Ukraine-Russia Ceasefire Negotiations: Chapter II
This article looks at the second chapter of ceasefire negotiations between Russia and Ukraine that occurred from April to early May 2022. For the latest on the ceasefire negotiations, see the running tracker here. Read about Chapter I here.
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Chapter II Summary: The discovery of Russian war atrocities following the withdrawal from Kyiv Oblast had thrown the political level negotiation process into disarray, but there was still a massive humanitarian crisis in Mariupol. Between the warring parties, the establishment of evacuation corridors and agreement upon prisoner exchanges became the central focus for negotiations. Meanwhile, each side started to shift its objectives in the war, with Russia concentrating on a land grab running from the eastern territories of Ukraine along the coastline to the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria. Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials focused their efforts on fostering international support and preparing for a counteroffensive to liberate occupied territories. The second chapter of the ceasefire negotiations ended with the conclusion of humanitarian evacuations from Mariupol and a much-anticipated Victory Day Parade in Moscow that saw Vladimir Putin affirm Russia's now-limited objectives for the war.
Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė declares that Lithuania will completely sever all Russian gas imports, a move that Latvia and Estonia have signaled they will follow.
In an interview with CNN, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg asserts that if Finland and Sweden decide to become NATO members, the allies will work to bring them "in a relatively quick way into the alliance."
Amidst growing condemnation among the international community, Dmitry Polansky, Russia's first deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, announces that the Russian government has "demanded" the UN Security Council to hold a meeting on Monday, 4 April, to discuss what he terms as "heinous provocation of Ukrainian radicals in Bucha."
The reported atrocities in Bucha lead to widespread condemnation. Of note, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for an independent investigation and effective accountability, and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid issued the first notable statement of condemnation by an Israeli official during the war.
Russian lead negotiator Vladimir Medinsky comments on the state-of-play for negotiations with Ukraine. His main points are summarized below.
The two sides deliberated the text of a treaty via video teleconference on 1 and 2 April. Negotiations will resume on 4 April.
The draft treaty is not yet ready "to be presented at the top-level meeting," despite calls for Vladimir Putin to meet with Volodymyr Zelensky.
Russia's position on Crimea and Donbas remains unchanged. [Note: Russia's position is that Crimea is part of its inherent territory and that Donbas is comprised of independent republics.]
Reporting emerges that a pro-Russian political party in Mariupol pronounced Kostyantyn Ivashchenko, a local council member, to be mayor of Mariupol during a meeting of party members. Petro Andryushchenko, an advisor in the elected Mariupol mayor's office, asserts that the Russian military assisted in the Ivashchenko pronouncement.
After rejecting the Russian request to hold a meeting on "heinous provocation of Ukrainian radicals in Bucha," the UK announces that it will call a UN Security Council meeting on 5 April to discuss Russian atrocities committed in the Ukrainian city.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi for the second time since the Russian invasion (the previous conversation took place on 2 March). Kuleba states, "Grateful to my Chinese counterpart for solidarity with civilian victims. We both share the conviction that ending the war against Ukraine serves common interests of peace, global food security, and international trade."
In an interview with Ukrainian journalists, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky comments on the state-of-play for negotiations. He states that Ukrainian negotiators continue to push the proposal to resolve the issue of Crimea diplomatically over the course of 10 to 15 years. This would effectively separate it from the terms necessary to end military hostilities.
In a video published by the Russian Foreign Ministry, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov argues that claims of Russian atrocities in Bucha and other Ukrainian municipalities are being manufactured to sabotage the negotiating process. He states, "We are inclined to think the reason is a desire to find a pretext to break off the negotiations that are being conducted," and asserts that Ukraine had "tried to break off the negotiating process altogether" after international media outlets reported on war crimes allegations.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky conducts a call with French President Emmanuel Macron, in which he reportedly discusses new sanctions based on Russian atrocities, the negotiation process, and humanitarian aid to Mariupol and other occupied Ukrainian cities. Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials continue to work with Turkish counterparts to arrange for a maritime-based evacuation from Mariupol.
The UN Security Council convenes a meeting to discuss Russian atrocities committed in Ukraine. Both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and UN Secretary-General deliver remarks to the Security Council, calling for swift action by the council to end the war and address the humanitarian crisis that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has created. The representative from India, Ambassador T. S. Tirumurti, condemns the killing of civilians but falls short of laying blame on Russia for the act: "Recent reports of civilian killings in Bucha are deeply disturbing. We unequivocally condemn these killings and support the call for an independent investigation,”
The U.S. Senate approves the "Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022," the first "Lend-Lease Act" for the United States since 1941 in response to Adolf Hitler's attempted conquest of Europe. The bill will still require passage by the U.S. House of Representatives and will need President Joe Biden to sign it into law. In the meantime, the U.S. government continues its support to Ukraine through the delivery of 100 Switchblade drones as part of an $800 million military aid package.
53 member states of the United Nations co-sponsor a resolution to suspend the rights of membership of the Russian Federation in the Human Rights Council.
Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov addresses the Kremlin Press pool. Peskov's key points as reported are summarized below:
The Russian government is prepared to cease its "special military operation" if the Ukraine side accepts the conditions that have already been presented at the negotiating table.
The Russia side negotiators operate with significant delegated authority, which is why Vladimir Putin agreed to withdraw Russian forces from around Kyiv--this movement away from the capital was meant to be a goodwill gesture to facilitate the negotiation process.
Negotiations continue, but they have been much more contentious since the withdrawal from Kyiv than the Russia side would like.
The Russian government categorically denies that its forces perpetrated any atrocities in Bucha or elsewhere in Ukraine.
The UN General Assembly votes in favor of suspending Russia's membership in the Human Rights Council. The final vote tally was 93 in favor, 24 against, and 58 abstentions.
The voting board from the UN General Assembly, 7 April 2022 (via UN TV)
Ukrainian lead negotiator David Arakhamia visits Chernihiv to get perspective from units on the ground. He indicates that his intent is to clarify interests and potential concessions:
Our task in the negotiations is to legally consolidate the success of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Their strength and courage form a negotiating position for us. Therefore, today in the Chernihiv region we talked to the combat commanders of the Operational Command "North." We wanted to hear their position on what could be a compromise for us and what is unacceptable. It was very useful to talk about it in a closed format. We plan to visit other regions in the coming days to hold similar meetings with the military.
Ukrainian lead negotiator David Arakhamia meets with personnel in Chernihiv, 7 April 2022
Ukrainian negotiator Mikhail Podolyak calls for the Putin regime to address warmongering in Russian media narratives. He alludes to the impact it has on dialogue between the two sides, stating, "If Moscow wants to show readiness for dialogue, the degree of hostility in media must be reduced."
In an interview with the Financial Times, Turkish Presidential Advisor Ibrahim Kalin argues that the revelation of Russian atrocities in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities has disrupted the negotiation process. He states: "The developments on the ground, pictures coming out of Bucha and now a few other places, make it of course more difficult for the negotiations to continue as before...The Ukrainians are devastated, as we all are...these are really horrible, completely unacceptable, inhumane actions and whoever has done that should be brought to justice.” He expresses tempered expectations for progress in the negotiations: "I’m personally not expecting a major breakthrough over the next couple of days or even maybe a week or so. But maybe in a week or two we will see some movement again."
Both Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei assert that Belarus should participate in the Ukraine-Russia ceasefire negotiations. In an interview with domestic media, Lukashenko states, "There can be no separate agreements behind Belarus's back...Since you dragged us into this--principally Western countries--the position of Belarus naturally needs to be heard at these negotiations." [Note: Belarus hosted the first three rounds of face-to-face negotiations but has remained outside the process since.]
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba engages in a series of senior-level meetings in Brussels, including the G7 Foreign Ministerial meeting, an engagement with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting. Kuleba states that he traveled to NATO to discuss the "three most important things: weapons, weapons, and weapons."
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba's meetings in NATO Headquarters, Brussels, 7 April 2022 (photos via Twitter @DmytroKuleba)
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EU Commission, visits Kyiv in a show of support. She delivers a questionnaire to be able to grant Ukraine formal candidacy status and to move along the process of EU accession. She expresses that Ukraine's application for accession should be submitted to the EU Council this summer.
Lyudmila Denisova, Ombudsman for Human Rights in Ukraine, tells The Telegraph that Ukrainian citizens of Mariupol have been pressed into service to fight for Russian forces. This follows other reports of Russian impressment in occupied areas of Ukraine.
Russian forces execute a missile strike against a rail station in Kramatorsk, a city in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine. At the time of the strike, the station was being used for civilian evacuations, leaving over 30 civilians dead and over 100 wounded [Note: the death toll was later increased to 52]. Multiple Ukrainian officials decry this latest atrocity, including Head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office, Andriy Yermak, who posted that the attack was "yet another pre-planned war crime. An act of terror to intimidate and disrupting the evacuation of Ukrainian civilians."
Ukrainian Minister of the Economy Yulia Svyrydenko announces the legal enshrinement of the de facto termination of trade relations with Russia, banning all imports and exports. Before the invasion, Ukrainian imports accounted for around $6 billion.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announces that the two sides conducted their third prisoner exchange since the onset of the war. Ukraine returned 26 personnel back to Russian custody.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky states that Ukraine is still committed to achieving a negotiated peace despite the continued revelations of Russian atrocities. He explains, "No one wants to negotiate with a person or people who tortured this nation. It’s all understandable. And as a man, as a father, I understand this very well...[but] we don’t want to lose opportunities, if we have them, for a diplomatic solution.” He recognizes the Russian shifting focus to Donbas, and characterizes the battle for Mariupol as the "heart of the war." He renews his call for the international community to provide military aid, asserting that the battle for Ukraine's eastern territory is critical for setting the conditions for peace:
The stronger our position in Mariupol, the stronger our position in the east of the country will be, the stronger the opposition will be in the joint forces operation. And if they are stronger, the negotiation table will be closer. And we will have advantages in the dialogue with the Russian Federation. If our situation is weak in all these directions, then the talks will not happen becasue Russia will make all these steps which will lead to coming back to those cities which we liberated now. They may go for it. And our situation in talks will be weaker. And probably not even interesting for the Russian side. It can happen. Unfortunately, we see this. We believe in another outcome. We believe in our victory.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Kyiv to engage with President Volodymy Zelensky and other Ukranian officials. During the meeting, Johnson states, "Together with our partners, we will intensify sanctions against Russia every week. We will not limit ourselves to asset freezes or sanctions against oligarchs. We will affect Russia's ability to use its energy resources." Following the visit, Head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office Andriy Yermak posts that the UK has been in constant contact since the onset of the war, with communication between Zelensky and Johnson as well as Yermak and UK security advisers Stephen Lovegrove and David Quarrey.
