Ukraine-Russia Ceasefire Negotiations: Chapter I
This article looks at the first chapter of ceasefire negotiations between Russia and Ukraine that occurred between late February and early April 2022. For the latest on the ceasefire negotiations, see the running tracker here.
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Chapter I Summary: When Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022, many observers wondered when and how the two sides might meet to discuss ending the war. Their answer came sooner than expected, as the negotiation process began within days of Russia's invasion. Within three weeks, the two sides had conducted three rounds of face-to-face talks in Belarus before switching to a video teleconference format. They established functional area working groups that engaged almost daily until culminating with another round of face-to-face negotiations in Istanbul. It was in that Istanbul meeting that the Russia side agreed to withdraw its troops from Kyiv Oblast. While this looked to be a positive turning point towards a resolution of the war, revelations of Russian war atrocities in the cities they left behind threw the negotiating process into disarray, ending the first chapter in the ceasefire negotiations.
The Russian government announces the conclusion of a "Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance" between the Russian Federation and two "separatist republics" in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.
Russian media televises a "live" National Security Council meeting with President Vladimir Putin. [Note: this broadcast was later confirmed to be pre-recorded.] During the meeting, Putin and his National Security Council discuss the escalating crisis, asserting that the decision of the Council will be the action they take. The meeting concludes with members arguing that the crisis can only end with formal recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk regions as Russian sovereign territory. Putin asserts that "peacekeeping" operations would be necessary.
The international community decries Russia's actions, with the United States and others sanctioning the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk claiming to be independent republics.
Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz announces that the country would freeze cooperation on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
The Russian government announces that it has received requests from the breakaway regions in Donetsk and Luhansk "to assist in repelling aggression from the Armed Forces of Ukraine in order to avoid civilian casualties and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe."
At 05:00 (GMT+2), Russian forces begin their invasion of Ukraine.
European Union member states, the United States, Japan, and other countries impose harsh sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Following a telephone conversation between Presidents Xi Jinping and Putin, the Chinese government announces that Russia would be willing to hold high-level talks with Ukraine.
A Russian delegation arrives in Belarus in preparation for ceasefire negotiations.
The Russian ruble crashes as sanctions begin to take effect. The value drops as low as 40% during the day. In response, the Russian government doubled interest rates to 20%.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announces that Ukraine and Russia have agreed to dialogue without preconditions: "We agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would meet with the Russian delegation without preconditions on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, near the Pripyat River."
The Ukrainian delegation flies to the Belarusian border to meet with the Russian delegation.
The Ukraine side consists of the following delegates:
Advisor of the Head of the President's Office Mikhail Podolyak
MP (and leader of President Zelensky's home faction) David Arakhamia
Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksii Reznikov
First Deputy Head of the Ukrainian delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group Andrey Kostin
MP Rustem Umerov
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikolai Tochitsky
[One unidentified delegate]
The Russian side consists of the following delegates:
Lead delegate Vladimir Medinskiy
Ambassador to Belarus Boris Gryzlov
MP Leonid Slutsky
Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko
Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin
The negotiations last for five hours, with little revealed to the media about the two sides' positions. The two sides agree to take their respective proposals back to leadership and reconvene in the coming days.
Speaking about the first day of negotiations, Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mikhail Podolyak asserts, "The parties identified a number of priority topics on which specific solutions were outlined," and later tweeted the following:
Russia continues to escalate its attacks, particularly on civilian centers and using weapons banned under international conventions (e.g. cluster munitions). A 40-mile long Russian military convoy is seen traveling towards the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin asserts that Ukrainian and Russian delegations were unlikely to meet for planned talks on Wednesday (2 March), adding that the Russian demands were "unrealistic." In an interview with CNN, Kalin adds, "It will most likely be postponed a couple of days, we are in touch with the negotiating teams."
Ukrainian President Zelensky asserts that talks could not go on while the Russian bombing campaign continued: "It's necessary to at least stop bombing people, just stop the bombing and then sit down at the negotiating table."
Zelensky signs an application for European Union membership for Ukraine, requesting that the EU grant emergency accession.
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address, asserting that the United States would increase sanctions on Russia while continuing its aid to Ukraine. He specifically asserts his government's intent on targeting Russia's economic oligarchs with sanctions.
Russia continues to escalate its attacks, focusing its efforts on bombing civilian populations and capturing outlying cities.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says that Kyiv is ready to negotiate, but would not work with “Russian ultimatums.” Kuleba claims that Russia’s demands are “the same as those publicly voiced by Putin at the start of the war.” Presidential Advisor Mikhail Podolyak later adds this via Twitter:
Foreign companies continue their decoupling from Russia, the market impact of which causes solvency concerns across the country.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks first with President Zelensky before initiating a phone call with President Putin. Reports indicate that in his conversation with Putin, Bennett offered for Israel to mediate peace negotiations.
Presidential Advisor Mikhail Podolyak tells reporters that a Ukrainian delegation departed during the night to travel for the second round of negotiations with Russians. Russia's lead delegate Vladimir Medinskiy affirms this in a press availability, asserting that Russia will guarantee safe passage for the delegation. Ceasefire negotiations are expected to resume on Thursday morning (3 March).
The Ukrainian and Russian delegations travel to Belovezhskaya Pushcha on the Belarus-Poland border. This site carries symbolism, as it was where the leaders of Russia (Boris Yeltsin), Ukraine (Leonid Kravchuk), and Belarus (Stanislav Shushkevich) signed the Belovezh Accords declaring that the USSR had ceased to exist.
The negotiating room, as prepared by Belarusian officials, for the second round of negotiations on 3 March 2022 (via Belarus MFA)
Despite assertions from the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the Belovezhskaya Pushcha was set to be the site of the second round of negotiations, the delegations appeared to divert to another location. Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia said via Facebook, "Information about the negotiations in [Belovezhskaya Pushcha] does not correspond to reality. Negotiations will really happen, but the place is different. All the details will be later."
After hours of uncertainty of when and where the delegations would meet for the second round of negotiations, the Ukrainian government announces that its negotiating team will fly to Brest and meet at the site for deliberations as prepared by the Belarusian government.
In a media availability, Russian lead delegate Medinskiy asserts that they have three subject areas in the negotiation: the military situation; the political situation; and the international situation.
Prior to the initiation of the second round of talks, Ukrainian delegate David Arakhamia announces that at a minimum, the Ukraine side intends to settle the issue of humanitarian corridors. The Ukraine side indicates that media will not be allowed at this round of negotiations.
Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mikhail Podolyak asserts via Twitter that his team's goals for this round of negotiation are three-fold: (1) immediate ceasefire; (2) Armistice; and (3) humanitarian corridors.
After about four and a half hours of negotiation, the delegates conclude talks. They fail to reach agreement on an immediate ceasefire or the terms of Armistice, but the two sides do find resolution on two issues: (1) establishment of communication channels; and (2) designation of humanitarian corridors necessary for evacuating civilians and delivering food and medicine to hard hit areas of Ukraine. The negotiating teams also agree to meet again sometime at the beginning of next week.
Senior Ukrainian officials renew calls for assistance in closing off the airspace above Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky asks the western world to "close the sky or give us planes." Meanwhile, Presidential Advisor Mikhail Podolyak asserts, "The logic of this war is the build-up of missile and air strikes on civilian infrastructure, large cities and civilians. Only a 'closed sky' will sharply stop the escalation. It's time for Western partners to take responsibility for ending the war..."
