Ukraine, Russia prepare for peace talks after years of war
Some analysts question the Kremlin’s peaceful intentions
Russian President Vladimir Putin positions himself as a peacemaker in the Middle East and a competent arbiter to whom all regional leaders can turn, with the firm belief that he considers the irremovability of power to be a positive phenomenon and regime change to be negative, analysts say. When it comes to neighboring Ukraine, the picture changes..
Pro-Russian separatists have stepped up their attacks in recent days, and on Wednesday they staged a massive bombing of the defensive positions of the Ukrainian army near Mariupol. This is reported by both the Ukrainian authorities and independent observers.
On October 16, separatists opened fire on government forces more than 30 times, as a result of which one soldier was killed and another was wounded..
The day before, according to the Ukrainian military leadership, a sniper shot and killed two soldiers. .
Ukraine’s central authorities have also accused pro-Russian forces of using 82mm mortars banned by the 2015 Minsk Agreement..
Why Kremlin-backed forces intensified their attacks is unclear. This runs counter to the recent actions of Kiev and Moscow, aimed at organizing serious negotiations and concluding a peace agreement, according to which Donetsk and Luhansk regions should become self-governing, while remaining part of Ukraine..
The regions should receive a special autonomous status after the elections. According to the plan, the elections should be free from Kremlin interference, and Ukraine will regain control over the border with Russia..
The Kremlin earlier this month hailed the plan. According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, it is expected that a date will soon be set for the quadrilateral talks involving France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia. He called this plan a “positive” and “important” step..
Breakthrough hopes fueled when Ukraine and Russia held a prisoner swap in September – largest since 2014.
However, the Ukrainian authorities note that the Kremlin is slow, despite the continuation of negotiations in Minsk. The negotiators have not yet been able to agree on the timing of the withdrawal of troops and military equipment on both sides of the front line, where clashes continue..
Russia accuses Ukraine of continuing the fighting. Aleksey Reznikov, Ukraine’s representative at the talks in Minsk, recently wrote: “In recent days, Russian officials at all levels have been actively circulating distorted information about the alleged disruption by the Ukrainian side of the process of completing the disengagement of forces and equipment … in the areas of disengagement of forces and equipment in the areas of the settlements Zolotoe and Petrovskoe “.
In accordance with the terms of the peace plan, the ceasefire must last at least seven days before the mutual withdrawal of troops begins. According to Ukrainian diplomat Darka Olifer, pro-Russian forces “do not withdraw heavy artillery from the contact line, but, on the contrary, deploy tanks and mortars there.”.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky last week accused Russia of delaying the peace process: according to him, Moscow insists that instead of the simultaneous withdrawal of troops, first the troops withdraw Kiev.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko told EU foreign ministers this week that Kiev remains hopeful of progress.
In addition to the intensification of attacks, according to the Ukrainian authorities and independent observers, there is an ongoing propaganda campaign on social media and pro-Kremlin media, which contradicts a recent statement by Putin, who expressed dissatisfaction with the negative coverage of Ukraine. “We should not put our neighbor, our closest neighbor and brotherly people, without any exaggeration, in any unfavorable light,” he said..
Increased attacks and relentless propaganda prevent Zelenskiy from promoting a peace plan, which his political opponents and part of the population are skeptical about. On Monday, thousands of Ukrainians took part in a protest march in Kiev against a peace plan, which demonstrators call “surrender” to Russia…
Zelenskiy’s aides hope the president’s high personal rating will help him advance any peace deal that ends up being reached. However, according to the latest polls, the majority of Ukrainians oppose the granting of special autonomous status to the separatist regions. At the same time, a June poll showed that 50 percent of respondents expect Zelenskiy to put an end to the conflict..
During a 14-hour press conference last week, Zelenskiy made it clear that ending the war is his most important goal. Against the backdrop of the Ukrainian scandal in Washington, some analysts fear that Zelenskiy’s position in the international arena will weaken and he will not be able to enlist the bipartisan support of the United States in the confrontation with Russia. This, in turn, may lead to the fact that Russia will further delay negotiations in the hope of additional concessions.
However, some analysts from the outset were skeptical about the Kremlin’s peaceful intentions, insisting that it would say one thing and do another. According to them, the Kremlin is negotiating only to sow a split among Western countries over whether the sanctions against Russia, imposed after the annexation of Crimea, will remain in force..