The negotiations on Ukraine and the meeting between Gerhard Schroeder and Vladimir Putin

Of Paolo Valentino

Talks between Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers in Antalya, Turkey, did not lead to significant results: meanwhile, surprisingly, former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, one of Putin’s closest Western politicians, has arrived in Moscow

BERLIN – “If something can go wrong, it will.”

Murphy’s first law did not escape the meeting in Turkey between the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine, Sergey Lavrov and Dmytro Kuleba, the first at this level since the beginning of the Russian military aggression on 24 February.

In 90 minutes of conversation, with the Turkish colleague Mevlüt Cavusoglu as mediator, the heads of the two diplomacies they have not even addressed the hypothesis of a ceasefireconsidered the most urgent step to alleviate the plight of hundreds of thousands of civilians, subjected to Russian bombing.

Furthermore, Lavrov, according to the version given by Kuleba, would have rejected a proposal for Ukraine’s “neutrality”, supported by international security guarantees, which Kiev is ready to offer to meet Moscow’s requests. These include, in addition to a constitutional commitment not to join NATO or the EUalso the recognition of both the separatist republics of Donbass and the annexation of Crimea.

The only meager positive figure that emerges from the Antalya summit is that there has been and that the two ministers have agreed “to continue their efforts to find a solution to the humanitarian problems on the ground”. The Ukrainian minister explained that the list of Russian questions is actually an “ultimatum”, adding that Ukraine “did not surrender, does not surrender and will not surrender”.

On the ceasefire and humanitarian corridors, Kuleba said he came to the meeting with the idea of ​​agreeing on a safe way out for civilians trapped in the cities, primarily in Mariupol, on the Sea of ​​Azov, but that Lavrov had no mandate to negotiate: “I had the impression that he came only to speak, not to decide and that he did not have the authorization to do so.” In a separate press conference held at the same time as that in Kuleba, Lavrov repeated the Kremlin’s narrative in detail: “No one has listened to our appeals for years on a situation that posed a direct threat to Russia,” he said. ‘Kremlin envoy, according to whom the military operation is going according to plan and Kiev must accept the entire package of Russian requests if it wants it to be suspended.

Lavrov also denied the accusation against Russian troops of bombing a children’s hospital in Mariupol, arguing that the facility had actually been decommissioned and was being used as a refuge by Ukrainian “nationalist formations” of the Azov battalion. The accusation had been launched the night before by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky himself in a televised appeal: “What kind of country is the Russian Federation that is afraid of pediatric hospitals and destroys them?”.

To a question about the possibility that the war in Ukraine could trigger a nuclear conflict, the Foreign Minister replied: “I don’t want to believe it and I don’t believe it.” And he added the scenario is evoked, “Freudian”, only by Westerners and it is this that “arouses concern”.

As for the very harsh sanctions approved against Moscow, Lavrov said that Russia no longer has any illusions about the West as a reliable partner: “We will do everything to be sure that we have to depend more on Westerners in areas that are vital to us.” To a Turkish journalist who asked him if Russia intends to attack other nations, the minister replied almost impatiently: “We do not plan to invade other countries, we have not even invaded Ukraine”. Sic.

It was a bad day for the already low hopes of finding a humanitarian and political solution to the crisis. Ankara’s ambition to be able to weave a negotiating plot between Moscow and Kiev proved to be hasty. The optimism spread in recent days by Erdogan had no solid basis. And even if there has been a commitment to meet again, at the moment the Turkish mediation appears to be in trouble.

As we write, Politic gives the news that the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, would be in Moscow in these hours to meet Vladimir Putin, in an attempt to get him to end hostilities. Schroeder would have arrived in Moscow at the urging of Ukrainian President Zelensky.

Linked to the Russian leader by strong personal friendshipSchröder is under attack in Germany for refusing to resign from his well-paid posts which make him the first Moscow lobbyist in Europe: he is in fact a member of the administrative or supervisory boards of the Nord Stream 1, Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines, of the oil giant Rosneft and, from next June, of Gazprom, a Russian gas monopolist.

In the 17 years since he left the Chancellery in 2005 (candidly announcing that he would try to “make money” thereafter), Schröder has been consistently ready to stand up for Moscow since the annexation of Crimea in 2014 ( and he had come to define Putin as “an impeccable democrat”).

In recent days, many members of the SPD, his party, had also distanced themselves from the former chancellor, inviting him to break his ties with the Kremlin.And in the late afternoon the current chancellor Olaf Scholz asked about his predecessor’s initiative. it is limited to a laconic “I do not want to comment”.

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