Russia offered to end its invasion of Ukraine if it dumped plans to join NATO, but Kyiv feared a double cross, says negotiator

  • A Ukrainian politician said Russia proposed ending the war if Ukraine abandoned its NATO ambitions.

  • Russia made the proposal during peace talks soon after the full-scale invasion began.

  • "There is no, and there was no, trust in the Russians that they would do it," the politician said.

Russia offered to stop its invasion of Ukraine on the condition that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's government abandon its ambition to join NATO, the Kyiv Post reported.

David Arakhamia, the leader of the Servant of the People party and the head of the Ukrainian delegation in the talks, said that Russia had proposed a resolution to the conflict in spring 2022.

The peace talks took place during the early stages of the full-scale war on the border of Ukraine and Belarus and in Turkey.

The Russian delegation reportedly proposed ending the war if Ukraine dropped its NATO aspirations and took a neutral position.

Arakhamia said that a shift toward neutrality would require a constitutional change, considering Ukraine's current constitutional commitment to NATO membership.

Arakhamia told Natalia Moseychuk, a Ukrainian journalist, that Russia saw Ukraine's neutrality as a key condition for a potential peace agreement. "They really hoped almost to the last that they would put the squeeze on us to sign such an agreement so that we would take neutrality. It was the biggest thing for them," he said.

Arakhamia said there was a lack of trust in Russia's sincerity. "There is no, and there was no, trust in the Russians that they would do it. That could only be done if there were security guarantees," he explained.

Signing an agreement without such assurances, Arakhamia argued, would leave Ukraine vulnerable to a potential second incursion because it would have given Russia an opportunity to regroup and prepare for another round of military aggression.

War crimes

Communal workers prepare to carry a corpse in a body bag in a street of Bucha, about 18 miles from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, in April 2022.SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's unexpected visit to Kyiv on April 9, 2022, had an impact on the potential cease-fire. Johnson advised against signing any agreement with Russia and encouraged Ukraine to continue the fight. Arakhamia recalled Johnson's stance, saying Ukraine "shouldn't sign anything with them at all — and let's just fight."

While both sides expressed readiness for a meeting between Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin, discussions abruptly halted when Russian troops retreated from Kyiv. The withdrawal exposed the extent of apparent war crimes committed, including the Bucha massacre.

Three days after Johnson's departure from Kyiv, Putin publicly declared that talks with Ukraine had "turned into a dead end."

NATO expansion has been underway since the beginning of the war, with the formerly neutral Finland joining in April.

Business Insider reported in January that Putin's decision to invade Ukraine was a miscalculation because the war backfired by uniting NATO in support of Ukraine.

While the bloc has been a crucial ally to Ukraine, there is a reluctance to initiate Ukrainian membership while the country is at war. The US opposes extending NATO membership to Ukraine in the immediate future to avoid escalating the West's tensions with Russia.

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