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Zelenskyy: Ukraine seeks peace ‘without delay’ in talks

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LVIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine could declare neutrality and offer security guarantees to Russia to ensure peace “without delay,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said ahead of another long-awaited round of talks between the two sides, though he said it would only be a face to face meeting. meeting face-to-face with Russia’s leader could end the war.

In an interview with independent Russian media, Zelenskyy stressed that Ukraine’s priority is to secure its sovereignty and prevent Moscow from dividing it.

But he added: “Security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear state of our state, we are ready to do it.”

Zelenskyy has suggested it much before, but rarely with such force.

Russia has long demanded that Ukraine abandon any hope of joining the Western NATO alliance, which Moscow sees as a threat. Zelenskyy said the neutrality issue, which would keep Ukraine out of NATO or other military alliances, should be put to Ukrainian voters in a referendum after Russian troops withdraw.

“We have to come to an agreement with the president of the Russian Federation, and in order to come to an agreement, he needs to get out of there by his own means… and come to see me,” he said in an interview that Russia banned his media. to post.

In a late-night video address to his nation, Zelenskyy said Ukraine sought peace “without delay” in talks set to start this week in Turkey.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said the Turkish leader spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday and they both agreed that the next meeting between Russian and Ukrainian officials should be held in Istanbul.

Turkish media reports that the two teams are expected to arrive on Monday afternoon, with talks likely to start in full on Tuesday.

Previous talks, both by video and in person, have made no progress in ending a more than month-long war that has killed thousands and driven more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes, including nearly 4 million from their country.

While the war continues to claim a huge toll, Russia’s offensive has stalled in many areas. His goal of quickly surrounding the capital, kyiv, and forcing its surrender has failed in the face of staunch Ukrainian resistance, bolstered by weapons from the United States and other Western allies.

But Zelenskyy has made increasingly exasperated pleas for Western countries to do more, including sending in fighter jets, accusing political leaders Sunday of a lack of courage. Countries in the NATO alliance have been hesitant to give Zelenskyy some of the more powerful equipment he has asked for, fearing triggering a much broader war.

In fact, Russia’s invasion has most Americans at least somewhat concerned that the United States will be drawn directly into the conflict and could be targeted by nuclear weapons, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs. Research. He displays a level of anxiety reminiscent of the Cold War era.

Moscow now says its focus is to secure the entire eastern Donbas region, which has been partially controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014. A senior Russian military official said on Friday that troops were being redirected east from elsewhere. from the country. country.

Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukrainian military intelligence, accused Russia of trying to split Ukraine in two, drawing the comparison to North and South Korea.

“The occupiers will try to bring the occupied territories into a single quasi-state structure and pit it against independent Ukraine,” Budanov said in a statement released by the Defense Ministry. He predicted that the Ukrainians’ guerrilla warfare would derail such plans.

Ukraine has banned reporting on unannounced or unapproved movements of troops and equipment by the armed forces. Journalists who break the law could face three to eight years in prison. The law does not differentiate between Ukrainian and foreign reporters.

On the way to kyiv, residents of a village sorted through the rubble from Russia’s ongoing attacks. Locals in Byshiv, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) from kyiv, walked between open and shell-destroyed buildings to salvage what they could, including books, bookshelves and framed paintings.

Standing in what used to be a kindergarten classroom, teacher Svetlana Grybovska said too many children have fallen victim.

“It’s not right,” Grybovska told Britain’s Sky News broadcaster. “Children are not guilty of anything.”

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Andrea Rosa in Kharkiv, Nebi Qena in Kyiv, Cara Anna in Lviv, and Associated Press journalists from around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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