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Ukraine says Russia ‘verbally’ agreed to its proposals, except on Crimea

Kyiv negotiator says ceasefire will require referendum in Ukraine on accepting neutral status; Erdogan pushing for a meeting between Zelensky and Putin in Turkey

Ukrainian soldiers walk next to destroyed Russians armored vehicles in Bucha, Ukraine, Saturday, April 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Ukrainian soldiers walk next to destroyed Russians armored vehicles in Bucha, Ukraine, Saturday, April 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s top negotiator in peace talks with Russia said Saturday that Moscow had “verbally” agreed to key Ukrainian proposals, raising hopes that talks to end fighting are moving forward.

Negotiator David Arakhamia told Ukrainian television channels that any meeting between Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin would “with a high probability” take place in Turkey.

“The Russian Federation has given an official answer to all positions, which is that they accept the (Ukrainian) position, except for the issue of Crimea (annexed by Russia in 2014),” Arakhamia said.

He said that while there was “no official confirmation in writing,” the Russian side said so “verbally.”

The comments came as Ukraine said it had retaken control of the whole Kyiv region.

Arakhamia said Moscow had agreed in talks that a referendum on the neutral status of Ukraine “will be the only way out of this situation.”

In this photo released by Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Russian Presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky, left, and the Head of the Ukrainian Servant of the People faction Davyd Arakhamia pose for media during talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations in Dolmabahce Palace, Istanbul, on March 29, 2022. (Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

Asked what would happen if Ukrainians voted against a neutral status for the country, Arakhamia said “we will either return to a state of war, perhaps, or return to new negotiations.”

The Kremlin has insisted that Ukraine adopt a neutral status.

Arakhamia said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “called both us and Vladimir Putin” Friday, saying he would host the meeting.

“Neither the date nor the place is known, but we believe that the place will most likely be Ankara or Istanbul,” he said.

Turkey, which has good relations with both Russia and Ukraine, has sought to mediate the conflict.

Since Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, Zelensky has repeatedly called for face-to-face talks with the Kremlin chief.

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