Ukraine's Zelensky, Russia's Putin

A meeting between Putin and Zelensky in Turkey is “highly likely”

Although the Ukrainian negotiating team believes that a peace agreement to end the war is close, the Russian side is pessimistic.

A meeting in Turkey between the presidents of Russia and Ukraine, Putin and Zelensky, is “highly likely”, the head of the Ukrainian delegation conducting negotiations with Moscow, David Arakhamia, assured this weekend.

In statements made two days ago to a Kyiv-based television channel, Arakhamia assured that Russia had “verbally” accepted most of the proposals made by the Ukrainian side during the peace negotiations, except regarding the sovereignty of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014.

The chief Ukrainian negotiator explained that one of the points on which there would be a “verbal” agreement between the parties would be the holding of a referendum in Ukraine on its status as a neutral country, and that in the opinion of both delegations “it would be the only way out of this situation”.

More pessimism in the Russian delegation

These statements, however, contradict the comments made yesterday by the head of the Russian delegation at the peace negotiations recently held in Istanbul, Vladimir Medinsky, who assured that “there is still a lot of work ahead” to be able to draw up a draft agreement, which would be the previous step for the presidents of Russia and Ukraine to meet: a possibility that, therefore, he considered still distant in time.

Medinsky did confirm that both delegations would have almost reached an agreement on the need for Ukraine to be a neutral country and not host foreign military bases (in clear reference to NATO), in exchange for international guarantees on its security. However, when specifically asked about Arakhamia’s claim that Russia agrees with most of the proposals made by Ukraine during the Istanbul meeting, Medinsky was much more cautious and said he did not share his Ukrainian counterpart’s optimism.

Turkey has stated its readiness from the very beginning of the Russian attack on Ukraine to host a meeting between Putin and Zelensky. The last occasion was on April 1, when in a telephone conversation with the Russian president, Erdoğan reiterated his offer, stressing that the negotiations in Istanbul had “increased hopes for peace“: hopes that Ankara wants to boost with a meeting between the presidents of Russia and Ukraine to put an end to the worst conflict in Europe since the end of World War II.