Russia & FSU

Kremlin responds to Zelensky’s referendum idea

Putting the peace terms up for a popular vote in Ukraine will harm the negotiations, Russia has saidKremlin responds to Zelensky’s referendum idea

Kremlin responds to Zelensky’s referendum idea

Ukrainian soldiers in Kiev, Ukraine, March 21, 2022. © Fadel Senna/AFP

Russia has said that Kiev’s idea to put peace deal terms up for a referendum will only hurt the ongoing talks. Moscow launched a military campaign against Ukraine late last month.

“We’re convinced that putting [the terms] before the public at this moment can only undermine the negotiations that are already going a lot slower and are less substantial than we want them to be,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested earlier that peace terms of “historical” importance may be the subject of a referendum. “The people will have to respond to certain … compromises,” he told reporters on Monday, adding that the details were still dependent on talks with Moscow.

The Russians and Ukrainians held several rounds of talks in Belarus, later switching to discussions via video link.

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Zelensky reiterated that Kiev was seeking security guarantees from Russia and the West. Moscow, meanwhile, said that it wanted Ukraine to officially become a neutral country, renouncing its bid to join NATO, a US-led military bloc that Russia views as a threat.

Moscow further said it wanted the “demilitarization” and “denazification” of Ukraine, as well as for Kiev to recognize Crimea as a part of Russia, and the republics in Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states.

Crimea, populated predominantly by Russian-speakers, voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia shortly after the 2014 coup in Kiev. The republics of Donetsk and Lugansk broke away from Ukraine the same year.

Moscow attacked Ukraine on February 24, following a seven-year standoff over Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk ceasefire agreements with the breakaway republics, and Russia’s eventual recognition of their independence. The internationally-brokered deals were meant to organize the autonomies of Donetsk and Lugansk within Ukraine.

Kiev says that the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.


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