Conflicts & War

Ukraine, Russia hopeful of reaching agreement in peace talks

(Update 1: adds Lavrov remarks, edits guide)

Odesa, Ukraine, Mar 16 (EFE).- Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said early Wednesday morning that the positions in the negotiations with Russia for a ceasefire are now more realistic, but that time is needed for any outcome to be in the best interests of his country.

In his address, delivered at the beginning of the 21st day of Russia’s invasion, Zelenskyy said “the third week is about to be over. We all want peace. As soon as possible. We all want to win. And there is always a feeling that a little more, and we will get what belongs to us, Ukraine, by right. But efforts are still needed. It takes patience. We still have to fight. And work.”

“It is difficult, but important, because any war ends in an agreement,” he added. “Meetings continue. As I am told, the positions in the negotiations sound more realistic. However, time is still needed for the decisions to be in Ukraine’s interests.”

Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov also sounded more optimistic, saying a “more businesslike” discussion had raised hopes of reaching an agreement.

Although he said there were “much broader” issues that have yet to be resolved, “proclaiming neutrality and declaring guarantees will be a significant step forward.”

Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine will resume on Wednesday and Zelenskyy’s adviser, Mikhailo Podolyak, said at the end of the second day of this third round of negotiations, that although there are still big differences between the parties, it is still possible to reach a compromise.

The talks are first aiming to establish a ceasefire to allow for humanitarian corridors before addressing the issues that motivated Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24.

Russia is demanding that Ukraine declare neutrality and renounce its pursuit of Nato membership, that it recognize the 2014 annexation of Crimea – which was illegal under international law – and that it accept the independence of the pro-Russian separatist “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk, in the eastern Ukrainian region of the Donbas that Moscow formally recognized before launching its invasion.

In a statement to leaders of the Nordic and Baltic countries plus the Netherlands convened in London by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday, Zelenskyy said he knows Nato has no intention of accepting Ukraine as a member.

“We have heard for many years about the open doors, but we also heard that we can’t enter those doors,” he said. “This is the truth, and we have to simply accept it as it is.”

He said he could consider neutral status with security guarantees from both the West and Russia.

In his recorded message Wednesday morning, the Ukrainian president accused Russia of committing “new and obvious war crimes.”

Zelenskyy also recognized the importance of the visit that the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia made to Kyiv on Tuesday.

“When our Kyiv is a target for the invaders, it is especially important and especially courageous to be here, next to us, next to friends. This is how leadership is shown,” he said.

And he referred to the speech scheduled for Wednesday by teleconference before the United States Congress.

“I would like to thank President Biden and all the friends of Ukraine in the United States for the new $13.6 billion package of support for our country, our people. The law providing for this funding has been signed. We consider it as the first step towards the full restoration of Ukraine,” he said. EFE


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