Ukrainian and Russian officials on Wednesday expressed some optimism that peace talks between the two sides are progressing after three weeks of Russian aggression, The Washington Post reports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday that negotiations with Russia were heading in a “more realistic” direction.
"Efforts are still needed, patience is needed," Zelensky said. "Any war ends with an agreement.”
Zelensky on Tuesday acknowledged that Ukraine would not soon become a NATO member, a key priority for the Kremlin.
"We have heard for years that the doors were open, but we also heard that we could not join,” he said. “It’s a truth and it must be recognized.”
Despite the progress, presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said that “fundamental contradictions “ remain but “there is certainly room for compromise.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said Wednesday that there is “hope for reaching a compromise,” though both sides acknowledge that talks are difficult and differences remain.
“They state that negotiations are not easy for obvious reasons but nevertheless there is some hope for reaching a compromise,” Lavrov said.
The head of the Russian peace talks delegation said that negotiators have proposed a neutrality model similar to Austria and Sweden, acting as a “neutral demilitarized state but a government with its own army and naval powers.”
“The preservation and development of Ukraine’s neutral status, the demilitarization of Ukraine — a whole range of issues related to the size of the Ukrainian army are being discussed,” he said.
Podolyak said that while there have been “words about the Swedish or Austrian model of neutrality … Ukraine is now in a state of direct war with the Russian Federation. Therefore, the model can only be Ukrainian and only about legally verified security guarantees.”
Ukraine needs security guarantees that would mean signatories to any deal would have to “actively participate on the side of Ukraine” in any future conflict and provide support and weapons, he said.
“Ukraine has never been a militaristic state that attacked or planned to attack its neighbors,” he added. “That is why today Ukraine wants to have a powerful pool of allies with clearly defined security guarantees.”
The comments marked a notable shift in tone even from Tuesday, when Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Kyiv was “not showing a serious commitment to finding mutually acceptable solutions.”
Podoyak said that Russia began peace talks with only ultimatums but its position has “softened significantly” since.
Russia hoped to storm through Ukraine and capture as much territory as possible but since that did not happen there are “no chances whatsoever to move further into Ukrainian territory,” he said. “Therefore, we have much confidence that we will have a cease-fire in the coming days.”