Russia and Ukraine resumed face-to-face negotiations in Turkey on Tuesday. Both delegations meet at the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul with the main objective of agreeing on a ceasefire. It is the first time that they have sat down face to face since last March 10, when the last meeting in person, also in Turkey, ended without any kind of agreement.
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Since then and until today, the talks have only been held by videoconference. In Istanbul is also the Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich, According to RIA Novosti, that as Vladimir Putin’s mediator, he has traveled to Turkey in the midst of the mystery due to the possible symptoms of poisoning he suffered in early March.
As reported on Monday by The Wall Street Journal and the research group Bellingcat, Abramovich and several Ukrainian negotiators who participated in the negotiations with Moscow presented symptoms of poisoning after a meeting in kyiv.
The symptoms that appeared in the three cases were red eyes, constant and annoying tearing and peeling of the skin of the hands and face, according to the newspaper, which attributes the possible attack to “radical elements in Moscow” who tried to boycott these negotiations.
Although both WSJ and Bellingcat reaffirm their information, which they claim to have contrasted by various sources, a US government source questioned whether it was poison. According to Reuters, the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said intelligence services believe the symptoms were due to “environmental factors” and “not poison.”
Abramovich’s role as a possible mediator had not been revealed until the news of the possible poisoning broke. According to the WSJ, Abramovich was traveling between Lviv, Moscow and other capitals in his mediation efforts between the Russian and Ukrainian governments. He also met with the Ukrainian president, Volodimir Zelensky, and even with Vladimir Putin.
The London Times publishes exclusively that the tycoon came to give Putin a handwritten note from Zelensky. According to this newspaper, Putin would have responded to Abramovich: “Tell him that I will destroy them.”
Looking for a ceasefire
Negotiations in Istanbul are taking place amid tight security. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, received both delegations with a brief speech in which he expressed his hope that a ceasefire could be agreed upon.
“We believe that there are no losers from a just and equitable peace. The continuation of the war is not to the liking of any of the parties and an immediate ceasefire would benefit all”, he has declared.
Before their meeting, the Russians and Ukrainians re-established their priorities and were open to dialogue.
As reported by the Financial Times, Russia has stopped demanding Ukraine “denazification” of the country, one of the main arguments used to justify the invasion of Ukraine: Russia insists on false claims that Ukraine is a “neo-Nazi” country where “it seems that there is a genocide” (something they maintain without evidence) against the population that speaks Russian.
Furthermore, according to the FT citing sources close to the negotiation, Moscow would be willing for Ukraine to join the EU if it maintains its neutral military status (it does not join NATO).
The Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski, granted this Sunday several interviews in which he was willing to accept a neutral status in exchange for security guarantees from several countries. In addition, he assured that the question of the recognition of Crimea and the status of Donbas was an issue that should be “addressed and resolved”.