Zelenskyy concedes Ukraine will never join Nato as peace talks become 'more realistic'

16 March 2022, 06:25 | Updated: 16 March 2022, 07:20

Mr Zelenskyy has accepted that Ukraine will be unable to join Nato.
Mr Zelenskyy has accepted that Ukraine will be unable to join Nato. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has claimed that peace talks with Russia are becoming "more realistic" after having conceded that Ukraine will never join Nato.

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Speaking in the early hours of Wednesday, Mr Zelenskyy said that Russia's demands during peace talks were becoming "more realistic" but more time was still needed.

He said in his daily address: "Efforts are still needed, patience is needed.

"Any war ends with an agreement."

Meanwhile, senior Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak, who is also an adviser to Mr Zelenskyy and spoke to Russian negotiators, described the talks as "very difficult".

He added "there are fundamental contradictions" but said "there is certainly room for compromise".

It came after the leader told European leaders gathered in London that he realised Nato had no intention of accepting Ukraine.

Boris Johnson confirmed on Wednesday that there is "no way Ukraine is going to join Nato anytime soon" but stressed that the decision had to be for the country's president to take.

Speaking to broadcasters in Abu Dhabi, the PM said: "I talked to Volodymyr (Zelenskyy) again yesterday and of course I understand what he is saying about Nato and the reality of the position. "And everybody has always said - and we've made it clear to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin - that there is no way Ukraine is going to join Nato anytime soon.

"But the decision about the future of Ukraine has got to be for the Ukrainian people, and Volodymyr Zelenskyy is their elected leader and we will back him.

"And the most important thing is that Putin's aggression, his absolutely barbaric attacks on Ukraine should stop and they should not be seen to have succeeded, and they won't succeed."

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'In a curious way, Putin now needs Zelenskyy'

His comments followed an earlier statement from Mr Zelenskyy that seemed to signal potential grounds for agreement with Moscow.

"We have heard for many years about the open doors, but we also heard that we can't enter those doors," Mr Zelenskyy said.

"This is the truth, and we have simply to accept it as it is."

Russia is currently demanding Ukraine drop its bid to join Nato, adopt a neutral status and "demilitarise".

Mr Zelenskyy has repeatedly said in recent weeks that he realises Nato is not going to offer membership to Ukraine and that he could consider a neutral status for his country but needs strong security guarantees from both the West and Russia.

He is set to address the US Congress on Wednesday, having thanked President Joe Biden and "all the friends of Ukraine" for 13.6 billion dollars (£10.4 billion) in new support.

He went on to appeal for more weapons and more sanctions to punish Russia, also reiterating his calls for a no-fly zone in Ukraine, which has been denied amid concerns that it would trigger a Third World War.

Peace talks between Ukraine and Russia are set to continue on Wednesday.

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