Russian and Ukrainian diplomats are meeting for a third round of peace talks, amid a wave of propaganda from both sides.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy reckons “there will be judgement” on Russia for its invasion of his country, while Vladimir Putin says Russia would quit Ukraine immediately if Ukraine agrees to demilitarise, and to allow the disputed regions in eastern Ukraine their autonomy.
None of the claims are realistic, and This Writer doubts they will be mentioned when the talks restart at 2pm today (4pm in eastern Europe). The negotiators will be looking for a mutually-acceptable conclusion – not trying to score public relations points.
I don’t think Russia will be prepared to give any ground on the disputed eastern regions that are inhabited by people of Russian ethnicity, who identify with Russia and who have (allegedly?) been persecuted for many years.
Nor will Russia relent on its determination that the Crimea should be acknowledged as a Russian territory. This is not unreasonable as it was only given to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev in an act of remorse for what he saw as that country’s poor treatment within the USSR.
But the demand for Ukraine to demilitarise is unreasonable. If that country rid itself of all military forces, there would be nothing to stop Russia from rolling straight back in and taking over completely.
And there’s no reason for Ukraine to do as Russia demands; when an invader finds out he can’t win, you don’t offer to make it easier for him.
Realistically, both sides know this. They’ll be seeking a solution that allows them both to walk away with dignity.
Unfortunately, Boris Johnson has decided to hold talks on further sanctions against Russia, at the same time as the peace negotiations are taking place. He started his meeting with the Canadian and Dutch prime ministers at midday and is planning a press conference at 2.50pm – while the Russia-Ukraine talks are taking place.
Will he make an announcement that could upset the peace process? Probably. Johnson is a fool who acts only in what he sees as his own interest.
But what is Johnson’s interest?
Judging by his behaviour so far, his interests lie in prolonging Russia’s war, protecting that country’s interests in the UK, and preventing Ukrainian refugees from gaining asylum here.
An announcement of further sanctions – to be imposed at an undefined point in the future, as far as the UK is concerned – may be just the inflammatory stimulus Russia needs to call off peace talks again.
Bear in mind: it is the timing of the press conference that is contentious. By making an announcement on sanctions while the peace talks are taking place, Johnson is denying Putin and Zelenskyy a chance to come to an agreement.
If they were to make progress, an announcement on sanctions may be unnecessary in any case.
It seems that, by trying to appear proactive, Boris Johnson is simply trying to get in the way.
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