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Editorial: Russia should accept Ukraine's neutrality proposal, halt invasion

During the latest round of bilateral talks to halt Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian delegation has proposed accepting conditional neutrality.

    Under the proposal, Ukraine would give up its long-held aspirations to join NATO. Instead of the promise of mutual defense provided by the alliance, Ukraine's security would be guaranteed by the country's European neighbors, the United States, and Russia.

    It took the parties four rounds of talks to achieve even marginal steps toward mutual concessions.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has been demanding Ukraine declare neutrality and abandon joining NATO since before he ordered the multipronged invasion of the country. The Russian government delegation stated that they would take the neutrality proposal home and go through it. We urge Moscow to seriously consider accepting it.

    The Russian invasion has now dragged on into its second month, and Moscow looks increasingly like it has been driven into a corner. The comprehensive anti-Russia sanctions meted out by the U.S., Japan and European countries have been a major blow to the Russian economy. The war on the ground is also turning against Russia's armies.

    Russia appears to have been aiming for the quick, decisive capture of Ukraine's capital Kyiv. But taking the city at all looks more and more unlikely as Ukrainian forces counterattack, pushing Russian forces back. Russia has already lost thousands of troops, and the cost of the war is getting steadily steeper.

    Russia has been compelled by these hard realities to alter its strategy and shift troops to eastern Ukraine instead of near Kyiv. The Russian Ministry of Defence has announced that it will drastically scale back its operations near Ukraine's capital. However, the Pentagon remains skeptical, saying it's not a withdrawal but a redeployment.

    Russian attacks have destroyed numerous housing complexes, commercial buildings and hospitals in many parts of Ukraine. The United Nations estimates the death toll in besieged Mariupol alone may have climbed to several thousand. Some 4 million people have fled Ukraine as refugees.

    We must bring an immediate end to what is decried as the worst humanitarian crisis Europe has faced since World War II.

    The leaders of the U.S., Britain, France, Germany and Italy have agreed to keep pressuring Russia until it signs a ceasefire with Ukraine and pulls out its troops. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stressed that the Putin government's true intentions must be judged by its actions, not by its words.

    Russia must halt all its attacks immediately to work toward a permanent ceasefire agreement with Ukraine.

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