Russia executes attacks against the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. The attacks cause a fire, but Ukrainian personnel are able to stop the blaze before it could trigger a nuclear disaster. Meanwhile, Russia's bombing campaign against civilian population centers continues.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg rules out establishment and enforcement of a "No Fly Zone" over Ukraine, citing the need to prevent the war from spreading across Europe. U.S. President Joe Biden affirms this decision.
First Vice-Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian parliament) Oleksandr Korniyenko expresses legislative support for the introduction of peacekeeping forces into the territory of Ukraine.
In a press briefing in Lviv, Presidential Advisor Mikhail Podolyak offers some insights into the negotiations. He asserts that "Russia’s stance is tough; however, the position of the Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief and Ukraine in general is also tough, so talks will not go easily, but there will be talks," noting that the next round will take place on 5 or 6 March. He articulates three key points about the negotiations: (1) Ukraine’s positions are strengthened by Western partners; (2) President Zelensky will not make concessions that could demean the struggle of Ukrainians for territorial integrity and freedom; and (3) the delegation consisting of him, Oleksii Reznikov, and David Arakhamia clearly understand the psychological state and goals of the Russian side. He adds that talks proceeded in a constructive atmosphere: "Strange as it may seem, the atmosphere was very constructive so we held a conversation. The other party made claims, we also made claims, and then we discussed them."
The Russian Defense Ministry announces that it will observe a ceasefire beginning at 0900 (GMT+2) to establish a humanitarian corridor for the exit of civilians from Mariupol and Volnovakha. The Russian government adds that the humanitarian corridors and exit routes were those agreed upon with the Ukraine side.
Ukrainian media reports that the unnamed delegate who participated in the first round of negotiations on 28 February but was absent from the second was finance and banking expert Denis Kireev. Kireev was reportedly killed when being taken into custody on suspicion of treason for leaking classified information to the Russian government.
After civilians congregate to evacuate via the agreed-upon humanitarian corridor, Mariupol city officials suspend movement owing to continued Russian bombardment. Ukrainian officials contend that Russia violated the terms of the ceasefire while Russian officials argue that the Ukrainian authorities blocked the passage. The two sides' negotiators recommence ceasefire talks to resolve the dispute via undisclosed means of communication.
In a video-teleconference with U.S. members of Congress, President Zelensky appeals for the U.S. government to establish and enforce a "No Fly Zone" over Ukraine. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba meets with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the Ukraine-Poland border, reiterating Ukraine's call support in preventing Russian bombings: "It's no secret that the highest demand that we have is in fight jets, attack aircraft, and air-defense systems."
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett flies to Moscow to engage Vladimir Putin in a meeting coordinated with France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Bennett then spoke to Zelensky before proceeding to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko delivers a speech in which he announces that his country's forces are not involved in the invasion of Ukraine and will not be involved in the future. His announcement comes amidst reports of internal opposition to the war among members of the Belarusian military, with senior officials voicing dissent, officers resigning their commissions, and conscripts deserting prior to implementing a plan for Belarus to participate in the invasion last week.
In a media interview, Presidential Advisor Mikhail Podolyak offers his view on the breakdown in the ceasefire that was supposed to be carried out earlier in the day: "We appointed the locations for civilians to gather to be evacuated. Unfortunately, the Russian Federation can’t effectively control their soldiers on the ground, who continued shelling the evacuation routes. We are actively working on this now...It could also be bad intentions...but I mostly believe it was bad discipline and bad communications with the forces on the ground.” During the interviews, he notes that sanctions were strengthening Ukraine's negotiating power: "At the very start of the war, they were insisting on total domination. They weren’t expecting that Ukraine would deliver such severe resistance...They are starting to realize the real price of war only now. And now we are starting to have constructive negotiations." Finally, he reiterates his lament that NATO has not yet instituted a "No Fly Zone": "Of course, we are extremely irritated because closing the sky would drastically change the pattern of this war...A no-fly zone means that Russia loses its tactical advantages, and peace negotiations would immediately go into another framework. Most importantly, it would stop the killing of civilians, including children.”
Ukrainian Deputy (Member of Parliament) and negotiator David Arakhamia announces via Facebook that the third round of ceasefire negotiations will now take place on Monday, 7 March.
Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko announces that there will be a second attempt to evacuate civilians from Mariupol starting at 1200 (GMT+2). Ukrainian and Russian officials re-negotiated a ceasefire from 1000 to 2100 on 6 March to execute this evacuation via the agreed upon humanitarian corridor.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds another telephone conversation with President Zelensky, the morning after he met with both Vladimir Putin and Germany's Olaf Scholz.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks by phone with Vladimir Putin to discuss the war in Ukraine. The content of that discussion is not disclosed, but Erdogan asserted the day prior his intent to petition Putin to end the war.
Ukrainian officials once again have to suspend evacuations from Mariupol as Russian forces recommence shelling in the vicinity of the humanitarian corridor.
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks with both Putin and Zelensky in an attempt to mediate some resolution to the on-going war. Macron reportedly requests localized ceasefires and establishment of humanitarian corridors in Kyiv, Mariupol, Kharkiv, and Sumy.
In an interview with Fox News, Ukrainian Deputy and negotiator David Arakhamia offers some insights into the negotiation. He asserts that one indispensable interest is "the territorial integrity of Ukraine," adding, "I don't think that we have a choice now to even discuss some models where we would recognize those territories. Our position is firm. We are ready to discuss any other dynamic options, but not recognition of those territories." He signals that there is flexibility with regard to NATO membership: "The response that we are getting from the NATO countries is that they are not ready to even discuss having us in NATO, not for the closest period of five or 10 years. We would not fight for the NATO applications, we would fight for the result, but not for the process...We are ready to discuss some non-NATO models. For example, there could be direct guarantees by different countries like the U.S., China, U.K., maybe Germany and France. We are open to discuss such things in a broader circle, not only in bilateral discussions with Russia, but also with other partners."
The Russian Ministry of Defense announces that ceasefires will begin at 1000 on 7 March 2022 to facilitate six humanitarian corridors. However, the Russian government asserts that it will only allow for humanitarian corridors that lead to Belarus and Russia. The Ukrainian government rejects this as "completely immoral."
Head of the separatist "Luhansk People's Republic" Leonid Pasechnik claims that its entire territory has been "liberated," while Russian forces have encircled remaining settlements. Responding to the LPR's request for assistance was among Russia's myriad claims justifying its invasion of Ukraine.
In an interview with BBC, Dominik Stillhart, director of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross, provides details on the challenges associated with establishment of humanitarian corridors in Ukraine. He explains that while the two sides have achieved agreements on the corridors "in principle," they have yet to come to terms on anything "concrete, actionable and precise." In an example of the challenges his Red Cross team has faced in facilitating evacuations, he explains that one of the agreed-upon routes from Mariupol "was actually mined."
The Russian delegation arrives in the Brest region of Belarus for the third round of negotiations. Prior to departing via helicopter to Brest, Presidential Advisor and negotiator Mikhail Podolyak announces that talks will begin at 1600 (GMT+2).
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announces that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba will meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Turkey's coastal province of Antalya on 10 March.
Russian officials, including Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitri Peskov, share insights into the Russian demands in negotiations with Ukraine. They detail three main positions: (1) Volodymyr Zelensky remains president but pro-Russian lawmaker Yuriy Boyko is appointed Prime Minister; (2) Ukraine formally recognizes the independence of Donetsk, Luhansk, and Crimea; and (3) Ukraine amends its constitution to ensure that it never becomes part of a bloc such as the European Union or NATO.