Boris Johnson meets with Volodymyr Zelensky, Andriy Yermak and other Ukrainian officials in Kyiv, 9 April 2022 (via Twitter @AndriyYermak)
Ukrainian and Russian negotiators continue to work on establishing humanitarian corridors. A day after the strike on Kramatorsk rail station, the two sides open ten corridors: Mariupol in Donetsk Oblast; Berdyansk, Tokmak, Energodar and Melitopol in Zaporizhzhia Oblast; and Sievierodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna, Hirske and Rubizhne in Luhansk Oblast.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issues a formal statement denying any responsibility for the missile strike against Kramatorsk rail station, blaming the Ukraine side for perpetrating the attack.
During his Palm Sunday service in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis calls for an Easter truce that may facilitate negotiations and help restore peace. He asserts, "Let the weapons be put down! Let An Easter truce start. But not to rearm and resume combat but a truce to reach peace through real negotiations."
The Ukrainian Azov Regiment claims that Russian forces have deployed an unknown chemical agent in Mariupol via drone. They state that military and civilian victims suffered respiratory failure and vestibulo-atactic syndrome (significant problems with motor functions).
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer meets with Vladimir Putin in an undisclosed location outside Moscow in the first face-to-face meeting between the heads of state of Russia and an EU member since the onset of the war. Nehammer states that during the 75-minute long meeting he "told President Putin in no uncertain terms that sanctions against Russia will remain in place and will continue to be tightened as long as people continue to die in Ukraine. The EU is more united than ever on this issue.” Putin reportedly responds by acknowledging the impact of sanctions but asserting that resolution of the conflict in Donbas to his satisfaction is a higher priority. [Note: prior to visiting Putin, Nehammer visited Kyiv and Bucha, meeting with senior Ukrainian officials.]
In an interview with Russian state media, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov comments on the ceasefire negotiations. Lavrov states that negotiations are not progressing as fast as the Russia side would like, reiterating his claim that the West is attempting to derail negotiations with claims of Russian war crimes. He argues that Vladimir Putin had ordered to suspend military action during the first round of talks on 28 February, but that they changed their position based on Ukraine's posture: "After we became convinced that the Ukrainians were not planning to reciprocate, a decision was made that during the next round of talks, there would be no pause so long as a final agreement is not reached." Lavrov did not specifically comment on the pace or level of ongoing negotiations.
Credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's announces that Russia has entered a state of "selective default" owing to its attempts to pay debts in rubles instead of dollars. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov dismisses the announcement, stating that the condition is artificial owing to sanctions that are preventing Russia from accessing the funds it would use to pay off those debts.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks with African Union President Macky Sall. They offer slightly differing views on their discussion via social media, with Zelensky focusing on Russian aggression and atrocities and Sall noting the impact to the world economy and the need for a negotiated peace.
A group of officers from the French Gendarmerie arrive in Ukraine to conduct investigations into Russian atrocities committed in Kyiv Oblast.
Ukrainian negotiator Rustem Umerov comments on two interests in the negotiating process via social media:
He notes that Russia has caused $270 billion in damage to infrastructure and states that Russia "must pay reparations for all the damages it caused in Ukraine."
Umerov indicates that Russia is holding approximately 1,700 Ukrainian (both military and civilian) in custody and states that negotiators working "24/7" to gain their release.
Ukrainian lead negotiator David Arakhamia posts on Telegram about negotiations with the Russia side. This is his first public comment on the negotiation process since the face-to-face meetings in Istanbul on 29 March 2022. In the post he mentions an "Istanbul Communiqué," which is the first time either side's negotiating team had referred to such a document in an open forum. The full text of his post is included in the image below.
Ukrainian lead negotiator David Arakhamia's post on Telegram, 12 April (20:11, GMT+2)
During a joint press conference, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson discuss joining NATO. Marin asserts that her government will be making its decision relatively quickly: "I won't give any kind of timetable when we will make our decisions, but it will happen quite fast--within weeks, not months." In response, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov asserts that if Finland and Sweden join NATO, Russia would seek to "rebalance the situation."
