The Kremlin's latest peace offering to Ukraine is probably a non-starter
The Kremlin said Monday that Russia's deadly assault on Ukraine would end "in a moment" if the country's leadership agrees to a series of demands, including a firm commitment to not join NATO and formal recognition of two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine as independent states.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov outlined Russia's demands in a phone interview with Reuters ahead of a third round of negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian diplomats on Monday as the civilian death toll from the invasion continues to mount and the refugee crisis worsens.
In addition to diplomatic talks in Belarus, the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers are set to meet in person in Turkey on Monday, the highest-level meeting between the two nations since Russia's assault began late last month.
"They should make amendments to the constitution according to which Ukraine would reject any aims to enter any bloc," Peskov told Reuters on Monday, reiterating a longstanding Moscow demand. "We have also spoken about how they should recognize that Crimea is Russian territory and that they need to recognize that Donetsk and Lugansk are independent states. And that's it. It will stop in a moment."
Peskov added that Russia is "finishing the demilitarization of Ukraine" but denied it is seeking to seize Ukrainian territory or oust the country's national leadership.
"Ukraine is an independent state that will live as it wants, but under conditions of neutrality," said Peskov.
Ukrainian officials did not publicly respond to Russia's demands ahead of the talks in Turkey.
It's not clear whether Ukraine will be open to Russia's demands as long as Russian forces continue to shell and bomb Ukrainian cities.
The Washington Post reported that "while Ukraine is open to neutrality, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has ruled out an agreement that would compromise the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
During the previous round of talks on the border of Belarus, Ukraine demanded an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of all Russian troops, demands that Russia has thus far rejected.
Over the weekend and into Monday, Ukraine and Russia attempted to establish ceasefires to allow civilians to flee besieged cities, but the agreements repeatedly broke down, with both sides blaming the other for the failure to stop the shelling and bombing.
The United Nations said Monday that it has been able to confirm 406 civilian deaths since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.
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