Russia and Ukraine will restart face-to-face peace negotiations on Monday, amid warnings that the situation in the besieged city of Mariupol was now “catastrophic.” President Volodymyr Zelensky called for over-the-table talks, saying they must bring peace “without delay” and signaling a willingness to compromise on the most sensitive topics.
The two sides have not met in person in weeks, and are planning to hold three days of talks in Istanbul, Turkey from Monday, according to David Arakhamia, a Ukrainian negotiator, lawmaker, and Zelensky ally.
It is the second month of the Russian invasion, and several rounds of peace talks have already failed. About 20,000 people have been killed, according to Zelensky, 10 million have fled their homes and despite Russian military setbacks, several cities are still coming under withering bombardment. In the southern port city of Mariupol, about 170,000 civilians are encircled by Russian forces, with ever-dwindling supplies of food, water, and medicine.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry said the situation there was “catastrophic” and the assault from land, sea, and air had turned the once-thriving city of 450,000 people “into dust.” France, Greece, and Turkey are hoping to launch a mass evacuation of civilians within days, according to French President Emmanuel Macron, who has sought an agreement from Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
With Russia’s much-larger military hampered and humbled by fierce Ukrainian resistance, the Istanbul talks will test whether battlefield setbacks have tempered Moscow’s demands. Moscow was recently forced to abandon its efforts to capture Kyiv, and – according to senior Russian general Sergei Rudskoi – focus on the “main goal” of controlling the eastern Donbas region. The focus of negotiation is laid on the fate of Russian-occupied Donbas and Crimea, as well as fundamental disagreements about Kyiv’s alignment with the West.
“Our goal is obvious – peace and the restoration of normal life in our native state as soon as possible,” said Zelensky. He also added that “Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are beyond doubt. Effective security guarantees for our state are mandatory,” “We understand that it is impossible to liberate all territory by force, that would mean World War III, I fully understand and realize that,” he said. Putin has avoided clearly defining the goals of his invasion, stating that he only wants to “demilitarise and denazify” but not occupy Ukraine.
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