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan QC visits Ukraine to gain firsthand perspective on alleged Russian atrocities. Khan states, "The voices of those impacted by alleged crimes must be at the centre of our independent work to establish the truth. Survivors and the families of victims will be full partners in our collective efforts to deliver justice."
Karim A.A. Khan QC (center, kneeling) speaks with victims of Russian attacks in Borodyanka, Ukraine, 13 April 2022 (via the International Criminal Court)
Senior Ukrainian officials comment on their engagement with partners vis-a-vis ongoing negotiations with Russia. President Volodymyr Zelensky notes his conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, while Head of the Presidential Office Andriy Yermak announced his consultation with U.S. and UK counterparts.
The Russian Black Sea flagship Moskva sinks. The Ukraine side indicates that they struck the vessel with two land-based anti-ship missiles which caused secondary explosions on board, while the Russian government claims the vessel experienced an accidental munitions explosion on board as it was being towed.
Ukraine and Russia conduct their fourth negotiated prisoner exchange. Ukrainian negotiator Rustem Umerov announces that it was a 30-for-30 swap, comprised of both military and civilians.
Ukrainian Operational Command South announces that another prisoner exchange took place in the Kherson region. Five Ukrainian soldiers were swapped for four Russian troops.
Photos emerge online of the booby traps that Russian soldiers left behind when withdrawing from Kyiv Oblast. The Russia side agreed to withdraw from Kyiv during the Istanbul round of face-to-face negotiations on 29 March, but revelation of Russian atrocities has since disrupted the negotiation process.
Booby traps left in Kyiv Oblast by withdrawing Russian forces (photos via Twitter @Osinttechnical)
Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich reportedly travels to Kyiv in a bid to revitalize the negotiation process. [Note: Abramovich's spokesperson denies that he is in Kyiv.] Abramovich has been playing a role as facilitator for talks, last appearing in Istanbul for the most recent round of face-to-face negotiations.
In an online interview with Ukrainian media, President Volodymyr Zelensky signals that Mariupol is an indispensable interest in the negotiations. He asserts, "The destruction of all our boys in Mariupol [could put an end] to any format of negotiations." He adds, "This is a dead end because...we aren’t bartering using our territories and people. And we understand that the talks are needed to defend our country and end the war."
Ukrainian negotiators continue their appeals for partners to provide military aid in the fight against Russia.
The Zelensky administration hardens its position on the integrity of Ukrainian sovereignty in the East. President Volodymyr Zelensky states in a CNN interview that Ukraine will not give up Donbas to end Russia's war, and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba separately asserts that Mariupol may be a red line for ceasefire negotiations.
Ukrainian negotiator Rustem Umerov attends the Easter Vigil in the Vatican along with other Ukrainian elected officials. Pope Francis concludes his homily by addressing the Ukrainian contingent directly: "In this darkness of war, in the cruelty, we are all praying for you and with you this night. We are praying for all the suffering. We can only give you our company, our prayer, the biggest thing you can receive: Христос воскрес [Christ is risen]."
The Battle for Donbas begins. After a period of reconstitution and posturing, Russian forces initiate their ground assault in the eastern territory while executing air strikes against multiple cities across Ukraine. Multiple Ukrainian officials assert that the next phase of the war has begun.
President Volodymyr Zelensky hands the completed questionnaire to European Union officials for accession into the organization. Head of the Presidential Office Andriy Yermak announces that it is Ukraine's intent to achieve status of "candidate country" by June.
For the second day in a row, Russian forces deny the opening of humanitarian corridors from the eastern cities of Ukraine.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres calls for a four-day Orthodox Easter truce to allow for humanitarian assistance and a resumption of dialogue.
In an interview with France24 television news, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba affirms that negotiations are stalled. He states, "The end of this war will be decided on the battlefield, not at the negotiating table."
For the third day in a row, Russian forces deny the opening of humanitarian corridors from the eastern cities of Ukraine.
Ukrainian lead negotiator David Arakhamia announces that he and Mikhail Podolyak are prepared to travel to Mariupol for immediate talks with the Russia side on the evacuation of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians from the city.
In an interview with Radio NV, Ukrainian negotiator Mikhail Podolyak comments on the state-of-play in negotiations with Russia. His main points are included below:
On progress related to security guarantees: "The background is very heavy, very viscous. But the working legal subgroups are finalizing the agreement on security guarantees for Ukraine with regard to its compliance with international law. Political consultations are going on at the level of political advisers of the potential guarantor countries. Everything is going on, but in parallel with waiting for what will happen on the battlefield."
On the status of negotiations with Russia: "We had a very successful formulaic solution on how to get out of the war and how to get indisputable security guarantees for Ukraine in terms of not repeating the situation where we are left alone with a very aggressive empire called, unfortunately, Russia. I don't know why they should be called that and not a barbaric federation. However, we had the Istanbul communiqué, which fixed a more or less understandable formula that certain countries will stand by Ukraine on a permanent basis as well."
On the impact Russian atrocities had on the negotiation process: "After [Bucha] there was still Kramatorsk--the killing of people at the train station--and after that we have Mariupol, which today is physically destroyed, and there are children there. It is no longer possible to perceive the negotiations unemotionally, as one should perceive them."