The third round of negotiations end with no concrete agreements. Ukrainian negotiator Mikhail Podolyak asserts that there was some progress in "improving the logistics of humanitarian corridors," and that the two sides had "intensive consultations" on the "basic political block" of the terms of an agreement related to the ceasefire and security guarantees.
The negotiating teams meet for the third round of ceasefire talks, 7 March 2022 (via Belarus MFA)
Ukrainian authorities attempt to evacuate civilians from the city of Sumy using a humanitarian corridor that the two sides agreed upon during the previous day's negotiating session.
Attempts to evacuate civilians via the agreed-upon humanitarian corridor from Mariupol fail for the third consecutive day owing to Russian attacks.
President Zelensky speaks with both French President Emmanuel Macron and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Both Macron and Bennett have been supporting mediation efforts. With Macron, Zelensky discussed "the implementation of agreements on humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of the population and delivery of necessary goods." With Bennett, he talked about "ways to end the war and violence."
Ukraine and Russia continue to attempt implementation of agreements related to humanitarian corridors. The two sides are set for temporary ceasefires to facilitate evacuation of civilians from 10 cities, the routes of which are as follows: Enerhodar and Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia; from Sumy to Poltava; from Izium to Lozova; from Volnovakha to Pokrovsk; and from Vorzel, Borodianka, Bucha, Irpin, and Hostomel to Kyiv.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov travels to Turkey, where he will participate in the Antalya Diplomacy Forum. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Lavrov is scheduled to speak at the Forum’s special session about "the global situation and Russia’s views on current matters." Importantly, he is scheduled to meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday, 10 March.
China pledges to deliver $791,000 in humanitarian aid to Ukraine. This announcement follows Xi Jingping's conversations with Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz, in which Xi warned about the situation "spinning out of control," according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry readout from the calls. Xi also expressed his concerns about the impact of sanctions on the global economy.
President Volodymyr Zelensky announces that Ukrainian negotiators are preparing for the fourth round of talks, but offers no details on when the next negotiating session might occur.
Russia continues to step up its bombing campaign in Ukraine, including the confirmed use of thermobaric (vacuum) bombs against civilian population centers.
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Dmytro Kuleba arrives in Antalya ahead of talks with Sergei Lavrov. The Turkish government makes a formal offer to play a mediation role in achieving a ceasefire.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba meets with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Antalya, Turkey to deliberate an end-of-war. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu attended to mediate the talks, if necessary.
The Foreign Ministerial meeting in Antalya, Turkey on 10 March 2022 (via Turkey MFA)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. During that conversation, he stresses "the importance of increasing defense support for Ukraine and sanctions pressure on Russia," and raises the issue of Ukraine's membership in the European Union the day EU leaders are set to meet.
The ministerial meeting in Antalya ends with no progress towards a ceasefire. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba delivers the following points to press after the talks ended:
The "Belarus Track" negotiations will continue.
Lavrov reiterated Russia's demands which are tantamount to "surrender." [Reminder: Russia's publicly stated demands are (1) installing a pro-Russian Prime Minister in the government; (2) formally recognizing the independence of Donetsk, Luhansk, and Crimea; and (3) amending the Ukrainian constitution so that the country never accedes to NATO or the EU]
In reality, NATO membership is a distant goal, so the question is how to secure Ukraine between now and future accession. One potential option is a similar system of security guarantees as envisaged by the NATO charter that could be granted to Ukraine by permanent members of the UN Security Council.
In a discussion with the Financial Times, two Russian officials involved in the "Belarus Track" negotiations indicate that the two sides have demonstrated willingness to offer concessions to achieve a deal. They note challenges on the Russian side, in which negotiators are not fully aware of what the Putin regime wants beyond general terms. As one of the officials told the FT: "The Ukrainians say, 'what do you want?' We say, 'we want Ukraine to declare neutrality!' The Ukrainians say, 'great, what wording should we use?' And our guys have no idea."
Presidential Advisor and Ukraine-side negotiator Mikhail Podolyak signals that Russia may not be employing maximalist positions in the "Belarus track" negotiations, arguing that media reporting on Russia's publicly stated demands complicates working level engagement towards a ceasefire.
The European Union announces its decision on Ukraine's application for EU membership. After five hours of deliberation in Versailles, EU leaders agreed to begin the process of Ukraine's eurointegration. The EU produces a joint statement detailing this decision (linked in the tweet below). Some observers view this as a blow to Ukraine's bid for emergency membership, but some EU leaders expressed support for fast-tracking Ukraine's accession.
In a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Vladimir Putin claims that negotiations with Ukraine were happening every day. He adds, "There are certain positive shifts, negotiators on our side tell me." Putin did not add any further details, simply stating, "I will talk about all of this later."
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speak with Vladimir Putin in a joint phone conversation, renewing their call for him to end the war against Ukraine. French officials report that there was no "willingness on Putin's part to end the war." Prior to the call with Putin, the pair had spoken with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. During that discussion, they reportedly discussed efforts to counter Russia's aggression, Russian war crimes against civilians, securing the release of the captive mayor of Melitopol, and prospects for peace talks.
Presidential Advisor and negotiator Mikhail Podolyak announces that "Belarus track" negotiations have switched to a video-teleconference format. He adds that the two sides have created functional area working groups to work on the details of the ceasefire agreement.
Russian forces step up their assault on civilian population centers in various areas across the country. Various reports suggest that Russian forces are deliberately firing upon civilian evacuees.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba announces that Russian forces are attempting to stage an independence referendum in the occupied city of Kherson.
Ukrainian officials report that Russian forces have abducted another mayor. On 11 March, the Ukrainian government announced that the Russians had kidnapped Melitopol Mayor Ivan Federov, with Dniprorudne Mayor Yevhen Matveyev's abduction occurring on 13 March.
Russian attacks move westward in Ukraine, with missiles striking the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security in Lviv Oblast, just 20 kilometers from the Polish border. 35 people are killed in the attack, and 134 wounded.
Ukrainian officials indicate that Russian forces are working to stage independence referendums in the cities of Kherson, Kakhovka, and Henichesk.
Presidential Advisor and negotiator Mikhail Podolyak indicates that the next round of face-to-face negotiations will take place on 14 or 15 March, after the two sides have worked out the legal formats for provisions they have been deliberating. He clarifies that Ukraine's indispensable interests remain an end-of-war and withdrawal of Russian forces.
In an interview with domestic media, Russian negotiator Leonid Slutsky asserts that there has been "significant progress" in the negotiations and that he expects the two sides to reach an ad referendum agreement within 2-3 days.
Ukrainian negotiator Mikhail Podolyak confirms via Twitter that the fourth round of negotiations will occur on 14 March. Negotiating teammate David Arakhamia clarifies that the session will begin at 1030 (GMT+2) and will be conducted via video teleconference.
Shortly before the scheduled start time of 1030 (GMT+2), Ukrainian negotiator Mikhail Podolyak announces the beginning of the fourth round of negotiations via Twitter. An hour an forty minutes later, he publishes another post noting the following: "The parties actively express their specified positions. Communication is being held yet it's hard. The reason for the discord is [two] different political systems. [Ukraine] is a free dialogue within the society & an obligatory consensus. [Russia] is an ultimatum [sic] suppression of its own society."
