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‘Russia can negotiate and wishes to improve relations with Ukraine; its vilification should stop’

‘Russia can negotiate and wishes to improve relations with Ukraine; its vilification should stop’
Now that a long-awaited prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine is complete, political analysts see it as a sign of a possible resolution to the Ukrainian crisis, and say that Moscow’s portrayal as a major obstacle should change.

“This first step shows that both Russia and Ukraine can negotiate… and arrive at a deal,” McCauley told RT in the wake of the exchange which has been hailed as a historic humanitarian move. “This is a demonstration that Russia can negotiate and it wishes to improve relations with Ukraine.”

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However, this does not just indicate a thaw in relations between Moscow and Kiev, Lode Vanoost, former deputy speaker of the Belgian parliament, believes. “The potential for big developments in the near future is there now. This is more than just symbolic, there is much more at stake here.”

“Now we have a president in Kiev who tries to solve the crisis through direct discussions with Russia.”

The prisoner swap also showed that it was not Moscow but Kiev that delayed the move all along, as former President Petro Poroshenko was not eager to do it, McCauley said.

“He [Poroshenko] took a very hard line toward Russia and he was in many ways very much pro-American and went along with the American line.” The current president, Volodymyr Zelensky, “said that he is going to improve relations with Russia; that it is a priority.”

“Change of power in Ukraine has improved relations between Moscow and Kiev and, hopefully, they will now start talking about the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics and make progress there.”

These developments might contribute to a change in how the US and especially Europe see Russia’s role in the Ukrainian conflict, McCauley believes. “Russia has been vilified in the West and especially in the US that said you cannot really negotiate with Russia because they have their position and they do not give it up.”

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McCauley expressed hope that this new understanding of the nature of the Ukrainian conflict will “spread across Europe.” However, the exchange also showed that the West’s leverage regarding the situation in Ukraine might be waning. “Let’s not forget that the US and the EU have been basically sidelined in all of this,” Vanoost said.

The easing of tensions between Moscow and Kiev is still good for the world, they both agree. “Russia has made concessions, Ukraine has made concessions, and that is very important for the international environment,” McCauley said.

According to Vanoost, the potential for conflict resolution “has never been bigger than today,” even though it remains to be seen whether it will “ultimately lead to a peaceful solution.”

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