The twelfth day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine extended the list of material and human damage, with new bombings on Monday in the southern fringe of the country that joins the Crimean peninsula with the area of the self-proclaimed separatist republics of Donbas. But the day also left timid progress on the diplomatic front, such as China’s willingness to mediate in the conflict or the debate on the creation of humanitarian corridors, after three failed attempts to open routes to evacuate civilians from the hardest-hit areas. for the war. The third round of negotiations between the two opposing countries was closed after Moscow set its demands on the government of Volodímir Zelinski to achieve an “immediate” ceasefire, according to a conversation with the Kremlin spokesman, Dimitri Peskov, with the Reuters agency.
The third round of talks between the Ukrainian and Russian authorities concluded with little progress and the feeling that it will take much longer to reach peace. “We have no illusions that we will achieve a definitive result in the next phase of negotiations with Ukraine. It is hard work,” said one of the members of the Russian delegation, Leonid Slutski, at the end of the meeting.
China on Monday declared itself willing to mediate in the conflict. In his clearest statement yet about his interest in filling that role, Foreign Minister Wang Yi indicated that his country is willing “to carry out the necessary mediation when necessary.” But that does not imply that Beijing is going to distance itself from its strategic partner. The relationship with Moscow is “solid as a rock” and will continue to deepen, the minister assured, reports from Beijing Macarena Vidal Liy.
The Kremlin’s demands at the negotiation table were three: the Ukrainian government must recognize the Crimean peninsula as Russian and the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent territories. In addition, it must sign in its Constitution a “neutral” status that will prevent it from ever joining any Western bloc, especially NATO. The first step, says Moscow, would be the end of the Ukrainian armed resistance. “We are concluding the demilitarization of Ukraine,” Peskov said. “We are going to achieve it, but if they stop their military action now, nobody is going to keep shooting.” “Donetsk and Luhansk do not want to be part of Ukraine. But that doesn’t mean they should be destroyed,” Vladimir Putin’s spokesman added.
Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.
The greatest success of the meeting was “a few small advances in the logistics of the humanitarian corridors”, according to the head of the Ukrainian delegation, Mijaíl Podoliak. His Russian counterpart, Vladimir Medinski, was not so convinced. “Let’s leave this matter up in the air. We expect the corridors to work tomorrow [por este martes]the Ukrainian side has assured us of that”, stressed the Moscow representative.
Kiev had rejected the corridors proposed by Moscow because they led to Russian or Belarusian territory, the latter country serving as a platform for the front that has put the Ukrainian capital under siege. In addition, during the weekend the evacuation of civilians in cities such as Mariupol or Volvovaja was frustrated due to the breach of the ceasefire agreed between the parties.
Monday’s meeting, which lasted about three hours, addressed not only the “neutrality” of Ukraine, but also other issues that the Kremlin has denounced all these years, such as the situation of the Russian language in the neighboring country. Russian ceased to be official in Ukraine in 2019, at the end of the term of the previous president, Petró Poroshenko, and with Zelensky it was recently legislated that all media in Russian —not so in other languages— must have a version in Ukrainian.
The Russian delegation hoped to sign some pre-agreements at this meeting, but according to its boss, the expectations “did not come true”. “We arrived with a large number of written documents: agreements, drafts, proposals… And we hoped that today [por el lunes] it would have been possible to sign at least a protocol on some of the points that we have agreed on in principle, but the Ukrainian side took the documents to study them”, explained Medinski.
The talks between the authorities in Kiev and Moscow took place on the same day that the 27 countries of the European Union agreed to start the process so that Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia can become, in the future, members of the community club, after the request that these three countries made last week, reports from Brussels Manuel V. Gomez. This is a first step, but it has a clear political message at a time when Ukraine is fighting Russian troops invading its territory. As reported by the French presidency of the Union on its official Twitter account, the Twenty-seven asked the Commission on Monday to take the first step on that path, preparing the necessary report to decide whether the EU countries grant Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia candidate country status.
President Zelensky signed the petition for EU membership as part of the response to the invasion that Russia launched on February 24. Moldova and Georgia followed suit immediately, fearing Moscow. The latest UN report indicates that 406 civilians have lost their lives since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, although the organization acknowledges that the real figure is higher.
The allies have decided to maintain the pressure against Putin through sanctions despite the turmoil they generate in their own economies and the differences caused by a crucial issue such as the veto on Russian oil imports, which is especially harmful to Europeans. The president of the United States, Joe Biden, had a telephone call with the leaders of France, Emmanuel Macron; Germany, Olaf Scholz, and the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, in which they shared “determination to continue raising costs” against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine, according to the summary made public by the White House, an “unjustified and unprovoked” invasion , reports amanda mars from Washington.
On the twelfth day of aggression, in which photos of dead civilians trying to flee Russian bombs have stunned half the world, the leaders also underline their commitment to continue providing economic, humanitarian and security assistance to Ukraine. The question is how all this support materializes. The United States Congress is promoting a bipartisan vote to ban crude oil imports from Russia and Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured on Sunday that Western countries are intensely negotiating this measure in order to toughen the response to Putin, but Germany has stressed this Monday that they do not plan to suspend purchases of Russian oil.
The diplomatic channel has not been completely closed, despite everything. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ukrainian Dmitro Kuleba are scheduled to meet for the first time on Thursday in Turkey to try to find a way out of the conflict. In principle, they will do it in the southern city of Antalya and in a three-way format, with the presence of their Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavusoglu. “Our most urgent objective is the cessation of fighting,” explained the head of Turkish diplomacy when announcing the meeting, which he considered an “important step” towards peace and stability. Subsequently, the Russian foreign spokeswoman, Maria Zajarova, confirmed to the TASS agency the Russian participation in the meeting, according to what she reports from Istanbul. Andres Mourenza.