Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday told United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that no solution could be achieved in the crisis with Ukraine without solving the territorial issue of Crimea and Donbas.
We managed to achieve quite a serious breakthrough at the Istanbul talks because our Ukrainian colleagues did not link Ukraine's international security requirements to a notion such as Ukraine's internationally recognized borders, leaving Crimea, Sevastopol, and the Donbas republics recognized by Russia with certain reservations behind the brackets [of talks], Putin said.
Also present at the meeting was Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
It was the Portuguese Guterres' first attempt at a negotiation since the Feb. 24 invasion. Previous face-to-face talks had taken place in January 2020, at the international conference on Libya in Berlin. Earlier Tuesday, Guterres met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Putin explained things had changed after events in Bucha, with which he claimed the Russian forces had nothing to do.
We know who did it. And the position of our negotiators from Ukraine on further settlement changed dramatically after that. They stepped back from their previous intentions to leave [the issue] of the territories of Crimea, Sevastopol, and the Donbas republics behind the brackets of the issues of security guarantees. They simply abandoned it. And in their draft agreement on this matter, which was presented to us, they simply pointed out in two articles that these issues should be resolved at a meeting of the heads of state, Putin said.
It is clear to us that if we refer these issues to the level of the heads of state without resolving them beforehand, at least as a part of the draft agreement, they will never be resolved. In this case, we simply cannot sign under security guarantees without having resolved the territorial issue of Crimea, Sevastopol, and the Donbas republics, he added.
The main task of the UN, as far as Ukraine is concerned, is to improve its humanitarian situation, Guterres told Putin. The UN chief proposed Lavrov to involve the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which should assess the situation regarding humanitarian corridors. Guterres also noted that as long as Russia and Ukraine both created corridors unilaterally, those initiatives were leading nowhere.
In that scenario, the UN proposed setting up a humanitarian contact group where the UN, Russia, and Ukraine together could discuss the situation and make these corridors effective.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Tuesday that he saw no sign to believe Putin was serious about negotiations with Ukraine to end the war through diplomatic talks and insisted on the need to support Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky's war efforts.
It is abundantly clear, in Putin's own words, that this was never about Ukraine being potentially part of NATO. It was always about his belief that Ukraine does not deserve to be a sovereign independent country, that it must be reassumed into Russian in one form or another, Blinken said.
Russia annexed the Crimea Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, and in recent weeks has refocused its efforts to take full control of the separatist Donbas region in Ukraine's east.
Blinken traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky over the weekend, unveiling new aid to Ukraine.
Guterres is to meet Zelensky following his Moscow stop. They both last spoke on the telephone March 26. Putin has not taken Guterres's calls since the UN chief stated that the invasion violated the UN charter.
Zelensky Saturday criticized Guterres' flying to Moscow first. “It is simply wrong to go first to Russia and then to Ukraine,” Zelensky said. “There is no justice and no logic in this order,” he added.