The foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine are due to meet in Turkey on Thursday, the highest-level talks between the two countries since the start of the Russian invasion two weeks ago. They will discuss the war at a time when Russia is stepping up airstrikes against civilian targets and the humanitarian situation in several Ukrainian cities has deteriorated.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday he hoped the meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba would “open the door to a permanent ceasefire”.
Russia and Ukraine appear to have softened their stance in recent days, raising hopes that a ceasefire may be possible.
The Kremlin has narrowed its demands to focus on Ukrainian “neutrality” and the status of its occupied regions, and signaled that President Vladimir V. Putin is no longer committed to regime change in Kyiv.
On the Ukrainian side, President Volodymyr Zelensky has hinted that he is open to reviewing his country’s constitutionally enshrined aspiration to join NATO, and even to compromise on the status of Ukrainian territory now controlled by Russia. .
Mr Zelensky said on Wednesday he expected Mr Putin to eventually cease hostilities and start negotiations after seeing his forces meet fierce resistance in Ukraine. An estimated 5,000 to 6,000 Russian troops were killed during the two-week invasion, a US official said on Wednesday, a sharp increase from an estimate of 3,000 just days ago.
“I think he sees that we are strong,” Mr. Zelensky told Vice News during an interview in Kyiv. “He will be. We need time.
Thursday’s talks will take place in the Turkish city of Antalya, in a coastal region that has for years been a popular destination for Russian tourists.
Turkey is a more neutral place than Belarus, where the first three rounds of talks were held. Mr. Erdogan has stopped imposing sanctions on Russia for the invasion, but his country is a NATO member that has supplied Ukraine with deadly armed drones.
However, Russian and Ukrainian demands are still very far apart.
The Kremlin said this week it would end military operations if Kiev enshrined a status of neutrality in its constitution and recognized Russian sovereignty over Crimea and the independence of two Russian-backed separatist territories in eastern Russia. ‘Ukraine. That’s still a far cry from what Mr. Zelensky said he would be willing to accept. Russia’s stance could also tarnish Mr Putin’s image in his country, exposing him to criticism that he fought a costly war for limited gain.
Even if Russia and Ukraine agreed to a ceasefire, that would not necessarily mean the end of the war. Analysts warn that both sides could use it to strengthen ahead of further escalation.
Mr Kuleba said on Wednesday that his expectations for the talks in Turkey were low.
As Kuleba meets with Lavrov, Vice President Kamala Harris will meet President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, a NATO ally on Ukraine’s western border, in Warsaw on Thursday. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, who is visiting Poland this week, will also be present.
The United States and its NATO allies are trying to find ways to help Ukraine defend itself without getting drawn into a larger war against Russia. In a sign of the difficulty of this task, the United States and Poland publicly opposed proposals this week to send Soviet-era fighter jets to the country.
Gen. Tod D. Wolters, head of U.S. European Command, said in a statement Thursday that the United States has “no plans to facilitate an indirect or third-party transfer of Polish aircraft” to Ukraine.
Providing more air defense systems and anti-tank weapons to Ukraine is the most effective way to support the country’s military, General Wolters said, and Ukraine’s air defenses have limited the effectiveness of important air capabilities of Russia.
Transferring fighter jets from Poland to Ukraine “would not significantly increase the effectiveness of the Ukrainian Air Force”, he added. It could also be “confused as an escalation and could lead to an escalation of Russia with NATO”.