Russia and Ukraine “nearly reached agreement” on four critical points of a possible peace deal, the Turkish foreign minister said, as fierce fighting continued to devastate the important port city of Mariupol.

Mevlut Cavusoglu told Turkey’s pro-government Hurriyet newspaper that there was growing “convergence” between Moscow and Kiev after a period of intense diplomacy over the past week.

“On important topics, critical topics, there is a convergence between the two sides,” Cavusoglu said. “Especially on the first four points, we see that they have almost reached agreement.”

One possible agreement includes Russia declaring a ceasefire and withdrawing its troops from Ukrainian territory to the positions they were in when President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Some issues should be agreed between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Cavusoglu said, adding that the two leaders did not appear to have a “negative stance” on that idea in principle.

But Ukraine and its Western allies are skeptical of Russia’s motives in negotiating a deal and fear Putin could buy time to replenish Moscow’s forces and launch another offensive.

Speaking to CNN on Sunday, Zelensky said the talks are worth it, even if they have a “1 percent chance of success,” and warned that a failure of the negotiations would risk “a third world war.”

“Russian troops have come to exterminate us, to kill us. We have shown the dignity of our people and our army, that we are able to strike back,” he said. “But unfortunately our dignity will not save lives. So I think we have to use every format, every opportunity to have the opportunity to negotiate.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, accused Russia of not fully participating in the talks. “The negotiations appear to be one-sided,” she said. “The Russians have not suggested any possibility for a negotiated and diplomatic solution.”

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky, said Russia had used “more destructive artillery”, including its new Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, against civilian areas.

Podolyak’s statement was Ukraine’s first confirmation that the Kremlin had deployed the missiles in combat for the first time this week.

Moscow claims it has used the Kinzhal, which Russia says can travel at 10 times the speed of sound, twice in the past three days to build a fuel depot near Mykolayiv, a major city on the southern frontier. Ukraine, and to establish an ammunition depot in the west of the country.

Turkey, which is co-mediating with Israel in the talks, said Ukraine and Russia have made significant progress on Kiev by declaring neutrality and renouncing its pursuit of NATO membership, “demilitarizing” Ukraine in exchange for collective security guarantees. , what Russia calls “denazification”, and lifting restrictions on the use of Russian in Ukraine.

Even as negotiations progress, Russian forces are continuing their intense attack on Mariupol in eastern Ukraine, whose status is a major sticking point in talks, according to two people who informed them.

Ukrainian armed forces said on Sunday that “the situation in Mariupol is difficult: there is famine in the city, street fighting, people are trying to leave the city on their own.” Russian troops have cut off electricity, heat and food supplies.

Anna Romanenko, a local journalist who has been evacuated from Mariupol but is still in contact with sources there, said there had been heavy fighting in the center, with Russian tanks and armored vehicles being attacked by Ukrainian government forces in and around Theater Square, a prominent landmark. .

“The front now runs right through the city,” she says. Large parts of Mariupol, especially the left bank district and some neighborhoods in the city’s northwest, were completely under Russian control, she said.

Russia has publicly adhered to the maximalist demands Putin made in the early days of the invasion, which include vaguely defined calls to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine.

Moscow also wants Kiev to recognize the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the independence of two Russian-backed separatist areas in the eastern border region of Donbas.

However, now that the invasion has stalled, Russia has quietly abandoned its vow to remove Zelensky and has made suggestions to split the country into Moscow-backed fiefdoms and a rump state.

Ukraine has under no circumstances ruled out territorial concessions to Russia and has said negotiations on the areas to be seized by Moscow before this year would require separate talks between Zelensky and Putin.

Mariupol is a particularly difficult issue because it is part of Ukrainian separatist-held territory.

Putin has justified the invasion by claiming that Russia is liberating Ukraine from the Nazis, even though Zelensky is Jewish and far-right nationalist groups have little influence in the country.

Additional reporting by Kiran Stacey in Washington


This post Russia and Ukraine agree on key peace points, Turkey says was original published at “https://www.ft.com/content/8c235262-265e-4318-a925-bc167b83cc3e”

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