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24 Jun, 2022 13:38

Russia warns of conditions for resuming Ukraine peace talks

Negotiations will depend on the “situation on the ground,” according to the Russian foreign minister
Russia warns of conditions for resuming Ukraine peace talks

Two months after talks aimed at ending the Ukraine conflict broke down, at Kiev's instigation, Russia has issued a warning about the possibility of restarting the process. If Ukraine seeks to return to the negotiating table, Moscow will have to look at the “situation on the ground,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview on Thursday.

He accused some Western countries of not allowing the Kiev authorities to re-engage with a diplomatic effort to stop the fighting.

“When [Ukraine] deigns to turn to us with a proposal to resume the diplomatic process, which, as I understand it, the Europeans are urgently asking them to do, but the Anglo-Saxons do not allow this, we will look at the situation on the ground,” Lavrov said in an interview with Belarusian state TV.

“There are liberated areas, and the majority of the population there don’t even entertain the thought of returning under the control of neo-Nazi authorities or authorities that indulge neo-Nazism in every way possible,” he added.

Talks between Moscow and Kiev have stalled since they were last held in Turkey in late March. Since then, the Ukrainian side has maintained that it will resume talks only when it is in a “stronger negotiating position,” while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has stated that he would restart negotiations only after Kiev recovers land lost after February 24.

Last week, Ukraine’s top negotiator David Arakhamia said the authorities in Kiev believe they could achieve a “favorable position” by late August by conducting “counteroffensive operations in certain areas.” He reiterated that Ukraine “will never accept the loss of territory,” insisting this is “legally impossible,” and that a minimum agreement with Moscow could only be considered if Russian troops return all the territory seized since the start of its military offensive.

“We could consider some political treaty like the one proposed in Istanbul. For example, we would not touch on the Crimean issue for several years. We would do it not militarily but diplomatically,” Arakhamia noted.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba stated in an op-ed published last week that if Kiev received enough heavy weaponry from the West, it could defeat Russia and take back its land by force. He also urged the West not to suggest “unacceptable” peace terms for Ukraine.

Russia attacked Ukraine 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 German- and French-brokered protocol was 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.