Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s top negotiator at the peace talks with Ukraine, has said that Kiev is floating the idea of becoming a neutral nation.
“Ukraine is proposing an Austrian or a Swedish model of a neutral demilitarized state, but with its own army and navy,” Medinsky told reporters on Wednesday, adding that “the size of Ukrainian Army” was among the issues discussed.
Moscow wants Ukraine to officially become a neutral country that will never join NATO. Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24, saying that it was seeking the “demilitarization” of the country, among other demands.
Medinsky reiterated that Moscow wants Kiev to recognize Crimea as part of Russia, and the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR), which broke away from Ukraine shortly after the 2014 coup in Kiev. Other key issues of concern for Russia are the “denazification” of Ukraine and the rights of Russian speakers living in the country, the negotiator said.
“There was some progress on several issues, but not all of them,” Medinsky said about the talks with Kiev.
Commenting on this model of Ukrainian neutrality, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “it can be viewed as a certain compromise.”
Austria declared itself a neutral country in 1955. Its laws ban the nation from joining military alliances and hosting foreign military bases on Austrian soil.
Sweden is often described as a ‘non-aligned’ country, given its longstanding tradition of not formally joining any military bloc. It is not a NATO member and has no foreign bases on its territory.
However, in response to the Russian attack on Ukraine, NATO invited non-members Sweden and Finland to attend the US-led bloc’s meetings and decided to share intelligence with them.
The Ukrainian leadership previously said it was ready to discuss potential neutrality with Russia. At the same time, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine must receive “security guarantees” from Russia and the West.
Moscow attacked its neighbor in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.