New Round of Russia – Ukraine Talks Underway in Istanbul

Photo credit: Reuters

While Russian forces are still attacking Kyiv and air raid sirens sound across Ukraine, a new round of talks between Russia and Ukraine to end the conflict has started in Istanbul.

“A cold welcome and no handshake” between the delegations is how the new round began of peace talks the Russian and Ukrainian negotiators are resuming face-to-face after a nearly three weeks break.

The in-person negotiations at the Dolmabahce Presidential Working Office are hosted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who, addressing the negotiators, called for an immediate cease-fire, stressing that continuing the conflict benefits no one while a fair peace will not have a loser.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said ahead of the talks that Kyiv is prepared to declare its neutrality in line with Moscow’s has demanded, and to compromise on the fate of the separatist-held Donbas region in Ukraine’s east.

Moscow, among other things, is demanding that Ukraine abandons any intention of joining NATO.

Its stated list of demands for Kyiv also includes demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, recognizing Crimea as part of Russia, and the Donbas republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states. Both republics broke away from Ukraine shortly after the 2014 coup in Kyiv and Crimea voted to join Russia in the same year.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba was a bit stricter regarding the talks, saying that Kyiv’s not trading people, land, or sovereignty, noting that the peace talks would focus on easing the humanitarian situation in his country with a ceasefire being the maximum goal at the time.

Russia and Ukraine have so far held three rounds of in-person talks in Belarus, and one session was held in a video conference format during which the sides have publicly discussed a formula under which Ukraine might accept some kind of neutral status, but neither side has budged over Russia’s territorial demands.

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