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28 Mar, 2022 21:58

Russia ditches key demands in Ukraine peace talks – FT

The reported softening of Moscow’s negotiating position comes ahead of Russia-Ukraine talks in Turkey
Russia ditches key demands in Ukraine peace talks – FT

Moscow has apparently dropped several key demands in the painstaking Ukraine peace talks, the Financial Times reported on Monday, citing “four people briefed on the discussions.”

The newspaper didn't clarify whether its alleged sources are from the Russian or Ukrainian side, or neither.

According to the report, Moscow is now prepared to let Ukraine “join the European Union if it remains militarily non-aligned as part of ongoing ceasefire negotiations” and drops its NATO aspirations.

“The draft ceasefire document does not contain any discussion of three of Russia’s initial core demands – ‘denazification’, ‘demilitarization’, and legal protection for the Russian language in Ukraine,” the newspaper asserted, adding that its sources spoke “under the condition of anonymity because the matter is not yet finalized.”

The reported shift in Moscow’s position comes ahead of a new round of Russia-Ukraine talks scheduled to take place in Turkey on Tuesday. Moscow and Kiev have held three rounds of in-person talks and further contacts via video link, but the exchanges have failed to yield any tangible result apart from the two sides finding some common ground on humanitarian corridors and evacuation of civilians from combat zones.

In mid-March, the Financial Times reported an imminent breakthrough in the talks, claiming that the two sides had drafted a 15-point peace plan. The report, however, was refuted by both Moscow and Kiev, while no actual breakthrough occurred. The new claims by the newspaper have not prompted any official reaction so far.

The latest prediction appeared to directly contradict fresh statements by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who told Serbian media that both “denazification” and “demilitarization” remain among the main goals of Moscow.

“It’s in our interest that these negotiations yield a result. A result that will meet our principal goals,” the top diplomat stated, adding that recent events in Ukraine have clearly shown that hard-line nationalist fighters “are exploring Nazi warfare style in practice.”

“If you have seen how the Nazi Ukrainians from the Azov or Aidar battalions treat Russian prisoners of war now, I think everything becomes clear to you,” Lavrov said, referring to gruesome footage, purporting to show the torture and execution of Russian POWs by the Ukrainians that emerged over the weekend.

Moscow launched a large-scale attack against  its neighbor in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of 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 alliance. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.