Ukraine demands urgent ‘special mission’ to demilitarize Russian-occupied Chernobyl | World | News

The Ukrainian armed forces said there was a danger of ammunition detonating at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant and that Russian forces occupying the plant should withdraw from the area, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Wednesday.

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

“We demand that the UN Security Council immediately take action to demilitarize the Chernobyl exclusion zone and introduce a special UN mission there to eliminate the risk of a repeat of the nuclear disaster,” he said.

Russia pledged on Tuesday to scale back military operations around the Ukrainian capital and north, while Kyiv proposed adopting a neutral status, in confidence-building steps that are the first signs of progress towards peace negotiations.

Their talks, which took place at an Istanbul palace for more than a month, became the biggest attack on a European country since World War Two.

The

Russian invasion has been halted on most fronts by fierce resistance from Ukrainian forces who have retaken territory even as civilians are trapped in besieged cities.

Thousands have died or been injured, nearly four million have fled Ukraine, and Russia’s economy has been hit by sanctions.

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

He

did not mention other areas that have seen heavy fighting, including around Mariupol to the southeast, Sumy and Kharkiv to the east and Kherson and Mykolaiv to the south.

Some analysts note that Russia’s pledge to reduce fighting mostly covers areas where it has lost ground.

“Does ‘we will drastically reduce military operations around Kyiv’ = ‘we will be kicked out, diverted to hasty defense?'” tweeted Mark Hertling, retired US lieutenant general and former commander of US forces in Europe.

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

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

The proposal, which would require a referendum in Ukraine, calls for a 15-year consultation period on Russia’s annexed Crimea status. The fate of the southeastern Donbas region, which Russia demands that Ukraine be handed over to the separatists, will be discussed by Ukrainian and Russian leaders.

Kyiv’s proposal also includes one that Moscow will not oppose Ukraine’s joining the European Union, Russia’s chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said. Russia previously opposed Ukraine’s membership in the European Union and especially NATO.

Medinsky said the Russian delegation would study and present the proposal to President Vladimir Putin.

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

Ukrainian negotiators called for a meeting between Putin and President Volodymyr Zelensky. Medinsky said it could happen when foreign ministers are ready to start a deal.

“If we succeed in consolidating these key provisions … then Ukraine will be in a position to actually improve its current status as a non-aligned and non-nuclear state in the form of permanent neutrality,” said Ukraine negotiator Oleksander Chaly.

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

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

“They agreed there would be no relaxation of the West’s decision until the horrors inflicted on Ukraine have ended,” he said.

In Mariupol, which has been under siege for weeks by Russian troops, nearly 5,000 people have died, according to figures from the mayor that could not be verified.