(Reuters) - With peace talks between Russia and Ukraine set to take place in Turkey this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has insisted on the territorial integrity of his country after earlier suggesting he was ready for a compromise.
Zelenskyy said in a video address to the Ukrainian people late on Sunday that in talks due to take place in Istanbul his government would prioritise the "territorial integrity" of Ukraine.
But in comments made to Russian journalists earlier in the day, Zelenskyy adopted a different tone, saying Ukraine was willing to assume neutral status and compromise over the status of the eastern Donbas region as part of a peace deal.
In the video call that the Kremlin pre-emptively warned Russian media not to report, Zelenskyy said any agreement must be guaranteed by third parties and put to a referendum.
"Security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state. We are ready to go for it," he added, speaking in Russian.
Even with talks looming, Ukraine's head of military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, said Russian President Vladimir Putin was aiming to seize the eastern part of Ukraine.
"In fact, it is an attempt to create North and South Korea in Ukraine," he said, referring to the division of Korea after World War Two.
Zelenskyy has urged the West to give Ukraine tanks, planes and missiles to help fend off Russian forces.
In a call with Putin on Sunday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan agreed to host the talks and called for a ceasefire and better humanitarian conditions, his office said. Ukrainian and Russian negotiators confirmed that in-person talks would take place.
Top American officials sought on Sunday to clarify that the United States does not have a policy of regime change in Russia, after President Joe Biden said at the end of a speech in Poland on Saturday that Putin "cannot remain in power".
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Biden had simply meant Putin could not be "empowered to wage war" against Ukraine or anywhere else.
After more than four weeks of conflict, Russia has failed to seize any major Ukrainian city and signalled on Friday it was scaling back its ambitions to focus on securing the Donbas region, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting the Ukrainian army for the past eight years.