Russia and Ukraine were close to peace deal – ex-Trump aide
A top US foreign policy expert has acknowledged that Russia and Ukraine could have reached a peace agreement in April.
The admission came this week from Fiona Hill, a veteran US diplomat who served as the US National Security Council’s senior director for Europe and Russia in the Donald Trump administration. An article that she co-wrote with Georgetown University Professor Angela Stent for Foreign Affairs magazine said Russian-Ukrainian peace talks in April were apparently conducted by the Russian side in good faith.
“According to multiple former senior US officials we spoke with, in April 2022, Russian and Ukrainian negotiators appeared to have tentatively agreed on the outlines of a negotiated interim settlement: Russia would withdraw to its position on February 23, when it controlled part of the Donbass region and all of Crimea, and in exchange, Ukraine would promise not to seek NATO membership and instead receive security guarantees from a number of countries,” the article said.
A peace-for-neutrality agreement was proposed by Ukraine in a draft document that it delivered to Russia during the March 29 talks in Istanbul, Turkey. The Russian military announced its withdrawal from some parts of Ukraine as a gesture of good will, right after the offer was made.
Days later, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky declared that Kiev had discovered evidence of war crimes in territories abandoned by Russian troops, particularly in the town of Bucha. He claimed that the Ukrainian public would not allow him to negotiate with a nation that, according to him, was committing a genocide of his people.
Russia said the evidence of war crimes had been fabricated and considered that Kiev had used the allegations as a pretext to ditch peace talks and continue fighting in the hope that Western military aid would allow it to win on the battlefield. According to Russian diplomats, Moscow wrote up a formal peace agreement based on Ukrainian proposals and sent it to Kiev, but never heard anything back.
In May, some Ukrainian media linked the collapse of the negotiations with pressure imposed on Kiev by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The UK leader publicly opposed a negotiated solution to the crisis in Ukraine and urged Kiev to fight on to obtain a stronger position in future talks.
Johnson visited Kiev on April 9, reportedly almost without warning and with a message for Zelensky that he could not get the deal he wanted from Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. According to the Ukrainskaya Pravda newspaper, he branded Putin a war criminal who could not be trusted and said that “even if Ukraine is ready to sign some agreements on guarantees with Putin, they [the West] are not.” Security guarantees for a neutral Ukraine from major world powers were the cornerstone of the proposed peace deal.
Senior Russian officials repeatedly stated that Moscow was willing to settle the conflict and warned that the decision to terminate talks only made the final conditions worse for Ukraine. The leadership in Kiev insisted that talks could only happen after Russia fully withdrew its troops, including from Crimea, which Moscow considers its territory.