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No Progress on Ceasefire After Russia – Ukraine Talks

Russia Ukraine Talks
Dmytro Kuleba, the foreign minister of Ukraine, met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Turkey on Thursday. Credit: Facebook/Emine Dzeppar

The Russia – Ukraine talks in Turkey between the foreign ministers of each nation failed to make any progress toward declaring a ceasefire in the invasion, according to the foreign ministers of the two nations, who spoke to the press afterward.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sat down together in the first high-level meeting between the two countries since the invasion began two weeks ago.

“We talked on the ceasefire but no progress was accomplished on that,” Kuleba told reporters after the meeting, according to Al Jazeera. “It seems that there are other decision-makers for this matter in Russia,” hehinted, in an apparent reference to the Kremlin itself.

Russia – Ukraine talks in Turkey fruitless

Kuleba went on to characterize the diplomatic meeting as “difficult,”  going on to charge Lavrov with bringing “traditional narratives” to the important parleys.

He then declared “I want to repeat that Ukraine has not surrendered, does not surrender, and will not surrender.”

With Antalya as the host city, the talks took place along the sidelines of another  previously-scheduled diplomatic meeting after the global outrage over the Russian bombing on a women and children’s hospital in the besieged historically Greek city of Mariupol.

The bombing, which caused at least three deaths and scores of injuries, left blood-curdling scenes of bloody incubators in the hospital’s nursery and wailing mothers who clutched their children outside in the courtyard in its aftermath.

Ukraine president calls hospital attack “Genocide”

Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the attack on the 600-bed children’s and maternity hospital was evidence of nothing short of “genocide.” The White House charged that the attack was “barbaric.”

Zelenskiy said the hospital had sustained a “direct strike by Russian troops” and there were children under the wreckage of the facility.

Deputy mayor of Mariupol Sergei Orlov said the city was being shelled continuously and 1,170 residents had been killed, 47 of whom were buried in a mass grave yesterday. “It’s medieval,” he said. “It’s pure genocide. The attack isn’t simply treacherous. It’s a war crime. They are attacking us with aviation, shells, multiple rocket launchers.”

Learn more: Ukrainians defuse bomb with bare hands, bottle of water

Just as leaders around the world lent their voices to the condemnation of the bombing, Kuleba and his diplomatic team and officials sat down on the other side of the Russian delegation.

Kuleba later said that the talks had been both “easy and difficult” at times.

Lavrov charged to reporters after the meeting that the Mariupol women and children’s hospital had been under the control of “Ukrainian radicals,” adding that no patients were present there at the time of the bombing.

He then stated that it was the west that had caused the conflict by forcing Ukraine to choose between Russia and western powers.

Ukrainian FM calls for another civilian evacuation of Mariupol

After two separate ceasefires had been declared, and then broken by Russian shelling in Mariupol, Kuleba called on Russia to once again allow the evacuation of civilians from the besieged city.

He said that his country was ready for diplomacy but also would not shrink from defending itself, since it appeared Russia would continue fighting and was seeking a blanket surrender on the part of the Ukrainians.

According to a report in The Guardian, Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who brokered the meeting, stated before the meeting began that its aim was to pave the way toward further diplomatic parleys between Russian president Vladimir Putin and Zelenskiy, facilitated by Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdoğan.

Turkey finds itself in a unique position as both a NATO member and a nation which has maritime borders with both warring nations, on the Black Sea. Earlier in the conflict, it barred passage of any warships through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, which it has the power to do according to the stipulations of the Montreux Convention.

So far Turkey has avoided imposing sanctions on Russia — a nation which is constructing no less than three nuclear power plants on its soil — but it did condemn the attack and also allowed Turkish-built drones to be purchased by Ukraine.

The Kremlin’s ceasefire terms include Ukraine ceasing all military action and resistance, enshrining in its constitution that it had no intention of joining Nato, giving up its annexed region of Crimea and recognizing the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Kuleba on the telephone on Wednesday, according to a statement issued by the State Department, discussing what Blinken’s spokeman called “coordinated efforts to provide additional security assistance and humanitarian support to Ukraine in the face of Russia’s unprovoked and premeditated invasion and, in particular, its unconscionable attacks harming population centers.”

Blinken and Kuleba “discussed ongoing diplomatic efforts to stop Putin’s war of choice,” the statement said, adding that “the Secretary reiterated the United States’ steadfast support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

EU leaders meeting in Versailles on Thursday after Russia – Ukraine talks end

Also on Thursday, EU leaders prepared to meet in an emergency session in Versailles, France to discuss Ukraine’s application to join their ranks. The Local reports that a draft of the two-day meeting’s final declaration states “Russia’s war of aggression constitutes a tectonic shift in European history,” while the leaders are tasked with “how the EU can live up to its responsibilities in this new reality, protecting our citizens, values, democracies, and our European model.”

Kuleba reiterated his president’s urging to allow Ukraine to join the bloc, tweeting that a phone call he had held with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had “underscored the historic importance of granting EU membership to Ukraine which now fights for itself and entire Europe.”

Historically, the process of joining the powerful European Union is fraught with any number of hurdles that must be overcome, with unanimous votes needed for nations to even be added to the ranks of those whose applications are being formally considered.

Ukraine’s emergency membership bid, followed quickly by applications from the smaller nations of Georgia and Moldova, has been eagerly approved by many political figures in central and eastern European countries, some member nations are wary of allowing the accession talks to move too quickly, especially as Ukraine has had endemic problems with corruption.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte told the press “This will not happen in the short term, because this is a whole process taking many years,” a notion that France’s EU minister, Clément Beaune, agreed with, adding “It will take time.”

Indeed the summit communique for today’s meeting does not even mention the possible accession of Ukraine into the EU. A senior EU official quoted by The Guardian stated: “Part of the room wants to move swiftly, another part of the room of leaders wants to have some better distance and see, and have a proper discussion at a later stage whether Ukraine should join the union.”

EU leaders are expected to invite the European Commission to submit its opinion on Ukraine’s application, as part of normal bureaucratic procedure. “Pending this and without delay, we will further strengthen our bonds and deepen our partnership”, a draft summit statement viewed by the Guardian, states, concluding “Ukraine belongs to our European family.”

Late on Wednesday, Britain and the US warned that Russia may be setting the stage to use chemical weapons in Ukraine after Kremlin officials alleged without any evidence that the US had been supporting a bioweapons program in the country.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted on Wednesday that Russian officials had been making “false claims about alleged US biological weapons labs and chemical weapons development in Ukraine”, going on to say that the spurious allegations had been echoed by Chinese officials as well.

“Now that Russia has made these false claims, and China has seemingly endorsed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them,” Psaki said in a Tweet.

Also on Thursday, Britain’s Ministry of Defense told the press that the threatening Russian military convoy that is clearly visible on the highway northwest of Kyiv has not only made “little progress in over a week” but is also suffering continued losses, thanks to Ukraine forces.

The Ministry also stated that there had been a noticeable decrease in Russian air activity recently, which they said was because of the “unexpected effectiveness” of Ukraine’s forces. The MoD also stated that Russia has deployed conscript troops in Ukraine in spite of assurances from the Russian leader that he would not do so.

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