Updated Mar 10, 2022 - World

Possible Putin-Zelensky meeting discussed at high-level Ukraine talks

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Photo: Orhan Cicek/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba discussed the possibility of a meeting between their two presidents during talks on Thursday, but otherwise failed to come to an agreement on a ceasefire.

Why it matters: The talks in Turkey marked the highest-level negotiations between the Russian and Ukrainian government since the invasion began, but ended in disappointment. Russia again falsely accused Ukraine of being the aggressor and said the attack will continue until Kyiv agrees to its list of demands.

State of play: Kuleba said his top priority during the 1.5-hour talks was establishing a humanitarian corridor for Mariupol, a port city in southern Ukraine where Russian forces destroyed a maternity ward and children's hospital on Wednesday as part of a brutal, week-long siege.

  • Kuleba said Lavrov was "not in a position to commit" to a humanitarian corridor, suggesting the Russian foreign minister was not empowered to make any decision without consulting Moscow.
  • "Russia is not in a position at this point to establish a ceasefire. They seek a surrender from Ukraine. This is not what they're going to get. Ukraine is strong, Ukraine is fighting," Kuleba said.
  • "Ukraine made Russia's initial plans fail. We are seeking a diplomatic solution to this war. But we will not surrender."

The big picture: Putin has failed in his strategic objectives of swiftly capturing Kyiv and forcing the Ukrainian government to capitulate. As frustrations build, Russian forces have increasingly turned to attacking civilians with indiscriminate shelling.

  • Russia is demanding neutrality for Ukraine, recognition of Crimea as Russian, and recognition of the pro-Moscow separatist territories in eastern Ukraine as independent.
  • Zelensky has indicated that Ukraine would be open to discussing neutrality, but is opposed to any agreement that sacrifices the country's territorial integrity.
  • "Ukraine exists in a security vacuum. If a similar system of security guarantees, as envisaged by the NATO charter, would be granted to Ukraine by permanent members of the UN security council, including Russia, also Turkey, we are ready to discuss it," Kuleba said.

Between the lines: In a sign of the parallel universes in which the two sides are operating, Lavrov claimed at one point, "We are not planning to attack other countries. We didn't attack Ukraine in the first place."

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