RUSSIA: Russia’s EU ambassador, Vladimir Chizhov said that his country still believes diplomacy can help defuse the Ukraine crisis.
Chizhov stated that his country has no intention of invading anyone, but he cautioned that it is critical not to provoke Russia into changing its mind. It follows a frenzy of diplomatic activity on Monday and Tuesday. Russia has repeatedly denied any intention of invading Ukraine.
However, with over 100,000 troops massed near the Ukrainian border, some Western countries, including the United States, have warned that a Russian attack could occur at any time.
Ukraine-Russia peace talks
Following two days of intense diplomacy led by French President Emmanuel Macron, there is some speculation that a renewed focus on the so-called ‘Minsk agreements’. The agreements aim to end the conflict with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Some diplomats believe the agreements could provide a path to de-escalation, with France’s ambassador to the US. French diplomat Philippe Etienne tweeted that they should be used to “build a viable political solution.”
President Macron stated that talks would be restarted as early as Thursday and that Russia and Ukraine, as well as France and Germany, would be included in the Normandy quartet.
Mr. Chizhov did not comment on Russia’s plan to move troops away from the country’s border with Ukraine. Instead, he inquired as to why no one was discussing the number of Ukrainian soldiers stationed directly against Russia.
However, he stated unequivocally that further talks could yield results.
“We certainly believe there is still room for diplomacy,” he added.
Russia has made a number of demands to the West regarding European security, including a guarantee that Ukraine will never join Nato, the West’s defensive military alliance.
This demand has been categorically rejected, with Western countries insisting that only Ukraine can decide on its own security arrangements.
However, Russia’s EU ambassador made it clear that Nato’s eastern expansion remained a key point in any negotiations.
The envoy’s apparent optimism for continued diplomacy comes after two days of frenetic diplomacy by European leaders seeking to end Russia’s military buildup.
Visiting Moscow, Kyiv, and Berlin, French President Emmanuel Macron has been at the forefront of these efforts.
Following his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Tuesday, Mr. Macron stated that both the Russian and Ukrainian leaders had reaffirmed their commitment to implementing the so-called Minsk peace agreements.
The agreements, which were supported by Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany in 2014-15, aim to put an end to the Russian-backed separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine, which is still ongoing.
President Zelensky has previously criticized the agreement signed by his predecessor, claiming that it gives too much to the rebel groups controlling parts of Ukraine’s Donbas region.
Moscow has long accused Kyiv of failing to implement the agreements, and at Monday’s news conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Ukraine to do so: “Like it or not, my beauty, you have to put up with it,” he said.
However, Ukraine and Russia disagree on what the agreements mean in practice, and Kyiv is concerned that the accords will grant too much autonomy to the eastern regions currently under rebel control, while Moscow will retain significant influence there.
The leaders of France, Germany, and Poland backed the Minsk agreements and reaffirmed their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty at a meeting in Berlin on Tuesday.