Russia Dismisses "Smokescreen" Kyiv Offer Of February Peace Talks
In the last few weeks there's been increasing public talk of achieving peace through direct negotiations coming out of both Ukrainian and Russian officials. But for now, each side is sticking to their respective strict demands, making the possibility of serious talks coming to fruition anytime soon highly unlikely. Yet it's at least a positive that the word "negotiations" is even in the air at this point.
The latest back-and-forth began with a Monday statement by Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, who called for a peace summit to be held by the end of February with the mediation of UN Secretary-General António Guterres. However, his key sticking point, which proved to be a non-starter for Moscow, was that Russian officials first face a "war crimes court" for the invasion of Ukraine.
"Every war ends in a diplomatic way," Kuleba said. "Every war ends as a result of the actions taken on the battlefield and at the negotiating table." He added while talking about a UN venue, "This is really about bringing everyone on board."
And as Politico reported of the top Ukrainian diplomat's Monday remarks, "Asked about whether they would invite Russia to the summit, he said that Moscow would first need to face prosecution for war crimes at an international court." Kuleba then stipulated, "They can only be invited to this step in this way."
Kuleba then went on the attack, speaking of the Russians: "They regularly say that they are ready for negotiations, which is not true, because everything they do on the battlefield proves the opposite."
In part, this was all a reaction to weekend comments by President Vladimir Putin saying he's ready to negotiate "with everyone involved" in the Ukraine conflict.
The Kremlin's official response to Kuleba's latest comments came via head of the Russian State Duma Committee on international affairs Leonid Slutsky - who it should be noted would likely head any future Russian delegation in talks with Ukraine. Slutsky dismissed the Ukrainian calls for a war crimes tribunal as a "smoke screen."
"Ukraine is still not ready to hold peace negotiations; all the statements made by [Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry] Kuleba are a smoke screen," Slutsky said, and further according to state media:
Slutsky underscored that it was the Ukrainian side that withdrew from the Istanbul peace process, instead choosing a path of escalation. "It wasn’t us who were evading peace talks, it wasn’t us who staged the provocation in Bucha," he added.
Slutsky noted that "the ball is still in Kiev’s court," adding that the goals of the special military operation remain the same, those being the denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine.
He emphasized Moscow's key stipulation that talks are possible if the West halts its ongoing weapons pipeline to Ukraine's armed forces.
"Russia has repeatedly called on the international community, including at the parliamentary level, asking to stop arming the Kiev regime; however, Western states continue sponsoring and supplying heavy weapons. This is what the UN should pay greater attention to," the lawmaker said, after UN leadership appeared to back Kuleba's call for peace talks.