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov tells reporters that Russia has delivered a response to Ukraine's proposal from the last round of face-to-face talks in Istanbul. He states, "At the moment, our draft document has been handed over to the Ukrainian side, which includes absolutely clear points. The ball is on their side. We are waiting for an answer."
The UN Security Council convenes a meeting to discuss Russia's war against Ukraine. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres renews his call for an Easter Truce, which most Security Council members support. Russia's Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy rejects the proposal as "insincere, and in practice they merely point to an aspiration to provide Kyiv nationalists breathing room to regroup and receive more drones, more antitank missiles and more MANPADS."
Vladimir Putin declares that Russian forces have "liberated" Mariupol after a brutal two month siege. The port city of Mariupol represents a practical target for the Putin Regime, as seizing it would enable a link between the annexed Crimean peninsula and mainland Russia. It could also yield Putin a symbolic victory if Ukrainian forces are unable to repulse Russian occupation of the city.
Ukraine and Russia conduct their sixth negotiated prisoner exchange since the invasion began. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk states that ten military and nine civilians were released from Russian captivity (she did not disclose how many Russians were included in the exchange).
The number of reported forcible deportations of Ukrainians to Russia continues to grow. For the first time since the war began, Ukrainian negotiator Mikhail Podolyak raises the issue, acknowledging that there is no quick solution to this problem.
The office of the UN Secretary General announces that Antonio Guterres is postured to conduct shuttle diplomacy with Russia and Ukraine. He is scheduled to have a working lunch with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on 26 April, followed by an audience with Vladimir Putin. His office is also coordinating with officials in Kyiv, with indications that he will visit Ukraine on 28 April.
Russian lead negotiator Vladimir Medinsky confirms domestic reports that he held several long conversations with Ukrainian lead negotiator David Arakhamia during the day. The content of those discussions remain undisclosed.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asserts that his government is prepared to host head of state-level meetings between Ukraine and Russia in furtherance of the "Istanbul process." He comments on the state of negotiations, saying, "There are advances. However, they are far from what we want. We hope for progress. We do not lose hope."
President Volodymyr Zelensky adds an additional red line for the negotiation: he states that any attempt by Russian forces to hold a "pseudo-referendum" in an occupied area will lead to the immediate termination of dialogue.
Ukrainian negotiator Mikhail Podolyak clarifies the Ukraine side's red lines for negotiation: "There are several tables within the negotiation process. On one of them lies the political map...the map of the settlement in terms of getting out of the war, but there are also separate cards, humanitarian. These are prisoner exchanges, humanitarian corridors, the possibility of getting our people out of the temporarily occupied territories. When the President speaks about the suspension of the negotiation process, of course, he means the complete cessation of the political component or all the others, except the humanitarian one."
Ukrainian lead negotiator David Arakhamia offers a public explanation via social media of the utility of Russian prisoners of war. In a message clearly aimed at domestic audiences, he explains that "every captured enemy is a potential life of our hero in exchange." He adds that "with modern artillery battles over long distances--it has become much harder to capture prisoners, so we have problems with replenishing the exchange fund." This post signals two things: (1) that there is domestic pushback against taking Russian prisoners; and (2) the Ukrainian negotiating team is looking for more bargaining chips to use in their humanitarian negotiations with Russia.
President Volodymyr Zelensky holds a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The two discuss the need for civilian evacuation from Mariupol and prisoner exchanges, as well as the state-of-play for negotiations and Turkish security guarantees for Ukraine. Zelensky raises the issue of navigation in the Black Sea, noting that blockage of maritime passage will affect Ukrainian defense capabilities and global food security.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin travel to Kyiv for meetings with President Volodymyr Zelensky and senior-level counterparts. There, they discuss implementation of a new sanctions action plan, U.S. military aid to Ukraine, U.S. security guarantees, the return of U.S. Embassy staff to Kyiv, and the appointment of Bridget Brink as the new U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.
U.S. and Ukrainian officials meet in Kyiv, 24 April 2022 (photo via Andriy Yermak)
In an interview with Fox News, Ukrainian negotiator Rustem Umerov offers his view on the negotiations with Russia. His key points are included below:
On the Russian negotiators' authority: "Do they have a mandate, yes they do. Are they able to take decisions? No, the decision is taken only in the Kremlin."
On trust in the negotiation: "After losing so many civilians in the field in full scale war, it is hard to trust. That is why we want our partners to be with us, so that our partners guarantee our collective security."
On the effect of atrocities on the negotiating process: "It is tense. It is emotional at heart. But we are committed to continue political and diplomatic negotiations to show that Ukraine is ready not only to defend itself, but also open for all negotiations to show the world that we are keen to stop the bloodshed and to avoid further escalation of the war."
