In peace talks, Russian negotiator pledges to reduce military activity near kyiv ‘by several’

A member of the Ukrainian forces stands on the front line in the kyiv region, Ukraine, March 28, 2022. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

A Russian deputy defense minister said during peace talks with a Ukrainian delegation in Istanbul on Tuesday that Russia would “reduce military activities by multiples” near kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv.

The news, reported by the New York Times, came as diplomats from both sides met in Turkey to discuss a possible ceasefire, more than a month after Russia first invaded Ukraine.

Russia has said it is ready to speed up the timetable for a possible meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to the report. Russia’s chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said the Kremlin was ready to arrange a meeting between the two leaders once a draft peace deal was ready.

During the peace talks, hosted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ukrainian and Russian officials discussed international security guarantees for Ukraine, an aide to Zelensky said, according to the report.

Erdogan told both sides that “having a ceasefire and peace as soon as possible will be in everyone’s interest”, adding: “We believe that we are now in a phase to achieve concrete results from the talks. “.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “today and tomorrow we will see if there is anything promising” in the talks.

The meeting comes days after Zelensky said on Sunday that Ukraine was ready to discuss adopting a neutral status as part of a peace deal with Russia, although the deal would have to be guaranteed by third parties and submitted to a referendum.

“Guarantees of security and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state. We are ready to go. This is the most important point,” Zelensky said in a video call with Russian reporters, according to multiple reports.

Ukraine voted in 2014 to abandon its “neutral status” and seek NATO membership after Russia invaded and annexed Crimea.

Zelensky said no peace deal would be possible without a ceasefire and troop withdrawal and also refused to discuss several other Russian demands, including demilitarization of the country.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian officials outlined potential concessions in Russian-occupied territory, according to the New York Times. For the first time, officials offered to negotiate on the status of Crimea over 15 years.

Discussions regarding the future of eastern regions that Russia no longer recognizes as part of Ukraine could take place between Putin and Zelensky, an aide to the Ukrainian president has said.

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