Russia has decided to drastically cut its military activity around Kyiv and Chernihiv in Ukraine, one of its deputy defense ministers said on Tuesday, after talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiating teams in Istanbul.
"In order to increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations and achieving the ultimate goal of agreeing and signing (an) agreement, a decision was made to radically, by a large margin, reduce military activity in the Kyiv and Chernihiv directions," Alexander Fomin, the Russian deputy minister, told reporters.
Russia's General Staff will reveal more details about the decisions that have been taken after the delegation returns to Moscow, Fomin said.
Ukrainian negotiators said they had proposed at the latest round of talks with Russia that Ukraine must adopt neutral status in exchange for security guarantees, meaning Kyiv would not join military alliances or host military bases.
Russia's chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said Russia would look at the proposals and report on them to President Vladimir Putin.
"These proposals will be considered in the near future, reported to the president, and our response will be given," Medinsky said.
Ukrainian negotiators said they had proposed a status under which their country would not join alliances or host bases of foreign troops, but would have its security guaranteed in terms similar to "Article 5," the collective defense clause of NATO.
They identified Israel and NATO members Canada, Poland and Turkey as countries that could help provide such guarantees.
The proposals would include a 15-year consultation period on the status of Russian-annexed Crimea, and could come into force only in the event of a complete cease-fire, the Ukrainian negotiators told reporters in Istanbul.
The talks held in Istanbul on Tuesday were the first face-to-face meeting between the sides since March 10. Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, and has failed to capture any major Ukrainian cities after meeting fierce resistance.
Ukraine's proposals were the most detailed and concrete that Kyiv has aired publicly.
"If we manage to consolidate these key provisions, and for us, this is the most fundamental, then Ukraine will be in a position to actually fix its current status as a non-bloc and non-nuclear state in the form of permanent neutrality," said Ukrainian negotiator Oleksander Chaly.
"We will not host foreign military bases on our territory, as well as deploy military contingents on our territory, and we will not enter into military-political alliances," he said. Military exercises would take place with the consent of the guarantor countries.
The Ukrainian negotiators said there was enough material in their proposals to warrant a meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin.