Russia agrees to scale down fighting at Istanbul talks

Published March 30, 2022
AN excavator clears the rubble from a government building hit by Russian rockets in the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv on Tuesday.— AFP
AN excavator clears the rubble from a government building hit by Russian rockets in the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv on Tuesday.— AFP

ISTANBUL/KYIV: Russia said it would scale down fighting around two Ukrainian cities following talks with Kyiv on Tuesday and raised the possibility of a meeting between the two presidents.

The outcome of the face-to-face talks held in Istanbul raised hopes after more than a month of conflict that has left thousands dead and forced millions from their homes.

As he opened the Russia-Ukraine talks in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan acknowledged that both sides had “legitimate concerns”, but urged the delegations to “put an end to this tragedy”.

Following the talks, Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia said there were “sufficient” conditions for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet.

He also called for “an international mechanism of security guarantees where guarantor countries will act in a similar way to NATO’s article number five -- and even more firmly”.

Western powers sceptical of Moscow’s commitments, say will judge ‘actions, not words’

Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin said there had been progress in talks on “the neutrality and non-nuclear status of Ukraine”.

Therefore, “a decision has been made to radically, by several times reduce the military activity” around the capital Kyiv and the city of Chernigiv, he said. Chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said there had been a “meaningful discussion”.

Western skepticism

The leaders of the United States, UK, France, Germany and Italy, however, urged the West not to drop its guard against Russia, after Moscow signalled it would scale down fighting around two Ukrainian cities.

“They agreed there could be no relaxation of Western resolve until the horror inflicted on Ukraine is over,” they said, according to a read-out from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street office.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also responded quickly, saying he doubted Russia’s “seriousness”.

“There is what Russia says and there is what Russia does. We’re focussed on the latter,” he said, speaking at a press conference in Morocco.

“What Russia is doing is the continued brutalisation of Ukraine and its people, and that continues as we speak.”

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2022

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