Russian President Vladimir Putin did not appear prepared to make any compromises ahead of the first face-to-face peace talks with Ukraine in two weeks, according to a senior US official.
Delegates of the two nations were set to meet Monday amid a changing battlefield, in which Ukrainian forces last week loosened Russia’s grip with a series of successful counterattacks outside Kyiv and Kherson.
“Everything I have seen is [Putin] is not willing to compromise at this point,” the senior US State Department official told Reuters.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday told Russian journalists that he was willing to compromise on the issue of Ukrainian neutrality.
“Security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state — we are ready to go for it,” he said in Russian.
While details of the plan were hazy, Zelensky said any deal would be brokered by third parties and put to a referendum for Ukrainian voters. The president also made clear that any deal would require Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.
Negotiations are set to begin Tuesday in Turkey, a NATO member state with close diplomatic ties to both Russia and Ukraine. It will be the first face-to-face meeting between the warring countries since March 10.
While Ukraine has retaken strategic territory around the capital city and the Crimean peninsula, Russian forces continue to pummel the southern port city of Mariupol, where street-by-street fighting has broken out after weeks of heavy bombardment.
And as the Russians signal a shift in their priorities toward the separatist-held regions of the Donbas in the east, Zelensky said they are returning to some of the brutal tactics borne of the fighting that began there in 2014.
“They are kidnapping the mayors of our cities,” Zelensky told the Economist in an interview Sunday. “They killed some of them. Some of them we can’t find. Some of them we have found already, and they are dead.”
With Post wires