It could be a decisive day (in one way or another), for sure it will be an important day (always in one way or another) that could mark a first relaxing step (we also talk about a ceasefire) or bring to a worsening of the situation on the battlefield. In fact, the delegations of the sides on the field return to meet: Ukraine and Russia. But where will they be found? Who will participate? What will be the themes on the table?
The location of the summit
After a back and forth of denials and confirmations, which already betrayed the climate of suspicion and mistrust, Russia and Ukraine are returning to negotiate. The summit will be held in Brest, starting from 13 Italian, among the branches of the virgin forest of Bialowieza, in the wild intersection between Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland, where the borders blur and meeting halfway is easier, the delegations are preparing to explore the glimmers of a truce.
As it intensifies its military offensive, Moscow assures that the hypothesis of a ceasefire is also on the negotiating table.
Putin’s chief negotiator, entrepreneur-mediator Vladimir Medinsky, explained that the location for the talks was chosen by mutual agreement between the parties, after the first meeting on the banks of the Pripyat River, between Ukraine and Belarus. And although Russia has assured that it has guaranteed a security corridor, the arrival of the Ukrainian delegation is only announced this morning, after many hours of a complicated journey.
The delegations: who is there
The same members of the two delegations are expected around the table, led by Medinsky on the one hand and the Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov on the other.
At the head of the Ukrainian delegation is the Minister of Defense, Oleksii Reznikov, very loyal to President Zelensky. Participants for Ukraine are Oleksii Reznikov, Minister of Defense; David Arakhamia, leader of Zelensky’s party; Mykola Tochytskyi, Deputy Foreign Minister and former Ambassador to the EU and Great Britain; Mikhailo Podoliak, Zelensky’s adviser; Rustem Umerov, a deputy representing the Crimean Tatars; Andriy Kostin, deputy head of the trilateral contact group for the ceasefire in Donbas.
The Russian delegation is headed by Medinsky, considered an extreme nationalist. With him will be Vladimir Medinsky, Putin’s adviser and former Minister of Culture; Alexander Fomin, Deputy Minister of Defense; Andrei Rudenko, Deputy Foreign Minister.
During the first summit (although not in the photo) some entrepreneurs and oligarchs would have participated (and would do so also on this new occasion). Among these is also the patron (formerly since, just yesterday, he decided to put the club up for sale) Roman Abramovich.
The six hours around the table of the first meeting, interspersed with tactical breaks, laid the foundations for a confrontation that again does not appear to be short.
There are many points to be addressed, between Russia determined to assert its progress on the ground, and Ukraine which is betting on the success of its resistance, warning that it will not accept the ultimatum. The hope is that a ceasefire can be reached. A truce that appears a little less likely given that the Russians thought they would get better results on the ground in the first week of the invasion. Everything will be played out on the issues of Ukraine’s neutrality (with the renunciation of NATO membership ) and the fate of the Donbas territories and the recognition of Crimea. In both cases, Russia claims political control.
Russian Foreign Minister Serghei Lavrov has meanwhile tried to disrupt the enemy front, suggesting that Kyiv would not really be free to negotiate but would act “on the orders of the United States”, also accusing them of having delayed the negotiations. To complicate the negotiations there are not only the missiles that rain in bursts on several Ukrainian cities.
In Minsk, where the strongman Alexander Lukashenko insists on offering himself as a bridge with Kyiv, despite the Russian invasion also from its territory, the presence of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, ousted by the popular protests of 2014, was reported. He would be the man Vladimir Putin wants to lead Kyiv. The overthrow of Volodymyr Zelensky, a declared goal since the beginning of the offensive, would thus accompany the symbolic slap in the face of the pro-European aspirations of an entire generation. It may also have been a leak to put pressure on the negotiations. But for Kyiv, the returning past is becoming more and more threatening.