Thirty-five days after the start of the Russian military intervention in Ukraine It would seem that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Although it is early to be optimistic, the negotiations that took place yesterday in Istanbul, Turkey, seem to indicate that viable agreements could be reached for both Russia and Ukraine in pursuit of a ceasefire.
Although the meeting ended without a firm agreement, at least the following commitments were outlined:
1. Reduction of military activity in kyiv and Chernigov
When the Russian military intervention in Ukraine began, and given the rapid advance of the Russian forces in the first days, everyone thought that the Ukrainian government would fall quickly. More than a month later, the cities remain under siege, but President Volodymyr Zelensky remains in office as he empowers the international community every week. Ukrainian forces, meanwhile, have shown greater resilience than expected.
kyiv, the capital, cannot yet be controlled by Russian forces, so the Kremlin’s declaration to reduce its military activity is a realistic acceptance that they will no longer be able to do so.
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“Putin is in the posture of a war of resistance. Despite the casualties that he has suffered, at the end of the road he is willing to put up with anything in order not to leave empty-handed. Russia is not going to accept a ceasefire without something in return.” The international analyst Aribel Contreras points out to El Comercio.
This being the case, the fact that Russia is accepting to reduce its military activity is because, on the other side, there are other factors that favor it.
“I do not think that Russia is giving in, rather it has always been very firm in its requests and they are the ones who have put the negotiating points on the table and that is where they are starting from”, add.
2. Ukraine withdraws from NATO and opts for neutrality
In this month of war, the Ukrainian president had expressed that he ruled out his country’s entry into NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty, one of the main arguments of Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine. At the meeting in Istanbul, this possibility was already formally stated by the Ukrainian negotiators.
Instead, they proposed a status whereby their country would not join military alliances or host foreign troop bases, but would have its security guaranteed on terms similar to Article 5, NATO’s collective defense clause that stipulates that attack against a member country of the alliance is an aggression against the entire pact.
Ukraine has requested that at least ten countries be guarantors of this security treaty. These would be the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (United Kingdom, China, Russia, United States and France) as well as Turkey, Germany, Canada, Poland, Italy and Israel.
If these guarantees are given, “Ukraine will agree to be neutral, will not have nuclear weapons and will not allow foreign military bases on its territory,” Ukrainian negotiator Oleksander Chalyi told reporters in Istanbul.
Russia had already proposed the Austrian or Swedish model of neutrality for Ukraine, something that was not accepted at the time.
“The point of neutrality is something that Putin has been demanding for years and that has been in every round of negotiations, so that Ukraine guarantees this is a very important turning point,” Contreras explains.
On the other hand, Ukraine has insisted that the commitment to stay out of NATO will not exclude the country from joining the European Union in the future but, on the contrary, the guarantor countries will actively support a future accession to the European club.
3. Crimea and Donbas: an impasse
An issue that is complex and on which there has been no further progress is the situation in Crimea – annexed by Russia in 2014 – and the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, in the pro-Russian separatist region of Donbas, which Russia recognized as independents in February, shortly before the military intervention.
Regarding the Crimean peninsula, Ukraine proposed a period of 15 years to resolve the matter, without both countries resorting to force in this period.
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Likewise, the international guarantee agreement proposed by Ukraine would not extend to Crimea or Donbas.
In this regard, Aribel Contreras details: “This aspect is going to require more rounds of negotiation. On the one hand, Russia recognizes the independence of Lugansk and Donetsk, something that is not going to be accepted by Ukraine or the rest of the international community. Ukraine could cede autonomy to Donbas. In other words, it will not be independent, nor will it be part of Russia, but rather a kind of autonomous region, something like Catalonia in Spain. It could be a middle ground where neither Ukraine believes that it is ceding territory nor that Russia annexes it “.