Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a press conference

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov appears at a press conference in Moscow on March 16, 2022. (Photo: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Ukraine, Russia Reportedly Making 'Significant Progress' Toward 15-Point Peace Deal

"Our position at the negotiations is quite specific—legally verified security guarantees; ceasefire; withdrawal of Russian troops," said an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators are reportedly moving in the direction of a 15-point peace deal that would involve Kyiv formally renouncing its ambition to join NATO and accepting "limits on its armed forces" in exchange for a cease-fire, the withdrawal of Moscow's troops, and security guarantees from the West.

The broad and tentative framework of the deal was first reported Wednesday by the Financial Times, which noted that Ukraine and Russia's delegations "have made significant progress" toward an agreement while stressing that potentially major obstacles remain.

"Negotiations are not easy for obvious reasons but nevertheless there is some hope for reaching a compromise."

According to FT, in addition to Ukraine dropping its goal of NATO membership--which is enshrined in the country's constitution--the diplomatic settlement would involve Kyiv promising "not to host foreign military bases or weaponry in exchange for protection from allies such as the U.S., U.K., and Turkey."

"The nature of western guarantees for Ukrainian security--and their acceptability to Moscow--could yet prove to be a big obstacle to any deal, as could the status of Ukrainian territories seized by Russia and its proxies in 2014," FT noted. "A 1994 agreement underpinning Ukrainian security failed to prevent Russian aggression against its neighbor."

Earlier Wednesday, both Ukrainian and Russian officials spoke positively of recent diplomatic talks, noting that while conversations have been difficult and tense, the two sides have made headway toward a possible peace agreement even as Russia's deadly assault headed into its fourth week.

"Negotiations are not easy for obvious reasons, but nevertheless there is some hope for reaching a compromise," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday, citing the assessments of Russian officials directly involved in the talks on the border of Belarus.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, wrote in a Twitter post on Wednesday that "our position at the negotiations is quite specific--legally verified security guarantees; ceasefire; withdrawal of Russian troops."

"This is possible," he added, "only with a direct dialogue between the heads of Ukraine and the Russian Federation."

Reports of progress toward a peace deal came just after Zelenskyy delivered a video address to the U.S. Congress imploring lawmakers and the Biden administration to help bolster Ukraine's defenses with additional arms, including anti-aircraft weaponry.

"I call on you to do more," said Zelenskyy, "until the Russian military machine stops."

As Zelenskyy spoke, Ukrainian forces moved ahead with a new counteroffensive in Kyiv and other major cities as Russian missile attacks and artillery fire continued, hammering residential areas and killing civilians.

Citing an unnamed Ukrainian official, the New York Timesreported Wednesday that the goal of the counteroffensive "was to inflict mass casualties on the Russian military, rather than to win back territory."

"The operation involved attacks by Ukrainian artillery, fighter jets, and tanks," the Times reported. "Details of the offensive could not be fully confirmed independently. Satellite pictures from Tuesday show heavy black smoke above the Kherson airport, where the official said Ukrainian forces had targeted Russian military aircraft parked there."

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