The Financial Times reported on Monday that as part of ongoing ceasefire negotiations, Russia is prepared to let Ukraine pursue EU membership as long as Kyiv drops its plans to join NATO.
The report cited four anonymous people briefed on the negotiations who said under a draft deal aimed at ending the fighting, Ukraine would vow not to join NATO, not to host foreign military bases, and not develop nuclear weapons. In exchange, Ukraine would get security guarantees and Russia wouldn’t block its bid to join the EU.
The sources said the deal does not include three of Russia’s earlier demands; “denazification,” demilitarization, and protections for Russian-speaking people inside Ukraine.
The report said that the draft deal would leave two other major Russian demands — Ukraine’s recognition of Crimea as Russian territory and the independence of the Donbas republics — to be worked out in a tentative future meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Officials from Ukraine and Russia are set to meet in Istanbul on Tuesday for in-person talks after over a week of holding negotiations via video link. While the Financial Times report says a draft deal is in the works, negotiators from both sides are cautioning against the idea that a breakthrough will be made.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that Russia wouldn’t discuss progress publicly because it could hamper negotiations. “For now, unfortunately, we cannot speak of any significant achievements and breakthroughs,” he said.
David Arakhamia, a member of Ukraine’s negotiating team, told the Financial Times that the two sides were close to a deal on EU membership and security guarantees, but also warned against the idea of a breakthrough.
Arakhamia claimed that the security guarantee Ukraine would get under the draft deal would be close to the wording of NATO’s Article 5. He said that Ukraine would get such a guarantee from Russia, the US, China, the UK, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Poland, Israel, and Turkey. But it’s hard to believe that Russia would accept such a deal, and each guarantor would have to agree to what is essentially a mutual defense treaty with Ukraine.
“The only resolved [issue] is the type of international guarantees Ukraine is looking for, but … we still have to get the approval from the guarantors otherwise the deal will never fly,” Arakhamia said. Zelensky said Sunday that any deal with Russia would be put to a referendum before Ukraine would change its constitution.