The negotiating teams meet via video teleconference for the fourth round of ceasefire talks, 14 March 2022 (via Twitter)
Andriy Yermak, Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, asserts that Israel has been in close contact with the Israeli government, which has taken on the mediation role and is facilitating humanitarian response. Yermak notes that he is in constant contact with Israeli National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata.
Ukrainian negotiator Mikhail Podolyak announces that the two sides have paused the fourth round of talks to allow working groups to iron out technical details. He adds that the negotiations will recommence on 15 March.
The International Court of Justice announces that it will deliver its order in the case concerning 'Allegations of Genocide under the Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide' (Ukraine v. Russia) on Wednesday, 16 March at 1700 (GMT+2).
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan meets Chinese Politburo Member Yang Jiechi in Rome, Italy, where they discuss a range of issues, including "substantial discussion" on Russia's war against Ukraine. Previous reports indicated that Russia requested Chinese military assistance in the conflict.
Poland’s Mateusz Moravetsky, Czechia’s Petr Fiala, and Slovenia’s Janez Jansa travel to Kyiv to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. The purpose of the visit, as announced by the Polish government, is "to confirm the unequivocal support of the entire European Union for the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine and to present a broad package of support for the Ukrainian state and society."
The Prime Ministers of Poland, Czechia, and Slovenia convene with counterparts in Kyiv, 15 March 2022 (via Twitter)
The 4th round of Ukraine-Russia ceasefire negotiations restart after breaking yesterday evening for working group-level deliberations. Previously, Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia asserted that the talks would resume at 1030 (GMT+2), and while the exact start time was not announced, Ukrainian negotiator Mikhail Podolyak confirms that they are indeed in progress.
Through his remarks and social media, President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers signals vis-a-vis the negotiations:
On NATO membership: "We realized that Ukraine will not become a member of NATO. We understand this, we are adequate people. Kyiv needs new formats of interaction with the West and separate security guarantees."
On support from the international community: "All trade with Russia must be stopped! So that it can't sponsor the killing of our children. Ukrainians all over the world! Contact politicians, talk to journalists, put pressure on business to leave the Russian market. So that their dollars and euros aren’t paid for our blood. The price for this war against [Ukraine] must be extremely painful for Russia. This pressure is a task for all Ukrainians at home and abroad, as well as for all friends and partners of our country. Everyone in the world must take a moral stand. Not only the state, but also companies."
Ukrainian negotiator Mikhail Podolyak indicates that negotiations have once again been kicked back to the working group-level. He notes that the delegate-level talks will resume on 16 March.
In a televised interview with domestic media, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gives the first admission from a senior level official in the Putin regime that negotiations are making progress: "I rely on the opinion of our negotiators. They say that negotiations have not been easy for apparent reasons but still there is certain hope for reaching a compromise." This stands in contrast to his remarks from the Minister-level meeting in Antalya and to statements from Vladimir Putin.
During his morning video address, President Zelensky signals that the Russian side is softening its negotiating positions: "The meetings continue, and, I am informed, the positions during the negotiations already sound more realistic. But time is still needed for the decisions to be in the interests of Ukraine." He noted, “Efforts are still needed, patience is needed...Any war ends with an agreement.”
Ukrainian negotiator and Presidential Advisor Mikhail Podolyak highlights actions that may be strengthening Ukraine's hand at the negotiating table: (1) the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) counteroffensive; (2) Russian media protests; and (3) Russia's need to recruit foreign forces (e.g. Syria) to join the fight against Ukraine.
Ukrainian negotiator Mikhail Podolyak publicizes Ukraine's positions vis-a-vis security guarantees:
First, the security guarantees must be binding, instead of a protocol or a memorandum (like the 1994 Budapest Memorandum). Accordingly, the guarantors of security must be able to provide collective self-defense in response to aggression while providing supplies and war materiel, as necessary.
Second, Ukraine needs a binding agreement from security guarantors that they will provide active air and missile defense.
The International Court of Justice issues an order in the case of Ukraine v. Russia, comprised of three main points:
(1) The Russian Federation shall immediately suspend the military operations that it commenced on 24 February 2022 in the territory of Ukraine.
(2) The Russian Federation shall ensure that any military or irregular armed units which may be directed or supported by it, as well as any organizations and persons which may be subject to its control or direction, take no steps in furtherance of the military operations referred to in point (1) above.
(3) Both Parties shall refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve.
During televised remarks, President Vladimir Putin reiterates his political interests for the negotiation: "It is precisely the issues of principle for Russia, for our future--on the neutral status of Ukraine, on demilitarization and denazification--that we were ready and are ready to discuss now in the course of negotiations." [Editor's note: PPI includes the claim of "denazification" merely to record the Putin regime's emphasis on the issue, not to lend credence to this false justification for invasion.]
The UK Ministry of Defense reports that the Russia advance has stalled. Their intelligence update also noted, "Ukrainian resistance remains staunch and well-coordinated. The vast majority of Ukrainian territory, including all major cities, remains in Ukrainian hands."
Amidst strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian forces step up attacks against civilian population centers, including the bombing of Mariupol theater. The theater was housing 1000 to 1200 civilians seeking refuge from the strikes, and they had clearly marked the ground with the words "children" to indicate to Russian pilots that it was housing non-combatants. As of 1400 (GMT+2), only 130 people had been recovered, but authorities remain hopeful that more survived.
Satellite image showing the destruction in Mariupol; the Mariupol theater is in the center of the photo with "children" written in large white letters in front of the building (via Twitter)
The UN Security Council holds an emergency meeting on Russia's aggression in Ukraine. Six members of the Security Council (Albania, France, Ireland, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States) label Russian actions as war crimes. Outside the Security Council meeting, Russian envoys announce that they would not be submitting a draft Security Council resolution on 18 March regarding the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, presumably because they were unable to secure Chinese and Indian co-sponsorship for the resolution.
Amidst Russia's continued attacks against civilian population centers, Ukrainian and Russian negotiators agree upon nine more humanitarian corridors for 18 March. Reportedly, the evacuation corridors will originate from Mariupol, Sumy, Trostyanets, Lebedyn, Konotop, settlements in Krasnopillya, and Velyka Pysarivka. Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials are directing efforts toward Balakleya and Izyum in Kharkiv Oblast for delivery of humanitarian aid.
Presidential Advisor and negotiator Mikhail Podolyak provides a status update on the negotiations via social media. He expresses that the negotiating positions the Russian government is expressing via the media are intended to be provocative and do not reflect its positions at the table. He reiterates that the Ukraine side is holding firm on its indispensable interests. During an interview with Bloomberg, Podolyak expresses that the "process could drag longer" as they work to bring Russia closer to a position that satisfies those interests.
The UN Security Council meets again to discuss the war against Ukraine, this time called for by the Russian representative. In the meeting, Russia renews its accusations that the United States government was constructing biological weapons in clandestine facilities in Ukraine, a point which multiple Security Council members refute. Those members counter with assertions that Russia is abusing its position on the Security Council by using it as a forum for spreading disinformation instead of resolving the conflict that it had started. Ahead of the meeting, six members of the UN Security Council issued the following joint statement:
The joint statement of six members of the UN Security Council ahead of the Russian-called meeting, 18 March 2022
U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping hold a virtual teleconference to discuss the war against Ukraine. Xi reportedly expresses that the war is in no one's interest and that China supports the restoration of peace. The White House publishes a readout of the call following the meeting, the text of which follows:
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. spoke today with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The conversation focused on Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. President Biden outlined the views of the United States and our Allies and partners on this crisis. President Biden detailed our efforts to prevent and then respond to the invasion, including by imposing costs on Russia. He described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians. The President underscored his support for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis. The two leaders also agreed on the importance of maintaining open lines of communication, to manage the competition between our two countries. The President reiterated that U.S. policy on Taiwan has not changed, and emphasized that the United States continues to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo. The two leaders tasked their teams to follow up on today’s conversation in the critical period ahead.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announces that his government will formally submit a proposal for a peacekeeping operation in Ukraine at the next NATO summit. NATO members are set to convene in Brussels for an extraordinary summit on 24 March 2022.
