There were signs of a breakthrough as delegates from Russia and Ukraine met in Turkey’s Istanbul to negotiate an end to the month-long war. Notably, a Ukrainian negotiator said a meeting between President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin may soon materialise.
The Russian delegation was also optimistic after the first round of talks with the Ukrainians in Istanbul, terming them “meaningful”. The two sides met face-to-face after several rounds of failed negotiations.
The talks hosted by Turkey raised hopes that a diplomatic resolution may be in sight for the Russia-Ukraine war which has turned into a bloody campaign of attrition.
1. PUTIN-ZELENSKYY MEETING POSSIBLE
Ukraine’s top negotiator said enough progress had been made at talks in Turkey to resolve the conflict with Russia to enable a meeting between the presidents of the two countries.
“The results of today’s meeting are sufficient for a meeting at the leaders’ level,” Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia said, raising the possibility of a meeting between Zelenskyy and Putin.
Ukraine’s Zelenskyy has indicated on several occasions that he is more than willing to engage in dialogue with Putin. By contrast, the Russian foreign ministry on Monday ruled out direct talks between the two leaders as “counterproductive”.
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2. RUSSIA PROMISES TO SCALE DOWN ATTACKS
In a significant concession by Moscow, the Russian military said it would “fundamentally” cut back operations near Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv. Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said the move was meant “to increase trust” in talks aimed at ending the fighting, which has resulted in untold losses on both sides.
“In order to increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations and achieving the ultimate goal of agreeing and signing (an) agreement, a decision was made to radically, by a large margin, reduce military activity in the Kyiv and Chernihiv directions,” Fomin told reporters.
Lending credence to Moscow’s claims of pullback, Ukraine’s military said it had noted withdrawals around Kyiv and Chernihiv on Tuesday. However, the Russian onslaught continued as usual in the war-torn country’s western and southern regions.
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3. NEUTRALITY IN EXCHANGE FOR SECURITY
Ukrainian negotiators said that under their proposals, Ukraine would agree not to join alliances or host bases of foreign troops, but would have its security guaranteed in terms similar to “Article 5”, the collective defence clause of Nato.
They identified Israel and Nato members Canada, Poland and Turkey as countries that could help provide such guarantees. Russia, the United States, Britain, Germany and Italy could also provide guarantees.
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The proposals would include a 15-year consultation period on the status of Russian-annexed Crimea, and could come into force only in the event of a complete ceasefire, the negotiators said.
The fate of the southeastern Donbas region, which Russia demands Ukraine cede to separatists, would be set aside to be discussed by the Ukrainian and Russian leaders, they added. Any peace deal would require a referendum in Ukraine.
Top Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said he would examine the Ukrainian proposals and report on them to President Vladimir Putin.
4. ROCKET STRIKE KILLS 7 IN MYKOLAIV
A Russian strike on a government building in the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv killed seven people and injured at least 22 others, President Volodmyr Zelensky said. The rocket tore a hole through the nine-storey building, destroying the office of the regional governor, Vitaliy Kim, who was not there at the time.
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Search and rescue operations are underway for more survivors in the rubble, authorities said.
Vitaliy Kim accused Russian forces of waiting until people had arrived for work in the building before striking it, adding that he had had a lucky escape.
5. UN NUCLEAR WATCHDOG IN UKRAINE
The director-general of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency arrived in Ukraine on Tuesday for talks with senior government officials on delivering “urgent technical assistance” to ensure the safety of the country’s nuclear facilities.
Rafael Mariano Grossi said his aim was to “initiate prompt safety and security support” for Ukraine’s nuclear sites. The agency will send IAEA experts to “prioritised facilities”, which it did not identify, and send “vital safety and security supplies”, including monitoring and emergency equipment.
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Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors at four active power plants, and also is home to the decommissioned Chernobyl plant, the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster. Russian forces have taken control of Chernobyl and of the largest active power plant at Zaporizhzhia.
(With inputs from Agencies)