Keys to the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine: what does each country want? | International

The delegations of Russia and Ukraine began a new round of face-to-face negotiations in Istanbul on Tuesday under the auspices of the Turkish government, after two weeks of videoconference discussions. The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has asked both negotiating teams for “a fair peace” in which, according to him, “there should not be a loser”. The fundamental objective of this new dialogue between Russian and Ukrainian presidential advisers is to reach a ceasefire. However, although both parties have been willing to bring their positions closer together, an abyss continues to separate the demands of the invading country, Russia, from the demands that kyiv has claimed to be willing to accept; especially regarding the demand that Ukraine recognize Russian sovereignty over Crimea – which Moscow illegally invaded and annexed in 2014 – and the independence of the Donbas region. The Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, has summed up his country’s position regarding this negotiation with one sentence: “[A cambio de la paz] we are not willing to exchange people, territory or sovereignty.”

What does Russia demand to stop the war?

Russia’s main demands to stop the war that began five weeks ago have not changed substantially from those that President Vladimir Putin listed just before launching the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba confirmed in an interview. with this diary. These Russian demands are, first, that Ukraine accept a status of neutrality, that is, that it renounce joining NATO, and also shield it by inscribing this commitment in its Constitution, which now includes the goal of joining the Atlantic Alliance. Second, that kyiv recognizes the Crimean peninsula as Russian territory, which Moscow annexed eight years ago with a referendum held in that territory under military presence and not recognized by the international community.

Another Russian claim to Ukraine is the recognition of Donetsk and Lugansk, in the eastern Ukrainian area of ​​Donbas, as independent states. Among the initial demands of Russia were initially the “denazification” of Ukraine -Putin maintains that the Government and the army of that country are controlled by neo-Nazis and extreme right-wing groups-, the demilitarization and the protection of the Russian language in the former Soviet republic. .

What are the conditions of Ukraine?

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Ukraine’s main conditions for a possible peace agreement are three: the first is to obtain security guarantees. The second is the recognition of its territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders – which includes Crimea and Donbas – and the third is a ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Russian Army. kyiv also demands the opening of humanitarian corridors to evacuate the population from the areas besieged by Russian troops with an express commitment from Moscow that fleeing civilians will not be attacked.

What does Ukraine mean when it asks for security guarantees?

In his conversation with EL PAÍS, Minister Kuleba specified that his government aspires to “something similar” to Article 5 of NATO; that is to say, a commitment of the States that become guarantors of Ukraine’s security to defend the country if someone attacks it. Kuleba explained that these guarantees would oblige “those countries that provide their security guarantees to provide Ukraine with all the necessary weapons within 24 hours, adopt a resolution of the UN Security Council demanding to stop the aggression and impose sanctions.” The minister assured that kyiv is “in talks with the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Turkey about their potential participation in this model.”

What are the main obstacles for the negotiations?

The issues on which the positions of Moscow and Ukraine continue to be most irreconcilable are the territorial question and the aspects linked to Ukrainian national sovereignty. In his televised address on Sunday, President Zelensky stressed that he wants peace but specified that both issues constitute red lines for his country: “The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine are beyond any doubt.” In the face of this, Russia insists on its demand that Ukraine accept the fait accompli of its unilateral annexation of Crimea in 2014 and recognize Russian sovereignty over that part of its territory. Moscow also demands that kyiv give up the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in Donbas, and recognize the two provinces of that Ukrainian region as independent states. In 2014, shortly after the illegal referendum in Crimea, pro-Russian separatists, backed by the Kremlin, voted on parts of those territories to claim independence. Before the invasion, Putin recognized them as republics, also assuming his claim to all of Donbas (the area where Mariupol is, for example) although they only controlled a third of it at that time.

How have the positions on the part of Ukraine come closer?

Zelensky has reiterated that his country is ready to discuss a neutral status for his country and to withdraw from NATO, the last time this Sunday, in an interview with several Russian independent media. However, the Ukrainian president conditions this discussion to a withdrawal of Russian troops and that this issue is put to a referendum, since a constitutional change would be required. As he has done throughout his term in office, Zelensky insisted in his interview with the Russian media — banned for broadcast in Russia — that kyiv has no plans to forcibly recapture the entire territory of Donetsk and Lugansk. The Ukrainian president alluded to a “compromise” on Donbas and hinted that he would accept a return to status quo pre-invasion; that is to say, a withdrawal of the Russian forces to the demarcation line that, before February 24, separated the area of ​​Donbas under the control of Moscow, through the pro-Russian separatists, from the area dominated by the Ukrainian Army.

And from Russia?

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday that he saw an agreement between Russia and Ukraine as “possible.” Moscow could have renounced some of its initial demands on Ukraine, especially in three aspects: the demilitarization of the country, the legal protection of Russian —about 30% of Ukrainians have that language as their mother tongue— and what Putin defined as “ denazification”, according to Financial Times, who claims to have agreed to the draft of the ceasefire on which the Russian and Ukrainian delegations are working in Istanbul. Russia could also be willing to accept Ukraine’s entry into the European Union, always according to the document quoted by that newspaper.

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