KYIV, Ukraine — Russia's military forces are blasting Ukraine's capital region and other major cities as they try to crush a Ukrainian defense that has frustrated their progress nearly three weeks after invading.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces had been unable to move deeper into Ukrainian territory but continued their heavy shelling of cities.
With Russia's ground advance on Kyiv stalled despite the sustained bombardment, a glimmer of optimism emerged that talks between the two sides could make progress.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that a neutral military status for Ukraine was being "seriously discussed" at the "businesslike" talks.
"A neutral status is being seriously discussed in connection with security guarantees," Lavrov said Wednesday on Russian channel RBK TV. "There are concrete formulations that in my view are close to being agreed."
He added he was hopeful that Wednesday's meeting "gives hope that we can agree on this issue."
Russia's chief negotiator in the latest round of talks with Ukraine, which started Monday and are set to continue Wednesday, said earlier the sides are discussing a possible compromise idea for a future Ukraine with a smaller, non-aligned military.
"A whole range of issues tied with the size of Ukraine's army is being discussed," Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said, according to Russian news agencies.
Zelenskyy said Tuesday that Russia's demands for ending the war as becoming "more realistic."
He added the country realizes that it cannot join NATO — a potential alliance that has been a major sore point for Moscow.
The Ukrainian president is slated to address the U.S. Congress Wednesday at 9 a.m. ET. Watch those remarks here.