Western diplomats walk-out during Lavrov’s speech
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More than a month into Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, talks appear to have ramped up with the aim of bringing the fighting to a stop. These have so far focussed on Ukraine’s relationship with NATO and the status of Crimea and Donbas.
Following the latest round of talks, Russian Foreign Minister hailed the “significant progress” and “positive movement” he believed had been made.
But others suggested his view of Ukraine’s position was divorced from the truth.
Lavrov told reporters Kyiv understood “the issues of Crimea and Donbas are settled for good”.
Ukraine has maintained it will not back down on these contested regions, insisting its territorial integrity is a red line.
Oleg Nikolenko, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, added Lavrov had grasped the wrong end of the stick.
He wrote: “Lavrov demonstrates a misunderstanding of the negotiation process.
“The issues of Crimea and Donbas will be settled for good after Ukraine restores its sovereignty over them.
“During the talks in Istanbul, the Ukrainian delegation presented its proposals on how to achieve this goal.”
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Ukraine signalled it was prepared to at least talk about the status of Crimea, but wishes to push talks on this back to a later date due to the desire to focus instead on ending the war.
It proposed 15-year bilateral talks, stipulating neither side could influence any final decision with force.
A similar approach has been adopted on the status of Donbas, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggesting he would only discuss the matter face-to-face with Putin.
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There does, however, appear to have been more progress on the question of Ukraine’s relationship with NATO.
Lavrov told reporters Ukraine had “recognised the need” to give up on membership of the Western alliance.
This point is also not as clear cut as the Russian Foreign Minister suggested, given Ukraine has stressed it is seeking security guarantees “stronger than NATO’s”.
Reports suggest Kyiv would only be willing to concede on key demands if some Western countries committed to coming to its aid in the event of an attack.
It would like these countries – labelled as “unconditional guarantors” – to come to its defence within the space of three days, whereas NATO’s supportive mechanism has no such deadline for action.
This comes after the Kremlin announced it was stepping down some of its military operations around Kyiv to improve the chance of success in future peace talks.
Leaders in the West argued this was an act of necessity, not of choice.
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