Russia-Ukraine peace talks “to resume” as Biden seeks escalation 

April 13, 2022 - 18:38

A source has told Russian media that peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv are set to resume on Monday after the Russian president said the negotiations had effectively run into a “deadlock.”

The unidentified source says "It is not a postponement. The meeting will begin in the morning. The reason is the Ukrainian delegation’s logistics".

Russian presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky, who leads the Russian delegation to the talks, earlier noted that an agreement had been reached with the Ukrainian side on Sunday to hold talks in Belarus. 

The Russian delegation is said to have already left Minsk and is heading for the venue of the talks, which will reportedly not be disclosed.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhail Podolyak has accused Russia of putting pressure on the peace talks process by making “certain public statements.” 

“Negotiations are extremely difficult. Online in working subgroups. But they go on. It is clear that the emotional background in the negotiation process today is grim. It is clear that the Ukrainian delegation works exclusively within a framework that is pro-Ukrainian and transparent,” Podolyak told local media.

The Russian president has blamed the Ukrainian side for the stalemate in the talks, saying Kyiv had reneged on what had been agreed on during talks in Turkey, late in March.

“Kyiv has walked away from the Istanbul agreements. [We] have returned to a deadlock,” Putin said.

Russia and Ukraine have engaged in many rounds of peace talks after the conflict between the two countries broke out in late February. Some have been held face to face and others have been held virtually. 

The negotiations have not produced any tangible results yet but has allowed the two sides to find common ground on humanitarian issues. 

While the head of Russia’s negotiating team, Vladimir Medinsky, expressed some optimism in the wake of talks in Istanbul, saying Ukraine had signaled its readiness to declare itself a neutral state [outside of NATO], there remain major stumbling blocks.

On Wednesday, France’s President Emmanuel Macron told French media that he planned to hold new talks with Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart very soon. 

"In the coming days, I will speak again by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin" Macron, who is also campaigning for a second presidential term, said.

Zelensky has declared he was ready to swap a detained Russian political party leader for Ukrainian prisoners of war.

In a video address on Wednesday, he said "I propose to the Russian Federation to swap [Medvedchuk] for our folks who are in Russian captivity. That is why it is important for our law enforcers and the military to consider this opportunity as well," Zelensky added.

During a joint press conference with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, Putin says Russia will act according to its plan on the battlefield

“I often get these questions, ‘can’t we hurry it up?’ We can. But it depends on the intensity of hostilities and, any way you put it, the intensity of hostilities is directly related to casualties,” said the Russian president.

He added that “our task is to achieve the set goals while minimizing these losses. We will act rhythmically, calmly, and according to the plan that was initially proposed by the General Staff.”

Putin also says sanctions imposed on his country would not have their desired effect, drawing an analogy between Russia’s situation today and that of the Soviet Union in 1961, when a Russian was the first man in space. “The sanctions were total, the isolation was complete, but the Soviet Union was still first in space,” Putin said.

“The blitzkrieg which our foes were counting on did not work,” Putin added, referring to the unprecedented western sanctions imposed after Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine begun.

This as U.S. President Joe Biden is preparing to escalate the crisis by sending heavy artillery and other systems, worth $750 million, two U.S. officials familiar with the matter told the media. 

Activists and advocates for a swift and peaceful end to the conflict say the more backing there is for negotiations between the Russian and Ukrainian delegations the faster the war will end. 

The weapons will be authorized by Biden without congressional approval.

One of the officials said final determinations were still being made about the mix of equipment.

A senior congressional aide said the equipment to be announced would likely include heavy ground artillery systems to Ukraine, including howitzers.

The White House said last week that it has provided more than $1.7 billion in weapons to Ukraine since late February. The total amount of U.S. military weapons to Kyiv is set to pass $2.4 billion since February 24.

Washington has sent more than 1,400 Stingers and 5,000 Javelins to Ukraine already according to the Pentagon. 

According to a Washington lobby group, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), this amounts to a third of America’s stockpile of Javelins and a quarter of its Stingers.

CSIS is funded by weapons manufacturing companies, which have included Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, and General Atomics. Another donor is Raytheon, which manufactures Javelins and Stingers.

Production levels will be one of the topics at a meeting between Pentagon officials and the top eight American weapons manufacturers.
Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, and L3 Harris Technologies are expected to be in attendance.

Many anti-war advocates say the U.S. and its Western allies should be backing the peace talks effort to end the conflict instead of making a profit from weapons supplies which are being sent to a conflict zone once again at the expense of U.S. taxpayers' money. 

Many have accused the West of wanting to prolong the fighting by sending weapons with Washington and London standing widely accused of not wanting the fighting to cease.

Ukraine’s deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk’s highlighted the lack of humanitarian corridors that were set up on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry Spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov says over 1,000 Ukrainian troops, including 162 officers have surrendered in Mariupol. 

Questioned on the Russian claim, Ukraine’s defense ministry spokesperson told reporters that they had no information on any surrender.

Moscow attacked its neighbor in late February, after warning NATO to stop expanding eastward toward Russian borders with Ukraine. Moscow also accused Kyiv of failing to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014 which led to Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk 

Russia has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the U.S.-led NATO military bloc. 

Kyiv insists the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics of Donetsk and Lugansk by force.

Elsewhere, the UN has warned that Ukrainian female refugees are at risk in the UK of sexual exploitation under the British Homes for Ukraine scheme. 

Under the UK government’s scheme, British households must house Ukrainian refugees themselves, leaving tens of thousands of people resorting to social media platforms, that are unregulated to make connections.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR says it “believes that a more appropriate matching process could be put in place by ensuring that women and women with children are matched with families or couples, rather than with single men.” 

“Matching done without the appropriate oversight may lead to increasing the risks women may face, in addition to the trauma of displacement, family separation, and violence already experienced,” a spokesperson said.

Leading British refugee charity groups had already raised concern about the scheme amid increasing reports of sexual predators targeting female refugees.

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