Russia-Ukraine talks make ‘little progress towards ceasefire’

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pushed for his country to mediate

Powered by automated translation

Live updates: follow the latest news on Russia-Ukraine

Little progress was made towards a ceasefire on Thursday as the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine met face to face for talks in Turkey.

Ukraine’s Dmytro Kuleba said the two priorities for Kyiv right now were organising humanitarian corridors from the besieged city of Mariupol and reaching a 24-hour truce.

As the ministers were speaking, news from the front lines indicated an aid convoy for Mariupol was forced to turn around due to Russian shelling.

Mr Kuleba said there was little progress towards meeting those goals but that he was happy to continue talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

While Mr Lavrov said “Ukraine seems to want to have meetings for the sake of meetings”, he said Russia was “fully serious” about reaching a negotiated settlement with Ukraine.

He also said that his boss, President Vladimir Putin, would not refuse a sit down with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy if talks were “substantive and specific.”

Turkey's foreign minister said a sustainable ceasefire was needed in Ukraine.

Mr Lavrov insisted Russia’s military operation was going to plan despite apparent significant losses and stalled supply convoys that appear to have forced Moscow to pivot to heavy artillery in recent days.

He said that Moscow’s conditions for halting fighting remained the same and that Russia was awaiting a reply.

“We want a friendly, demilitarised Ukraine without any threat to Moscow and Russian culture,” Mr Lavrov said, adding that the West “ignored the repression of Russian speakers and Russian culture in Ukraine.”

However, Mr Kuleba dismissed the demands as being tantamount to surrender and said Ukraine would continue to fight.

More than two million people have fled in two weeks of fighting since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As well as a large humanitarian operation to assist those affected by fighting, the West has imposed wide-ranging sanctions in a bid to isolate Russia, and shipped tonnes of weapons and equipment to the Ukrainian military to help it push back its technologically and numerically superior adversary.

Mr Lavrov accused the West of arming Ukraine with “deadly weapons” and said that it would create a dangerous regional situation “for years to come”.

“Those who supply weapons to Ukraine and mercenaries there should understand the danger of what they are doing,” he said.

He said that Russia would never rely on the West and that “Uncle Sam will never be able to destroy our economy again.”

He added that the reaction of the West “showed just how threatened Russia is — its very right to be on the map of the world is under threat.”

He said Moscow had never used oil and gas as a weapon, in reference to the US banning the import of Russian hydrocarbons, but he noted there were other buyers for its supplies.

Mr Kuleba said that talks with Mr Lavrov were both difficult and easy. He said it was not easy to listen to Mr Lavrov who, he claimed “followed his traditional rhetoric”, and easy because “I did my best”.

He said that he offered in the meeting with Mr Lavrov to call officials in Ukraine and “give you a 100 per cent guarantee on humanitarian corridors” and asked if his Russian counterpart could do the same. He said Mr Lavrov did not respond.

The urgent talk of humanitarian corridors and ceasefires comes after a marked increase in the shelling of cities in Ukraine and the collapse of two attempts to pause fighting to allow civilians and the wounded to flee at the weekend.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has pushed for Turkey to mediate, has expressed hope the talks can avert tragedy and even lead to a ceasefire agreement.

Senior Ukrainian officials, including the country's defence minister, have held a series of meetings with a Russian delegation in Belarus.

Replying to reporters’ questions about accusations from the Ukrainian president that Russia had bombed a children’s hospital in Mariupol, Mr Lavrov said it “was already in control of Ukrainian radicals and no patients were there.”

Ukraine accuses Russia of hitting a maternity hospital in an air strike

Ukraine accuses Russia of hitting a maternity hospital in an air strike

“There have long been no women and children there, just armed radicals,” he said, adding that the media had not given both sides on the topic.

Asked about the prospects of nuclear war with the West, the Russian official said: “I don’t want to believe so and do not believe so.”

Updated: March 10, 2022, 11:54 AM