Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets Russian and Ukrainian negotiators before addressing them, ahead of their face-to-face talks in Istanbul, Turkey on March 29, 2022. (Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office via Reuters)
By Zachary Stieber
March 29, 2022 Updated: March 29, 2022
Russia is cutting down on its military activity near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, an official said after the latest round of negotiations between the warring countries.
“The Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation, for purposes of trust-building and creating conditions for holding talks further, and achieving the final goal of agreeing and signing a peace treaty, made a decision to radically decrease the military activities in the directions of Kyiv and Chernihiv,” Alexander Fomin, Russia’s deputy minister of defense, told reporters in Turkey after the two sides met.
Chernigov, in northern Ukraine, sits about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Kyiv.
Russian officials will provide more details about the reduction after the delegation returns to Moscow, Fomin said.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 but has failed to capture Kyiv, though it has gained control of a number of other cities.
Russia and Ukraine have held multiple rounds of talks but have thus far not come to an agreement to stop the fighting, which has displaced millions and left thousands dead.
Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s top negotiator, meanwhile, said that the latest discussions were constructive, state media reported.
Russia agreed to a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, but only after a draft of a peace treaty is approved.
Ukraine’s written proposal for a treaty, which says the country will be a neutral nation that will not try to get nuclear weapons, will be conveyed to Putin, said Medinsky, who also said his group protested against the alleged treatment of Russian prisoners of war, with videos appearing to show Ukraine’s military abusing them.
David Arakhamia, the top Ukrainian negotiator, said Ukraine is seeking security guarantees from outside nations like the United States and Israel but that the guarantees would not apply to certain portions of Ukraine, including parts of the east where local officials have declared independence.
Mykhailo Podoliak, also part of the Ukrainian delegation, wrote on Twitter that the guarantees would be similar to Article 5 of NATO, which essentially triggers a military response if any NATO member is attacked. Ukraine wants outside countries to commit to protecting it “from any aggression,” he said.
“If we manage to consolidate these key provisions, and for us this is the most fundamental, then Ukraine will be in a position to actually fix its current status as a non-bloc and non-nuclear state in the form of permanent neutrality,” Ukrainian negotiator Oleksander Chaly told reporters in Istanbul.
“We will not host foreign military bases on our territory, as well as deploy military contingents on our territory, and we will not enter into military-political alliances,” he said. Military exercises would take place with the consent of the guarantor countries.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.