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk contests the Russian announcement of a corridor for civilian evacuation from Azovstal steel complex, offering insight into the process for negotiating humanitarian corridors. She explains that she is personally responsible for conducting the negotiations for humanitarian corridors with Russian counterparts and clarifies that every formal corridor has come from agreement between both parties. She asserts that the Russian claim of a corridor from Azovstal is false, adding that the Ukrainian government requested support from the United Nations and the International Red Cross to oversee implementation of a true humanitarian corridor from the besieged site.
The U.S. government holds a defense ministerial consultation in Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Representatives from over 40 countries attend to discuss security pledges and military aid for Ukraine, all with the aim of preserving Ukraine's long-term security and sovereignty.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres meets with Russian officials in Moscow including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin. After meeting with Russian Foreign Minister of Sergei Lavrov, the two hold a joint press conference. Two key points from that press conference are below:
Guterres announces that he proposed the establishment of a humanitarian contact group that brings together officials from Ukraine, Russia, and the United Nations to negotiate and implement humanitarian corridors. He adds that the UN is prepared to work with the International Red Cross to help evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol.
In response to a question from a reporter, Lavrov states that Russia has still not received a response to the proposal that its negotiators delivered to the Ukraine side "ten or twelve days ago" [Note: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov had earlier stated that the proposal was delivered on 20 April.]
Vladimir Putin meets UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Moscow, 26 April 2022 (photo via Twitter @Nexta_tv)
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres meets with Ukrainian officials in Kyiv and visits war-torn areas in the surrounding area. In his remarks during the joint press conference with President Volodymyr Zelensky, Guterres makes the following points.
On UN objectives: "As we keep pushing for a full-scale ceasefire, we will also keep striving for immediate practical steps to save lives and reduce human suffering. Effective humanitarian corridors. Local cessations of hostilities. Safe passage for civilian and supply routes."
On an agreement with Vladimir Putin: "During my visit to Moscow, President Putin agreed, in principle, to the involvement of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross in the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol."
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Kyiv, 28 April 2022
On orders of the UN Secretary General, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Osnat Lubrani travels to Zaporizhzhia to prepare for evacuations from Mariupol.
Russia and Ukraine conduct another prisoner exchange. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announces that 33 military (5 wounded) and 12 civilian Ukrainians return in the exchange.
Head of Ukraine's Presidential Office Andriy Yermak publishes an op-ed in Time Magazine which outlines Ukraine's proposal for postwar security guarantees. [Note: Yermak leads Ukraine's working group on security guarantees.] He calls for the following:
We propose a new collective agreement on security guarantees for Ukraine—as a basis for a collective response to global security challenges. It is obvious that neutrality cannot be the key issue in this agreement…The conditions for securing such a status are a matter for discussion, but it is clear that there is room for both the West and the East among the guarantors. For the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. For the U.N. Security Council members, Poland, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Canada, Israel…The club is open…In the future, the Ukrainian security platform should become the basis for the U-24, United for Peace multilateral format. A kind of rescue service responsible states would provide for the countries in need. The service, which, despite the U.N. paralysis and the unbeatable vetos will be able within 24 hours to provide aid—humanitarian, financial, material and military-technical—to a state that suffered aggression. A service that will punish the aggressor within 24 hours by imposing sanctions.
Russia and Ukraine conduct another negotiated prisoner exchange. Ukrainian negotiator Rustem Umerov announces that 14 Ukrainians were returned in the transfer (7 military and 7 civilians). This is the seventh announced prisoner exchange of the war.
Head of the Ukraine's Presidential Office Andriy Yermak meets Turkish Presidential Advisor Ibrahim Kalin in Kyiv. [Note: Kalin has been directly involved in Turkey's effort to mediate between Ukraine and Russia.] The two discuss the situation in the war and Turkey's role in postwar security guarantees for Ukraine.
Ibrahim Kalin and Andriy Yermak meet in Kyiv, 30 April 2022 (photos via Andriy Yermak)
In an interview published by China's Xinhua News Agency (and reposted on the Russian Foreign Ministry website), Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov comments on the state-of-play in negotiations. Key points are included below:
On the frequency of talks: "At present, the Russian and Ukrainian delegations are actually discussing a draft of a possible treaty via videoconferencing on a daily basis."
On the topics under deliberation: "This document should fix such elements of the post-conflict state of affairs as permanent neutrality, non-nuclear, non-bloc and demilitarized status of Ukraine, as well as guarantees of its security. The agenda of the talks also includes issues of denazification, recognition of new geopolitical realities, the lifting of sanctions, the status of the Russian language, and others."
On the design for security guarantees: "As one of the possible options, the creation of an institution of guarantor states is envisaged, among which, first of all, are the permanent members of the UN Security Council, including Russia and China."
In an online interview with Nikkei Asia, Ukrainian Presidential Aide Oleksiy Arestovich comments on the way ahead for the war.
On a planned Ukrainian counteroffensive: With U.S. and UK weapons and other war materiel en route to Ukraine, Arestovich speculates that Ukrainian forces will be able to launch a counteroffensive sometime in mid-May to early June.
