Representatives for both Russia and Ukraine are meeting in Belarus to see if peace can be negotiated. But with wildly differing objectives and Russian President Vladimir Putin increasing his nuclear readiness status, the chances of reaching an agreement seem slim. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky will not be attending the talks in person as he is actively engaged in defending the capital city Kyiv against ongoing attacks. The summit began at noon local time (4 a.m. Eastern).
What to Expect
From the Russian side, it is believed that a demand for surrender will be issued. Meanwhile, the Ukrainians are expected to ask for a ceasefire to all hostilities. The five days of conflict so far suggest that neither party will be willing to concede, begging the question of why the talks are even happening.
It is possible that Putin’s position is not as straightforward as it seems. First, this could be an effort to buy more time as multiple reports suggest the invasion has not gone as speedily or as successfully as the Kremlin leader had hoped. Another consideration is that the demand may be an opening salvo in a negotiation to force Ukraine to relinquish claims over its two separatist regions, which Putin formally recognized as the Luhansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic shortly before the attack began.
According to a statement from the office of President Zelensky, the Kyiv delegation is seeking “an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of troops from Ukraine.” This is an improbable outcome, especially considering that Putin has already begun to enlist Belarusian and Chechnyan forces to his cause. Ahead of the meeting, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, cast doubts on both the outcome and the authenticity of the Russian overtures. She asked:
“So, how genuine is this proposal? We don’t know. We are ready for peace talks. But we are defending the country at the moment. And we call on all of our friends and partners who are together with us to continue working with us and to continue supporting us in this fight, because, again, we, of course, would like peace talks, and we would like Russian troops to get out from our country and leave us alone … But we are not prepared to surrender.”
Pressure continues to mount on Russia due to crippling sanctions imposed by Europe and the U.S. in response to Putin’s aggression. The Russian ruble has plummeted to fresh lows. And on the ground in Ukraine, significant military advances by the Russian troops have failed to materialize. These issues are compounded by unease within Russian borders as demonstrators take to the streets in opposition to the war. And yet Vladimir Putin still seems determined to push on with his plans.
On Sunday, Feb. 27, Belarus held a referendum on whether it would end its status as a nuclear-free zone. The nation’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, claimed the vote had approved the proposal, potentially paving the way for Russia to place nuclear weapons in the region.
Regardless of what is decided at these talks, it appears that other schemes are afoot in Eastern Europe. Even if peace is declared, it would be wise for the U.S., NATO, and other allies to remain alert.
Liberty Nation will continue to update you as information about the discussions and decisions is released.
~ Read more from Mark Angelides.