On Tuesday, Moscow judged that negotiations with Kiev were not “significant” enough. But Vladimir Putin continues to ignore the invitations to a meeting issued by Volodymyr Zelensky, who said he was ready for a “compromise” on Donbass and Crimea.
Could the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine really be a big deal of diplomatic dupes orchestrated by Moscow? In any case, the recent statements by the spokesman for the Russian presidency cast doubt on Russia’s real intentions in these discussions.
On Tuesday, Dmitri Peskov, a close friend of Vladimir Putin, declared: “some process (of negotiations) is taking place. But we want it to be more energetic, more comprehensive”.
However, it is Russia that since the start of the invasion of Ukraine has ignored the invitations issued by Volodymyr Zelensky, who claim to be ready to meet Vladimir Putin in person. During an interview given to the Ukrainian regional media Suspilne, revealed the night between Monday and Tuesday, the Ukrainian head of state specified that a “meeting in any form” with his Russian counterpart was the only way to “stop the war”.
During the same interview, the former actor who became a warlord even said he was ready for a territorial “compromise” regarding Donbass, partly held by pro-Russian separatists, and Crimea, annexed by Moscow in 2014.
Four rounds of negotiations
It is therefore difficult to measure Moscow’s expectations in the negotiation process, which opened on 28 February in Belarus, just five days after the start of the Russian offensive.
Since then, there have been three other rounds of negotiations. One last in Belarus before the discussions shift to video conferencing.
“The video conference helps to relax the Ukrainians and streamline logistics because it was very complicated for the Ukrainian delegation to go to Belarus and avoid the battle zones. This will allow the negotiations to be faster and more efficient,” explains Igor Delanoë, deputy for TV5 Monde. Director of the Franco-Russian Observatory in Moscow.
The Russian delegation is led by Putin’s former culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky, a low-profile figure who “sees himself as a kind of knight of Holy and Greater Russia, who he says has always been humiliated and attacked by Westerners”, analysis with france info historian Emilia Kustova. On the Ukrainian side, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov is in charge.
Confidentiality of chat content
The content of the conversations remains confidential. Dmitri Peskov declined to comment on the content of the recent discussions, which began on 16 March. “At the moment, publishing (these cases) can only hamper the negotiation process, which is already slow.”
However, we know the main intentions of the two parties. In an interview with PBS NewsHour, Ukrainian Mykhailo Podoliak, Zelensky’s adviser and member of the Ukrainian negotiating delegation, said: “Our position in these negotiations is clear. We want legally verifiable security guarantees, a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops.”
In an interview with the Turkish daily HurriyetTurkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin revealed that the two sides were negotiating six other issues: Ukraine’s neutrality, disarmament and security guarantees, “denazification”, removal of barriers to the use of the Russian language in Ukraine, status of the Donbass separatist region and Crimean status annexed of Russia in 2014.
On Tuesday, Volodymyr Zelensky gave an update on the discussions in a video posted on social media. “Ukrainian representatives are working on the negotiations, which continue almost every day. It is very difficult. Sometimes shameful. But step by step we are moving forward,” he explained.
While he continues to push for a face-to-face meeting with his Russian counterpart, even if it means rejecting the work his team of dealers has done.
On CNN on Sunday, the Ukrainian president said: “Regardless of the discussions between our negotiating team, I think only the two of us, me and Putin, can reach an agreement”.
Ankara’s role as a mediator
The only meeting between senior officials since the start of the war took place between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kouleba in Antalya, Turkey on March 10.
Since the start of the Russian offensive, Turkey, which is a member of NATO but has not taken over all Western sanctions, has wanted to play a leading mediating role and managed to maintain contacts with the two warring factions.
The meeting in Antalya, on the other hand, did not lead to any concrete progress, much to the regret of Dmytro Kouleba, who had come first and foremost to negotiate a ceasefire. Same recognition of failure on the Russian side. At the end of the meeting, Sergei Lavrov indicated that the negotiations in Belarus and then via video conference were the only viable model for discussion.
On Sunday, March 20, Turkey nevertheless announced that Russia and Ukraine had made progress in their exchanges.
“Of course, it is not an easy thing to come to an understanding while the war is going on, civilians are being killed, but we would like to say that the momentum is advancing,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
Turkey has also said it is ready to host a meeting between Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin. “We work day and night for peace,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said Sunday.
International pressure is mounting
On the part of the Western chancellors, the negotiating route is presented as the only way out of the conflict, after weeks of military escalation, marked by Moscow’s slinging of the nuclear threat, the use of supersonic missiles and the siege. in the city of Mariupol.
On Tuesday, at the end of a new telephone conversation between Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Poutine, the Élysée indicated that “there is no other way out than a ceasefire and negotiations on sincerity”.
Same observation from the UN side, where UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Russia to provide a chance for diplomatic discussions. “Sooner or later we will have to move from the battlefield to the peace table, it is inevitable,” he stressed, describing the Russian offensive as “invincible.” progress.
It is still unknown whether Vladimir Putin will be sensitive to the new discussion paths opened by Volodymyr Zelensky regarding Donbass and Crimea. While bearing in mind that it is impossible to say whether the next step desired by the Kremlin’s lord will be the strengthening of the offensive or the opening of negotiations in high places. Was it not already Vladimir Poutine who had given his agreement to Emmanuel Macron to meet Joe Biden on February 20, before launching his offensive against Ukraine on the 24th?