Zelenskyy talks compromise, sets ground rules for peace agreement

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke with Russian media Sunday in an attempt to express a path toward peace by making clear the conditions necessary to begin negotiations toward a “meaningful agreement,” but was reportedly censored by state media after disputing Russia’s claimed purpose of “denazification.”

Zelenskyy was interviewed by representatives from Zygar, Rain, Meduza, Kommersant and Novaya Gazeta where he discussed the need for security guarantees from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The president’s office detailed the exchange which addressed a willingness to remain neutral rather than seek NATO membership and to continue Ukraine’s nuclear-free status.

Russia, according to Ukrainian officials, has not demonstrated its willingness to do anything other than delay negotiations. They report that issues of so-called “denazification” will not be discussed and the fact that the Russians have insisted on this talking point from the beginning proves they only wish to prolong the process.

“We do not discuss ‘denazification’ and demilitarization at all. I said that we will not sit at the negotiating table at all if we talk about some kind of demilitarization, some kind of ‘denazification’. For me,” Zelenskyy said, “these are completely incomprehensible things.”

This, as reported by Fox News, was too much for the Russian authorities and their controlled narrative. The interview was banned from transmission by Roskomnadzor, the Russian communications regulator.

“It would be funny,” Zelenskyy said of the ban, “if it weren’t so tragic.” Thus far, peace talks have not addressed the supposed issue of “nazism.”

What has been discussed is Zelenskyy’s desire to meet with Putin in person to discuss the withdrawal of Russian troops. “I understand it’s impossible to force Russia completely from Ukrainian territory,” he said during the interview. “It would lead to a Third World War.”

“I understand it and that is why I am talking about a compromise,” Zelenskyy explained. “Go back to where it all began and then we will try to solve the Donbas.”

The Donbas region in eastern Ukraine had become home to Russian-backed separatist states that initiated the military incursion under claims of peace-keeping. Zelenskyy is suggesting that would be an acceptable loss of territory at this point to end the violence in the war-torn nation.

“I want it not to be another piece of paper like the Budapest Memorandum,” he stipulated. “We are interested in turning the paper into a meaningful agreement, which will be signed by all guarantors.”

However, the process will take time as Zelenskyy laid out that “only the people can decide that there can be such a status and such guarantors. The referendum will take place in a few months, and the amendments to the Constitution will take at least a year, according to our current legislation.”

“The guarantors,” he assured, “will not sign anything if the troops are not withdrawn. We met and agreed. Our agreement with him, with signatures, seals, even blood, doesn’t matter….The troops must be withdrawn…and all this will start working.”

On the issue of what language will be spoken in Ukraine, the president said the nation is home to citizens with backgrounds from more than 100 different nations and so, “In general, I would like to cut off this constant argument about language. We all speak the way we want and the language we want…That’s why I said: only a mirror respect for the history, languages, cultural values of all neighbors. I accept that.”

“Therefore, the issue of language, I am sure, will be off the agenda,” Zelenskyy said, “because it will be resolved.”

Zelenskyy, who has spoken with Turkish President Recep Erdogan about the progress of international talks, has been invited to Istanbul to host talks between Ukraine and Russia. Erdogan spoke with Putin on Sunday who agreed upon the teams negotiating there as soon as Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.


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