War in Ukraine: The Kremlin delivers a negotiation offer to kyiv in the midst of the Donbas offensive | International
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Russia has delivered its new negotiation proposals to Ukraine in writing and kyiv has picked up the gauntlet. Despite the disagreements maintained after the short-lived success of the Istanbul meeting at the end of March, the contacts continue with the Donbas offensive in the background. “The Russian side studied our proposals and expressed its position. Now it is our turn to analyse, compare and draw conclusions, including those of a political and legal nature”, President Volodímir Zelenski’s main adviser, Mijaílo Podoliak, told several Ukrainian media.
Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, had announced this very day the delivery of the documents to kyiv “with absolutely clear and developed formulations.” “The ball is in your court, we are waiting for an answer,” added the representative of the Russian president. Also this Wednesday, the spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, María Zajárova, reviewed Moscow’s main demands now. “The talks to ensure the neutral status of Ukraine, outside any bloc and without nuclear weapons, continue,” he stressed before mentioning other items on the agenda, including the demilitarization of the country, the restoration of Russian as an official language and the recognition of Crimea as part of Russia. However, for Donbas he demanded only his independence.
The Istanbul meeting on March 29 achieved some progress in the negotiations that the Russian and Ukrainian delegations have been holding since the conflict began. At that meeting, kyiv offered Moscow its definitive renunciation of NATO membership in exchange for obtaining security guarantees on its territory, and was open to negotiating the future of Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, and the region of Donbas, at war since that same year.
Podoliak explained that Ukraine sent its proposals after the meeting in the Turkish city, “including those that concern security guarantees that there will be no future aggression against our country,” as he stressed on Wednesday, and now it is his turn to assess the counteroffer Russian.
For its part, Moscow has not clarified whether it has given a deadline to receive a response from kyiv. “That depends on the Ukrainian side,” said Peskov, who once again reiterated the Kremlin’s accusations that his rival is deliberately delaying the talks. “We have said it several times, the work dynamics of the Ukrainian side leaves much to be desired; the Ukrainians do not show a great inclination to intensify the dialogue”, criticized Peskov.
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The negotiations in Istanbul, considered positive by the Russian delegation at the time, received harsh criticism from the most nationalist sectors of the country. According to his draft, kyiv would get a guarantee that several countries will arm it within days if it is attacked, although this protection would exclude any conflict in both Crimea and Donbas. The Ukrainian government offered the Kremlin to address the status of the Black Sea peninsula within 15 years, and in other independent meetings the situation in the eastern part of the country.
The Zelensky government has received the draft from Moscow two days after the Russian army began what it has called “the second phase of the operation.” Putin justified more than a week ago that the withdrawal of troops from other areas, such as kyiv, was a “concession” for the progress of the negotiations in Istanbul and not for the stagnation of the conflict. Now these forces have been redirected to the Donbas front, according to Western espionage, where they have joined the offensive for control of eastern Ukraine.
exchange of accusations
Zajárova has also joined the Kremlin’s accusations against the Ukrainian delegation. “We have not trusted these people for a long time,” said the representative of the body headed by the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergey Lavrov. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, the negotiations have gone badly from the start. “From there began, as always, a circus in a figurative and direct sense on the part of the kyiv regime: that they come, that they do not come, that they participate, that they do not participate… Were we ready for that in Moscow? Of course it is,” she said, referring to the previous failed negotiations for the implementation of the 2014 and 2015 Minsk agreements, a pretext used by Putin to order his troops into Ukraine on February 24 this year.
Lavrov told the Russian news agency TASS this past Tuesday that the offensive now launched in Donbas “will be an important moment.” “The operation in eastern Ukraine has as its objective, as was announced at the beginning, the complete liberation of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics,” reiterated the Foreign Minister, who cataloged the withdrawal of troops from Chernihiv and kyiv as “a gesture of goodwill that was not appreciated.”
Both parties have accused each other these weeks of prolonging the talks in order to reorganize their troops. Vladimir Putin warned on April 12 that his army will not stop until it gains control of the eastern part of Ukraine and “helps the people of Donbas.” “That’s how it will be, there’s no doubt,” said the president.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has recorded 2,104 civilian deaths and 2,862 injuries in Ukraine as of April 19, although these figures could be “considerably higher.” According to his numbers, 660 civilians have died in Donbas in the area controlled by kyiv and 79 in the separatist part, although he does not know the reality of some parts where it has been impossible to access due to the fighting, as is the case of the besieged Mariupol.
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