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7 Apr, 2022 11:35

Russia accuses Ukraine of backpedaling in peace talks

Kiev's new proposals for a peace settlement are a step back from its previous stance, Moscow claims
Russia accuses Ukraine of backpedaling in peace talks

Ukraine's new written proposals on how to resolve the ongoing armed conflict with Russia deviate from what it submitted during the latest round of in-person talks in Turkey, last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday. Ukraine apparently wants to stall for time and continue the hostilities, the veteran official claimed, adding that he believes the US may have a hand in this shift.

The new proposal, which Lavrov said was sent by Ukraine on Wednesday, fails to mention that the security guarantees Kiev wants to obtain from leading world powers do not cover Crimea, he said.

Russia has considered Crimea part of its territory since 2014, when the former Ukrainian region voted to break away in response to Western-backed Maidan in Kiev. Most of the world still recognises the peninsula as part of Ukraine. 

Instead of the explicit exclusion of Crimea from the proposed security arrangement, the new document has “vague wording about an effective control,” Lavrov said. Kiev wants to discuss the issue during a future bilateral meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, he added.

The Russian foreign minister stressed that the status of Crimea was not up for discussion in any way.

Another deviation comes in the part that describes Ukraine’s commitment to restrict joint exercises with foreign powers on its territory, Lavrov also outlined. The previous version said such drills would only be possible if all nations guaranteeing Ukraine’s security agree to them, including Russia. The new version says a “majority of guarantors” must give their permission and does not mention Russia, Lavrov said.

The deviations from Kiev’s previous draft, which was delivered during talks in Istanbul, Turkey last week, exposed Kiev’s “true intentions” of stalling and undermining the peace process, Lavrov said.

The foreign minister said the changes exemplify Ukraine’s inability to stick to agreements and serves as evidence “that the Kiev regime is controlled by Washington and its allies, who push President Zelensky to continue hostilities.”

Lavrov said Russia will continue its efforts to negotiate peace with the Ukrainian government despite what he called a provocative move by Kiev.

Moscow attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to regularize the status of the regions within the Ukrainian state.

Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two regions by force.