RUSSIA claims it is close to a peace deal that will see Ukraine become a neutral country, its foreign minister has claimed.
The apparent willingness of Vladimir Putin to find a way out of the war he started comes as his forces have been mauled by heroic Ukrainian defenders and could even buckle in ten days.
The Russian tyrant expected a quick victory when he ordered the invasion on February 23 but Kyiv’s forces say they have killed more than 13,500 of the invaders.
Moscow has seen generals killed, pilots blasted out of the sky, tanks ambushed and videos of sobbing soldiers after surrendering to the Ukrainians.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said talks with Ukraine are now focused on a neutral status for the war-torn country.
“A neutral status is being seriously discussed in connection with security guarantees,” Lavrov told Russian television.
“There are concrete formulations that in my view are close to being agreed.”
The model which is being pursued is that of Austria which has its own military but is bound to neutrality by the 1955 Austrian State Treaty.
Austria’s constitution prohibits entry into military alliances and the establishment of foreign military bases on its territory.
“This is a variant that is currently being discussed and which could really be seen as a compromise,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
If a similar deal were to be struck, then Ukraine would not be allowed to join NATO.
Ukraine is not a member of the alliance but has it has repeatedly said it wants to join to benefit from its protection.
Russia has said it cannot allow that to happen, and cited it as part of the reason for its invasion.
But Kyiv said it now understood it does not have an open door to NATO membership and was seeking other types of security guarantees.
It comes as both a senior UK defence source and the former commander of US forces say the game could soon be up for Russia.
“Ukraine has Russia on the run,” the source told the Daily Mail.
Retired US army General Ben Hodges has predicted Russian forces will be unable to continue their assault on Ukraine 10 days from now – if Ukraine can hold out that long.
The latest Russian losses saw a fourth general killed, in the fighting that’s been raging in the southern city of Mariupol.
The Ministry of Defence said Russian troops have remained largely on the road and have “demonstrated a reluctance to conduct off-road manoeuvre”.
The destruction of bridges by Ukrainian forces has also played a “key role in stalling Russia’s advance”.
“Russia’s continued failure to gain control of the air has drastically limited their ability to effectively use air manoeuvre, further limiting their options,” said the ministry.
“The tactics of the Ukrainian armed forces have adeptly exploited Russia’s lack of manoeuvre, frustrating the Russian advance and inflicting heavy losses on the invading forces.”