In Ukraine, the government said on Wednesday, March 16, that it wanted international forces to ensure its security and rejected Russian proposals for it to adopt a status similar to Sweden or Austria.
Mikhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian adviser to the president of Ukraine, said in comments published by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office that, “Ukraine has now entered in a direct conflict with Russia. As a result, the model can only be ‘Ukrainian,’ and it can only be based on legally validated security guarantees.”
Podolyak also demanded a legally binding security agreement signed by foreign partners who would “not stand by in the event of an assault on Ukraine, as they do now.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the Kremlin stated that a neutral Ukraine along the lines of Austria or Sweden was being discussed at talks between Kyiv and the Kremlin to end three weeks of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
“This is an option that is currently being discussed now, and it can be considered as a compromise”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Furthermore, the comments of Dmitry Peskov came after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that neutrality was taking centre stage at the discussions. Russia’s top diplomat had previously proposed the idea that Ukraine had rejected.
However, Sweden is officially militarily non-aligned in peacetime, having discontinued its policy of neutrality at the end of the Cold War in 1992. Although it is not a member of NATO, it has been a partner to the alliance for nearly 30 years.
Sweden cut its military spending at the end of the Cold War, but after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014, it began reinvesting in its defence.
Russia and Ukraine have had multiple rounds of negotiations, the most recent of which ended late Tuesday, with Kyiv citing “fundamental contradictions.”
Earlier Wednesday, Russia’s foreign minister said that Moscow and Kyiv were “close to agreeing” on the wording of a neutrality agreement.
Both Ukraine and Russia had previously raised hopes of a breakthrough, referring to documents that were close to being put to paper and signed.
The top negotiator of Russia, Vladimir Medinsky, told the reporters that the discussions were “slow and arduous”, but the Kremlin is looking way forward to get peace “as soon as possible.”