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Ukraine Prioritizing Sovereignty in New Russia Talks

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses participants of the Doha Forum via videolink, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 26, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity” are a priority as Ukraine and Russia head into a new round of peace talks.

“We are looking for peace, really, without delay,” Zelenskyy said in a video address late Sunday. “There is an opportunity and a need for a face-to-face meeting in Turkey. This is not bad. Let’s see the outcome.”

Earlier Sunday, in call with Russian journalists, Zelenskyy said Ukraine was open to adopting neutral status as part of a peace deal, if it came with third-party guarantees and was put to a referendum.

Reuters quotes an aide to Zelenskyy as saying Turkey is among countries that could be a guarantor for Ukraine on security issues.

Turkey is set to host the latest talks. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone Sunday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with Erdogan’s office saying he stressed the need for a cease-fire and more humanitarian aid in the region.

The United Nations says the Russian invasion of Ukraine has pushed 10 million people to leave their homes, with more than 3.8 million fleeing the country.

Britain’s defense ministry said Monday there had been “no significant change to Russian Forces dispositions in occupied Ukraine” in the past day, and that Russian forces were hampered by a lack of momentum and morale.

The southern city of Mariupol is where Russia had gained the most ground, the ministry said, with heavy fighting continuing “as Russia attempts to capture the port.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed Sunday it is not the Biden administration’s policy to seek the overthrow of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

His comments came a day after President Joe Biden said during a speech in Warsaw that Putin “cannot remain in power.”

“I think the president, the White House made the point last night that, quite simply, President Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else,” Blinken said Sunday in Jerusalem. “As you know, and as you’ve heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia or anywhere else.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters, “That’s not for Biden to decide. The president of Russia is elected by Russians.”

French President Emmanuel Macron told France 3 TV channel Sunday, “I wouldn’t use this type of wording because I continue to hold discussions with President Putin.”

U.S. envoy to NATO Julianne Smith told CNN’s “State of the Union” Biden’s comments were a reaction to spending the day with hundreds of Ukrainian refugees.

“In the moment, I think that was a principled human reaction to the stories that he had heard that day,” Smith said. “But no … the U.S. does not have a policy of regime change in Russia. Full stop.”

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.