Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday peace talks were sounding more realistic but more time was needed, as Russian air strikes killed five people in the capital Kyiv and the refugee tally from Moscow’s invasion reached 3 million.
Moscow has not captured any of Ukraine’s 10 biggest cities following its incursion that began on Feb. 24, the largest assault on a European state since 1945.
Ukrainian officials have raised hopes the war could end sooner than expected, possibly by May, saying Moscow may be coming to terms with its failure to impose a new government by force and running out of fresh troops.
“The meetings continue, and, I am informed, the positions during the negotiations already sound more realistic. But time is still needed for the decisions to be in the interests of Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said in a video address on Wednesday, ahead of the next round of talks.
In a hint of a possible compromise, Zelenskiy said earlier Ukraine was prepared to accept security guarantees from the West that stop short of its long-term goal of joining NATO. Moscow sees any future Ukraine membership of the Western alliance as a threat and has demanded guarantees it will never join.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said it was too early to predict progress in the talks. “The work is difficult, and in the current situation the very fact that (the talks) are continuing is probably positive.”
Russia calls its actions a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and Western allies call this a baseless pretext for a war of choice that has raised fears of wider conflict in Europe.
U.S. President Joe Biden will make his first visit to Europe since Russia invaded Ukraine to discuss the crisis with NATO allies next week, the White House said.
Biden will attend a NATO leaders meeting at the military alliance’s headquarters in Brussels on March 24.
Biden is expected to announce an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine on Wednesday, a White House official said.