The talks between Russia and Ukraine were divided into four main areas, a source familiar with some aspects of the process told Vedomosti. Vedomosti’s interlocutor, close to the presidential administration, heard about them.
The first direction concerns Ukraine’s non-aligned status, and it discusses whether the country should remain neutral or become a member of NATO. After talks in Istanbul on March 29, the head of the Russian delegation, Presidential Aide Vladimir Medinsky, has already said that the Ukrainian side agrees to the country’s neutral status. His Ukrainian counterpart, David Arahamia, agreed with some reservations.
At the same time, there is still no agreement on the issue of guarantees of such a non-aligned status between the parties, says this interlocutor of “Vedomosti”: Ukrainians want guarantees of their security, which would be reminiscent of Art. 5 of the NATO treaty, ie promised direct military assistance in case of threat.
Andrei Kortunov, Director General of the Russian Council for International Affairs, believes that there are no fundamental differences on the issue of Ukraine’s non-aligned status. But, he notes, negotiations are underway between Russia and Ukraine, and security guarantees must be provided by several states, and to what extent they are ready to provide them is still unknown: “But if such guarantees [подобные ст. 5 договора НАТО] they need to be passed through the parliaments of the guarantor countries, and it is not a fact that they will be ready for that. “
That is, there are many nuances that need to be worked out, sums up Kortunov. Last week, a representative of the British government said that guarantees to Ukraine were possible, but not as in the case of the country’s membership in NATO. On April 3, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also stated that the United States had not provided the country with “security guarantees.”
The second area of negotiations is the issue of demilitarization, and in fact – restrictions on the Ukrainian army, says a source in the “Vedomosti”. Ukraine insists on maintaining the current number of troops, while, in Russia’s opinion, it should be several times smaller and not have a number of long-range systems, he continues.
According to Kortunov, Russia’s position is that the Ukrainian army should not be more than 50,000 people. And Ukraine, according to the expert, proposes to take Finland as a model – to estimate the size of the army of this country and to correlate with the size of its population: “And these are different numbers.” In Finland in 2020 there were 21,500 soldiers for 5.5 million people (more than 42 million live in Ukraine), according to the British Military Balance directory.
Ukraine’s political system is also the subject of negotiations, a Vedomosti source said. There is disagreement on this issue, Kortunov agrees, because Russia will insist on the categorical elimination of right-wing radical political groups: “But these groups are the most resistant to Russia and active in the public space in Ukraine.”
The most difficult, according to this source, is the fourth area of negotiations – the borders of Ukraine. In this matter, says the interlocutor of “Vedomosti”, there are no signs of compromise.
The Russian side has repeatedly stated publicly that its position is that Crimea is Russian and this status is not negotiable, as is the recognition of the independence of the Donbass republics within the borders of Luhansk and Donetsk regions. At the same time, there were signs that local authorities were being set up in the Kherson region and part of the Zaporizhia region, including with Russian support. The Ukrainian side demands the withdrawal of Russian troops to the line on February 23.
The head of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy Fedor Lukyanov said: certain territory – the so-called Donbass plus. Based on their results, it will be possible to estimate which of the options discussed at the talks are applicable, the expert said. He cites the territorial issue as an example, on which there can be no compromise without military success or defeat.
All areas of negotiations are interconnected, says a source close to the presidential administration, Vedomosti: “That is, agreements on none of them have any practical meaning, and an unsuccessful outcome in one area will ruin the result.” But this is probably a slow process, because “any of the four blocs will not work without a complete change of the current government” in Ukraine, according to the interlocutor of “Vedomosti”. According to a source in the State Duma, the successes achieved during the military special operation can help in the effective conduct of negotiations. He noted that earlier Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke about the progress in negotiations on Ukraine’s non-aligned and non-nuclear status.
“We have already said that we do not want to comment on the content of the talks,” Dmitry Peskov, the president’s spokesman, told Vedomosti. The representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to Vedomosti’s request by the time the issue was published.