Optimism amid Russia-Ukraine peace talks 

March 14, 2022 - 18:30

TEHRAN- Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says officials taking part in talks with their Russian counterparts are hoping to ensure direct talks between the two countries leaders in a bid to bring peace to the conflict.

Delegations from both sides have held multiple rounds of face-to-face talks, with the latest on Monday. 

The two delegations have been providing optimistic assessments lately with Moscow and Kyiv appearing to look for an end to the conflict. 

The question remains as to whether the U.S.-led NATO alliance wants the conflict to end? 

Observers have noted the lack of support for these talks by NATO and question if the alliance wants an end to the conflict or is trying to prolong it? 

Ukraine does have a desire for direct talks between Zelenskiy and Russian President Vladimir Putin; something that analysts say would not sit down well in Washington. 

Speaking during his daily video address Zelenskiy says "our delegation has a clear task, to do everything to ensure a meeting of the presidents. The meeting that I am sure people are waiting for.”

"Obviously this is a difficult story. A hard path. But this path is needed. And our goal is for Ukraine to get the necessary result in this struggle, in this negotiation work. Necessary for peace. And for security."

Moscow has not ruled the option out, having previously said that the Kremlin would not refuse such a meeting to discuss "specific" issues, but there have been no further details on a date.

Nevertheless, both sides have hailed progress at earlier rounds aimed at ending more than two weeks of direct fighting between the Russian and Ukrainian armies.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky and part of the Ukrainian negotiating team announced the latest peace talks saying “negotiations go non-stop in the format of video conferences.. a negotiating session will be held to sum up the preliminary results.”

His remarks confirmed an earlier statement by Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for the Kremlin and the Russian presidency. Peskov has been quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that negotiations are scheduled to continue.

The confirmation of the next round of talks come after both sides said they were making headway at the negotiations.

Leonid Slutsky, a senior member of Russia's negotiating team, told the state-run television network RT that "significant progress" was made following several rounds of talks hosted on the border of neighboring Belarus. 

According to Russian news agencies, he told the network "if we compare the positions of both delegations at the start of the talks and now, we see significant progress”.

The Russian official says "my own expectations are that this progress could develop over the next few days into a unified position held by both delegations in documents to be signed.”

This week, Turkey hosted a first meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers. The talks produced no apparent progress towards a ceasefire, but analysts say the fact they were even meeting has left a window open for an end to the fighting.

According to Podolyak, Russia had stopped issuing "ultimatums" and instead "carefully listens to our positions". On Saturday, Zelensky pointed out that Russia had adopted a "fundamentally different approach" in the talks.

"Russia is already beginning to talk constructively," Podolyak said "I think that we will achieve some results literally in a matter of days."

Meanwhile, Russian President Putin, who approved a military operation in Ukraine on February 24, says there had been "some positive shifts" in the dialogue and that the negotiations are now being held on an almost daily basis. 

Ukraine has previously said it was open to hold talks with Russia, but not to surrender in the conflict. Reports suggest thousands have died, while the United Nations says more than 2.7 million have fled to neighboring counties since the conflict began.

Three rounds of talks between the two sides in Belarus, most recently last Monday, had focused mainly on humanitarian issues and led to the opening of humanitarian corridors for civilians to escape the fighting.

Among the latest developments on the battlefield, a barrage of Russian missiles hit a large Ukrainian military facility outside the country’s western city of Lviv, near the border with NATO member Poland in an escalation of the conflict in the west of Ukraine while fighting raged elsewhere.

Russia's defense ministry says airstrikes had destroyed a large amount of weapons supplied by foreign nations that were being stored at the Yavoriv military base as well and killed “foreign mercenaries” who joined Kyiv's army in its fight against Russian forces. 

The defense ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov says Moscow had used high-precision, long-range weapons to strike the Yavoriv facility and a separate base in the village of Starichi.

"As a result of the strike, up to 180 foreign mercenaries and a large amount of foreign weapons were destroyed," he said.

The 360-square km facility is one of Ukraine's biggest military training grounds and is the largest in the western part of the country, which has so far been spared the worst of the fighting.

Russia has warned that convoys of Western arms shipments to Ukraine would be considered legitimate targets. 

Regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy said Russian planes fired around 30 rockets at the Yavoriv facility and that some were intercepted.

Meanwhile, local authorities in Mariupol say over 2,100 have been killed in the city since hostilities began, raising the toll by almost 1,000 since Wednesday. It is not clear how many of the dead that have been are civilians or combatants. 

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned that
Mariupol faces "a worst-case scenario" if the warring parties do not urgently reach a "concrete humanitarian agreement".

Fighting has raged on in the Kyiv suburbs as Russian forces advance ever closer to the capital. According to the Ukrainian president's office, only roads to the south remain open and Kyiv is preparing to mount a "relentless defense".

Ukrainian soldiers at the scene have told media outlets that Bucha city to the northwest is entirely held by Russian forces along with parts of Irpin city next to the capital.

Medics and witnesses say an American journalist has been shot dead in Irpin, becoming the first foreign reporter killed since Russia's invasion. Papers found on the reporter's body identify him as a 50-year-old video documentary maker.

Ukraine announced on Saturday at least 1,300 of its soldiers have been killed so far in the conflict with funeral processions becoming a daily sight now.

Energy officials in Kyiv say power has been restored at Ukraine's retired Chernobyl nuclear power plant that was seized by Russian forces in the first days of the conflict. 

Eleven people have died in a strike on the southern city of Mykolaiv, according to the regional governor. The city lies on the road to the port city of Odessa, around 100 kilometers away.

The Tehran Times cannot immediately independently verify the number of casualties. 

Elsewhere, the United Nations says almost 2.7 million people have fled the conflict in Ukraine, more than 100,000 of them in the past 24 hours; more than half have headed to Poland.

Journalists in Poland say local organizations are helping the refugees with zero help from NATO or the European Union despite Poland being a member of both organizations.

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