Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has signaled openness to a compromise with Russian President Vladimir Putin on some of his key demands for halting the offensive in Ukraine, including on NATO membership and the status of Crimea and the breakaway pro-Moscow territories, but the Ukrainian leader insisted his forces would not capitulate.
“I’m ready for a dialogue, but we’re not ready for surrender,” Zelensky said in an interview with ABC News published on Tuesday.
The Ukrainian president said he was not prepared to give in to what he described as “ultimatums” put forward by Russia in the latest round of peace talks, but insisted he’s ready to open discussions on issues including NATO membership and the status of the separatist-controlled regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and Russia-annexed Crimea.
“I think that we can discuss and find a compromise on the points about the temporarily occupied territories and unrecognized republics, which are not recognized by anyone except the Russian Federation,” Zelensky said.
A key question is the treatment and status of Ukrainians in the contested regions who don’t want to be in Russia’s sphere of influence, he said.
“What’s important to me is how the people in those territories who want to be part of Ukraine are going to live,” Zelensky said.
The Kremlin has said it’s ready to end its military campaign immediately if Ukraine recognizes the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, acknowledges Crimea as Russian, signs a neutrality agreement prohibiting it from entering NATO, and if Ukrainian forces surrender.
But while Zelensky said he’s ready to talk about the status of the contested regions, he said the question “is more difficult than simply acknowledging them,” adding that Russia’s demand to recognize the regions as independent or, as in the case of Crimea, part of Russian territory, are “another ultimatum” he’s not prepared to succumb to.
“I’m ready for dialogue; we’re not ready for capitulation,” he said.
By Tom Ozimek