ASSESSMENTS

Despite Progress on 'Neutrality,' Larger Constraints to a Russia-Ukraine Peace Deal Remain

MIN READMar 18, 2022 | 20:05 GMT

Firemen work to clear the rubble after a Russian rocket exploded just outside the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on March 14, 2022.

Firemen work to clear the rubble after a Russian rocket exploded just outside the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on March 14, 2022.

(SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite reports of progress in Russia-Ukraine talks regarding the latter's ''neutrality,'' Moscow's insistence that Kyiv also surrender significant territory means the two sides are unlikely to reach a peace deal soon. In the meantime, Russia will seek to increase its negotiating leverage by seizing more Ukrainian cities and regions, which will risk prolonging the conflict and further limiting room for a comprehensive deal. On March 16, reports emerged that Ukraine and Russia had made progress on the wording of a 15-point peace plan for a cease-fire and Russian withdrawal of troops, as well as a mutually acceptable vision of neutrality including limits on its armed forces. But this does not represent a major change in Ukraine's position nor a major step toward ending the war. The topic of Ukraine's neutrality is the least controversial for Kyiv among Russia's demands because the Ukrainian government has accepted that its NATO aspirations have...

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