Domestic media outlets in Ukraine report that seven of nine agreed-upon humanitarian corridors functioned as designed, allowing the evacuation of 9,000 people. Ten corridors are designated for 19 March, extending from Mariupol and cities in Kherson, Luhansk, and Kyiv oblasts.
During his early morning video address, President Volodymyr Zelensky renewed his call for head of state-level talks, saying, "I want everyone to hear me now, especially in Moscow. The time has come for a meeting, it is time to talk."
Ukrainian media outlets report that Russian forces have been forcibly deporting Mariupol residents to Russia. This will introduce an additional issue to the ceasefire negotiations as Ukrainian negotiators must seek provisions for return of forcibly displaced civilians.
The last members of the Belarusian diplomatic mission cross the border to return to Belarus. Observers speculate whether this portends Belarusian military action against Ukraine.
For the second day in the row, the Russian government claims to have employed hypersonic missiles in strikes against targets in Ukraine. The 'Kinzhal' missile is an air-launched variant of the Iskander, a nuclear-capable ballistic missile. Some observers dismissed this weapon employment as more hype than substance, while others speculate that this represents a Russian attempt to ratchet up escalation and deter additional NATO support for Ukraine.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko reports that Russia has been pressing local Donbas residents into service. This move comes as the Russian government has been searching for ways to overcome personnel losses thus far in the war.
Pope Francis continues to speak out against Russia's war in Ukraine. During his Sunday Angelus address with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, he urged "all the actors of the international community to make a real effort to put an end to this repugnant war." He has previously referred to Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a "perverse abuse of power" and "unacceptable armed aggression."
Russian forces continue to suffer losses among its military leadership corps in Ukraine. The most recent confirmed by Russian authorities is Deputy Commander of the Black Sea Fleet for military-political affairs, Captain of the 1st Rank Andrei Paly, who was reportedly killed in Mariupol. Presidential Advisor and negotiator Mikhail Podolyak highlights these losses via social media, describing these losses as "direct signs of weak coordination of military units, lack of clear logistics, and ill-preparation for fighting in modern conditions."
In an interview with the Turkish news outlet Hurriyet, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu asserts that there was "rapprochement in the positions of both sides on important subjects, critical subjects." He added, "Of course, it is not an easy thing to come to terms with while the war is going on, while civilians are killed, but we would like to say that momentum is still gained...We see that the parties are close to an agreement." Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin also intimated that the two sides were negotiating six key issues: (1) Ukraine’s neutrality; (2) demobilization and disarmament; (3) security guarantees; (4) so-called “de-Nazification"; (5) policies related to the use of the Russian language in Ukraine; and (6) the status of Donetsk, Luhansk, and Crimea. [Note: Ukrainian negotiator Mikhail Podolyak previously asserted that the two sides were discussing "ceasefire and withdrawal," which likely falls under issue two as described by Kalin.]
Anti-occupation rallies take place in Kherson, Energodar, and Berdyansk, continuing the trend of ordinary Ukrainian citizens challenging Russian occupation forces with non-violent protest.
Anti-occupation protestors gather in Berdyansk, 20 March 2022 (via Twitter)
Reports emerge that employees of Belarusian railway company Belaroeskaja Tsjyhoenka sabotaged railway connections to prevent the transport of Russian military equipment to Ukraine. Director of Ukraine's Ukrzaliznytsya state railroad asserted, "At the present moment, I can say that there is no railway connection between Ukraine and Belarus. I cannot discuss details, but I am grateful to Belarus’s railway workers for what they are doing." These acts of defiance came amidst speculation that Belarus might soon join the Russian war effort against Ukraine and were lauded by Franak Viacorka, senior advisor to Belarusian opposition leader in exile Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
The Ukrainian government demonstrates its refusal to surrender Mariupol to Russia. On Sunday (20 March), the Russian Defense Ministry issued an ultimatum stating that Russian forces would open a humanitarian corridor at 1000 on 21 March on the condition that all Ukrainian forces to lay down their arms and leave. They reportedly issued a decline of 0500 for a written response from the Ukrainian government, which officials reject. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk later asserts, "There can be no question of surrendering the city and laying down weapons. We demand that the corridor be opened."
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba publicly appeals for China to exercise its influence in bringing about an end to Russian hostilities. This follows similar appeals by other Ukrainian officials, including Presidential Advisor and negotiator Mikhail Podolyak, who had previously asserted, "[China] can be the global security system’s important element if it makes a right decision to support the civilized countries’ coalition & condemn [Russian] barbarism. It is a chance to sit at the table as equals. The West must explain to Beijing how $1.6 trillion differs from $150 billion."
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov responds to President Zelensky's renewed call for direct negotiations with Vladimir Putin. Peskov asserts that such discussions are premature until Ukraine "does its homework by holding negotiations and agreeing their results." He adds that Russia will not accede to a ceasefire during negotiations, arguing that "pause in the operation, any pause, is used by the nationalist units to regroup and continue attacks on the Russian servicemen.”
In an interview with domestic outlet Suspilne, President Zelensky asserts that his government will not accept any agreement with Russia that includes provisions related to "de-nazification": "There can't be any 'de-Nazification' in the agreement...When a country that is treading in the footsteps of the Nazi is accusing us of being Nazi--we can't accept that." He also suggested that any agreement with Russia would be put to a public referendum.
Ukrainian negotiator Mikhail Podolyak offers insight into the ongoing ceasefire negotiations in an interview with BBC. His main points are summarized below:
Format of the negotiations: After three rounds of face-to-face negotiations, the two sides decided that it was more practical to conduct negotiations via video teleconference. [Note: Podolyak did not detail the frequency of meetings, but implied they were ongoing.]
Composition of the negotiating team: Negotiations are proceeding at the delegate and working group levels. On the Ukraine side, the negotiators also have advisory groups to inform the team of how the Ukrainian people might respond to negotiating positions and proposals. There is also a group led by Andriy Yermak (Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine) dedicated to engagement with foreign partners and potential security guarantors. Finally, there are legal teams working to ensure that the details of any agreements are sound.
On divulging details of the negotiation to the press: Although the Ukraine side is willing to intimate some details on the structure and format of discussions, they are deliberately avoiding divulging specifics on the content of negotiations. Meanwhile, by the Ukrainian team's estimation, the Russian side is using its messaging in the media to create pressure on decision-makers and influence the negotiating process.
On lessons learned from the past: The Ukrainian side is well aware of structural and legal inadequacies of past agreements--namely the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and the post-Crimea Crisis Minsk Agreements. The Ukraine side is employing those lessons learn in the current negotiations.
On when an agreement might be reached: The two sides are working through the various issues. Podolyak conceded that he is not ready to say that the war will end in a day or two; rather, they "will hold on as long as necessary."
