The San Juan Daily Star
Ukrainian officials signal openness to talks with Russia, but with strict conditions
By Shashank Bengali
Amid reports that the United States is seeking to keep the door open to peace talks, a senior Ukrainian official said Tuesday that Ukraine remained willing to restart negotiations with Russia, but only if Moscow agreed to restore the country’s territorial integrity.
Oleksiy Danilov, head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said on Twitter that Ukraine’s “main condition” was restoration of its territorial integrity. He also said Ukraine was seeking guarantees of modern weapons and the destruction of Russian missiles before they could be used to attack Ukraine.
His comments came a day after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine said that world leaders should “force Russia into genuine peace negotiations.” Zelenskyy said in his overnight address Monday that Ukraine had “repeatedly proposed” a resumption of peace talks, only to have Russia respond “with new terrorist attacks, shelling or blackmail.”
Ukrainian officials have emphasized their willingness to reenter talks following a report in The Washington Post that the Biden administration has told them privately that they should signal more of an openness to negotiate with Russia.
Diplomatic contacts between Russia and Ukraine have diminished in the ninth month of Russia’s war, although the two sides have cooperated on a United Nations-backed deal to allow shipments of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea and in occasional exchanges of prisoners. No formal talks on a reduction of hostilities, however, have occurred in months.
Ukrainian officials have maintained publicly that they are looking for Russia to relinquish territory it seized from Ukraine even before its full-scale invasion in February, including the Crimean Peninsula and parts of the eastern Donbas region claimed by Moscow-backed separatists.
On Monday, an adviser to Zelenskyy, Mykhailo Podolyak, tweeted that while “Ukraine has never refused to negotiate,” talks could not begin until Russian troops withdraw from Ukraine. He added that since President Vladimir Putin of Russia did not appear ready to do so, “we will talk with the next leader” of Russia.