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29 Aug, 2022 17:28

Odessa mayor calls for Ukraine and Russia to negotiate

Compromises should be sought and confrontation avoided, the official believes
Odessa mayor calls for Ukraine and Russia to negotiate

The mayor of the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa, Gennady Trukhanov, believes the conflict with Russia should be resolved politically. Kiev and Moscow should cease the hostilities and return to the negotiating table, he told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper in an interview published on Sunday.

Although he supports the idea of Ukraine “returning to [its] borders of 1991,” including Donbass and Crimea, Trukhanov maintains that these disputes should be resolved at the negotiating table, not the battlefield.

“The lives of millions of people are at stake,” therefore “it is necessary to negotiate step by step, to seek compromises gradually, to avoid confrontation,” the mayor said. He argued that Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has made “many” mistakes while in office.

Trukhanov criticized the government for concentrating too much power in Kiev at the expense of the regions.

“[Zelensky] should have left more autonomy to regions and municipalities,” he said, adding that had the president listened to his suggestions and those of others, “the country would work better.” Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status and broad autonomy within the Ukrainian state, was one of the reasons cited by Moscow when it launched its military operation in Ukraine on February 24.

The Odessa mayor noted that Ukraine and Russia are “deeply connected by history, culture, language, religion, traditions.”

Nevertheless, Trukhanov condemned Moscow’s military operation, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “monster” who could even go as far as to drop a nuclear bomb on Ukraine. However, he does not believe that Putin intends to bomb Odessa.

The mayor also criticized the efforts of the Ukrainian authorities aimed at tearing down statues and monuments to Russian historical figures in Ukraine. “I am against taking down the statues. Even if we destroy the monuments, history does not change,” Trukhanov said, adding that removing statues of 19th-century Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin, and the first Soviet cosmonaut, Yury Gagarin, simply “does not make sense.”

The Kremlin signaled its readiness to strike a peace deal with Kiev in early August. President Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said at the time that the two nations were close to settling their differences in a way that was acceptable to Russia back in spring, but the draft agreement prepared during a meeting in Istanbul was torpedoed by Ukraine. Moscow warned that if Kiev refuses to end the conflict in a diplomatic way, Russia will still achieve the goals of its military operation.

In mid-August, Ukraine ruled out any negotiations with Russia, arguing that talks would not serve Kiev’s goals. “The opportunity to win this war is much more important than any situational pause,” Zelensky’s aide, Mikhail Podoliak, said at the time.