Ukraine's President Zelenskyy has told journalists his country could consider a referendum on staying out of NATO -- and staying neutral -- but only after Russian troops withdraw.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told a group of independent Russian journalists that his government would consider declaring neutrality and offering security guarantees to Russia, repeating earlier statements.
That would include keeping Ukraine nuclear-free, he said.
The comments come as negotiators from Ukraine and Russia are set to meet again in Turkey for another round of peace talks this week.
The issue of Ukraine's "neutrality", one of the central points of negotiations with Russia to end the conflict, is being "studied in-depth", Zelenskyy said on Sunday, during an interview with a group of independent Russian journalists.
One of the clauses of the negotiations concerns "security guarantees and neutrality, the denuclearised status of our state", a demand from Moscow, he said in this online interview broadcast on the Telegram channel of the Ukrainian presidential administration.
Zelenskyy told reporters that the issue of neutrality – and agreeing to stay out of NATO – should be put to Ukrainian voters in a referendum after Russian troops withdraw. Zelenskyy said any vote could take place within a few months of the troops leaving.
Russian authorities quickly moved to ban the interview from being published. Roskomnadzor, which regulates communications for Moscow, issued the ban, saying there could be action taken against the Russian media outlets that took part, which included “those that are foreign media outlets acting as foreign agents."
Russia-based outlets appeared to comply with the ban although the interview was published abroad.
President Zelenskyy responded by saying Moscow was afraid of a relatively short conversation with journalists. “It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic,” he said, according to the Ukrainian news agency RBK Ukraina.