Russia, Ukraine set for face-to-face peace talks

President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the new negotiations, saying he hoped they would bring peace “without delay”



AFP
AFP

By AFP

Published: Mon 28 Mar 2022, 7:27 AM

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators will resume face-to-face peace talks as soon as Monday, probing whether a near-stalemate in fighting has forced Moscow to temper its demands.

President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the new negotiations, saying he hoped they would bring peace “without delay”, and lamented a month-long Russian attack that has already killed thousands and devastated numerous Ukrainian cities.

The new talks are set to start in Turkey on either Monday or Tuesday, with Zelensky desperate to halt the bombardment of cities like Mariupol, where officials said the situation is “catastrophic”.

About 170,000 civilians remain trapped in Mariupol without adequate food, water or medicine, as the southern port city is being turned “into dust” by Russian shelling, according to Ukraine’s foreign ministry.

France, Greece and Turkey are hoping to launch a “humanitarian operation” to evacuate civilians within days, according to French President Emmanuel Macron, who has sought an OK from Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Several previous rounds of peace talks have failed to halt the fighting or overcome fundamental disagreements about Kyiv’s alignment with the West and Russia’s occupation of Ukrainian territory.

But with Russia’s much-larger military humbled by fierce Ukrainian resistance and forced to abandon efforts to capture Kyiv, there is renewed hope for talks.

“Our goal is obvious — peace and the restoration of normal life in our native state as soon as possible,” Zelensky said in a late-night video message that also set out his negotiating red lines.

“Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are beyond doubt. Effective security guarantees for our state are mandatory,” he said.

Zelensky has previously indicated he is “carefully” considering a Russian demand of Ukrainian “neutrality”.

“This point of the negotiations is understandable to me and it is being discussed, it is being carefully studied,” Zelensky said during an interview with several independent Russian news organisations.

Putin has avoided being precise about the goals of his attack, stating only that he wanted to “demilitarise and denazify” but not occupy Ukraine.

Commentators hope that vagueness will now give him more room to accept an agreement, claim victory and end the war.

The UN estimates that at least 1,100 civilians have died and more than 10 million have been displaced in a devastating war that has gone on far longer than Moscow expected.

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