prez Zelensky says Kyiv ready to negotiate; insists on direct talks with Russian Prez Putin

Unless he meets with Putin, it is impossible to understand whether Russia even wants to stop the war, Zelenskyy said

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Tuesday, March 22, 2022, 08:43 AM IST
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A firefighter looks at the destruction caused after shelling of a shopping center, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday, March 21, 2022 | AP

Kyiv (Ukraine): Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Monday he was prepared to discuss a commitment from Ukraine not to seek NATO membership in exchange for a cease-fire, the withdrawal of Russian troops and a guarantee of Ukraine's security.

"It's a compromise for everyone: for the West, which doesn't know what to do with us with regard to NATO, for Ukraine, which wants security guarantees, and for Russia, which doesn't want further NATO expansion," Zelenskyy said late Monday in an interview with Ukrainian television channels.

He also repeated his call for direct talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Unless he meets with Putin, it is impossible to understand whether Russia even wants to stop the war, Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy said that Kyiv will be ready to discuss the status of Crimea and the eastern Donbas region held by Russian-backed separatists after a cease-fire and steps toward providing security guarantees.

"I believe that until such time as we have a meeting with the president of the Russian Federation...you cannot truly understand what they are prepared to do in order to stop the war and what they are prepared to do if we are not ready for this or that compromise," Zelenskiy said in the interview.

Zelenskiy has sought a meeting with Putin for nearly a year, but the Russian leader has refused and instead demanded the Ukrainian president resolve his country's "civil war" with separatist territories linked to Moscow.

Last week, Zelensky dropped his clearest hint yet that he does not expect his country to join NATO anytime soon, something that has been a Ukrainian goal.

NATO, a security alliance currently made up of 30 North American and European nations, was created in 1949 in response to the start of the Cold War. Its original purpose was to protect the West from the threat posed by the Soviet Union.

Since the end of the Cold War, many former Soviet satellite states and three former Soviet republics have joined NATO, meaning Russia now shares a land border with the world's largest military alliance.

(with inputs from AP)

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