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Russia and Ukraine Were Close to Peace Deal in March – Putin

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Russian President Vladimir Putin explained on Tuesday that Russia and Ukraine could have ended their conflict in March, if Kiev had not withdrawn from negotiations.

He didn’t answer directly if he would be willing to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart, Vladimir Zelensky, but implied that a meeting would be pointless, at this stage.

“There were well-known negotiations in Istanbul, when we actually reached an agreement, the only thing left to do was to sign it,” Putin told reporters on Tuesday, after meeting with the presidents of Turkey and Iran in Tehran.

“In order to create these conditions, our troops withdrew from central Ukraine, from Kiev, but the Kiev authorities refused to implement these agreements” and have no desire to do so even now, the Russian president added.

Thanking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his efforts to negotiate a peace deal in Ukraine, as well as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for offering mediation efforts, Putin said the outcome in the end depends “not on the mediators, but on the willingness of the parties involved” to make good on their obligations.

Putin was in Tehran for the summit of the ‘Astana Troika’, the three countries leading the peace process for war-torn Syria since early 2017.

In early May, Ukrainian media reported that Kiev reneged on the March 29 agreement reached by the two delegations in Istanbul, after a visit by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on April 9.

Johnson told Zelensky that Putin is “a war criminal, who should be prosecuted and not negotiated with,” and that even if Ukraine were willing to make peace with Russia, the West was not, Ukrainska Pravda reported, citing multiple government officials.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba insisted in an interview with Forbes on Monday that Kiev would only be eager to resume talks after Moscow suffers “defeat on the battlefield.”

According to Kuleba, Zelensky is not ruling out “the possibility of negotiations,” but believes “there is no reason” for it at the moment.

If and when talks on a peaceful settlement of the Ukraine conflict resume, Moscow will make much harsher demands, Leonid Slutsky, a member of Moscow’s negotiating team, warned on Tuesday. Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov also addressed the possibility of resuming talks with Ukraine, saying on Monday that Russia’s demands would be different if the two sides sat down at the negotiating table now.

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