On scenarios for outcomes going forward: Arestovich describes three scenarios for how the war proceeds from here. First, a Ukrainian counteroffensive is successful in liberating occupied areas and pushing Russian invaders back in a month or two. Second, Russia is able to repulse the Ukrainian counteroffensive by mobilizing reserve forces. Third, Russia halts its attacks on Ukraine to allow for progress in ceasefire negotiations.
On the state of negotiations: Arestovich notes that although both sides' negotiators have maintained contact with each other, there has been little substantive progress on overall ceasefire negotiations. He specifically cites the issue of Crimea, as the Russia side has demanded Ukrainian recognition of Russian sovereignty over the peninsula.
Ukrainian government officials announce that they have begun evacuating civilians from Azovstal steel complex in Mariupol. Personnel from the United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross participated in the evacuation operation, a role that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had worked to secure in his meetings with Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky this past week. The screen capture below offers Ukrainian lead negotiator David Arakhamia's announcement of the development via his Telegram channel:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov draws widespread criticism for his latest attempt to perpetuate the narrative that Russia's invasion was predicated on the need to "de-nazify" Ukraine. During an interview with Italy's Rete 4 channel, Lavrov asserted, "When they say, 'What sort of nazification is this if we are Jews', well, I think that Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it means nothing...For a long time now we've been hearing the wise Jewish people say that the biggest anti-Semites are the Jews themselves." The strongest rebuke to this comes from Israel, with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett asserting, "Such lies are intended to accuse the Jews themselves of the most horrific crimes in history that were committeed against them." Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister posts the following via Twitter:
The Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) adopts a new law banning pro-Russian parties. Ukrainian MP and negotiator Rustem Umerov asserts that the legislation is aimed at preventing those who support or whitewash the Russian invasion and occupation from holding office.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen calls for the European Union to ban oil imports from Russia. Officials from Austria and Hungary immediately voice their opposition to the proposal.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announces that humanitarian corridors from Mariupol will be open on 4 May. This allows for the continuation of the negotiated evacuation of civilians from the besieged city. Vereshchuk later states that 344 people were able to be evacuated, thanking the United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross for their support in the effort.
UN and Red Cross personnel support evacuations from Mariupol, 4 May 2022 (photos via UN in Ukraine Humanitarian Coordinator Osnat Lubrani)
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko sits for an interview with the Associated Press, offering a tempered view on the state of the war and his country's position in it. His key points are below.
On the "special military operation": "To be honest, I didn't think this operation would drag on this way. But I am not immersed in this problem enough to say whether it goes according to plan, like the Russians say, or like I feel it. I want to stress one more time, I feel like this operation has dragged on."
On negotiating an end to the war: "We categorically do not accept any war. We have done and are doing everything now so that there isn't a war. Thanks to yours truly, me that is, negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have begun. I know Russia's position. I know what Russia is offering to Ukraine. But why is Ukraine, on whose territory a war in effect is ongoing, military action, people are dying, why is Ukraine not interested in these negotiations."
On the potential use of nuclear weapons: "Not only is the use of nuclear weapons unacceptable because it's right next to us--we are not across the ocean like the United States. It is also unacceptable because it might knock our terrestrial ball flying off the orbit to who knows where."
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a phone call with President Vladimir Putin where the two discuss the evacuation of Ukrainian citizens from Mariupol. The Israeli readout from the call indicates that Putin had apologized for Foreign Minister Lavrov's remarks from earlier in the week, stating, "The Prime Minister accepted President Putin's apology for Lavrov's remarks and thanked him for clarifying the President's attitude towards the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust."
Ukrainian negotiator Rustem Umerov provides details on negotiated prisoner exchanges. He states that the two sides have conducted a total of nine prisoner exchanges, enabling the return of 324 Ukrainian citizens.
Russian media publishes photos of Russian signs and statues being erected in Mariupol. Ukrainian officials suggest that Russian occupation authorities are preparing to hold a parade in the besieged city in commemoration of Russia's May 9th Victory Day holiday.
Preparations being made for a Russian Victory Day celebration in Mariupol (photos via Twitter @Nexta_TV)
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announces that humanitarian corridors from Mariupol will open once again. Russia's Defense Ministry issues its own statement asserting that it will be allowing the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal steel complex on 5 to 7 May from 0800 to 1800 each day. So far, the humanitarian corridors have proven successful.
For the first time since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began, the UN Security Council unanimously adopts a statement addressing the conflict. The full text is below:
Head of Ukraine's Presidential Office Andriy Yermak conducts a long-form interview with RBC-Ukraine, offering insights into the negotiations for security guarantees. His key points are summarized below.
On stalled progress in the negotiations following the Istanbul round of talks: Yermak implies that what Russian forces did in Bucha, Irpin, and Mariupol impacted the negotiating process, though he clarifies that talks are continuing via video teleconference. He also indicates that negotiations with potential security guarantors is ongoing.
On the process of negotiating security guarantees: Yermak concedes that the process of negotiating security guarantees is complex. He notes that there are separate negotiations with each potential guarantor as well as with Russia and that for the agreements to have any meaning, they will have to be legally binding. Yermak expresses his recognition that for that level of formality, there may need to conclude separate agreements with the various parties and that ratification in each government's home legislatures will be required.
