Zelensky Renews Call for Peace Talk with Putin, Says Referendum for Disputed Territories Possible

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has  renewed his offer of direct peace talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, stating that the status of disputed territories could be up for debate and a possible referendum.

Zelensky said this why speaking with local media late Monday.

The Ukrainian leader said he was ready to meet Putin “in any format” to discuss on ways to put to an end to  the almost one-month-old war that has ruined several Ukrainian cities, and rendered many civilian populace homeless.

Zelensky further threw open the status of Russian-occupied Crimea and Russian-backed states in Donbas for debate.

“At the first meeting with the president of Russia, I am ready to raise these issues,” he said.

“There will be no appeals or historical speeches. I would discuss all issues with him in great detail” Zelensky said.

“If I have this opportunity and Russia has the desire, we would go through all the questions,” he told Ukrainian journalists in an interview published by media outlet Suspilne.

“Would we solve them all? No. But there is a chance, that we partially could — at least to stop the war,” he added.

Russia had claimed that Crimea is part of Russia citing a referendum that favours it, and has recognised the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine.

All three areas became parts of Ukraine after  the fall of the Soviet Union and are at the centre of a decade-old crisis.

Russia on March 7, listed conditions for immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of its troops from Ukrainian territory, which included Ukraine perishing the idea of joining NATO, respecting Crimea referendum, and respecting the rights of Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic to be independent states.

On March 15, Zelensky said Ukraine will not join NATO, although doors were open for them to join.

Although Zelensky signalled that he was willing to talk about the status of the three areas, while speaking to journalist,  he has repeatedly insisted all three were part of Ukraine and that his country would not surrender.

He restated that any peace talk that would involve “historic” changes would be put to national referendum

Sonia Mycak, a Ukraine expert at the Australian National University said a majority of Ukrainians wouldn’t let go any of those territories, if put to a national referendum.

He maintained that “Ukrainians see themselves as under existential threat” and wouldn’t stop fighting because they are afraid of living under the “autocratic “ control of Russia.

 “The vast majority, like 80 percent, of Ukrainians are saying that they do not want to relinquish” those territories, Mycak said, citing two recent public opinion polls.

“I think it would be rejected by the population, I really do. Very high numbers of Ukrainians are saying ‘we should not stop fighting’,” she added.

There have been several peace talks between the officials of Russia and Ukraine which ended in deadlocks.

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