Ukraine conflict could have ended in Spring 2022 – Kiev’s top MP
Russia was ready to stop the fighting had Ukraine agreed to remain neutral, but the West advised Kiev to keep going, the head of President Vladimir Zelensky’s parliamentary faction – and the chief negotiator at the peace talks in Istanbul – David Arakhamia admitted on Friday.
Arakhamia, who heads the ‘Servant of the People’ parliamentary group, told the TV channel 1+1 that Moscow had offered Kiev a peace deal in March 2022, but the Ukrainian side did not trust Russia.
“Russia’s goal was to put pressure on us so that we would take neutrality. This was the main thing for them: They were ready to end the war if we accepted neutrality, like Finland once did. And we would make a commitment that we will not join NATO. This was the main thing,” said Arakhamia.
However, agreeing to neutrality and giving up NATO membership would have required changing the constitution of Ukraine, Arakhamia explained. “Secondly, there was no trust in the Russians that they would do this. This could only be done with security guarantees,” he told 1+1.
During the talks, Arakhamia added, British then-PM Boris Johnson arrived in Kiev and told Ukrainian officials to keep fighting and not sign any agreements with Moscow.
Johnson’s role in scuttling the peace talks in Istanbul was revealed in May 2022 by the outlet Ukrayinska Pravda. However, neither the British politician – who was ousted as PM in June that year and eventually landed a job at an American think tank – nor the US government ever officially acknowledged pressuring Kiev into reneging on the draft agreement, which Arakhamia himself had signed with the Russians. Kiev had likewise never officially commented on the matter – until now.
Earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed to African leaders that Moscow and Kiev had signed a draft agreement “on permanent neutrality and security guarantees for Ukraine” at the talks hosted by Türkiye.
As soon as Russia pulled back its troops from the vicinity of Kiev, as a gesture of good will, Ukraine reneged on the deal, Putin said.
The Russian withdrawal was presented by Western governments and media as a Ukrainian military victory and they began sending heavy weapons and equipment to Zelensky’s government, fueling the conflict for the next 18 months.