Moscow sets conditions for Putin-Zelensky negotiations
There may be a need for direct talks between Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, and the Russian president is ready to take part in such negotiations, but it would require some preparation, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, has said.
“We’ve confirmed today that President Putin isn’t rejecting the idea of a meeting with President Zelensky,” Lavrov said after “difficult” talks with Ukrainian FM Dmytro Kuleba in Turkey’s Antalya on Thursday.
He said he reminded his Ukrainian counterpart that Putin and Russia are “always ready to meet if we can achieve some added value and solve the problem.” However, Moscow sees no use in “meeting simply for the sake of meeting,” the minister pointed out.
“Possibly at some point, such necessity will hopefully arise,” Lavrov said of the possible talks between Putin and Zelensky. “But for this to happen preparatory work must be done along the Belarusian track.”
The delegations from Moscow and Kiev have already held three rounds of talks in Minsk since the start of the conflict on February 24. However, they haven’t delivered any significant results yet.
“Our very specific proposals were heard out by the Ukrainian side, and they promised that there would be very specific answers. We’re waiting,” the foreign minister said.
Moscow attacked its neighbor in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those 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 republics by force.