Russia has revealed the outline of a possible peace deal that would put an end to the hostilities in Ukraine, with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying a “business-like spirit” has emerged in negotiations with “concrete formulations” that he said are close to being agreed on.
Lavrov made the remarks in a Wednesday interview on Russian television channel RBC, in which he expressed “some hope” that a compromise could be reached between the warring sides.
“A neutral status is being seriously discussed in connection with security guarantees,” Lavrov said. “There are concrete formulations that in my view are close to being agreed.”
Lavrov said Russian negotiators have told him the talks “are not easy for obvious reasons, but nevertheless there is some hope for finding a compromise.”
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that a neutral Ukraine with its own army along the lines of Austria or Sweden was a possible framework being considered in negotiations over ending the war.
“This is a variant that is currently being discussed and which could really be seen as a compromise,” Peskov was quoted as saying by Russia’s RIA news agency.
Peskov was commenting on remarks from Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s chief negotiator, who earlier told Russian state TV that, “Ukraine is offering an Austrian or Swedish version of a neutral demilitarized state, but at the same time a state with its own army and navy.”
Ukraine has not confirmed it is willing to discuss neutrality, though President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday that his country’s membership in NATO is essentially off the table. Ukraine’s potential membership in the transatlantic defense alliance has been a key concern for Russia and was used to justify the invasion.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak said on Wednesday that some model of neutrality is up for discussion, but that this framework must be “Ukrainian” and include security guarantees.
Podoliak made the remarks to the Interfax Ukaine news service, commenting on Medinsky’s remarks about an “Austrian” or “Swedish” model of neutrality.
“Certainly, we understand the attempt of our partners to remain the proactive side in the negotiation process, hence the words about the Swedish or Austrian models of neutrality,” he said.
“But 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.’ And no other models or options,” Podoliak added.
Austria, which Russia has cited as a potential model, is bound to neutrality by its constitution, which prohibits entry into military alliances and the establishment of foreign military bases on its territory.
Podoliak clarified that the security guarantees would have to be enforceable and “effective,” unlike the Budapest memorandum of 1994 between the United States, Great Britain, Russia, and Ukraine.
Under the Budapest deal, Ukraine agreed to transfer its nuclear arsenal to Russia in exchange for security guarantees that its sovereignty would not be violated, though these assurances were left ambiguous and did not include a pledge for direct Western military involvement if Ukraine came under attack.
“This means that the signatories of the guarantees do not stand aside in the event of an attack on Ukraine, as they do today,” Podoliak said. Instead, he said the condition is that security guarantors would need to “take an active part on the side of Ukraine in the conflict and officially ensure the immediate supply of the necessary amount of weapons to us.”
Ukraine’s Western allies have continued to provide defensive weapons but they have stopped short of providing offensive arms like fighter jets. They have also drawn a line at NATO troops on Ukrainian soil.
Podoliak added that the security guarantees Ukraine is seeking as part of the peace talks must also include a pledge by guarantors to apply a no-fly zone.
Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials have called on NATO to deploy a no-fly zone over Ukraine, a move that Western allies have rejected as too escalatory and as risking sparking World War Three.
Reuters contributed to this report.