Russia, Ukraine continue efforts to ease tensions, defend interests

Moscow and Kiev have conducted several rounds of peace talks with the aim of searching for a political settlement to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, which has intensified over the past month.

The outcomes of these talks, as delegations from both sides have indicated, were expected to lay an important foundation for de-escalation of tensions between Russia and Ukraine, but key divergences have yet to be resolved.

The latest round of face-to-face negotiations in Istanbul last week resulted in Kiev handing Moscow its proposals,which contained its refusal to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and deploy foreign military bases and troops on its territory, its readiness to fix its current status as a non-bloc state, and willingness to renounce nuclear weapons, as well as other weapons of mass destruction.

Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, said that he saw positive signals from the peace negotiations, while Vladimir Medinsky, Russian presidential aide and head of Russia’s negotiation team, said that Ukraine had demonstrated its readiness to negotiate with Russia “for the first time in years.”

Meanwhile, both sides have confirmed that they were continuing talks in an online format since Friday. Ukrainian negotiator, David Arakhamia, said that the two sides would intensify efforts to work out an agreement needed for a meeting between Zelensky and Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

Medinsky said Russia saw that Ukraine had taken “a more realistic approach” to talks, but the draft agreement was not sufficient for a potential meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders.

The Russian side had repeatedly said that a meeting at the highest level would only be possible when a clear draft treaty was formulated, and both sides agreed on key aspects.

Ivan Timofeev, director of programmes at the Russian International Affairs Council, said that the Russian and Ukrainian leaders could potentially meet in person, but only when all negotiation parameters were agreed upon.

“There is a theoretical possibility of such a meeting, but a practical basis has not yet been prepared,” Timofeev said.

Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the Commonwealth of Independent States Institute, said that the latest round of negotiations was just one stage of the process, and it was by no means over. -Xinhua

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