By Anthony Marcus, special correspondent in Ukraine, for Eurasia Business News – March 30, 2022

Negotiations between Ukraine and Russia were held in Istanbul on March 29.

Vladimir Medinsky, Assistant to the President of Russia and head of the Russian delegation at the negotiations with Ukraine, commented the results of the negotiations held on March 29, in Istanbul, Turkey. The Russian official said that Ukraine had “essentially” agreed to Russia’s fundamental demands. According to him, if Ukraine fulfills the agreed conditions, the “threat of a NATO bridgehead will be eliminated.”

Yesterday, the Kyiv authorities for the first time in all previous years announced their readiness to negotiate with Russia. They handed over to us the principles of a possible future agreement fixed on paper, “said today Vladimir Medinsky.

These principles, he said, were understood to mean:

  • refusal to join NATO, fixation of the bloc-free status of Ukraine;
  • the renunciation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction;
  • the abandonment of the deployment of foreign military bases and military contingents;
  • the obligation to conduct military exercises only with the consent of the guarantor states, including Russia.

If all these obligations are fulfilled, the threat of creating a NATO bridgehead on Ukrainian territory will be eliminated. This is the essence, meaning and importance of the document previously agreed at a fairly high level,” added Mr. Medinsky.

The Russian official stressed that “the position of our side regarding Crimea and Donbass remains unchanged.

The talks in Istanbul lasted about three hours. After Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said that Russia “in order to increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations” decided to “radically reduce” military activity in the Kiev and Chernihiv directions.

The Ukrainian delegation said it had offered Russia to hold negotiations on the status of Crimea and Sevastopol for 15 years, and at this time not to resort to military methods of resolving the issue.

Ukraine sees the key point of negotiations to be the legally formalized security guarantees for Ukraine from a number of countries, including nuclear ones. The current states that could bring such guarantees are the United States, China, Great Britain, Turkey, Germany, France, Canada, Italy, Poland or even Israel. But which of them will really agree to sign the final legally binding document is an open question.

As one of the members of the Ukrainian delegation Oleksandr Chaly specified, Ukraine has begun consultations with the guarantor countries on this matter, and in two weeks the negotiations can already be held in a multilateral format.

The fact that Turkey is now the platform for negotiations instead of Belarus can be considered an intermediate diplomatic victory for the Ukrainian side. Belarus is a traditional ally of Russia in international issues.

The Ukrainian idea is that in the event of a new aggression, the security guarantors should provide Ukraine with the necessary protection, like the one in Article 5 of the NATO Charter. The package of guarantees would include the dispatch of troops, the transfer of weapons and the obligation to “close the sky”.

International security guarantees, according to the discussions at this stage, will not apply to Donbass and Crimea. In any case, Ukrainian officials say that Kyiv recognizes its borders only as of 1991, when the country gained independence from the Soviet Union.

In return, Kyiv could agree to a neutral nuclear-free status, refusal to deploy foreign military bases on its territory, conduct exercises without the consent of the guarantor countries, as well as join military-political alliances. At the same time, Ukraine would want to receive guarantees of EU membership and financial support.

According to Ukrainian negotiators, the ratification of such treaty on security guarantees will increase its legal force and make it binding. This would radically distinguish it from the Budapest Memorandum signed in 1994.

This last round of negotiations was devoted mainly to the neutrality of Ukraine and security guarantees.

A ceasefire, humanitarian issues, post-war resettlement of the affected regions, possible compensation or the lifting of sanctions against the Russian Federation were not on the agenda on March 29.

On March 30, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held an hour-long telephone conversation with US President Joe Biden. 

Russia launched a military operation at 04:00 in the morning of February 24, with the official goal to “demilitarize Ukraine”, remove the Ukrainian government and protect the right of Russian leaving in Eastern Ukraine. In a televised address to the Russians, President Vladimir Putin said that circumstances “require decisive and immediate action from us, the people’s republics of Donbass  have asked for help.” 

Ukraine and its Western partners sees the Russian military operation as an invasion and imposed strong strong sanctions against Russian state officials, banks, companies and oligarchs.

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