Ukraine rejects ‘Sweden status’ compromise in peace talks

Ukraine said on Wednesday it wanted its security to be guaranteed by international forces and rejected proposals pushed by Russia for it to adopt a status comparable to that of Sweden or Austria.

Ukrainian negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak speaks to media after talks between delegations from Ukraine and Russia in Belarus' Gomel region on February 28.
Ukrainian negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak speaks to media after talks between delegations from Ukraine and Russia in Belarus’ Gomel region on February 28. Photo: Sergei Kholohdilin/BELTA/AFP

“Ukraine is now in a direct state of war with Russia. As a result, the model can only be ‘Ukrainian’ and only on legally verified security guarantees,” its top negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak said in comments published by President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office.

He called for a legally binding security agreement, signed by international partners, who would “not stand aside in the event of an attack on Ukraine, as they do today.”

The Kremlin earlier on Wednesday said that a neutral Ukraine along the lines of Sweden or Austria was being discussed at talks with Kyiv to end three weeks of fighting in Ukraine.

“This is an option that is being discussed now and that can be considered as a compromise,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

His comments came after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said neutrality was taking centre stage at the talks. Russia’s lead negotiator had earlier introduced the proposal shot down by Ukraine.

Sweden officially is militarily non-aligned in peacetime, having ended its policy of neutrality in 1992 at the end of the Cold War.

It is not a member of NATO, but it has been a partner to the alliance for nearly 30 years.

At the end of the Cold War, Sweden slashed its military spending, but began reinvesting in its defence following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014.

Russia and Ukraine have held several rounds of negotiations with the latest bout ending late Tuesday and Kyiv pointing to “fundamental contradictions”.

Russia’s foreign minister said earlier Wednesday that Moscow and Kyiv were “close to agreeing” the wording of an agreement on neutrality.

Both sides had earlier raised hopes of a breakthrough, referring to documents that were close to being put to paper and signed.

Russia’s lead negotiator Vladimir Medinsky told reporters earlier Wednesday that talks were “slow and difficult” but said the Kremlin wants peace “as soon as possible.”

Other than neutrality for Ukraine, Medinsky said issues including the status of the Crimean peninsula as well as territories held for years by pro-Moscow separatists were being discussed.

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Sweden’s Green Party demands nuclear weapons ban

Sweden’s Green Party has called on the parliament to bring in a law outlawing nuclear weapons from Sweden’s territory in both peace and wartime. 

Sweden’s Green Party demands nuclear weapons ban

“We need to keep working towards nuclear disarmament,” the party’s joint leader, Märta Stenevi, said. 

The ban would cover all use of nuclear weapons on Swedish territory, even on visiting ships and when allies use Swedish waters or airspace. 

“We want the parliament to state its position on this demand,” Stenevi said. 

It is not enough, she said to state, as Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said she would, that Sweden does not want nuclear weapons or Nato bases on its territory, a similar situation as Denmark and Norway have had

“When you look at Denmark and Norway, those exceptions are verbal agreements,” Stenevi said.  

If Nato were to require member states to accept nuclear weapons at a later date, national law would be required for Sweden to be able to opt out, Stenevi said.

“That legislation would trump Nato’s statutes”.

Stenevi highlighted the fact that similar legislation already exists in Finland and has done for some time.

The Greens also want Sweden to remain outside Nato’s special committee for nuclear weapons.

“We think Sweden should continue to work towards nuclear disarmament,” she said. “To then sit and take part in a group pointing nuclear weapons towards specific targets is closer to legitimising their use”.

The Green Party also want Sweden to promote the “no first use” principle within Nato, which would mean that nuclear weapons can never be used unless a nuclear power had already been attacked with nuclear weapons first.

Finally, they write in their motion that they want Sweden to promote the respect for democratic values within Nato, as well as the introduction of a “democracy requirement” within the alliance.

“You just need to look at the last 24 hours to see clear evidence of Turkey making requirements and expecting Sweden to adapt their foreign policy to what fits the Turkish regime and not what Sweden decide is independently correct and right.” Stenevi said.