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Iran Press TV

Russia: Peace talks with Ukraine not forward enough to hold top level meeting

Iran Press TV

Sunday, 03 April 2022 2:26 PM

Russia's lead negotiator says peace talks with Ukraine have not progressed enough to make way for a summit between Russian and Ukrainian presidents.

Vladimir Medinsky said on Sunday that "the Ukrainian side has become more realistic in its approach to issues related to the neutral and non-nuclear status of Ukraine, but the draft agreement is not ready for submission to a summit meeting."

He said he did not share the "optimism" of Ukraine's negotiators on the possibility of talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky. "I repeat again and again: Russia's position on Crimea and Donbas remains unchanged."

Putin announced a "special military operation" on February 24 to demilitarize Donetsk and Luhansk, largely populated by ethnic Russians, in eastern Ukraine. The United States and its European allies have labeled the military operation as "Putin's land grab," imposing unprecedented sanctions on Moscow.

In 2014, Ukraine's two regions of Donetsk and Luhansk - collectively known as the Donbass - declared themselves new republics; a move that triggered a persisting and bloody conflict between Kiev and armed separatists. Earlier that year - on March 17 - Crimea declared independence from Ukraine and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum a day earlier.

Moscow defends Crimea's reunification with Russia as legitimate, saying more than 90 percent of the people in the Black Sea peninsula voted in favor of rejoining the country in the 2014 vote. The West, however, brands the reunification as the annexation of the Ukrainian land by Russia, which strongly rejects the allegation.

On Saturday, Ukraine's top negotiator David Arakhamia said that the Kremlin had "verbally" agreed to key Ukrainian proposals, raising hopes that talks to end fighting were moving forward. He also raised the possibility of a summit in Turkey, without saying when it might be possible.

Kiev has so far offered at the talks to give up its ambition of joining NATO if it has security guarantees from Western countries. Ukraine would also pledge not to host any foreign bases. Earlier, Moscow had repeatedly asked Ukraine not to join the US-led military alliance.

Kiev has also proposed to temporarily put aside the question of Crimea and the Donbas region, on which Russia's position "remains unchanged," according to Medinsky, who added that talks would resume by video conference on Monday.

Moscow: Russia to ask for ruble payments for other goods

The Kremlin on Sunday said Russia would ask for ruble payments for other exports. It said the Western sanctions had accelerated the erosion of confidence in the US dollar and the euro.

"I have no doubt that it will in the future be extended to new groups of goods," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said of Russia's demand for ruble payments for gas.

Separately in the day, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy secretary of Russia's Security Council, said his country would only export food and crops to "friendly countries" in rubles or in their national currencies.

Kiev: Ukraine grain exports in sharp decline

Ukraine's Economy Ministry on Sunday announced the country's grain export figures in March were four times lower than those in February, citing Russia's military operation in Ukraine as the reason behind the decline.

The ministry added that the March grain shipments overseas included 1.1 million tons of corn, 309,000 tons of wheat, and 118,000 tons of sunflower oil.

Ukraine was the world's fourth-largest grain exporter in the 2020-21 season, according to International Grains Council data, with most of its commodities shipped out via the Black Sea. But with war raging along much of the coast, traders are being forced to transport more grain by rail.



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