In the early morning hours of 21 March, the hactivist group "Anonymous" tweets a warning to companies still conducting business in Russia to suspend their operations or become targets in the cyber domain.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres issues another statement on Russia's war against Ukraine. In his remarks, he references ongoing negotiations:
From my outreach with various actors, elements of diplomatic progress are coming into view on several key issues. There is enough on the table to cease hostilities --now...and seriously negotiate--now. This war is unwinnable. Sooner or later, it will have to move from the battlefield to the peace table. That is inevitable.
Andriy Yermak, Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, delivers remarks to the Chatham House. Key points from his discussion are summarized below:
Ukraine requires a reliable, multilateral, and legally binding guarantee. He alludes to the point that this was the intent behind NATO membership but that ultimately, the core interest is the security guarantee.
He calls on the international community to do two things: (1) to step up sanctions and put pressure on the Putin regime; and (2) to "close the sky" by enforcing a no-fly zone and/or providing Ukraine with aircraft and air and missile defense systems. He asserts, "Peace is possible, but the west must act to make it possible."
Ukraine expects China to be one of the guarantors in the new security framework. Yermak reminds the audience that Ukraine's number one trading partner is China, and that it is necessary for the "leading countries of the west and the east to agree on the issue of deterring Russia." To that end, Yermak expresses hope that Presidents Zelensky and Xi will engage in discussions soon to help bring about an end to the war.
Yermak expresses that some countries have already pledged to provide Ukraine security guarantees, adding that Ukraine "knows who their true friends are."
His view of the key negotiating objectives for Ukraine are (1) ceasefire; (2) withdrawal of Russian forces to pre-war boundaries; and (3) legally binding and implementable security guarantees. Conclusion of this agreement should set the stage for subsequent negotiations on Ukraine's territorial integrity and restoration of its internationally-recognized borders.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov participates in a CNN interview, where he perpetuates the Putin regime's disinformation campaign. Among the many claims he makes is that Russian forces are only striking military targets (not civilians) and that Ukraine was preparing to construct its own nuclear weapons. This continues a trend of Russian officials focusing on advancing disinformation in the media rather than delivering meaningful signals related to negotiating positions and interests. One point that generated media interest related to the use of Russian nuclear weapons: When asked if Vladimir Putin would be willing to use the nuclear option, Peskov demurred. When pressed (multiple times), he stated that Russia would use nuclear weapons if it faced an existential threat.
The Russian-proposed UN Security Council resolution on humanitarian issues in Ukraine (co-sponsored by Belarus, the DPRK, and Syria) fails to pass. The resolution required nine votes in favor, receiving only two in favor (China and Russia), none against, and thirteen abstentions. The Security Council members decry the draft's omission of Russia as the aggressor and its failure to denounce the war crimes taking place. The French mission to the UN asserts that the text is nothing more than a maneuver to legitimize Russian aggression against Ukraine.
On the eve of the NATO summit, Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg announces that NATO will bolster Ukraine's cyber security and supply the country chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) defense equipment. The announcement on CBRN equipment comes as President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the Japanese Diet (parliament) and specifically calls out the risk of Russian employment of chemical weapons against the Ukrainian people.
President Zelensky addresses Japanese Diet members, 23 March 2022 (via Twitter)
The Wall Street Journal reports that the reason why Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich has eluded U.S. sanctions is a personal request from President Vladimir Zelensky to President Joe Biden. According to the report, the U.S. Treasury was set to impose the sanctions but was halted by the White House, apparently to provide space for Abramovich to facilitate ceasefire negotiations. [Note: There have been no substantive reports on Abramovich's actual influence in the negotiation process.]
President Vladimir Putin punches back at economic sanctions with moves intended to drive a wedge in the international community's united front. He unexpectedly announces an immediate policy change that all EU countries must pay for natural gas shipments in rubles, not euros. [Note: the Russian-owned Caspian Pipeline Consortium also shut down three units used to load oil onto tankers in a move that is driving a spike in oil prices, but the CPC claims this move was due to storm damage.]
In his early morning address, President Volodymyr Zelensky remarks on the state of play in the ongoing negotiations:
We are continuing to work at different levels to encourage Russia to work towards peace to end this brutal war. Ukrainian representatives are participating in talks that are taking place virtually every day. It is very difficult–sometimes confrontational–but step by step we are moving forward.
The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly votes in favor of the Ukrainian-drafted resolution entitled Humanitarian consequences of the aggression against Ukraine. The resolution was co-sponsored by 90 member states and demands an immediate cessation of Russian hostilities against Ukraine, in particular "of any attacks against civilians and civilian objects." Meanwhile, South Africa puts forward a second resolution, Humanitarian situation emanating out of the conflict in Ukraine, which makes no reference to Russia or its role originating the conflict. 67 States vote not to take action on that resolution, though 50 countries convene in the General Assembly Hall to vote anyway. 36 abstained from that vote, and the Russian-backed South African draft failed to garner enough support to proceed to a full vote.
The final UN General Assembly vote tally on "Humanitarian consequences of the aggression against Ukraine," 24 March 2022 (via UN TV)
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announces that Ukraine and Russia had conducted the first prisoner exchange of the war, with ten each being transferred to their respective sides. She adds that eleven Russian sailors saved by Ukraine from a sunken ship would be exchanged for nineteen Ukrainian sailors captured by Russia.
The speakers of parliament for Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania travel to Kyiv for meetings with President Volodymr Zelensky and other senior Ukrainian officials.
The G7 leaders meet in Brussels. The full text of the joint statement is available here and focuses on full implementation of sanctions, reducing dependency on Russia energy resources, and managing economic and food insecurity brought upon by Russian aggression.
The NATO heads of state and government meet in Brussels. The full text of the joint statement is available here, focusing on bolstering NATO's defenses, providing assistance to Ukraine, and calling upon the international community (with explicit mention of China) to impose costs upon Russia and Belarus.
The U.S. government announces additional sanctions aimed at imposing costs upon Russia for its aggression against Ukraine. The sanctions include the following:
328 Duma members and sanctioning the Duma as an entity.
Herman Gref, the head of Russia’s largest financial institution Sberbank and a Putin advisor since the 1990s.
Russian elite Gennady Timchenko, his companies and his family members.
17 board members of Russian financial institution Sovcombank.
48 Large Russian defense state-owned enterprises that are part of Russia’s defense-industrial base and produce weapons that have been used in Russia’s assault against Ukraine’s people, infrastructure, and territory, including Russian Helicopters, Tactical Missiles Corporation, High Precision Systems, NPK Tekhmash OAO, Kronshtadt.
In an interview with the Spanish news outlet El Pais, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba asserts that his government has been discussing security guarantees with foreign partners: "Yes, we are in talks with the US, UK, Germany, France and Turkey about their possible participation in this model. They reacted positively to this idea. Although this is still being discussed, I am pleased with their initial reaction." One of Ukraine's indispensable interests in its negotiations with Russia has been the inclusion of legally binding, implementable security guarantees in any peace agreement.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba asserts that the Russia side continues to demonstrate inflexibility in ceasefire negotiations. He calls on the international community to impose more costs on Russia and to provide more military aid to Ukraine.
In a press briefing, French President Emmanuel Macron claims France is working with Turkey and Greece to execute "an exceptional humanitarian operation" aimed at evacuating civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol. Macron adds that the French government has already been in contact with the Mariupol mayor Vadym Boychenko and that he intends to engage Vladimir Putin directly on this planned operation.
