Kremlin comments on EU leaders’ visit to Ukraine
Moscow hopes a visit by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis contributes to Ukraine adopting a more “realistic” stance on its conflict with Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Thursday.
Russia is, however, skeptical about the prospect of Ukraine returning to the negotiation table, he added. Moscow hopes the four leaders “would not focus solely on supporting Ukraine by pumping it full of arms,” Peskov said, pointing out that this policy would be “absolutely useless” and would only “prolong the suffering of people and deal further damage to this nation.”
Instead, Moscow hopes the four European leaders could use “these contacts” to make Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky adopt “a realistic stance on the situation,” he added.
Earlier on Thursday, Victor Andrusiv, an aide to the Ukrainian interior minister, told journalists that Macron, Draghi, and Scholz might have come to Ukraine to encourage it to return to talks with Russia. “According to my information, Macron, Scholz, and Draghi are bringing us an EU candidacy status … and a request to return to the negotiation process with Putin,” he said.
Moscow also hoped the visit would help clarify Ukraine’s position on grain exports. Russia’s position on the issue has not changed, Peskov said, adding that Moscow is still ready to facilitate grain export from the Ukrainian ports. Earlier, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Ukrainian forces should demine the coastal areas first to make that possible.
“We do not know exactly if Ukraine wants it … because they stay silent on the issue,” Peskov said on Thursday, adding that the topic would “obviously” be on the visit’s agenda. The head of the Ukrainian president’s office, Andrey Ermak, also told journalists earlier on Thursday that “food security, weapons and support for Ukraine” would be among the issues Zelensky was expected to discuss with the four leaders.
Russia’s former president, Dmitry Medvedev, appeared to be much more skeptical about the outcome of the talks. “That will be of no use,” Medvedev, who is currently the deputy head of the Russian Security Council, wrote on Twitter, adding that the visits of Western politicians to Kiev do not contribute to a speedy resolution to the conflict.
The four leaders arrived in Kiev early on Thursday following a lengthy rail trip. This is the first visit for each of them since the start of the Russian military operation.
Russia attacked Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’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 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.