Russia to scale down fighting around Kyiv after ‘meaningful’ talks

It is now more than a month since Vladimir Putin ordered tanks into Ukraine

Russia said it would scale down military activity around Kyiv following “meaningful” talks in Istanbul as Ukraine’s negotiators called for international guarantees for the country’s security.

Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia also said there were now “sufficient” conditions for a direct meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

After the face-to-face meeting in Turkey, Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin said talks on “the neutrality and non-nuclear status of Ukraine have moved into a practical field”.

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Russia’s chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said there had been “meaningful discussion” at the talks.

It is now more than a month since Putin ordered tanks into Ukraine, hoping to cripple or oust the democratic government in Kyiv.

But Tuesday’s announcements offered some hope.

European stock markets lifted and oil prices fell by five percent as supply fears eased while the ruble surged 10 percent against the dollar.

Adding to the toll, Ukraine said seven people were killed by a Russian strike on a regional government building in the southern port city of Mykolaiv.

It has also resumed evacuations from areas in the south of the country occupied by Russian forces.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had opened the talks at the sprawling Dolmabahce palace, recognising “legitimate concerns” on both sides but urging them to “put an end to this tragedy”.

The Kremlin said he was acting as an intermediary and denied reports that he had been poisoned during a previous round of negotiations in Ukraine.

Putin has demanded the “demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine”, as well as the imposition of neutral status and recognition of the Donbas and Crimea as no longer part of Ukraine.

Russia hit back on Tuesday, insisting that it would only be accepting payment for gas deliveries to the EU in rubles even though G7 ministers called this arrangement “unacceptable”.

Russia also said it was expelling 10 diplomats from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in a tit-for-tat move after the Baltic countries expelled Russian diplomats over the conflict.

While Ukraine’s forces are counterattacking in the north, they are struggling to retain control of the southern port city of Mariupol.

At least 5,000 people have already died, according to one senior Ukrainian official who estimated the real toll may be closer to 10,000 when all the bodies are collected.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry called the situation “catastrophic,” saying Russia’s assault from land, sea and air had turned a city once home to 450,000 people “into dust”.

– UN nuclear visit –

On Monday, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, said there was proof that Russian forces have used banned cluster bombs in the southern Odessa and Kherson areas.

He has since denied seeking regime change and swatted away concern that his remarks would ratchet up tensions with Putin.

The conflict has also raised fears over nuclear safety after Russia seized several facilities, including Chernobyl, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.


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