On which countries may serve as security guarantors: Yermak lists the following as parties in negotiation to serve as security guarantors: the United States, the United Kingdom, the Baltic states, European Union members states, and Japan. He mentions China and India as two countries that Ukraine would like as security guarantors, but notes that Ukraine has not received any indication of their willingness to fulfill that role.
On Ukraine's willingness to negotiate territory: Yermak states that Ukraine will not concede sovereignty over any of its internationally recognized territory--meaning both Crimea and the eastern region of Ukraine. However, he clarifies that the priority is to end the war and withdraw Russian forces at least to the boundaries as they existed on 23 February 2022.
Russian media reports that the breakaway "Donetsk People's Republic" has named Olga Makeeva as its Ambassador to Russia while the "Luhansk People's Republic" named Rodion Miroshnik as its Ambassador.
The tenth prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia takes place, with 41 Ukrainians (28 military and 13 civilians) returning. Among those exchanged is a rector of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
Although evacuations continue from Mariupol, Ukrainian officials assert that the process is frustrated by Russian violations of the negotiated ceasefire. Authorities were only able to evacuate 50 civilians from the Azovstal steel complex, but Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk notes that the evacuation operation will continue on 7 May.
UN World Food Programme Chief David Beasley asserts that ports in Ukraine's Odesa region must be opened up to avert a global food crisis. He states, "If ports in the Odesa region do not open up immediately, two things will happen: First, we're going to have agricultural collapse across Ukraine. Second, famines will be looming all over the world. Food needs to move, ports must reopen and this needs to happen NOW."
Ukrainian officials announce that the evacuation of women, children, and elderly from Azovstal steel complex in Mariupol is complete. The next phase involves the evacuation of wounded soldiers and medical personnel, but it is unknown whether there is an agreement yet to move those individuals. Of note, Russian violations of the terms of the limited ceasefire result in at least one killed and six wounded during the 7 May evacuation operation.
Russian forces conduct missile strikes against multiple targets throughout Ukraine including Odesa, a key port city near the Russian-backed breakaway Transnistria region on the border between Ukraine and Moldova.
The G7 holds a leaders' meeting via video teleconference, inviting President Volodymyr Zelensky to attend. The G7 issues a comprehensive joint statement in which the leaders pledge to continue financial and material support to Ukraine; to impose economic costs on the Putin regime for its invasion; to decrease reliance upon Russian energy; and to work to mitigate the impacts of the war on global food security, among other commitments.
Volodymyr Zelensky and Justin Trudeau join the G7 leaders' meeting via VTC in Kyiv, 8 May 2022 (photo via Twitter @Kovaliv_y)
President Joe Biden signs into law the lend-lease act which will enable the provision of additional military equipment to Ukraine. It is only the second time in U.S. history that the country has adopted such a bill.
European Council President Charles Michel visits Odesa as Russian forces continue their attacks on the critical port city.
EU Council President Charles Michel visits Odesa, 9 May 2022 (photos via Twitter @eucopresident)
Russian occupation forces conduct Victory Day celebrations in the Ukrainian cities of Kherson, Enerhodar, and Mariupol.
Vladimir Putin delivers remarks during the Victory Day Parade in Moscow. Of note, Putin does not declare a formal war against Ukraine, issue an order for mobilization, or claim victory in the conflict as some observers expected might happen. Instead, he reasserts NATO and nazism as justifications for Russia's invasion and signals that the eastern Donbas region remains Moscow's key focus. Two excerpts from the speech illustrate those points.
On NATO and neo-nazism as justification for Russia's invasion: "Last December we proposed signing a treaty on security guarantees. Russia urged the West to hold an honest dialogue in search for meaningful and compromising solutions, and to take account of each other’s interests. All in vain. NATO countries did not want to heed us, which means they had totally different plans. And we saw it. Another punitive operation in Donbass, an invasion of our historic lands, including Crimea, was openly in the making. Kiev declared that it could attain nuclear weapons. The NATO bloc launched an active military build-up on the territories adjacent to us. Thus, an absolutely unacceptable threat to us was steadily being created right on our borders. There was every indication that a clash with neo-Nazis and Banderites backed by the United States and their minions was unavoidable...Russia launched a pre-emptive strike at the aggression."
On Donbas's connection to Russia: "Donbass militia alongside with the Russian Army are fighting on their land today, where princes Svyatoslav and Vladimir Monomakh’s retainers, solders under the command of Rumyantsev and Potemkin, Suvorov and Brusilov crushed their enemies, where Great Patriotic War heroes Nikolai Vatutin, Sidor Kovpak and Lyudmila Pavlichenko stood to the end. I am addressing our Armed Forces and Donbass militia. You are fighting for our Motherland, its future, so that nobody forgets the lessons of World War II, so that there is no place in the world for torturers, death squads and Nazis."
Vladimir Putin delivers a speech at Moscow's Victory Day Parade, 9 May 2022 (photos via Twitter @RussianEmbassy)