Russia reveals status of Ukraine peace talks
Russia has not received any answers from Ukraine to its most recent peace proposals, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Friday, adding that Kiev is conveying the impression that it isn't interested in a diplomatic solution to the ongoing military conflict.
His words came two days after Moscow said it had forwarded a “draft document” on a settlement, with concrete wording. Kiev confirmed it had received the document and was reviewing it. However, at the time, President Volodymyr Zelensky stated he had not seen anything containing proposals from Moscow.
Lavrov questioned Kiev’s position on the talks during a joint press-conference with his Kazakh counterpart, Mukhtar Tileuberdi. It was “very strange” for him to hear statements from Kiev, including those by aides to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, that “suggest they do not need these talks at all,” Lavrov added.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian presidential adviser Alexey Arestovich warned that peace talks with Moscow could be halted if Russian troops seized Mariupol, a strategically valuable port city on the Black Sea. On Tuesday, Zelensky’s aide, Mikhail Podolyak, revealed there was no set date for the resumption of the in-person diplomatic track.
When asked to comment on these statements, Lavrov explained that Moscow sees any “ultimatums” as unacceptable.
On Thursday, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu informed President Vladimir Putin that Russian forces and the Donbass republics’ militias had seized all of Mariupol except for the Azovstal steel plant, which has been turned into a fortress by some 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers and nationalist militants, including the neo-Nazi Azov battalion.
Meanwhile, Russia and Ukraine's top negotiators held several “lengthy conversations” [by video link] on Friday, the head of the Moscow's delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, has confirmed. He has not elaborated on the details of the talks.
Russia has previously accused Ukraine of “constantly moving away from their words, constantly changing them," adding that the lack of “consistency” negatively affects the “effectiveness” of the negotiations.
Since the start of the military conflict on February 24, Russia and Ukraine have held several rounds of both face-to-face and virtual talks aimed at resolving the crisis. On April 12, Putin said that the talks had reached a deadlock, adding that Kiev refused to recognize Crimea as Russian and the Donbass republics as independent.
Russia attacked its neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since 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.