Russia – Ukraine fruitless conversation: “Russia is out for Ukraine’s surrender”

The first high-level conversation between Russia and Ukraine since the Russian invasion has yielded no tangible result. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov did not deviate from his “traditional rhetoric,” his Ukrainian counterpart Dmitro Kuleba said after their meeting in Antalya, Turkey. Both expressed their willingness to continue the talks.

The conversation lasted less than an hour. There was no joint press conference. Both sides held separate press conferences. No progress has been made on a ceasefire, Koeleba said. The message from Russia is that it will continue its offensive until Ukraine surrenders, he concluded.

Lavrov reiterated afterward that the West is playing a dangerous game by supplying Ukraine with weapons and sending “mercenaries”. According to him, the military operation in the neighboring country is proceeding according to plan. Koeleba, on the other hand, argued that the Ukrainian armed forces had really messed up the plans.

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Nuclear war

Russia is open to talks between the presidents of both countries, but that must have added value, Lavrov said. He does not think the deadlock with the West will lead to nuclear war. “I don’t want to believe, and don’t believe, that a nuclear war could start.” Reports that Russia could attack the Baltic countries seem old fake news, he says.

The two ministers also discussed humanitarian issues. Kuleba called on Russia to allow residents of the besieged city of Mariupol to leave the city via a “corridor”. The Ukrainian government states that Russia deliberately withholds this because it fails to capture the strategic port city in the south.

As Russia had indicated in advance, expectations were not high that it did not want to make any concessions. Moscow demands a neutral and demilitarized Ukraine, recognition of Crimea as Russian, and recognition of two renegade pro-Russian Ukrainian regions as independent countries.

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According to Koeleba, that list of demands amounts to surrender, and that is not an option for the country. The Ukrainian government previously said it was open to discussing the neutrality requirement and waiving NATO membership. In return, Kyiv wants security guarantees. Lavrov said he was willing to talk about it.

Lavrov and Koeleba chatted in the hall of a hotel in Antalya. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also attended the table.

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