Ukraine would consider declaring neutrality and offering security guarantees to Russia, including keeping Ukraine nuclear-free, the country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has said.
He told independent Russian journalists on Sunday that the issue of neutrality – and agreeing to stay out of Nato – should be put to Ukrainian voters in a referendum after Russian troops withdraw.
He said that a vote could take place within a few months once Russian troops leave. Russia quickly banned Zelensky’s interview from being published.
Roskomnadzor, which regulates communications for Moscow, issued the ban on Sunday, saying there could be action taken against the Russia-based media outlets that took part, which included “those that are foreign media outlets acting as foreign agents”.
Zelensky responded by saying Moscow was afraid of a relatively short conversation with journalists. “It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic,” he said, according to the Ukrainian news agency RBK Ukraina.
Zelensky also said Ukraine’s priorities at the Ukrainian-Russian talks in Turkey this week will be “sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
“We are looking for peace, really, without delay,” he said. “There is an opportunity and a need for a face-to-face meeting in Turkey. This is not bad. Let’s see the outcome.”
This week, he said, “I will continue to appeal to the parliaments of other countries” to remind them of the dire situation in besieged cities like Mariupol.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that neither Nato nor US President Joe Biden aim to bring about regime change in Russia.
Biden said of Putin during a speech on Saturday that “this man cannot remain in power”. The White House and other US officials rushed to clarify that Mr Biden was not actually calling for Mr Putin to be toppled.
Asked during an appearance on ARD television on Sunday whether Putin’s removal is in fact the real aim, Scholz replied: “This is not the aim of Nato, and also not that of the American president.”
Scholz added: “We both agree completely that regime change is not an object and aim of policy that we pursue together.”
Asked whether Biden made a dangerous mistake with his comment, Scholz replied: “No.” He said that “he said what he said” and Secretary of State Antony Blinken also had clarified that he was not talking about regime change.
Scholz last month announced a big increase in German defence spending. On Sunday, he confirmed a report by the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the government is considering acquiring a missile defence shield along the lines of Israel’s “Iron Dome”.