January 28, 2023

Hardened positions suggest progress toward peace talks elusive: direct updates

credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

With the battle for Ukraine turning into a bloody one a mile away in a state of cold anesthesia, Ukrainian and Russian officials insisted they were willing to discuss peacemaking. But it is increasingly clear that both sides’ demands for even the talks to begin are wholly unacceptable to the other, leading US and European officials to conclude that serious discussions about ending the war Not likely in the near future.

There have been no peace talks between Ukraine and Russia From the first weeks of the conflict, which began when Russia launched a full-scale invasion on February 24th. This week, Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, detailed presentation Summit “peace” end of February, however Associated Press That Kyiv will not negotiate with Moscow unless Russia first faces a war crimes tribunal.

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, answered that Kyiv would have to accept Moscow’s demands—including giving up the four Ukrainian regions that Moscow claimed it annexed in September—otherwise “the Russian army will deal with this issue”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry S. Peskov said on Wednesday that “there can be no peace plan for Ukraine that does not take into account today’s realities with the Russian territories,” including the four annexed regions, according to the Interfax news agency.

Stella GervasA professor of Russian history at Newcastle University in Britain said, “The Ukrainian proposal offers a glimpse into Ukraine’s vision of how the war with Russia could one day end.” But she said, “Lavrov’s reaction is not very promising, and is an indication that peace negotiations could take months and months.”

Hardening positions indicate that both sides believe they have further military gains. Ukraine has battlefield momentum, having regained much of the territory Russia captured early in the war, though Moscow’s forces still occupy large parts of the east and south. Pressing its own advantage, Russia is preparing more troops and launching air strikes on infrastructure that have deepened Ukrainians’ misery even as Russia’s military struggles on the ground.

Last month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his address to the G20 Leaders Summit, presented a broad 10-point peace plan: called for The complete withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian lands, including Crimea and parts of the eastern region known as Donbass, which Russian forces seized at the beginning of 2014.

It also calls for an international tribunal to try Russian war crimes. Moscow’s release of all political prisoners and deportees during the war; compensation from Russia for war damage; and the steps taken by the international community to ensure the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and provide food and energy security.

It’s a much tougher set of requirements than what Ukrainian negotiators initially offered in talks in Istanbul a month after the Russian invasion, when they proposed Adopt the neutral position – in fact abandoning the attempt to join NATO, which Russia has long opposed – in exchange for security guarantees from Western countries. Russian atrocities have multiplied since then, and the damage to Ukraine’s cities and economy has worsened. In August, Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Mr. Zelensky, said the framework proposed in Istanbul was no longer viable.

“The emotional background in Ukraine has changed very, very much,” he said he told the BBC. “We’ve seen a lot of war crimes alive.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said over the weekend that he was ready to negotiate “acceptable results,” without specifying what those results would be, while making it clear that he had no intention of ending his attacks.

Western officials have dismissed Putin’s periodic offers of negotiation as hollow gestures. Even as Russia’s economy recovers from Western sanctions — Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said on Wednesday that Russia’s economy has shrunk by 2 percent over the past 11 months, Reuters news agency reported — Mr. Putin stressed there were “no limits” to Russia’s military spending. . This month he ordered his defense minister Another expansion for the armed forces By over 300,000 members, to a target size of 1.5 million.

He said all this suggests Marnie HowlettLecturer in Russian and Eastern European Politics at Oxford University, notes that “there is not necessarily a push for a negotiated peace or even some kind of negotiation, but there is still a push for any endgame that is pursued militarily.”