By Tom Ozimek
No progress has been made on a 24-hour ceasefire in Ukraine, much less on an end to the war, according to the country’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, who discussed the matter with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Turkey on Thursday.
“We also raised the issue of a 24-hour ceasefire to resolve the most pressing humanitarian issues. We did not make progress on this, since it seems that there are other decision-makers for this matter in Russia,” Kuleba told reporters at a press conference in the Mediterranean city of Antalya.
Discussions between the two foreign ministers were held on the sidelines of a diplomatic summit. They’re the first high-level talks since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, which he calls a “special military operation” to disarm the country’s military and dislodge leaders whom he calls “neo-Nazis.”
Kuleba said he’s ready to continue talks, including in a trilateral format with the participation of Turkey’s foreign minister. He insisted, however, that Ukraine would not surrender.
“We are ready for diplomacy, we are looking for diplomatic solutions, but as long as there are none, we will selflessly, sacrificing ourselves, defend our land, our people from Russian aggression,” Kuleba said.
Moscow’s conditions for ending hostilities include the demand for Ukrainian forces to lay down their arms and for the country to pledge never to join NATO.
Turkey, a NATO member, has cultivated close ties with both Russia and Ukraine. It has positioned itself as a neutral party that’s trying to facilitate talks between the warring sides.
Kuleba told reporters after the meeting that the most critical situation was in the southern port of Mariupol but that Lavrov did not commit to a humanitarian corridor there.
“Unfortunately, Minister Lavrov was not in a position to commit himself to it, but he will correspond with respective authorities on this issue,” Kuleba said.
Lavrov, speaking at a separate press conference after the meeting, claimed Russia hadn’t invaded Ukraine but was carrying out a “special military operation” meant, at least in part, to protect people with Russian roots living there.
“We want a Ukraine that’s friendly and demilitarized, a Ukraine in which there isn’t a risk of the creation of another Nazi state, a Ukraine where there won’t be a ban on the Russian language, on Russian culture,” Lavrov said.
Asked by reporters whether Russia was planning to attack other countries, Lavrov replied, “We are not planning to attack other countries, and we did not attack Ukraine either, we were just dealing with the issues there.”
The war in Ukraine has driven over 2.3 million people from their homes, according to the latest U.N. tally, a situation that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently described as “Europe’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since the Second World War.”
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