Russia peace talks may last several weeks, negotiator says
Peace talks with Russia may last at least “several weeks,” even though there are signs that Moscow’s position has become more “adequate,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian presidency.
Key questions during the negotiations include security guarantees, a ceasefire, the withdrawal of Russian troops, and the “political resolution of disputed territories,” Podolyak - a member of the Ukrainian negotiating group - said on Friday in an interview with Bloomberg TV from his office in Kyiv.
“This process may drag longer,” given the number of mutually exclusive positions, Podolyak said. “There are some concessions that we definitely aren’t going to make,” he said. “We cannot give away any territories.”
Ukraine has been defending itself for more than three weeks against a Russian invasion that’s been forcefully denounced by the US and European allies, which have sent weapons and other aid to Kyiv. Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted that his “special operation” is going as planned, even as it faces stiffer-than-expected resistance and losses of personnel and weapons.
Residential neighbourhoods in Ukrainian cities have been hit by Russian artillery and missile fire, with some of the fiercest fighting taking place in the besieged south-eastern port city of Mariupol. The local government there says thousands of civilians are trapped.
“The Russian army is not fighting the Ukrainian army,” Podolyak said. “They are fighting only with civilians.” He said the Russian tactic is “surrounding big cities and bombarding with cruise missiles and air bombs in order to create humanitarian enclaves. They’re trying to turn Ukraine into Syrian or Afghanistan scenario of war.”
Russia, which denied any plans to invade Ukraine before it sent troops in, says it’s seeking to minimise civilian casualties as it pursues war aims of demilitarising and “de-Nazifying” Ukraine.
The Mariupol city council said about 80% of residential buildings have been ruined by Russian attacks, which also hit a maternity ward and a theatre that civilians were using as a shelter, while Russian troops have blocked deliveries of food and medicine. The city has no electricity, water and heating amid temperatures below zero.
While a full peace deal may take longer, “what can happen in days is a cease-fire” that would open more humanitarian corridors, Podolyak said.
Ukraine says it’s open to discussing Russia’s demand of neutrality as long as it’s given security guarantees. Podolyak said the Kremlin has misjudged Ukraine’s army and the way its people view Russia, though that may be changing.
“Ukraine is a democratic country,” he said. “Now they are starting to understand that and behave in more constructive way.”
it comes as Russia used a “Kinzhal” hypersonic missile for the first time on Friday to target a large underground warehouse in western Ukraine, a Russian defence ministry spokesman said, according to Interfax.
Igor Konashenkov told a a daily briefing that the strike in the village of Delyatyn, in Ukraine’s Ivano-Frankivsk region, also took out aviation ammunition. There was no immediate confirmation from Ukraine of the strike.
Russia has previously used long-range missiles to strike targets in Ukraine’s far west, not far from the border with Poland. The Kinzhal system of air-to-ground missiles is one of a series of advanced strategic weapons unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018.
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