'Russia-Ukraine talks progressed enough for direct contacts between leaders'

Russian, Ukrainian leaders highly likely to meet in Turkiye, says Ukrainian negotiator, according to local media.

'Russia-Ukraine talks progressed enough for direct contacts between leaders'

Peace talks between Ukraine and Russia have progressed enough for the leaders of the two warring countries to "conduct direct consultations," a Ukrainian negotiator said on Saturday, according to local media. 

David Arakhamia told a Ukrainian television network that the Russian side "confirmed our thesis that draft documents have been developed enough to conduct direct consultations between the two leaders of the countries," Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported.

"Our task is to prepare the final stage, not of the document itself, but of those issues that we touched upon, and to prepare the future meeting of the presidents," Arakhamia said via phone link, the head of the Ukrainian delegation at the talks.

Arakhamia had also said that Russia had officially responded on all issues, accepting the Ukrainian position, "with the exception of the issue of Crimea."

In a separate report, the news agency had said the presidents of Russia and Ukraine are highly likely to meet in Turkiye to discuss a draft peace deal to end the war, citing Arakhamia.

Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy are expected to meet in Turkiye "with a high degree of probability," the agency reported, citing Arakhamia.

Arakhamia added that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had spoken to both countries on Friday, and "seemed to confirm for his part that they were ready to organize a meeting in the near future."

"Neither the date nor the place is known, but we believe that the place with a high degree of probability will be Istanbul or Ankara," Arakhamia said.

In a breakthrough, Russian and Ukrainian delegations met for peace talks in Istanbul on March 29 as the war entered its second month with casualties piling up on both sides.

During the talks, Ukrainian officials signaled readiness to negotiate a "neutral status," a key Russian demand, but demanded security guarantees for their country.

Russia, meanwhile, pledged to significantly decrease its military activities toward the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv and Chernihiv to build up trust for future negotiations.

Ukraine wants to see countries, including Turkiye, as guarantors in a deal with Russia, a Ukrainian negotiator said after the talks.

The Russian war against Ukraine, which started on Feb. 24, has been met with international outrage, with the EU, US, and Britain, among others, implementing tough financial sanctions on Moscow.

At least 1,325 civilians have been killed in Ukraine and 2,017 injured, according to UN estimates, with the true figure feared to be far higher.

More than 4.1 million Ukrainians have also fled to other countries, with millions more internally displaced, according to the UN refugee agency.