Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he is prepared to discuss adopting a neutral status as part of a peace deal with Russia.
It comes as the next round of face-to-face talks between Ukraine and Russia will take place in Turkey on Monday.
Speaking to Russian journalists by video late on Sunday, President Zelenskyy said: “Security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state – we are ready to go for it. This is the most important point.”
Mr Zelenskyy, who spoke to the group in Russian, said such a deal would have to be guaranteed by third parties and put to Ukrainians in a referendum.
He ruled out trying to re-capture all Russian-held territory by force, saying this would lead to a Third World War.
However, he added that he wanted to reach a “compromise” over the eastern Donbas region, which has been held by Russian-backed forces since 2014.
There would be no movement on other Russian demands, such as demilitarisation, he said.
It comes as another top official warned that Russia is aiming to carve Ukraine in two to create a Moscow-controlled region.
Ukrainian military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said that Mr Putin had realised “he can’t swallow the entire country” and would likely split it like in “the Korean scenario” – a reference to the division between North and South Korea.
Mr Budanov said: “The occupiers will try to pull the occupied territories into a single quasi-state structure and pit it against independent Ukraine”.
And over the weekend Moscow said it would focus on ‘liberating’ the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk – with a potential pullback from other areas.
Bel Trew, international correspondent for Britain’s Independent, told Newstalk Breakfast many Ukrainians saw this as an attempt to save face.
“From Putin’s speech they see that as him admitting that his plan has failed.
“That his plan originally was to take the whole of Ukraine, was to march on the capital for some kind of regime change.
“But that hasn’t worked because of resistance from the Ukrainian army.
“So they see this attempt to say that this is a new phase, and that they only intended to focus on the east of Ukraine, is really just a face-saving tactic”.
She says the peace talks could see some movement.
“There have been messaging coming from the Ukrainian president that they would have something to offer at the negotiation table.
“For example, Zelenskyy talked recently that he would consider declaring neutrality in terms of their position on NATO and would offer security guarantees to Russia.
“So there’s at least some movement from the Ukrainian side that would indicate that they would offer something at these peace talks”.
And she says there is talk of a referendum on neutrality – but only after invading Russian forces leave.
“There’s at least this movement coming from the Ukrainian president, saying they will consider neutrality.
“He talked about a potential referendum as soon as Russian troops have left the country, and they would discuss not wanting to enter NATO.
“That’s something that has been kind of on the demand list for [Russian President] Putin – but at the same time, the only way for that to happen is for Russian troops to leave the country”.
Zelenskyy prepared to discuss neutrality as part of talks with Russia
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Additional reporting: IRN