The Russian Ministry of Defense delivers a briefing on the state of the "special military operation" in Ukraine. The main points from the briefing are included below:
The Ministry expressed that the military objective in Ukraine was always about liberating the Donbas region and that all military action outside of that region was about distracting and eliminating Ukrainian military capabilities.
They claimed that they have successfully degraded Ukraine's military capacity and can now enter a new phase of the operation. The Ministry stated that the next phase will focus on operations in the East.
They asserted that Russian attacks have focused on military targets and have deliberately avoided civilian infrastructure.
The officials claimed that there have only been 1,351 Russian killed and 3,825 wounded in action, far fewer than Ukrainian and international estimates.
Screen capture from the broadcast of the Russian Ministry of Defense Briefing, 25 March 2022 (via Twitter)
Reporting from the Financial Times provides additional evidence of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich's role in ceasefire negotiations, suggesting that he used his leverage with Vladimir Putin to facilitate the initiation of talks in Belarus. Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia confirmed Abramovich's role, stating that the oligarch was present for the first round of negotiations in Gomel, Belarus. He intimated that Abramovich "came into the process through the international Jewish community" and that he is "heavily involved in the peace talks."
Andriy Yermak, Head of the Office Of the President of Ukraine, delivers remarks to the Atlantic Council. Among other assertions, Yermak clarifies Ukraine's expectation for postwar security guarantees: the security guarantors should include the permanent members of the UN Security Council, Germany, and Turkey, and they are in consultations with Israel, Canada, and Italy. He adds that he would like to incorporate India and Japan into the postwar security framework. Yermak adds that the negotiations are "24/7" and are working to get to a point where the two countries' leaders can eventually meet. In a plea to current and would-be mediators, he states that they must not equivocate, but mediate from the fundamental position that Russia started this war of aggression and invaded Ukraine.
President Joe Biden delivers a speech in Warsaw, Poland. He speaks of the struggle between democracies and dictatorships, the resolve of the Ukrainian people, and how Vladimir Putin has taken Russia from the 21st century back to the 19th century. He ends his address by saying, "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power." The White House walked backed that statement, asserting that the president was not specifically referring to regime change. [Note: response to Biden's comment, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov responded, "This is not to be decided by Mr. Biden. It should only be a choice of the people of the Russian Federation."]
For the first time ever, U.S. and Ukrainian officials convene a "2+2" meeting (Foreign and Defense ministerial). This was announced with short notice, taking place in Poland on the sidelines of the U.S. presidential visit. The Ukrainian officials are set to attend President Joe Biden's speech scheduled for later in the evening.
U.S. and Ukrainian officials meet for the first time in the "2+2" format, 26 March 2022 (via Twitter)
President Vladimir Putin affirms Russia's shifting narrative on its war against Ukraine by signing an amendment to the country's law, "On veterans." The newly amended law affords veteran status to those who participated in the "special operation to protect Donbas." The law recognizes those who performed tasks "during a special military operation in the territories of Ukraine, the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic: from February 24, 2022."
The Vladimir Putin-approved amendment to afford "veteran" status to personnel who participated in the "special military operation," promulgated 26 March 2022
Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia announces via social media that the two sides agreed to meet for face-to-face negotiations in Turkey on 28-30 March. Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky clarifies that the formal talks will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday (29 and 30 March).
In response to U.S. President Joe Biden's remarks made in Poland, French President Emmanuel Macron warns against escalation. Macron argues that his task is "achieving first a ceasefire and then the total withdrawal of [Russian] troops by diplomatic means...If we want to do that, we can't escalate either in words or actions." Macron adds that he is set to speak with Putin within the next two days to organize the evacuation of civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol.
The Russian state censor Roskomnadzor (officially, the "Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media") clamps down on domestic reporting of Zelensky's interview with Russian media outlets. Ukrainian negotiator Mikhail Podolyak decries the move as "cowardly and shameful."
President Volodymyr Zelensky holds a 90-minute video teleconference with four non-governmental Russian media outlets. During the interview, he signals flexibility in Ukrainian negotiating positions while reinforcing the country's indispensable interests. The main points related to the negotiation are summarized below:
Ukraine is prepared to conclude an agreement that covers security guarantees, neutrality, and non-nuclear status.
The government is not willing to address other Russian demands, including the demilitarization of Ukraine.
No deal is possible without a ceasefire and withdrawal of Russian forces.
Ukraine will not attempt to recapture all Russian-held territory by force, as such action would "lead to a third world war."
The Ukrainian government is willing to seek a compromise over the eastern Donbas region that has been held by Russian-backed forces since 2014.
An agreement that deals with Ukraine's sovereignty and future should be put to the public via a referendum.
Leader of the breakaway region in Luhansk (the Russian-backed, self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic) Leonid Pasechnik states that there could be a referendum soon on joining Russia. A regional news outlet quoted Pasechnik as saying, "I think that in the near future a referendum will be held on the territory of the republic...The people will exercise their ultimate constitutional right and express their opinion on joining the Russian Federation."
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba comments on the negotiations set to take place on 29 March in Istanbul. He asserts that at a minimum, the Ukraine side hopes to resolve humanitarian issues, and their maximum goal is reaching an implementable ceasefire agreement. Kuleba notes that at the moment, the two sides have not agreed upon a single issue in the negotiation, adding that the Ukrainian government will not relinquish its sovereignty, territory, or people in a negotiated agreement. He warns that if the Russian team deals in bad faith ultimatums and propaganda at the table, the Ukraine side will have to walk away from the face-to-face negotiations in Istanbul.
The Financial Times reports on developments in the negotiation. According to unnamed sources, Russia has dropped three of its initial demands in the negotiation, including "denazification," demilitarization, and legal protections for the Russian language. The sources added that the two sides are currently discussing a ceasefire based on the following formula: Ukraine formally eschews military alignment (i.e. it abandons its push to join NATO) but receives security guarantees and can become part of the European Union.
The Wall Street Journal breaks a story that Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and members of the Ukrainian negotiating team suffered from symptoms of chemical poisoning following a nighttime meeting in Kyiv on 3 March. Both Mikhail Podolyak and Rustem Umerov refute that claim. Of note, Abramovich also claimed to have delivered Vladimir Putin a handwritten note from Volodymyr Zelensky on 23 March that outlined Ukraine's terms for a peace agreement. Putin reportedly responded to Abramovich by saying, "Tell him I will thrash them." [Note: PPI does not include this reporting to suggest validity of the claims, but as important developments in the information space as negotiators prepare to meet in Istanbul for the next round of face-to-face talks.]
Day one of the "Istanbul round" negotiations ends after roughly three hours of deliberation. The two sides are scheduled to recommence negotiations tomorrow.
View from the first day of the "Istanbul round" negotiations, 29 March 2022 (via Twitter)
Ukrainian negotiator Mikhail Podolyak provides insight into elements of the ceasefire agreement currently in negotiation (via Podolyak's Twitter posts):
"Briefly. Security guarantees treaty with an enhanced analogue of Article 5 of NATO. Guarantor states (USA, UK, Turkey, France, Germany etc.) legally actively involved in protecting [Ukraine] from any aggression. Implementation through a referendum & parliaments of the guarantor states." [Note: David Arakhamia later clarified that China, Italy, Poland, and Israel are also on the table as potential security guarantors.]
"As for Crimea, it is offered to clearly record the parties' intention to settle the issue exclusively through [Ukraine-Russia] bilateral negotiations within 15 years. It's also offered not to resolve the Crimean issue by military means in any case. Only political & diplomatic efforts."
