Kremlin says it wants more “active and substantial” talks on Ukraine, AFP reported. This comes after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said that meeting his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin would be a “compromise for everyone”.
Speaking to local television channels he suggested that a ceasefire in exchange for not wanting to be a NATO member would be on the table. The military organization formed during the Cold War to keep a check on Soviet aggression has been given time to decide whether it wants Ukraine as a member or not, Zelensky said.
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He further said, “And then, we need to calm down and say, okay, NATO member countries can provide us security guarantees without us being in NATO. That is where the compromise exists, that is where the end of the war is”.
Previous talks between Russia and Ukraine have failed to reach a ceasefire agreement, though some of the latter have been successful in setting up humanitarian corridors for civilians to evacuate. Nonetheless, in places like Mariupol, the conditions are dire with constant indiscriminate Russian shelling hitting a maternity ward, a drama theatre, and an art school.
Off late, Ukraine has been suggesting that talks with Russia are getting more realistic, though at the time Kremlin had remained firm in asserting that their goals from the very beginning remained unchanged.
Russia’s initial concerns included NATO’s eastward expansion, which the country claimed threatened its borders. Thus, it was vehemently opposed to Ukraine joining the organization as the nations share borders. It also sought reduced NATO presence in eastern Europe.
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Thus far, Zelensky is offering discussions on Crimea and the breakaway Donbas region too. Russia recognized the independence of the latter before Putin sent his troops in. Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014, and if Russians were to gain control of Mariupol, they would succeed in their goal of “territorial continuity” since they could connect Crimea to Donbas via the Azov Sea port city.
A week back, RIA Novosti, a Russian state-run news agency reported that Moscow had managed to set up this strategic corridor.
The invasion has had a toll on Russia as well. The weight of sanctions from NATO members and allies has had a deep impact on the nation’s economy, with the ruble taking a dive. Major businesses have pulled out, and there’s now a ban on importing Russian oil as well, not to mention that Moscow has lost its “most favoured” status with many trading partner nations.
Kremlin has reported heavy military losses too, and Russia also has to deal with anti-war protests at home, which have taken a high enough tone that the courts passed a law promising imprisonment to anybody spreading what the authority deemed to be “fake news” about its troops.
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Even China, which has thus far been largely silent, and somewhat supportive of Russia has now sent two aid packages to Ukraine, with the Chinese President Xi Jinping agreeing on a call with US counterpart Joe Biden, that the war must stop.
Now, with Zelensky having laid all cards on the table, and Kremlin, seemingly, having taken him up on this offer, it remains to be seen whether NATO responds to Zelensky’s ultimatum, “NATO should either say now that they’re accepting us or openly say that they are not accepting us as they are scared of Russia, which is true”.