Ukraine demands urgent 'special mission' to demilitarisation Russian occupied Chernobyl

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Ukraine’s armed forces say there is a danger of ammunition exploding at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power station and that Russian forces occupying the plant must pull out of the area, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Wednesday.

She also said Ukraine had asked Russia at talks on Tuesday to allow 97 humanitarian corridors to be established to the worst-hit towns, cities, and villages in Ukraine.

“We demand that the UN Security Council immediately take measures to demilitarise the Chernobyl exclusion zone and introduce a special UN mission there to eliminate the risk of the repeat of a nuclear catastrophe,” she said.

Russia promised on Tuesday to scale down military operations around Ukraine’s capital and north, while Kyiv proposed adopting neutral status, in confidence-building steps that were the first signs of progress towards negotiating peace.

Their talks took place in an Istanbul palace more than a month into the largest attack on a European nation since World War Two.

Russia’s invasion has been halted on most fronts by stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces who have recaptured territory even as civilians are trapped in besieged cities.

Thousands of people have been killed or injured, nearly four million have fled Ukraine, and Russia’s economy has been pummelled by sanctions.

“In order to increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations and achieving the ultimate goal of agreeing and signing (an) agreement, a decision was made to radically, by a large margin, reduce military activity in the Kyiv and Chernihiv directions,” Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin told reporters.

He made no mention of other areas that have seen heavy fighting, including around Mariupol in the southeast, Sumy and Kharkiv in the east and Kherson and Mykolaiv in the south.

Some analysts noted that Russia’s promise to reduce fighting mostly covered areas where it has been losing ground.

“Does ‘we’ll drastically reduce military operations around Kyiv’ = ‘we’re getting our ass kicked, transitioned to a hasty defence?'” tweeted Mark Hertling, a retired US lieutenant general and former commander of US forces in Europe.

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Ukrainian negotiators said that under their proposals, Kyiv would agree not to join alliances or host bases of foreign troops, but would have security guaranteed in terms similar to “Article 5”, the collective defence clause of the transatlantic NATO military alliance.

They named Israel and NATO members Canada, Poland and Turkey as countries that may give such guarantees. Russia, the United States, Britain, Germany and Italy could also be involved.

The proposals, which would require a referendum in Ukraine, mentioned a 15-year consultation period on the status of Russian-annexed Crimea. The fate of the southeastern Donbas region, which Russia demands Ukraine cede to separatists, would be discussed by the Ukrainian and Russian leaders.

Kyiv’s proposals also included one that Moscow would not oppose Ukraine joining the European Union, Russia’s lead negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said. Russia has previously opposed Ukrainian membership of the EU and especially of NATO.

Medinsky said Russia’s delegation would study and present the proposals to President Vladimir Putin.

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To prepare a peace agreement, Medinsky later told the TASS news agency, “we still have a long way to go”.

The Ukrainian negotiators called for a meeting between Putin and President Volodymyr Zelensky. Medinsky said that could take place when foreign ministers were ready to initial an agreement.

“If we manage to consolidate these key provisions … 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 said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had not yet seen “signs of real seriousness” from Russia in pursuing peace.

US President Joe Biden spoke by phone with the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Italy about Ukraine developments, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said in a statement.

“They agreed there could be no relaxation of western resolve until the horror inflicted on Ukraine has ended,” it said.

In Mariupol, besieged for weeks by Russian forces, nearly 5,000 people have been killed, according to figures from the mayor which cannot be verified.



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