On the sidelines of negotiations in Istanbul, Deputy Defense Minister and Russian negotiator Alexander Fomin announces that Moscow has decided to “fundamentally cut back military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv” so as to “increase mutual trust for future negotiations to agree and sign a peace deal with Ukraine.” Shortly after the announcement, Russian forces postured near Kyiv begin to withdraw. Russian lead negotiator Vladimir Medinsky later qualifies this decision, stating, "De-escalation does not mean a ceasefire," and adding that Moscow does not want to put Kyiv at military risk because that is where the decisionmakers for the peace agreement are. [Note: Russian forces continued to bombard locations in Kyiv oblast overnight following the announcement.]
Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin announces the decision to withdraw some Russian forces as lead negotiator Vladimir Medinsky looks on, 29 March 2022 (via Twitter)
In televised remarks, Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu perpetuates the narrative that Russia is shifting to the next phase of its "special military operation." Like the Ministry briefing from 25 March, Shoigu claims that since Russian forces have significantly reduced the combat potential of Ukraine's military, they can now focus on liberating the Donbas region.
Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu delivers televised remarks, 29 March 2022 (via Twitter)
In addition to the delegate-level negotiations, the heads of delegation hold a sidebar session. There, Ukrainian lead negotiator David Arakhamia meets his Russian counterpart Vladimir Medinsky to discuss the "fundamental provisions of the negotiation process."
Face-to-face negotiations kick off at 1000 (GMT+3) in the Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan offered opening remarks, calling upon both sides to settle on a truce: “Continuing war will not benefit anyone. Restoring peace will benefit your countries and all the others. You, as delegations, bear historical responsibility for the decisions made today."
The negotiating teams listen to President Erdoğan's opening remarks, 29 March 2022 (via Twitter)
President Volodymyr Zelensky holds an hour-long phone call with President Joe Biden. During the call, Zelensky updates his U.S. counterpart on the status of the war and negotiations. President Biden affirms the U.S. government's continued support, including the delivery of $500 million in direct budgetary aid.
The President of the United Nations Human Rights Council designated representatives from Norway, Bosnia, and Colombia to serve as the three independent members of the commission of inquiry to “investigate all alleged violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law and related crimes in the context of the aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation.”
Presidential advisor and Ukrainian negotiator Mikhail Podolyak summarized the outcomes of negotiations in Istanbul, noting the following issues put on the table: "Legal guarantees providing a new security contour of [Ukraine] (analogous to Article 5 of NATO). Crimean issue returns to the negotiating agenda. Proof of the viability of [Ukrainian] statehood. The revision of global security principles [and] the role of institutions begins."
German and British officials respond to Ukraine's calls for the countries to serve as security guarantors. German government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit asserts that Germany has a general willingness to offer security guarantees but did not specify that those guarantees would include military assistance. Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab states that the United Kingdom is not ready to become a security guarantor, noting that Ukraine is not a NATO member.
Despite the Russian announcement that its forces would "fundamentally cut back military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv," residents of Kyiv reported continued bombardment, and the Mayor of Chernihiv Vladyslav Atroshenko told CNN reporters that Russian forces have actually "increased the intensity of the strikes" against civilian centers.
Ukrainian negotiator Rustem Umerov clarifies the Ukrainian position on territorial issues as they relate to the ongoing ceasefire negotiations. He states that Ukraine is not entertaining any compromises on Crimea--that the government only recognizes the internationally-recognized 1991 borders. Umerov clarifies that the intent is to codify a provision in a formal international agreement that the two sides will negotiate the territorial issues in Crimea within fifteen years and that they will refrain from using military force to settle the issue.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov downplays signs of progress from the "Istanbul round" of negotiations. He asserts that although the Russian side welcomes Ukraine's presentation of positions, they did not notice anything "really promising" in them. He also clarified that Russia will reject the proposal to codify a fifteen-year consultation period on the Crimea issue. Peskov argues that Crimea is part of Russia and the Russian constitution precludes discussion on the fate of any region of Russia with anyone else.
Head of Ukraine's Presidential Office Andriy Yermak continues high level discussions with U.S. counterparts. Yermak posted on social media about his call with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, stating: "Had a talk with [Jake Sullian]. Discussed countering the [Russian] aggression against [Ukraine], and further [U.S.] defense support for us. A special focus on the negotiation process. Achieving peace is [Ukraine's] priority. The key aspect is security guarantees for our state."
The White House releases a fact sheet detailing how the U.S. government intends to counter "Putin's Price Hike" on oil. The document lays out a three-pronged approach: increasing domestic production, releasing oil from strategic reserves, and bolstering clean energy efforts. All this is done to eliminate one of the major levers that Russia has over the United States and its allies in response to the war of aggression against Ukraine.
President Zelensky discusses the peace process with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Afterwards, Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials report that Turkey is ready and willing to serve as a security guarantor for Ukraine.
In an interview with domestic media, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu states that his government is working to bring his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts back to the table. Adding that there has not yet been full implementation of the decisions made during the "Istanbul round" of negotiations this week, Çavuşoğlu notes the effort to bring Foreign Ministers Dymtro Kuleba and Sergei Lavrov to Istanbul within two weeks.
A day after discussing the peace process with Volodymyr Zelensky, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan conducts a call with Vladimir Putin. According to the readout from the Turkish Presidential Offie, Erdoğan stated that it is important for the parties to "act with common sense and maintain the dialogue," and he called on Putin to meet with Zelensky.
Ukrainian negotiator and parliamentarian Rustem Umerov clarifies his government's position on security guarantees. He asserts that the agreement on a security mechanism (1) must be approved by a public referendum in Ukraine; (2) must be ratified the parliaments of the guarantor countries; and (3) must include a provision that its terms take precedence over domestic legislation.
The Ukraine and Russian sides conduct another prisoner exchange. 86 Ukrainian soldiers are released (15 of whom are women).
President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola travels to Kyiv in a show-of-support to Ukraine. On 15 March, the European Union had agreed to begin the process of Ukraine's eurointegration, and reports from the Ukraine-Russia ceasefire negotiations indicate that Ukraine's EU membership has been among the issues discussed at the table.
After a brief hiatus following the "Istanbul round" of face-to-face deliberations, negotiations resume via video teleconference, as announced by Ukrainian lead negotiator David Arakhamia the day prior. The talks start in the afternoon, with Russian lead negotiator Vladimir Medinsky posting (and later taking down) images from the resumption of talks.
Negotiations by video teleconference as posted by Vladimir Medinsky (and later taken down for undisclosed reasons), 1 April 2022 (via Twitter)
Reports emerge of executions and other atrocities perpetrated by Russian forces in the Ukrainian city of Bucha. Although there was already evidence of Russian war crimes, the revelation of heinous acts in Bucha sparks renewed outrage among the international community.
Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Malyar reports that all Russian forces have withdrawn from Kyiv oblast.
On the sidelines of a diplomatic engagement in Azerbaijan, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio states that Italy is willing to accept the role of security guarantor for Ukraine. Reiterating a point he made in an interview with the German tabloid Bild on 1 April, Di Maio asserts, "The Italian government is ready to contribute to the peace process and act as a guarantor of Ukraine’s neutrality."
Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar states that his government is working with both Russia and Ukraine to prepare for the evacuation of civilians and wounded soldiers from the besieged city of Mariupol.