A week after the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and after another day of heavy bombing, this Thursday both delegations held the second round of negotiations in Belarus. The main objective of Ukraine: to reach a ceasefire and to establish “humanitarian corridors”. However, Russia has already threatened through its Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, that the military offensive will continue even if an agreement is reached, and uses as an excuse that “Ukraine’s military infrastructure” represents a “threat to Russia”.
Why the Russian Army is not advancing as expected in Ukraine
On this occasion, the meeting takes place in the Brest region, on the border with Poland and Ukraine, according to the Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinski, who assured that the two parties agreed on this area, although without giving details about the specific place. Medinski expected the meeting to start around 12:00 GMT, according to the Belarusian state news agency, Belta, although Ukraine did not confirm the time the meeting would take place. Finally, as reported by the Russian state news agency TASS, the Ukrainian negotiators arrived in Belarus by helicopter at around 2:00 p.m. GMT.
Ukraine calls for “humanitarian corridors”
The Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak has shared an image of the meeting in which he is participating on the networks. Alongside her, he has listed the “key points on the agenda”:
- immediate ceasefire
- delivery of weapons
- Opening of humanitarian corridors to be able to evacuate civilians from the attacked areas
Previously, Podoliak shared another photo uploaded to a helicopter with Arakhamia and in which he claimed to be “on the way” to the place of the new negotiation in Brest.
Next to him in the picture was David Arakhamia, the leader of the parliamentary group of Zelensky’s party ‘The Servant of the People’, who He has pointed out in a post uploaded to his social networks that his “minimum program” for this meeting, “given the circumstances”, is to be able to establish “humanitarian corridors”.
Conversations without peace
The Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba has warned that they are “prepared to negotiate” and “open to diplomacy”, but that “in no way” will they accept “Russian ultimatums”.
The hopes in the meeting have been extinguished after the words of the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, who has affirmed, in statements to the media collected by EFE, that Moscow would continue with its military operation in Ukraine until “the end” .
“We are willing to negotiate, but we will continue our operation, because we cannot allow an infrastructure that threatens Russia’s security to exist in Ukraine. The demilitarization will be completed with the elimination of this infrastructure and weapons,” he assured at the conference. of press.
Moscow demands the international recognition of Crimea as Russian territory (which was annexed in 2014) and the “demilitarization and ‘denazification’ of the Ukrainian state”, leaving it outside NATO. “Even if we sign a peace agreement, it must necessarily include” the point of demilitarization, Lavrov said.
Russia’s excuses that Ukraine is a “militarized” country are baseless. Ukraine is outside NATO and is an independent country with a regular Army. As for the accusations of being “nazified”, the far-right movement in Ukraine is smaller than in other European countries, and its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is Jewish.
Parallel to the second round of negotiations, the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, had a new telephone conversation with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, lasting an hour and a half, in which he told him that his Ukraine offensive is going “as planned” and has warned that it will intensify unless that country accepts its conditions, including its demilitarization. “You are kidding yourself,” Macron replied to Putin, according to Elysee sources, adding that this was going to cost his country “dearly”, that “it would end up isolated, weakened and under sanctions for a long time”
In the first round, held on February 28 in the Belarusian city of Gomel, representatives of both countries participated, but no international mediator.
Kiev then sent its Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, to Gomel, who headed a team that also included the aforementioned, David Arakhamia; presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak; the adviser to the Head of the Presidential Office; the deputy head of the Ukrainian delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group for peace in Donbas, Andriy Kostin; deputy Rustem Umerov; and the diplomat Mykola Tochytsky.
On the Russian side, the meeting was attended by Vladimir Medinski, assistant to the President of Russia, Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko, a Deputy Defense Minister and the chairman of the Committee on International Affairs of the Duma, the Russian Lower House, Leonid Slutski.
Both parties agreed that the first round of talks, which lasted about five hours, made it possible to identify some points to be able to move forward and more meetings were called. But the ceasefire did not come and in fact, since then, Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities have intensified.
Possible international mediators
At the moment, there are several countries that sound like possible mediators but none have yet assumed that role. One of them is China. The Ukrainian government assures that China is “deeply concerned about the damage to the civilian population” of Ukraine and has asked Beijing to act as a mediator in its war with Russia to achieve a ceasefire. Previously, the Ukrainian government also requested Israel’s help in this regard.
The President of Kazakhstan, Kasim Jomart Tokayev, on Tuesday urged Russia and Ukraine to talk to end the conflict and offered the country as a mediator in the talks.
“We ask the two states to make every effort to start a dialogue and work on a peaceful solution”, he indicated in a message published through the social network Twitter, where he insisted that “there is no other way” to end to the current crisis.
Other countries such as the Vatican have also offered their help to try to resolve the conflict, while Colombia has urged the United Nations to create a mediation group of which it can be a part.
Continue the offensive
Hundreds of Ukrainian civilians have died since the launch of the invasion according to the UN count, many of them in bombings against residential areas, events that will be investigated for alleged war crimes by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), British Karim Khan.
The meeting comes as the Russians continue to make military advances. Kherson, with 290,000 inhabitants, located on the shores of the Black Sea, is one of the first great victories of the Russian forces, who continue their offensive in eastern cities such as Kharkov or Mariúpol, and trying to besiege Kiev, the capital.
The mayor of Mariúpol, Vadim Boichenkom has denounced that the city is “without light, without water, without heating”. If this population were to fall, Russia could ensure territorial continuity between the forces coming from the Crimean peninsula and those arriving from the pro-Russian separatist territories of Donbas.