Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said Tuesday that Moscow would dramatically cut back its military offensive around Ukraine’s capital Kyiv as the two sides met for negotiations in Turkey.
“The decision has been taken to fundamentally cut back military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv,” Fomin told reporters as the Russian delegation, including Moscow’s head negotiator Vladimir Medinsky, exited the latest round of peace talks with Ukraine in Istanbul.
This would “increase mutual trust for future negotiations” in order “to agree and sign a peace deal with Ukraine,” he added.
The Ukrainian and Russian delegations met for their first round of face-to-face talks in three weeks Tuesday, where they were personally welcomed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Medinsky said talks had been “constructive” and that the Russian delegation had received written proposals from the Ukrainian side “confirming its desire for a neutral and nuclear-free status.”
This includes a ban on Ukraine hosting foreign military bases and troops, and on the production of weapons of mass destruction, the former Russian culture minister said, adding that these proposals would be looked at immediately.
“From my side, I can say that we are equally taking two steps towards the deescalation of the conflict,” said Medinsky, adding the two sides had also raised the possibility of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting to sign a finalized agreement.
Meanwhile, adviser to the Ukrainian president Mykhailo Podolyak said that Ukraine offered to adopt neutral status, meaning it would not join military alliances such as NATO, which was a key demand for Moscow.
In exchange, Podolyak tweeted, the country requires NATO-style security guarantees, protected by “guarantor states” like the U.S., the U.K., Turkey, France and Germany, which would be “legally actively involved in protecting Ukraine from any aggression.”
During a press conference, Podolyak explained how the proposals would take place in practice from the Ukrainian perspective: First, any agreement would be put to a popular referendum, as outlined by President Volodymyr Zelnskyy on Sunday night; then, it would have to be ratified by the parliaments of guarantor states and in Ukraine.
Ukraine also proposed to include a 15-year consultation period on the status of the annexed Crimean peninsula, where the issue would be settled exclusively through bilateral negotiations with Russia.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the negotiations had ended on Tuesday, though they were initially scheduled to continue into Wednesday.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has largely stalled more than one month after Moscow launched a full-scale assault of its neighbor, though the war has resulted in thousands of civilian casualties amid a lethal barrage of aerial weapons and pushed almost 4 million people to flee Ukraine.