Friday, February 3

Russia and Ukraine close their third meeting with “progress” to improve humanitarian corridors and talks on a ceasefire

The Russian and Ukrainian delegations have met in Belarus in what has been the third round of talks in search of a ceasefire. The parts have been found in the area known as Belovezhskaya Pushcha, on the border between Poland and Belarus.

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Before the talks began, Russia’s chief negotiator, Vladimir Medinski, told the Belarusian agency BELTA that he is willing to negotiate the mode of operation of the humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of Ukrainian civilians, an agreement that has so far failed in all your attempts.

The Ukrainian presidential adviser Myjailo Podoliak has confirmed, after about four hours, the end of this meeting on Twitter, where he explained that there has been “small progress” to improve the logistics of the humanitarian corridors. He also that there have been “intense consultations” on “the basic political block of the regulations” and on a “ceasefire” and “security guarantees”.

For his part, the head of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinski, was disappointed with the outcome of the negotiations, According to statements collected by the Russian agency Tass. “Our expectations in the negotiations have not been met, but we hope that the next time we can take more significant steps. The negotiations will continue,” he added, advancing that there will be a new round of contacts.

The Russian representative stated that they arrived at the meeting with “documents” that they expected the Ukrainian delegation to sign “We arrived with a large number of documents, agreements and concrete proposals and we hoped that today it would be possible to at least sign a protocol of agreement on the points that At first we had agreed, but the Ukrainian side took the documents to study in Kiev and nothing was signed on the spot; they said that we will come back to this issue, probably at the next meeting,” he added.

Medinski has also expressed his “hope” that the humanitarian corridors, which have so far failed, will start operating this Tuesday.

Russia’s requests

Russia had asked Ukraine to meet the following conditions for a possible ceasefire, according to statements by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov In a previous interview with Reuters:

  • Cessation of military actions.
  • Change the Constitution to enshrine its neutrality.
  • Recognition of Crimea as part of Russia.
  • Recognition of the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states.

Regarding the change in the Constitution, Peskov explained that they are asking for “amendments” to be introduced so that Ukraine rejects any objective of joining “no block” at a time when it has formally requested its entry into the EU and has considered entering NATO. . This same Monday, the EU took the first steps in the accession process of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.

In addition, according to sources close to the Russian negotiators quoted by Christo Grozev, investigative journalist for the Bellingcat collective, Russia would also claim to name Yuriy Boyko prime minister, while Zelenski remains as symbolic president. Boyko, a former deputy prime minister, was a pro-Russian candidate in the 2019 Ukrainian elections, which Zelensky ultimately won.

In this regard, Zelensky’s adviser, Podoliak, tweeted shortly before the start of the new round of negotiations. In addition to charging Russia for crimes against civilians, he has asked “to ignore the toxic names that are being considered” including that of Boyko, and qualifies him and other possible candidates to be appointed by Russia to hold positions in the government, like Muraev or former President Yanukovych, of “Russian fools”.

The first round of negotiations between the Russian and Ukrainian delegations was held on February 28, and the second on March 3, both on Belarusian territory.

After the second meeting, the parties reached an agreement for the establishment of humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians, the delivery of food and medicine, measures that have not been successfully implemented. Attempts to open these corridors have failed after Russia breached the temporary ceasefire and opened fire on civilians trying to escape, although both sides blame each other for the failure of these measures.

The Ukrainian government has branded this Monday as “unacceptable” Moscow’s plan to evacuate the civilian population of Kiev, Mariupol, Kharkov and Sumy to Russian cities.

Diplomatic efforts continue

Meanwhile, the negotiating efforts of the international community continue: the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, meets this Monday in Latvia with his Israeli counterpart, Yair Lapid. Israel is trying to find a diplomatic solution to the war, taking advantage of its close relations with both Moscow and Kiev. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Benet secretly traveled to Moscow on Saturday, where he met Russian President Vladimir Putin and upheld his offer to mediate in the Ukraine war. He later spoke on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Bennet also met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to update him on the meeting with Putin. On the way to the Berlin airport and before flying back to Israel, Benet spoke with Macron and spoke again with Zeleski, according to Axios.

On Sunday morning, the Israeli prime minister spoke to Zelensky again, the third call in less than 15 hours. The phone marathon continued in the afternoon, when he spoke with Putin and then again with Macron and Scholz..

On Tuesday, Blinken will meet French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris to discuss the situation in Ukraine. According to Macron, Putin has told him in a telephone conversation this Sunday that he has no intention of attacking nuclear facilities or that civilians are a military target. Later, the head of the French state gave an account of his conversation with Putin to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, stressing that any act that would endanger nuclear installations must be avoided above all.

For its part, China assures that “it is already mediating” in the conflict, according to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who added that his country is making efforts to offer humanitarian assistance, which “cannot be politicized.”

“Peace and dialogue must be promoted, and China has already made some efforts in this regard. There have been two rounds of negotiations and we hope there will be a third. The more divergences, the greater the need to sit down to negotiate,” Wang said in statements collected by EFE.

Regarding its relations with Russia, China, which opposes Western sanctions, will continue to maintain its “strategic focus” and its “independence” although, according to the foreign minister, “it is not an alliance” nor “does it aim to third countries”.

Hundreds of civilian deaths

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has registered 1,207 civilian victims in Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion on the morning of February 24 until midnight on Sunday. The latest figures provided by the agency raise the death toll to 406 –27 of them minors– and the wounded to 801, although the UN admits that the real number of victims is considerably higher.

“The majority of recorded civilian casualties have been caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including heavy artillery shelling and multiple launch missile systems, and missile and air strikes,” the latest update reads.