Russia and Ukraine resumed peace talks on Friday via video conference, with Moscow’s lead negotiator Vladimir Medinsky stressing that their positions on “Crimea and Donbas have not changed”. The latest talks follow those in Turkey on Tuesday, when the two delegations had their first face-to-face meeting in nearly three weeks. After the talks, held in Turkish city of Istanbul, Moscow promised to scale-back operations ‘radically’ from areas around Ukrainian capital Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv. The talks also raised hopes of a possible meeting between Russia president Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
However, since then there have been reports of Russian shelling in Kyiv. Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), said Thursday that Russian forces were ‘regrouping and repositioning’ in Ukraine’s Donbas area, which comprises the two separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
In his latest statement on the Crimean Peninsula (annexed by Russia in 2014) and Donbas, Russian negotiator Medinsky reiterated Moscow’s concerns and said it would not forego its stand on Ukraine recognising the loss of the peninsula from its territory.
“I want to emphasise separately that our country’s position on principle regarding Crimea and Donbas remains unchanged,” Medinsky was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Following the talks in Turkey, Ukraine gave a go-ahead to hold talks over a 15-year period on the future of Crimea, with both sides agreeing not to use armed forces to settle the matter in the meantime. Furthermore, Zelenskyy said on Sunday that Ukraine is willing to stay neutral and compromise on the status of Donbas.
However, as talks resumed, Russia accused Ukraine of carrying out its first airstrike on its territory. A Russian governor said Ukrainian helicopters bombed a fuel storage depot in Belgorod.
Soon after, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the incident is “of course” not something that can be seen as creating “comfortable conditions for the continuation of negotiations” with Kyiv.
(With inputs from agencies)