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People's Daily Online

Russia, Ukraine continue efforts to ease tensions, defend interests

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 14:25, April 05, 2022

MOSCOW, April 5 (Xinhua) -- 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, are 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 Organization 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 has 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 has said repeatedly 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 programs at the Russian International Affairs Council, said that the Russian and Ukrainian leaders could potentially meet in person, but only when all negotiation parameters are 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 is just one stage of the process, and it is by no means over.

"Russia received an offer from Ukraine, these proposals are necessary, but still insufficient for concluding a peace agreement," he said.

While the results of the ongoing talks and statements made by both sides prompted "cautious optimism," it is also clear that both Moscow and Kiev are making every effort to ensure their respective economic, diplomatic and security interests are met.

The Russian defense ministry has decided to significantly reduce military activities from Kiev and Chernihiv directions. The decision can be seen as a move towards de-escalation, and an effort to create more favorable conditions for further negotiations.

Besides diplomatic approaches aimed at defending its security interests, Russia has also taken a series of measures to protect the country's economic interests.

Putin signed a decree on Thursday on new rules of natural gas trade with "unfriendly" countries and regions, vowing to halt existing contracts if these buyers refuse to pay in rubles.

He said this was an "important step towards strengthening Russia's financial and economic sovereignty," adding that western countries have used the financial system as a weapon.

The Russian president also signed a decree on Monday introducing visa restrictions for citizens from "unfriendly countries," a decision made in retaliation to hostile measures taken by the European Union.

Since the outbreak of the conflict, the international community has been supporting Russia-Ukraine peace talks as well as any efforts taken to reach a peace deal.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday that the country could host Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers for peace talks within the following weeks.

The minister said he was in contact with both Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov for the meeting.

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